SHARE THE BURDEN Large tools and machinery can be expensive, so why not start a tool library, or a ‘library of things’.
How we can rescale our local economies
The bulk of our lives have been marked by steady progress to a more globalised world, where foods that we might never have imagined are on the supermarket shelves, and items produced in countries very far away are in nearly every shop.
This has given us unprecedented choice as consumers, but it has changed the structure of our world systems in ways we are really starting to notice now as Covid-19 and the climate crisis put pressure on everything.
As I discussed last week, it can take more effort to source local Irish food, even if it is grown close to us. Finding and supporting makers of other products in Ireland can sometimes be harder to do, especially in a period where many markets, fairs and other showcase events have been cancelled.
There is a growing movement, though, that suggests that more collective efforts need to be made to help (re)localise our economies to ensure livelihoods for people at a local level, and to cut down on some of the extreme impacts of globalisation (excess production in far off countries and long haul transportation to import items) that drive climate change.
An international organisation, Local Futures, is dedicated to supporting the ‘economics of happiness’ by providing resources to empower communities to ‘re-scale the economy back to a human level’.
In practice, this means suggesting actions that communities can take to encourage local commerce, such as:
Move your money
This action focuses on getting people to use financial services that benefit the people and businesses closest to them, rather than relying on multinational banks. In Ireland in particular, the banking options have reduced in the past several years with closures of larger banks, but fortunately local credit unions and An Post now offer a wider range of accounts and services to fill the gap.
Join or start a tool library
This suggestion is a way to get us all to consider whether there are specialty items that we would be better off using on a borrow-return basis, rather than individually purchasing goods that we use only occasionally. These initiatives are known as ‘lending libraries’ or ‘libraries of things’ that work particularly well for large and expensive tools, kitchen gadgets, outdoor equipment and other items, and hearkens back to a time when neighbours shared resources more regularly.
Start a ‘buy local’ campaign
This is very similar to what we have seen at a national level to encourage buying Irish for Christmas especially. The championgreen.ie campaign focuses on shifting the estimated 70 percent of online shopping that Irish consumers spend with companies abroad to benefit Irish retailers and producers instead. Further region- and county-specific initiatives would serve our Mayo businesses even more.
Reclaim the grid
Reclaim your community’s electrical grid means reclaiming control of local utilities, and deciding more democratically about power sources, pricing and availability. In Mayo, the Claremorris and Western District Energy Co-Op are pioneering community energy, and more information can be found at claremorris-energy-coop.com.
Check out localfutures.org for more ideas. Let’s localise!
McKinley Neal co-runs PAX Whole Foods & Eco Goods, a minimal-waste shop in Westport offering bulk organic foods, reusable goods, household products, eco-friendly personal care items and gifts.