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LOCALIZATION: A BRIEF DEFINITION

Raymond De Young
School of Natural Resources and Environment
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Localization is a process of social and individual behavioral change focused on localities. Its primary concern is how to adapt our goals, expectations and daily patterns to a life lived well within the immutable limits of nearby natural systems. In the localizing process, attention is focused on everyday behavior within a place-based community, a form of adapting-in-place. The ultimate goals of localization are maintaining the long-term psychological well-being of people and societies while sustaining, even improving, the integrity and coherence of natural systems, especially those that directly provision our communities.

Localization is not to be confused with a narrowly defined localism. Nor is localization simply globalization in reverse. Rather, as biophysical limits re-emerge, communities will shift their attention from the centrifugal forces of globalization (concentrated economic power, cheap and plentiful resources, hyper-consumerism and displaced wastes) to the centripetal forces of localization (widely distributed leadership and authority, more sustainable use of natural energy sources and materials, personal proficiency and community self-reliance).

Localization is a logical outgrowth of the end of an historically brief period, one that saw plentiful raw materials and highly concentrated and inexpensive energy sources whose wastes were dispersed into the environment without monetary costs. How we respond to this re-emerging biophysical reality is one of the defining questions of our time. We can still make a transition to durable living; we still have options. But it is time to begin the transition before our options expire.

The process of localization can be a force for good (e.g., healthy food, less apprehension, more neighborliness, greater security, a sense of purpose). But if we willfully ignore the biophysical signals then localization may become a force for evil (e.g., hopelessness, lawlessness, survivalists, warlords, food deserts). Fortunately, positive change has already begun, albeit only in small corners of our society. These small experiments, these harbingers of change, are manifestations of Antonio Gramsci’s notion of a “pessimism of the intellect; optimism of the will.”

There is no sign up sheet for localization, it is not covered by the mainstream media, and there is no plea being made for donations. It is most certainly a grassroots response. But to so label it only begins to capture the nature of the changes happening around us all. The biophysical reality we face is harsh and uncompromising. It will demand a personal response from each of us, soon. But the human motivation to adapt is innate and the reward will be a good life on a good planet.

Document version: April 17, 2014 15:45
Archived version: October 10, 2011 22:27
Archived at: http://hdl.handle.net/2027.42/86654