“Living a life of value” and finding true meaning in your life can be developed and implemented in more ways than one. Indeed, the values of wise persons are no secrets; they can expand into all aspects of our lives — both personally and professionally! A great example is the Sustainable Business Alliance (SBA), a group that was formed with the mission to create sustainable, locally-owned communities comprised of a network of businesses, government, and residents that act in concert to benefit the environment, local economy, and future generations to come. “Buy Local” is no small matter! Read on to get some insight and inspiration for sustainability, locality, and small-d democracy. Vote with your dollars!
The SBA Local Living Economies helps to guarantee that local communities maintain as much economic power as possible. Producing and trading in largely local goods and services foments and sustains healthy ecosystems and communities. The thought process here is that encouraging local trading and business opportunities will help local economies and influence them to work with other local communities, thus expanding their networks, as well as influencing individuals to be more culturally sensitive of their neighbors. This is the green economy.
Most living economies aim for the decentralization of taxes, fair wages, budgets, trade policies, businesses and farms in order to be as free as possible from greed, corruption, fake news, and corporate control. This is one area where liberals and conservatives can agree – decentralization and localism are better than faraway government and national or multinational corporations taking over. Think of how Walmart only benefits communities in two ways (if that!): they sell stuff in stores (mostly foreign-produced), and they employ a couple hundred people (at minimum or starvation wages). This is unacceptable! We need to do better by our communities than to produce crap in China and ship it 5,000 miles, and pay people $10 an hour X 35 hours to sell it.
Local living economies are a very big step in the right direction as far as tackling the issues that often come about when crony capitalism, power, and corruption run amok. This all-too-common sign of the times continues to negatively impact millions of people all over the world. Outsourcing and using robots to manufacture goods are major sources of economic angst, in fact.
Sourcing and working with ethical and local companies sends the message loud and clear that businesses and service-providers are here to serve our needs, not lord over us. Teaching cooperation, understanding, and fairness at the community level will no doubt in my mind have a huge impact on the quality of life for millions. We need to push to make local living economies the social norm. Think of how sad former manufacturing towns look, and how it has a pernicious effect on crime, drug usage, and schools. The term “Rust Belt” refers to a swath of the Midwest that used to be thriving, and now is fairly destitute. Jobs have gone overseas or to the South, and the people have tended to move to Arizona, California, Texas, Florida, and the like.
Some of the many goals of the SBA include seeking changes in public policies that will help advance environmentally sustainable developments. As well, informing the public about the importance of spending money locally. Not only that, the SBA has a large following of over 250 local businesses, service providers, and social organizations who are provided with encouragement and support. This can help guide businesses and consumers into becoming a happy, healthy, and functional community.
These are social and economic benefits. There are also ones that could be considered more ethical. The act of creating an entire movement for the betterment of society is economically, environmentally, and morally responsible. It is the embodiment of “living a life of value.” Thought, time, and effort geared toward the benefit others (in a practical way that has proven to be successful) is a very important piece the puzzle of local prosperity as well as world peace, compassion, and equality. Think of it as somewhat akin to The Golden Rule, writ large: engage businesses as you would have businesses engage with you!
The principle of subsidiarity is important. It is another way that liberals and conservatives can agree. It refers to the idea that whenever power or government can reside at the local level, it should. There is no need to have providers and manufacturers of goods span the entire globe, employ none but Indonesians, and keep their profits in some foreign land to avoid taxation. In the book Alternatives to Economic Globalization, editors John Cavanaugh and Jerry Mander write this about subsidiarity: “It is necessary to create new rules and structures that consciously favor the local and follow the principle of subsidiarity — that is, whatever decisions and activities can be taken locally should be.”
They suggest that power rightly belongs at the smallest and most local level that it can (without being cumbersome or foolish — the armed services can’t be truly local. But electricity generation can, and it can be owned by a cooperative enterprise (a co-op). Workers should own as much as possible and they should buy as local as possible. Cavanaugh and Mader continue: “Only when additional activity is required that cannot be satisfied locally should power and activity move to the next higher level — that of region, nation, and finally, the world.”
Here are some meaningful quotes that exemplify the impact and importance that equality, hard work, sustainability, and social justice can have on our lives, and how much of an impact it can have on future generations:
“Disney’s chief executive Michael Eisner was paid $575.6 million in 1998. $25,070 is Disney’s average pay rate.” ~ Anita Roddick
“Without clean water, fertile soils and genetic diversity, human survival is not possible. Today, economic development is destroying these one-time commons, resulting in the creation of a new contradiction: Development deprives the very people it professes to help of their traditional land and means of sustenance, forcing them to survive in an increasingly eroded natural world.”~ Vandana Shiva
“Over the last century, the market has been destroying the commons at an accelerating pace. The belief was that happiness and the good life lay always in the direction of more property and more stuff. The result has been environmental degradation, social breakdown, and so much unhappiness that people resort to drugs in increasing numbers just to feel okay. Life is telling us something.” ~ Jonathan Rowe
“We see people who are spiritually disconnected, living in boxes and driving in boxes, perhaps once a year going “out to nature” to get a small touch of what was once the daily experience of humans. These people seek escape. They sit in urban and suburban homes and feel miserable, not knowing why, experiencing anxiety and fear and pain that cannot be softened by drugs or TV or therapy because they are afflicted with a sickness of the soul, not of the mind.” ~ Thom Hartmann
“It all started in 1986, when McDonald’s opened a branch beside the famous Spanish Steps in Rome. To many locals, this was one restaurant too far: the barbarians were inside the gates and something had to be done. To roll back the fast-food tsunami sweeping across the planet, Carlo Petrini, a charismatic culinary writer, launched Slow Food. As the name suggests, the movement stands for everything that McDonald’s does not: fresh, local, seasonal produce; recipes handed down through the generations; sustainable farming; artisanal production; leisurely dining with family and friends. Slow Food also preaches ‘eco-gastronomy’ — the notion that eating well can, and should, go hand in hand with protecting the environment. At its heart, though, the movement is about pleasure.” ~ Carl Honore
“Accountability is central to living democracy. When decisions are made by those who will bear the consequences — such as when a community democratically decides how to manage forests immediately around its homes on the watershed it depends on for flood control and water — they are likely to give a high priority to the sustained long-term health of those forests because their own well-being and that of their children is at stake.” ~ John Cavanaugh and Jerry Mander
“Humanity is leaving its adolescence and entering adulthood. We are beginning to realize that we cannot treat people and nature as commodities. We are waking up to the fact that we are capable of conscious evolution.” ~ Kevin Danaher
“…it was incredibly shortsighted to believe that globalizing the advantages of world trade for multinational corporations, without globalizing protections for workers, human rights, and the environment, would lead to sustainable economic benefits for workers in the United States or anywhere else.” ~ Howard Dean (with Judith Warner)
“Widely unequal societies do not function efficiently, and their economies are neither stable nor sustainable in the long term. When one interest group holds too much power, it succeeds in getting policies that benefit itself, rather than policies that benefit society as a whole. When the wealthiest use their political power to benefit excessively the corporations they control, much-needed revenues are diverted into the pockets of a few instead of benefiting society at large.” ~ Joseph Stiglitz
“The concept of restructuring business relationships so that the provider and customer both profit by finding efficient and mutually beneficial solutions is a quantum leap away from older business models.” ~ Jan Phillips
“Government, business, and environmental organization cannot create sustainability in society. It will only come about through the accumulated effects of daily acts of billions of eager participants.” ~ Paul Hawken
“Christianity bids us to look beyond our superficial differences in order to focus on what it considers to be a set of universal truths, on which a sense of community and kinship may be built. Whether we are cruel or impatient, dim or dull, we must recognize that we are all of us detained and bound together by shared vulnerabilities.” ~ Alain de Botton
“Concern for the public good must become the animating force of our economic order.” ~ Marjorie Kelly
“…massive poverty in the modern sense appeared only when the spread of the market economy broke down community ties and deprived millions of people access to land, water, and other resources. With the consolidation of capitalism, systemic pauperization became inevitable.” ~ Arturo Escobar
“Will [our children and grandchildren] feel bitterness toward us because we failed in our obligation to care for the Earth that is their home and ours? Will the Earth have been irreversibly scarred by us? Imagine now that they are asking us: “What were you thinking? Didn’t you care about our future? Were you really so self-absorbed that you couldn’t – or wouldn’t – stop the destruction of the Earth’s environment?” What would our answer be?”
“That’s why you have bad mass transit — because they don’t ride mass transit. It’s why we don’t have a good pension retirement system — because they are wealthy and don’t have to worry about their retirement. We don’t have good housing policies because they can afford the best. We don’t have good food policies. Our leaders have socialism, in a certain sense, and the rest of us have capitalism.” ~ Kevin Danaher
“Factory farming is not consistent with sustainability. It is also the biggest system of cruelty to animals ever devised. In the United States alone, every year nearly 10 billion live out their entire lives confined indoors.” ~ Peter Singer
“The atmosphere, oceans, and even outer space have become dangerously polluted, freely appropriated by oil, energy, shipping, and toxic industries as convenient sites to dump effluents and wastes. …When similar pollution takes place in local communities or inside national borders (say, local smokestack emissions or runoff into rivers), government agencies exist specifically to try to do something about it. This is not to say these agencies do a good job of regulating such activity – often they do not – but at least they offer an authority to address the matter and a place where citizens may focus their complaints. When it comes to the global commons, however, few such agencies exist.” ~ John Cavanaugh and Jerry Mander
“…[A]ll of a sudden, all over the face of the Earth, there are these companies – from small businesses to giant ones – and some of the biggest businesses actually have more influence than a lot of countries. So, I thought, as a philosopher, it’s about time for us to understand the world of business in the deepest possible way; what it means to us as human beings, and how we can really flourish and be our best and do our best in a business environment.”
“So we now know the formula for extinction. Something happens to increase global temperatures five to six degrees, which triggers a melting of the frozen carbon and methane oceanic reserves that then leads to further global warming devastating life on Earth. Thus, the pressing question for us today is this: Can seven billion people on the planet burning fossil fuels imitate the sort of carbon greenhouse gas release caused by the Permian lava flows, or the K/T mass extinction impact or whatever warming caused the PETM? The answer is yes.” ~ Thom Hartmann
“Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons and daughters of the earth. We did not weave the web of life; we are merely a strand in it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.”
“So worry not about the loss of a local fishery and the fishermen left with no work. Never mind the ballooning U.S. trade deficit, the contribution to global warming of air freighting fish, or the poor of Chile and Thailand who no longer have fish on their own tables. Let the good times roll as the tables of the rich overflow with the world’s bounty.” ~ David Korten
“…capitalism automatically generates arbitrary inequalities [and a lack of sustainability] that radically undermine the meritocratic values on which democratic societies are based. There are, nevertheless, ways democracy can regain control over capitalism and ensure that the general interest takes precedence over private interests (while preserving economic openness and avoiding protectionist and nationalist reactions).” ~ Thomas Piketty
“Do you believe that people can see your values by watching what you do?” ~ Jan Phillips
“If you think you’re too small to make a difference, you’ve never been in bed with a mosquito.” ~ Anita Roddick
“Is it possible to have ‘Democracy with a Big D’ in the system as a whole if you do not have real ‘democracy with a small d’ at the level where people live, work, and raise families in their local communities?” ~ Gar Alperovitz
“Companies that want to be successful in the long term should be able to meet society’s demand for goods and services without destroying natural and social capital.” ~ Jan Phillips
Click here to see a page that features a podcast about sustainability by a man the New York Times has called “the Paul Revere of globalization woes,” Kevin Danaher, Ph.D.
This link is for a page about Kevin Danaher, and it is a unique site that is dedicated to sustainability, localism, fair wages, fair trade, and small business called Global Exchange.
Here is a podcast about social entrepreneurship, which is decidedly local and all about sustainability. I interview John Abrams, founder of The South Mountain Company, which is employee-owned.
On this page you will find a podcast named “Global Sustainability“
This blog was co-written with Ganae Vigil.