Growing An Economy
An economy is based upon trade. We go to the marketplace, either in person or digitally, and buy the goods (cabbages, shoes, DVDs, meat) we need. We also enter the market place to purchase services such as healthcare and education.
This market place is where we purchase accommodation either through a rental agreement or a purchase and mortgage plan. There are other possible combinations such as cooperative housing but generally people either rent or buy for themselves and their family.
We pay for the purchase with either cash or credit. We earn the cash by exchanging our labour in one of the enterprises in the market place for it.
Now, if we pause to give some careful consideration as to where we shop, by that I mean at which enterprises we make our purchases, we can make some choices and it is those choices that assist us to build local economies.
The demand for locally produced goods such as witnessed in the local food movements, when combined with rising transportation costs and environmental concerns, encourages the movement of the production facility closer to the marketplace.
Money spent in the local economy recirculates and is spent again, enriching a community with another cycle of buying and selling. This is the “multiplier effect.”
This process is referred to as relocalizing the economy. A relocalized economy may invoolve: reduced consumption, locally produced energy and goods, living wages, and environmental restoration.
The consumers choices you make can shorten the distance between producers and consumers, and make the connections between the two more direct. This local economic activity becomes a benefit to the local community.
I have been reading an excellent book by Vandana Shiva, Soil Not Oil: Environmental Justice in an Age of Climate Crisis (South End Press, 2008) , the following quote points out a way that we can grow strong local economies.
"As the fossil fuel economy has grown, it has substituted energy for humans. On the one hand, this has rendered humans redundant to the economic enterprise of production. It has created the crisis of poverty and unemployment, of dispensability and disposability. On the other hand, it has led to the problem of carbon pollution. Whereas humans are sustained by renewable carbon embodied in plants and biomass, industrial energy consumes fossil fuel, adding more CO2 to the atmosphere than the planet can recycle."
The Local Multiplier Effect
Buying local isn't just about freshness. Make your money count—more than once.
TED: Cradle to Cradle
Cradle to Cradle
How do we go about growing an economy? The first step is to understand your spending behaviour not simply as a means to get various items but a means through which you make choices, You choose what companies to support, what products to buy and where you shop, online, Big Box store or at a locally owned and operated business for example.
Three areas that are suitable for community economic development or for growing a strong local economy are:
1- locally produced energy
2- locally produced goods
3- environmental restoration.
It is well past time that we took a closer and more serious look at producing energy within the community rather than relying on a large corporation to deliver it to your home or place of business over a considerable distance.
There have been a number of advances in both photovoltaic and wind energy that are making these two renewable technologies more affordable to consumers. If new buildings incorporated these technologies in the construction phase they would be even more reasonable.
For example solar shingles rather than regular shingles. A roof needs shingling so why not do it right.
Local Energy Production:
Solar water heaters are another way to use the energy from the sun to provide you with hot water and keep your electric bills down.
The practical research needed to make these renewable technologies even easier to adapt could be done at local community colleges, possibly in partnership with a private enterprise.
The sales of finished products that are market ready could pay for the costs of production and the students would get hands on learning. In time, the number of people qualified to build, install and repair sun and wind energy systems would grow.
The localized production and education could keep money circulating within the community.
Community wind farms are another idea that has to be given a closer examination. The project may involve one wind turbine or a number of turbines.
Local Food Production:
Food production in urban centres may well be the place to begin developing strong local economies. To begin with everyone has to eat and most of us want to do so on a regular basis. This is a common ground that can be used to bring people together to discuss how they can work together to meet their food needs from main courses to condiments.
Agriculture is a major industry and moving food from the field to the kitchen is a huge enterprise. It is possible to reduce the distance traveled, improve the quality and freshness of the product and reduce our use of fossil fuels to do so.
Meat and diary producers would be located on farm land that is near to the community and may even provide the opportunity for consumers to enjoy an outing while going out to the farm to purchase the goods.
Cheese makers could be located near to the milk producers and have an on site sale room that could include a plant tour and some product samples. This combines food production with tourism and opens the door for local food tourism enterprises.
In town and village there could be urban agricultural sites that produce all the fruit, vegetable and herb needs.
This also paves the way for local businesses to make herbal vinegars and teas for example.
Growers and producers could participate in a local farmers market which would include regional crafters and artists.
Growers could also sell from their farm site direct or through a cooperative food buying program.
Most municipalities have areas that have become run down or litter attractors. They are also likely to have abandoned industrial sites such as factories or gas stations which are known as brownfields.
The restoration of these brownfields can not only improve the visual appeal of the municipality but can be an economic activity.
Housing is one use, affordable, accessible and environmentally sound housing is one project. Urban gardens are another.
Green spaces bring tranquility and can cause visitors to slow down and look around; they might even park the car and take a stroll down that tree-lined avenue.
I have only scratched the surface with the ways that we can reclaim our communities and take control over our work as well as create economic activity and grow an economy.
Perhaps the first step is to look at the money you spend on shopping as an investment when you invest it locally you help build your community when you spend it in a shop that is owned by a corporation far from your home, you are sending that money away.