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|May 26, 2014 at 18:53 #12815|
Reflections and replies on today’s seminar
|May 26, 2014 at 18:54 #12816|
Nik Petek – Reflection to Helena Norberg-Hodge’s ‘Ancient Futures’
How can we remove the obstacles of globalisation in order to implement localisation?
I have received a mammoth task from Sabbath Sunday. First I have to identify what the obstacles are that globalisation poses to localisation. Then the question also relates to the issue of do we want globalisation to work hand in hand with localisation, hence creating glocalisation, a very popular term a couple of years ago.
People will not want to give up globalisation and the commodities that this has brought to the availability of (particularly western) societies. They have grown used to these commodities and as Prof Hornborg stated, our technology that we love so much, is dependant on globalisation and unequal exchange. Without globalisation computers, Tvs, and mobile phones would become prohibitively expensive. Getting rid of globalisation would then not solve any problems. We also need to keep in mind that we cannot get rid of globalisation because of the availability of internet that compresses time-space.
Is then one problem of globalisation that it can and in many cases does give privilege and advantage to imported products that are also available locally, such as American rice and corn in Africa? What the governments can do against such forms of globalisation is put in place protectionist laws, outlawing the import of certain crops, vegetables, and fruit when the same species is in season in the country at the same time. This would definitely benefit local farmers and invigorate the local economy, or at least provide new ways to come in “contact” with local produce.
If we are to limit globalisation, then we also need new structures to take its place, so that people have at their disposal the basic necessities (I’m not talking about luxury goods here). These structures already exist, for example the farmers markets, and supermarkets also started including more local produce to their stores. However, the local products are prohibitively expensive. The effect of this is that only the rich can participate in the localisation processes. However, what can drive the price down of these products (according to the (idiotic) economic theories currently prevalent in the world) is if the whole society partook in purchasing local produce.
These are only some suggestions to a very complex question and I doubt I even scratched the surface. To be honest, I don’t even know enough about current globalisation and localisation processes to adequately comment.
|May 27, 2014 at 07:51 #12819|
Seminar 10, 26th May: Globalisation, Environment and Livelihood
Question: How can we define happiness? Is happiness a crucial foundation of a sustainable world? Discuss this based on ‘Ancient Futures’ by Helena Norberg-Hodge.
According to the Brundtland Report which is also known as ‘Our Common Future’, Sustainability is based on the principle that ‘everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. Sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations’. It emphasizes among many things, the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment’s ability to meet present and future needs. Also that humans should ‘see the world as a system—a system that connects space; and a system that connects time’. And when you think of the world as a system over time, you start to realize that the decisions our grandparents made about how to farm the land continue to affect agricultural practice today; and the economic policies we endorse today will have an impact on urban poverty when our children are adults.
My reflection on the above question and also according to Norberg-Hodge’s book: Its title ‘Ancient Futures’ is relevant to the principles of sustainability. It calls the reader to consider traditional environmental knowledge (TEK) as a relevant issue in designing and maintaining a ‘sustainable world’. Ancient knowledge is quite important to our modern time and our future in contrast with science and technology whose impacts have been detrimental to global ecology. We are confronted with environmental dilemmas because of our economic policies aimed at rising standards for the few and the rest remaining in dire poverty. As the poor turn to the environment for subsistence, the rich will increase their competition for resources, both of which have severe and negative effects on nature.
According to Norberg-Hodge’s argument about the ‘economics of happiness’, humans should live harmoniously with nature while maintaining social interconnectedness as in the case of Ladakh people. This happiness can only be achieved through the idea of localization as contrasted with globalization. Through economic subsidies, burning of fossil fuels, the proliferation of multinational commercial companies, competitive local businesses and the threat to cultural identity are slowly and steadily taking away happiness of Ladakh people as environmental pollution is taking its toll.
Finally the ‘emerging global economy and the growing domination of science and technology are not only worsening our connection to nature and to one another but also breaking down natural and cultural diversity’.
|May 27, 2014 at 08:36 #12823|
Reflection, Helena Norberg-Hodge, May 26, by Kristina Berglund
Yesterday’s discussion seminar dealt with Helena Norberg-Hodge’s book “Ancient Futures”, a story about the Ladakh society; how their traditions and ways of living was thoroughly changed by Western tourism and development ideas in the late 20th century. Helena Norberg-Hodge puts forward a convincing case for learning from traditional societies like Ladakh to direct our societies towards a more socially and ecologically resilient economy, going from global to local by shortening distances and steer all aspects of our economies (e.g. food production) towards localization. I find it difficult not to agree with her critique of the ‘Western’ traditional notion of ‘development’ as a one-way, linear progress path, the prevailing economic system with its lack of consideration for social and environmental wellbeing and negative implications of globalization. However, there are also things to be skeptical about, such as her description of the traditional Ladakhi society as somewhat idealized, and her localization strategy as too simplistic. The question is whether her proposed strategies are complex enough and do not fall in to the same imposed development idea that she so heavily criticizes.
The question got in my hand to answer in this reflection was “how important is it as environmental historians to consider societies’ awareness of the environment when doing research”?
|May 27, 2014 at 09:01 #12824|
Question from Gao to Maria: What is the impact on local peoples’ knowledge from modern education system?
My opinion is that it would improve peoples’ lives, as it would give them the opportunity to obtain information, among other topics, about environmental, health and sustainability issues and support them to develop their own judgment about their situation. This view on modern education is valid mainly for a system that provides theoretical knowledge. In many “traditional” cultures without, or very little, influence from modern societies, practical knowledge, as many practices used for agriculture have been tried out to work well. Often, these methods are based on results from trial and error during long periods of time. However, new techniques which have been invented thanks to modern understanding of physics, chemistry, etc need initially to be tried out in a small scale. Today, many small companies put a lot of effort to find new solutions for a sustainable utilization of natural resources, reducing energy consumption, building better houses etc. Without the knowledge acquired from modern education, these innovations would most certainly not have been possible to formulate . Co-operation together with people from local/traditional societies, adding their experience to modern/scientific knowledge (acquired thanks to modern education) is a concept that is of great interest among many entrepreneur s.
|May 27, 2014 at 12:00 #12836|
My question from Maria was “Helena advocates decentralization, but today there are ideas that regard bringing people from a variety of disciplines and cultures together will lead to new initiatives of how to solve known environmental problems, like water, energy, and management, in a more sustainable and efficient way? What is your opinion?”
|May 27, 2014 at 13:01 #12838|
Globalisation, Environment and Livelihood: Ladakh, Kashmir
Question (FROM Nisa):
|May 27, 2014 at 13:21 #12839|
• As academics, are we too afraid of being overly optimistic? Is there a culture of pessimism fueled by accusations of sentimentality and romanticization that paralyzer discourse?
Nowadays academic education breeds the young student to perceive world critical and ask them to find the best way to be bias and reflect on the process, but not to get attached to the object of the research. As the master student, I am taking part in this process, where positive attitude or any kind of empathy is judged as weak and lacking professional glaze or evaluation. “Be critical!” is the motto of contemporary researcher. The boundaries, like ethics and objective perception, are escalating as the backbones of the good research. There is the reason of this. The history of academic studies created the gulf between what is scientific and what is not, they put the splinter in the concepts of trustworthy and doubtful. The positive attitude and passion sometimes is compared or could to be confused with naïve that is not want result in the research.
|May 27, 2014 at 13:38 #12840|
Wenzel Steinig – Reflection on question about “Ancient Futures” by Helena Norberg-Hodge
Is localisation good for every country considering the population, socioeconomic development?
I find that I can only answer this question in a contentfull way, if I define some of the terms used in this question in my own way and then give my answer against the backdrop of these definitions.
Now there are different scenarios which could help answering the actual question.
Localisation is not a blueprint solution for the world. Instead, it is supposed to be a dynamic, costumisable idea about what factors are important in building a sustainable and fair society. Over the world, there are currently thousands of different ideas and approaches of localisation working, some as old as mankind, some recently created. The way a family and family networks are distributing capital without using money, friendship and kindship realtions and modern echange circles, collective resource pooling and transition towns are examples of how localisation has accompanied us since time immemorial.
|May 27, 2014 at 14:33 #12842|
I was given a lot of relevant, important but also tough questions by Kristina. I have chosen to reflect on the question whether it is possible to avoid falling into the trap of doing the same mistakes or worsening the situation by counter-development projects, perpetrated by the developmental projects from the 1970s onwards. If this is possible, how should we do it? Obviously, I am not nearly knowledgeable and competent enough when it comes to this (and a lot of other things hah), but I will try to give it my best.
|May 27, 2014 at 14:48 #12845|
Reflection, Helena Norberg-Hodge, May 26
Question from Nik: What lessons from Buddhism can we take up in order to lead more sustainable lives?
This is an interesting question, and also a hard one. I must confess that I haven’t read Helena’s chapter on Buddhism by now, but Buddhism is a dominant religion in a few Asian states, China is one of them and therefore is familiar to many. Rather than looking into Helena’s literature, I choose to share an example of my grandma’s lifestyle, who is a Buddhist. Hopefully she doesn’t mind that I mention her in here.
I am not sure how non-Asian people think about Buddhism. But when the word Buddhism comes to me, I get a sense of peace immediately, because peace sounds like the true essence of the religion. I know a bunch of people who believe in Buddhism, their thoughts and behaviors are always unbelievably peaceful. My grandma, for example, never uses air conditioner in the summer no matter how hot the weather is (btw, she lives in very south of China and the temperature there in summer is often higher than 40 degrees). Every time I try to switch on the air conditioner in her house, she says that what makes you feel hot is your mind. If you cool down your mind, you calm down your body and then the air conditioner will no longer be needed. What I want to say here is that Buddhism seems to let the followers separate their minds from the physical world. This is of importance for people who want to maintain sustainable lives. Like the case of air conditioner, people can actually live sustainably if they are able to tell the real needs from their desirable wants, not mention the fact that air conditioners release greenhouse gas, which is unsustainable to live with, economically, energetically and environmentally.
I don’t know much about religions. But from what I know, Buddhism encourages its believers to live in an individualistic utopian world rather than the actual one because once you live in there, you can live for yourself, forget the vexing miseries and abandon the desires that the real world imposes on you and that seems to be the beauty of Buddhism. In this way, one indeed lives in his/her simple but happy life, and fighting and consumerism cannot bother him/her. I wonder if it complies with Helena’s idea about localizing the economy.
|May 27, 2014 at 15:44 #12857|
Reply to Wenzel’s post
I think you pointed out a very important issue, which is how to define localization. If Localisation means 50% resources used to come from the local settlement, like you cited, then some of the globalized economies might in fact stand as localized ones, speaking at a national point. In that case, what, to Helena, is the motivation of localizing the economy if they are literally localized?
I really appreciate that you put forward the different scenarios for answering the question because discussing the question by different society and varying conditions will get closer to the truth, although it is complex to manage. Aside the question itself, I’m also curious about some practical issues. For instance, despite localizing economy is able to make the local people happy, how can the economy get away from the other ones if they are now mutually connected? This is my personal interest because it seems to me that maybe the localized economy could benefit the local, but what about the others, which dependent on you, this issue is particularly concerned with the economies where possess diverse and valuable resources? If the localizing brings only good to the local whereas lowers the interests of the outside world. What will happen then? Will localizing then trigger a war or colonialism?
I also want to doubt the legitimacy of Helena’s work. Why does she bring the “localizing” idea up to national, and even global level? For me, to localize economic and social activities within a small community is applicable. However, when the idea is evaluated at national or global scale, it crosses the geographical frame of discussion. But like I said at the beginning, this is what I think your point worth of a compliment-the definition of localization. Apart from that, I would say, it is very impossible to localize the world, regardless of the economy scale, although it might bring us benefits in many aspects.
|May 27, 2014 at 16:11 #12858|
Reflection, Helena Norberg-Hodge, May 26, by Yaqi Fu
Question from Wenzel: Why was the Ladakh society so vulnerable by Western culture?
Combined yesterday’s video lecture we had watched with her book, I feel one of Helena’s idea is to try to make people believe that localization is the way to economics of happiness. The interdependence and connection among people around are regarded as important factors in constructing such happiness. In her view, Ladakh is kind of a paradise for human’s living. However, what she worried is Ladakh has been deeply affected by western culture. These western influences as she considered, have changed local economy, technology and education greatly, but are destroying the paradise. In order to save the paradise, Helena would like to let the local people know that not all the western life style, technique, education are good for their society. She hopes the local people can spare no efforts in preserving their tradition and culture. But in my eyes, it would be hard for the Ladakh people to go back to their former age.
The question, why the Ladakh society is so vulnerable in facing with western impacts? I think there are mainly two kinds of reasons. One is on the Ladakh side, that Ladakh is located at the boundary area and their culture are at the primary stage compared to it’s neighbours like India and Tibetan. The boundary site would be easy to lose the root of cultural identity and the simplified cultural stage may have less resistance to the invasion of other culture. The other side would be the western techniques can help people save their labor and broaden the local people’s eyes. When they began to admire the advanced techniques, then it would be much easy for them to accept the western economy and education as they may want to develop advanced technology and machines with the help of westerners.
I also think, not only Ladakh is vulnerable, but many other parts of the world, no matter Western or Eastern, have the same problem as Ladakh, the problem of us, that we are experiencing the life that we are not familiar with. The development of techniques facilitates our lives, but it also creates a new environment that we need adapt ourselves to. The world is completely new to us, with its change. As Goethe said “Wie machen wir’s, daß alles frisch und neu, und mit bedeutung auch gefällig sei” (Faust I), and Helena’s way is to try localization. I would say, her method is fantastic in imagination but would be hard to implement in the speeding world.
|May 27, 2014 at 22:26 #12859|
You have done a good job on the question Nik, although you conclude that you were not sure of how to tackle the mammoth task – in your own words. Indeed some countries should not take globalization whole sale because some of its impacts are detrimental to the environment. There should be restrictions on importation of goods and products which can be locally obtained while encouraging local production especially food stuffs sold from local shops. As Norberg-Hodge has already noted in her arguments local farming can be the best source for organic food supplies. For other services, also local companies which employ local people should be encouraged other than consuming imported goods whose industries are far away from the consumers, thus reducing employment opportunities.
Multinational companies which have spearheaded globalization are the real obstacle to localization. Due to capitalism; the competition for resources, diseases, air, water and land pollution, dumping and ecological degradation, we should think twice and embrace localization as the beginning of the restoration of the environments around us. I am not saying that globalization should be completely erased but as Hornborg argues, the good side of it like communication technology should be retained for quick information exchange though some of it should not be used to negatively influence the socio-cultural background of localization.
I would also agree with you Nik that the issue of globalization is quite gigantic, but since it encourages unequal exchange it its transactions, my prediction is that the poor producers of most of industrial raw materials will rise up one day and embrace new changes which are beneficial and environment friendly like localization.
|May 28, 2014 at 07:54 #12861|
Reply to Yongliang Gao
To be honest Gao, I know even less about Buddhism than you probably, but I agree with you that I associate inner peace with Buddhism. One of the attractions of Buddhism is that it encourages the abandonment of your desires, and by that I mean things you do not need to survive in the world (or so my stereotypical perception of Buddhism tells me). I read a book by the German author Herman Hesse called ‘Siddharta’. The book talks about a person, who wants to become a follower of Buddha, but during his life he gets enticed by his desires and lust, only to have everything and be miserable, so he then returns to a monk he met once to finally understand what Buddha was teaching. The goal of the novel was to tell us that we do not need all these material goods in life, and that they will make us unhappy. This author has a series of novels on a similar topic from various points of view.
Recently a study was published that having lots of money and using it to buy things (so not having lots of money per se) does in fact make people miserable and less empathetic. Hope that this goes some way towards seeing pieces of Buddhism as relevant for future sustainable development.
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