26.5.2014 Ancient Futures

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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
Sabbath Sunday

Seminar 10, 26th May: Globalisation, Environment and Livelihood
Reflection by Sabbath Sunday

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.
So what did ‘this economic happiness’ look like among the Ladakh people and how can it be relevant to localization for a sustainable world? First, social interconnectedness through extended families and belief in themselves through respect especially the young and the old; bring us back to the argument of linking the ancient to the future which is the foundation for sustainability through localization. Every member of the society is employed through division of labour as they share the benefits of their local economy. There is less or no pollution and diseases are also non prevalent while their foods are grown organically. Norberg-Hodge continues to argue that she has seen that community and a close relationship to the land can enrich human life in terms of happiness, beyond all comparison with material wealth or technological sophistication.

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”?
This question I think touches on the ‘nature-culture divide’ that we have discussed frequently in the environmental history program. People’s alienation to nature, and maybe also to other people, is in some ways increasing as ‘modern society’ sweeps along. More and more people move to city centers though an ever increasing urbanization, family becomes less important as we become more individualized and career-and-material focused. Technological advances such as internet and various machines makes us ‘closer’ to the global world but it also distance us from it, as our personal encounters and relations decrease. When you can Skype or email you do not need to actually meet people, and I think this is also one of Norberg-Hodge’s points from the book, that modern society in many ways remove us from our ecological surroundings and also from our fellow people. In that sense, I do agree with her argument that we must decrease the distances between ourselves and the production of food, clothes and shelter. As of today, many children who grow up in the city might not even know that their food is grown on trees and plants, often by farmers in a different continent who live completely different lives. This is a bit frightening. However, as discussed in class, the scale of localization and its generalizability might differ from place to place, and I also think that we are seeing a reaction towards the global in many places too, with local food-cooperations and urban gardening, for example. However, globalization is not something one can stop. So yes, I do think it is important for environmental historians to consider these aspects. Above that I also think it is equally central to discuss what we mean when we talk about ‘awareness of nature’ or ‘closeness to nature’, even ‘nature’ as well! It is important, and interesting, to explore what value people include in these concepts and what relation they have to them, in different settings.

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.
If modern education also includes modern/scientific medicine and health care, many lives would probably be saved. Moreover, diseases acquired from living at a high altitude (as in the case of Ladakh), and for example, from using only fires to heat badly ventilated homes could be avoided or treated more efficiently than going to the shaman. As with traditional agriculture practices, traditional medical knowledge should also be studied scientifically, as many drugs are derived from herbal medical practices. To my mind, to encourage believe in and trust in shaman medicine is not ethical justifiable and must be abolished.
Unfortunately, in reality, modern education would inevitable, or unintentionally, come with advertising for “bad” or unnecessary products and commodities which are used in a modern society. This is a problem that is important to discuss and work against when taking modern education to societies which have no previous experience of this bad side of the Western world.

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?”
Certainly Norberg-Hodge seems to be against a lot of forces of globalization and modernization and the growing domination of science and technology, but at the same time is involved in implementing economically, environmentally, and culturally appropriate technological “updates”. It is a bit of a contradiction that Norberg-Hodge, a so-called ‘Westerner’, is so actively influencing development initiatives in Ladakh, while simultaneously decrying the arrogance of Western mainstream culture. It seems Norberg-Hodge believes the industrialized Western mono-culture development trajectory is very harmful, but some Western influences can be integrated into Ladakh life for the better.
This contradiction is at the center of NGO’s and development organizations, as they meant to be ‘for the people’ but are subject to the behavioral norms of the institutions from which they proceed. Norberg-Hodge, as the founder and director of the NGO International Society for Ecology and Culture, has to navigate these largely moralistic issues of which direction their development initiatives take.
I don’t really have a problem with Norberg-Hodge’s flexibility in ideology, it would be impossibly dogmatic of her to demand that no external influences be allowed to infiltrate Ladakh, and the only development trajectory should be complete stasis. It would also be very alien with respect to the history of Ladakh where people have continuously embraced ‘foreign technologies’ for some time (for instance the potato, a South American domesticate).
I wonder perhaps Marie if the contradictions you are noting in your question stem more from Norberg-Hodge’s quite generalized critique of the West and romantic portrayal of Ladakh. Norberg-Hodge’s writing over-simplifies a great deal and plays to the reader’s emotions as I think she is trying to reach a very wide public audience. I suppose Ancient Futures should be viewed as less of an academic text and more of an action based NGO manifesto.
Perhaps I would have felt more comfortable reading Ancient Futures if Norberg-Hodge were a bit more open about the contradictions, difficulties, and likely failures of development initiatives she has been involved in. Also if there were a bit more graphs and figures and ‘scientific data’ to support her ideological agenda.
In conclusion, I agree with a lot of things Norberg-Hodge says. Would I donate resources to her NGO? It’s difficult to say based on Ancient Futures, as it is a pretty superficial account of her experiences in Ladakh and reflecting on social issues. Perhaps that superficiality is the result of the realities of operating an NGO.

May 27, 2014 at 13:01 #12838

Globalisation, Environment and Livelihood: Ladakh, Kashmir
On the readings: Norberg-Hodge, Helena. (2009). Ancient futures: lessons from Ladakh for a globalizing world.

Question (FROM Nisa):
What do you think about Hodges methodological approach? What can be criticized?
Helena Norberg-Hodge works with micro narratives; Personal examples form the small community of Ladakh, but her conclusions are more general. I regard this approach a bit problematic, cause I think it is a difficult quest to succeed with and I am not sure if I think Norberg-Hodge pulls it all the way through. Helena is using arguments for her point’s which are almost impossible for anyone to argue against or try out, because it is personal experiences interpreted through her mind, from a “disappeared” world according to her selves.
Let me clarify; When Norberg-Hodge refers to a meeting with an old friend from the village in the city and tells the reader how the friend has changed trough impact of western cultural and economic influences, to the worse in her mind, or at least not as happy as before. How can we prove her wrong or right? How do you even measure happiness? But then the question is, do we need to measure everything, is not a qualitative approach not as valid as any other? Yes, it is also a worldview as true as any other, but you have to showcase and motivate your methods so other researchers can trace back (or even repeat) what you did to come to such conclusions as you did. Me and Helena does not come from the same discipline she is a linguist from the beginning, I come mainly from the social science. In Sociology it is important to expressively show your theoretical framework and methods, discuss them and motivate why they suit this particular study and your aim. You are also supposed to problematize over your own position in the context.
Helena is taking on such complex issues as societal, cultural, emotional and behavioral change with a stark valued vision and I lack a critical eye from her about her own stand point- this is Helena on a mission not a research. Despite her good intentions I would have taken her more serious if she had some references and didn´t generalize over long-term complex global and local processes on the basis of not making account for the methods. Chronologically I would ask for more as well, an historical approach going further back, not fixing the people of Ladahk in a primordial and content state since thousands of yerar. Human relations are a web on different levels and for thousands of years we have for instanse changed commodities, genes, culture and language, influencing each other. Who is Helena to say that the people should not listen and dance to music on the radio, to be happier about their “own” music and singing? I don´t buy this black and white picture – a monoculture is suppressing a diversity. In cultural exchange things are won and lost – life is change- a continuous process- and is never finished- thus things will evolve continuously and be both good and bad and something in between at the same time on different scales.

Ellen Lindblom

May 27, 2014 at 13:21 #12839

Erika Kriukelyte

• 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.
In discussion what is better alienation from the research subject or gaining some kind of empathy with it, it is hard to find clear answer and often there is no right answer. The author of your discussion – Helena Norberg-Hodge – spent more then seventeen years trying to comprehend the complex lifestyle of Ladakh community. In her visit that took about six months every year, she methodologically observed the environment and recorded inside fragments of this culture. Helena became the friends with local society and in her text it could be noticeable the admiration of those people and growing contempt towards Western culture’s values. While the time passed by, she started to recognize the switch in traditional life, habits as well as behavior to more Western style of living. She claims that the same patterns, which disturb peaceful life of Ladakh society could be find in other part of the world and she is trying to find solution and measure that could be use in the wider context. However, the academic perception of her analyses and results could be conceived as unreliable, because of your personal attachment to the Ladakh people. Norberg-Hodge research could be perceived as the detailed and accurate observation of the culture that could serve as primary resource for investigation, but not so much as the academic work.
Finally, there could be a discussion if this way of approaching Norberg-Hodge life work is the correct way. By being over critical towards the author and her empathy to the research subject, we might miss important message that she is presenting. At the same time, staying in the clear discourse of our academic major and sticking with the methodological approach to the research, we are limiting or paralyzing ourselves to think inside the box.

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.
Localisation: Closing economic and regionalising energy and consumption cycles. In the transition movement seen as the attempt to derive at least 50% of resources used in a settlement (village-town-city) from the region this settlement is located in. Not necessarily opposed to Globalisation, as a considerable part of the exchange system (includes also information and social exchange) remains national and international. Important aims: Reconnecting people and their lives to one another and the place they live in and sustainable local (subsistence) economies, that gain resilience through being partly autonomous and connected through decentralised networks, both on the regional and global level.
Good: What do we need to live a happy live? People who are happy use show the following characteristics: A vibrant social life with both time for others and for themselfes, enough to eat, clothes and shelter and, of course, health. We have all that, but why aren’t we happy with what we have? Why are we – more or less unintendedly – destroying nature and each others lives?
Population and socioeconomic development:
The word socioeconomic is interesting. According to usual definitions it describes the interaction between social and economic factors in a society. Actually it is quite an empty notion.
Economy is nothing else then the mutual exchanges people do every day and the way this relates to the resources available in a system: A notion for the resource management in a society. Using the Gross Domestic Product as an indicator is thus strange and displaced.
Social factors contain amongst others the popluation distribution, wealth distribution (both money and objects – capital) and the level of education. But, if we were measuring these, it could also contain factors like happyness and well-being: A notion for the psychological and interpersonal state of the members of a society and social capital distribution.

Now there are different scenarios which could help answering the actual question.
1) Think of a society that already has a high degree of localisation, but at the same time a high degree of social injustice and social-capital accumulation as well as unjust resource distribution schemes.
It might be that this society is’nt going to better its situation by localising even further, as it might have build up its social fabric on the foundation of locality. But at the same time we have to see that the term localisation also embraces individual empowerment and partly independence from the global economy. Such a society would thus not be fully localised, as centralisation and accumulation, also on small scales, go against the notion of localisation.
2) Another scenario could be a country with a low degree of localisation, a high population density and a low natural resource density – a society that could not live of the land within its national borders.
First of all, national borders are a highly questionable invention that seperates people more than necessary. It has created a reality that takes it for granted that by walking two meters on ground, you can leave your country and enter another. I don’t think it is a problem per se that we create virtual borders, as these also exist between animals (hunting grounds) and naturally between people (feeling of privacy), but our state borders are stiff and deanimated borders. They encourage unnatural behaviour, like high import rates (Japan) and debit creation as well as resource exploitation, because they artificially seperate people from their land. A good example for this are enclaves, which rely on the help of their mother country, although they might be situated in a lush and resourceful environment. Localisation strives to makes these borders fuzzy ad see how we all are deeply intertwined in an web of responsibilities which are strongest in our direct environment.
3) A poor country, that is underdeveloped and has a high percentage of people who cannot afford localisation.
“Affording localisation” is a term that neglects the true core of localisation. Localisation means to simplify things, to put back into the hands of people the coverage of basic needs. Every human being in the world has roughly the same amount of time to spend every day: 24 hours minus the sleeping hours. Some have more natural responsibilities, some less: Having 6 children, for example, makes you more responsible than being a single household, as more of your time is predetermined. But if we look at the social systems in places like the Ladakh villages, we see, that such time consuming responsibilities are shared. Everybody helps in taking care. At the same time, enough food for the rest of the year is produced in the impressively short growing season of 4 month. And all of this is happening almost without any use of money, the people doing is are virtually very poor. But actually, they are very rich, they have what they need and even a lot of free time. My point here is that, in our society, we are creating schemes that discourage social buffer zones, network based mutual exchange and moneyless self supply. Only by this it can become a problem to be poor. In the city, where most of the poor people live, there is no space to take care of your own. In the countryside, big amounts of land are idle or, if exceptionally fertile, blocked by large agricultural firms. A promise of wealth and social status dynamics pull people to cities and keep them there.

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.
It is true that a certain degree of intersocietal moral and legal regulations are important to create a common sense, so that exchange systems don’t fall back into a largely tribal or kinship based scheme. But I think that we went to far with these regulative, control oriented, meta-measures and that they consume the interpersonal part of our society, motivating behaviour that is partly alienating us from easy and anticipative solutions for our everyday problems.

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.
First, we have to analyze what went wrong with the first development projects in Ladakh and how the counter-development movement initiated by Helena Norberg-Hodge aimed to ameliorate the consequences. According to Helena, much of the negative consequences of the projects, stem from the fact that the picture presented of the westernized life, was very one-sided and the Ladakhi people were not acquainted with the downsides of industrialized, individualistic western lifestyle. This led to the fact that Ladakhi people were very eager to embrace the westernized lifestyle and tended to feel ashamed of their own culture. I will not go into details what happened, since we’ve all read the text. I believe it is much more interesting to think about how the counter-development project differs from the first projects in practice; and as yet we do not have sufficient information. But I remember one thing that caught my attention while reading Helena’s book, where she actually tries to justify why the headquarters of her initiative is located in the city, thus going directly against what she aims to do: i.e. decentralize the economy and stop the influx of people moving to urban centres that leads to imbalance and impoverishment of both urban and rural areas. I found it quite funny, this justification and it proves that we cannot sit on two chairs, so to say. Even if her initiative is aiming to be locally attuned, open to participation and needs and wishes of the locals, it is still deeply entrenched in the same discourse and economic reality as the first projects. First, we have to reflect on our position in developmental projects: where do we as academics, activists, whatever, come from? What determines our perspective on what development and human and environmental welfare is? I believe it is wrong to take the comfortable position of the cultural relativist, who will simply claim that we should not meddle, since it is imposing our views and patronizing the ones we aim to cooperate with in the name of good life. It would be irresponsible, since their lives were changed dramatically by the transition to a thoroughly globalized, capitalist economy that was perpetrated by Western elites (academics, economists, engineers and all other self-righteous people). Another thing that bothers me is the no less arrogant, patronizing position of projecting the image of the primeval, ideal people who are one with nature on, this case, the Ladakhi people; as if they have lost some kind of an innocence, due to contact with the decadent ones. It is a typical trope in Western imaginarium; the Eden, the corruption, the atonement for your involvement in this fall. This results in actually obstructing the wishes of locals and forcing them to stay the way we perceive traditional and environmentally sustainable lifestyle to be. Oh, do wear that hemp tunic and woolen breeches and use yak skins for isolation, it is good for you, you know; meanwhile I’ll snuggle into my wind and rain resistant jacket, since I’m already beyond redemption. Also, such an attitude reeks of glorification of social constructs, such as kin, community, family; as if these institutions have not arisen out of certain socio-economic conditions. The hypocrisy and patronizing attitude in developmental projects are inevitable; whatever we do, it is social engineering. Vaccination, food-preserving technology, electricity, literacy; those are but a few things that we cannot deny are important for human welfare and we should not abandon to enable them in the name of ”tradition”, ”culture”, ”religion” etc. In the end, I am a child of the Enlightenment. We should not be too cynical about our position and what can be done and embrace the responsibility; not by salvaging ourselves with buying organic, leading a self-righteous ethical life, but to recognize the structural problems and aim for structural solutions.

May 27, 2014 at 14:48 #12845

Reflection, Helena Norberg-Hodge, May 26
By Yongliang Gao

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
By Yongliang Gao

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
Sabbath Sunday

Seminar 10:
Reply to Nik Petek by Sabbath Sunday

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
By Nik Petek

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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