Localize It! What Resilience Looks Like

localize it red.jpgSaturday-Sunday, October 21-22, 2017

Localize It! What Resilience Looks Like

A two-day solutions focused convergence for leaders and collaborators engaged in accelerating a localizing movement in our region; systemic renewal in an age of climate crisis, economic injustice, and frayed democratic systems. This convening seeks to forge new relationships and pathways toward ever increasing localization of our economy, culture, democratic institutions, systems of energy, health and education, movements for justice, and many other areas of intersection. We want to learn from each other while bringing localization to the forefront of people’s imagination as we all work for a resilient world.

Join us at the Vermont Law School (South Royalton VT) to engage in lively discussion with a wide array of leaders and experts in numerous break out sessions, panels, and these keynote speakers:

  • Frances Moore Lappe, author of Diet for A Small Planet and founder and director, Small Planet Institute images.jpg 
    • Frances Moore Lappé is the author or co-author of 18 books about world hunger, living democracy, and the environment. Beginning with the three-million copy Diet for a Small Planet in 1971, her books include Democracy’s EdgeGetting a Grip (in two editions), EcoMind, and, most recently, World Hunger: 10 Myths. With a focus on the roots of the U.S. democracy crisis and how Americans are creatively responding to the challenge, her current work includes the online Field Guide to the Democracy Movement and the forthcoming book Daring Democracy: Igniting Power, Meaning, and Connection for the America We Want, coauthored with Adam Eichen (Beacon Press, Sept. 2017).The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., describes Diet for a Small Planet as “one of the most influential political tracts of the times.” In 2008, it was selected as one of 75 Books by Women Whose Words Have Changed the World by members of the Women’s National Book Association. Frances was also named by Gourmet Magazine as one of 25 people (including Thomas Jefferson, Upton Sinclair, and Julia Child), whose work has changed the way America eats. Her books have been translated into 15 languages and are used widely in university courses.
  • Helena Norberg Hodge, Founder and Director, Local Futuresunnamed-2.jpg
    • Author and filmmaker Helena Norberg-Hodge is a pioneer of the ‘new economy’ movement. Through writing and public lectures on three continents, she has been promoting an economics of personal, social and ecological well-being for more than thirty years. She is a widely respected analyst of the impact of the global economy on communities, local economies, and personal identity, and is a leading proponent of ‘localization’, or decentralization, as a means of countering those impacts.
  • Chuck Collins, senior policy analyst, Institute for Policy Studies unnamed-1.jpg 
  • Jonathan Rosenthal, Executive Director, New Economy Coalition and co-founder, Equal Exchange Unknown.jpeg
    • Jonathan Rosenthal is the Executive Director of the New Economy Coalition. He has spent over 30 years working to transform the power of business from a destructive force of accumulation into a healing force honoring the interconnectedness of all people and our earth. He co-founded Equal Exchange, Oké USA and Belmont-Watertown Local First. He has consulted with people and organizations all across the trade justice movement. He is the author of numerous articles and is a frequent speaker at colleges and events, is a board member of the Coffee Trust and an emeritus board member of Root Capital.  Jonathan is a lifelong vegetarian foodie and a huge fan of his local Watertown, MA library. He lives with his amazing partner, Ora Grodsky, organizational development consultant, and has two inspiring daughters.
  • Sherri Mitchell, Founder and Director, Land Peace Foundation unnamed.jpg
    • Sherri Mitchell was born and raised on the Penobscot Indian Reservation, at Indian Island in Maine.  She received her J.D. and a certificate in Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy and has practiced law in a public and civil capacity for many years. She founded the Land Peace Foundation to provide low cost legal assistance, alternative dispute resolution and training programs to Indigenous populations, groups, and organizations, in order to protect their human rights, homelands, sacred sites, resources and cultural way of life.  Sherri is a leader whose wisdom and vision guide her every step and help to inspire all of those who meet and work with her.  “We must recognize that the entire natural system is one life system, not a series of saleable, fragmented parts. The most destructive illusion held by humanity is the belief that everything is tied to an economic engine that has no heart, no compassion and places no value on life.  Today, we lack reliable leadership within our world governments. We have misplaced our trust in governmental leaders and the leaders of industry, who are often times one in the same. They have repeatedly failed us by trying to maintain their profits, economies and their power over the people.” 


Sponsors: Local Futures, Vermonters for a New Economy, Sustainable Future Fund of the Vermont Community Foundation, New Economy Law Center at Vermont Law School, BALE (Building A Local Economy), and New England Resilience and Transition Network.

Chris Wood of BALE (Building A Local Economy) explains the premise for the convergence:

“Intentional localization of production and all life-sustaining activity is key to our future thriving. This important work is joyous when done in community. There are many pathways toward greater local self-reliance and resilience.”

– Pamela Boyce Simms

Climate change, soaring inequality, social injustice… is this really the best our economy can do? Is this the society we choose to embrace?

I know that we care about these things… and I am aware that we mostly feel powerless to change the way things are. I hear those voices that say making the kind of fundamental change really needed is far beyond the capacity of us here in our communities. The forces that drive the global economy to which we seem inextricably tied are both powerful and seemingly invisible. The system seems rigged against us, or at least against achieving decent lives for most of us.

Consider, however, that the global economic model that now drives much of the commerce, politics and culture of this world is really only several decades old. Even more importantly, it is human made. This means that if it was created by us, we can undo it.

True… it won’t be easy. The forces that promote globalization control most of the avenues of information to which people have access, and their propaganda saturates the media and internet. But the fact is that, not just where I live in the White River Valley of Vermont, but all over the world, there is a prevailing movement away from the structures of globalization. In Vermont, our local food system’s transformation is helping to lead the way. And there is so much more that can be turned toward local capacity.

For me, 2017 is the year to powerfully advance the concept of “localizing” and reimagining the appropriate scale under which systems should work. I have worked with many others to help shape one organization that has consciously worked to advance a new narrative that runs in contrast to the old story. That new narrative is called localization. Our intention has been to create as many powerful locally-driven and inspired initiatives as possible and to clearly speak our truth about what is at the heart of what we need to change if we are to survive. To that end, we offer this systemic solution…. a solution that, if strong and powerful enough, can build resilience against the forces of those familiar injustices we’ve internalized and tolerated for too long. Surely, it’s not the only answer because we need many, but it’s what will help build what I believe is a desperately needed new story of living on this planet.

The essential first step in this process is to scale down and localize economic activity with the goal of meeting our needs – our basic needs in particular – closer to home. This does not mean an end to trade; not even international trade. And it does not mean reverting to isolation or nationalism or tribalism, the counter-productive framework that appears to drive a Donald Trump.

As Helena Norberg-Hodge, Executive Director of Local Futures observes: “Localization is the real solution multiplier, with immediate economic, social and ecological benefits. By reducing the scale and reach of the economy, the environmental impacts of economic activity shrink as well. And the argument for localizing goes well beyond the environment. Among other things, localization allows us to live more ethically as citizens and consumers. In human scale economies, people are more connected to each other – something that, as we are increasingly realizing, is crucial to our health and well-being.”

It will take determined effort in localities everywhere to create – or restore – local knowledge and local (scale-appropriate) democracy. It can be done. There are alternative energy coops to emerge, there is an ever-more powerful local food system that could provide good food to everyone (not just the well-off), there are localized transportation models to develop, there are cooperatives and socially aligned businesses to emerge in every sector, there can be credit unions with true community social missions, there are time banks and strong barter systems that operate outside the dollar economy, there are creative artists and craftspeople providing clothing and wares made from local resources. And, surely, there are hundreds of other initiatives that will emerge and inspire us.

To be clear, this is not just adaptation to a status quo (e.g. taking the lead on climate adaptation is not the answer if you have not changed the hearts and mind of those involved in that work).

To some, these ideas may seem relatively small and inconsequential, but just imagine that they are happening a hundred thousand times over in other communities around the world. Localizing done right – that is, in an inclusive way – offers the best path toward maintaining and building regional cohesion.

Localizing is a slow, patient path that requires trust, persistence, and hard work. Such mundane work may sound boring in a time of political crisis and turmoil. But we do need to build a future that will sustain us… and the rest of nature in which we can thrive… even as the old story unravels.

Chris Wood is the Director of BALE (Building A Local Economy), a community resource center for local initiatives in the White River Valley of Vermont that seeks to bring forward a systems focus to our economy, ecology, culture and society.  Pamela Boyce Simms is a trainer for Transition US, an organization that supports building communities that are resilient to the challenges of peak oil and climate change.  Local Futures works to protect and revitalize cultural and biological diversity by strengthening local communities and economies worldwide.