Sunday, 15 May 2016

Care about the planet? Well stop saying local is better then.


One of the most common myths of the modern trendy progressive world is that which say 'local' is always better - for the economy, for the planet and for society. If only we 'transitioned' our places into being locally-focused, resilient communities filled with independent shops, urban gardens and local food networks say the advocates - with comments like this ever so common:

The same goes for agriculture, textiles, and many other sectors where returning to local, human-scaled enterprise will lead to less worker exploitation and environmental damage while producing better, healthier products. Nonindustrial practices may be more labor-intensive, but they’re also better for us all. For those of us used to white-collar jobs, the idea of growing vegetables or making clothes may seem like a big step backward toward more menial labor. But consider for a moment the sorts of activities the wealthiest Americans or most satisfied retirees engage in enthusiastically: brewing craft beers, knitting, and gardening. If there’s really not enough work to go around and there are so many extra people to employ, we can always farm in shifts.

This quote is from a book called Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus and was quoted - as an example of progressive ignorance - by Don Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek. What bothers me most isn't the stuff about the local multiplier that are used to justify resilience - we know that's pretty much nonsense - or even the truth that this sort of local protectionism only makes us poorer. No, what bothers me is that the idiot progressives promoting transition towns and putting up these 'back to the land' arguments are completely wrong about its environmental impact.

It simply isn't true that this return to pre-industrial production has less environmental impact than modern intensive agriculture or mass-production of the clothes and tools we need. We know that extensive agriculture uses more inputs than intensive agriculture, which is a pretty wasteful start, but we also know that this sort of farming is more polluting and has a bigger impact on wildlife and the local environment. Yet the 'Greens' and their progressive fellow travellers persist with their myth-making and in denying that the same benefits come from agricultural intensification as come from any other improvement in our efficiency in using resources - it makes us richer, it puts less strain on the planet and it allows time for those pleasant pastimes like home brew beer and allotment gardening.


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