Why Local?

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Posted: November 29, 2010

This post was originally written and published a few months ago in response to my personal exploration about the importance of locally based action. – Elena Gustavson

Why Local?

I’m a local.

Well, not that kind of  “local”. That type of local would entail several generations of living in the same town, often on the same land, with a surname that is likely to grace any number of street signs and local businesses. A local knows your place not by the street address, but by the family that lived there before you. A local has a harmless chuckle when I naively quote Henry Ford about chopping wood and then ask where I can get a good price on a few cords. Yes, I’m one of those transplants that came from away and bought a house in the village. I’ll never be considered a local, nor will my children or my children’s children…but that’s okay.

I’m a “local” because I believe in putting my energy toward local matters. Local food, yes, but more than that. Local schools, local economies, local government and more. I believe that to live in a place means caring about it too. I volunteer and involve myself in my local schools. I know the teachers, staff and administration. I purchase from my local shops and know the people who run them. I know many of my local farmers, mechanics, landscapers, carpenters, plumbers and mail carriers. I know my Select Board and School Board. I know the kids and their parents. I know when Town Meeting is, and I attend, lending my voice and my vote. I’ve adopted my community, not just by living here, but by really LIVING here.

So why does local matter? Honestly, I’m not sure if it matters at all. I read about global warming, declining bio-diversity, stock market crashes, crushing poverty and famine. I read about wars in countries I know nothing about and the frightening economics of world powers that are not the United States. I read about a soldier, lost to war and the family that mourns him. I read about the end of days.

Yet, when I wake up in the morning, the cold light of fall filtering through my window, I am home. I hear the delivery trucks which will soon give way to snow plows. I hear the geese as they head south and the whipping of wind through the cedar and maples by my barn. I hear children talking as they walk to school. I see the hills behind my house alive with color and I watch the clouds form a myriad of shapes on the horizon, endlessly fascinating to me. I see the stand of weeds that I once had a vegetable garden in and fret about how tall the grass has become in less than a week. I smell the musty odor of my basement when I head down to rummage in the freezer and note that the rest of the wood  needs to be brought in soon. I smell the coming of rain.

What else can I do but participate right here and right now? I am incapable of taking on matters that have national, let alone global consequences. I am too easily overcome with heartache when I read about the trials of the world. Yet, I can invest the power of my dollar into my community and reap the rewards. I can add my voice, whether out loud or in print, in support of my community. I can lend myself to my community by volunteering and engaging and helping out a neighbor.

In this small way, with these small victories, I find hope in humanity and in the world. In this small way, my being a “local” has larger consequences. In this small way, I am affecting change.

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