The term localism can incite different reactions from different crowds of people. For some, it’s a die-hard mantra of deep-held political and social beliefs that calls for one’s involvement in a local community independent of the globalization of goods and services. For others, it is the ultimate pretention and a misguided attempt to fight against humanity’s quiet march to mass production and uniformity. It is seen as the realm of hipsters and progressive moralist yuppies — residual guilt over the environmental rape committed by our forebears during the industrial revolution, and again on our Main Street during the birth of super-corporate sprawl.
This attitude is wrong. Localism has no need to be pretentious, or expensive, or difficult to achieve. All it takes is some basic diligence and awareness by us, the consumers and citizens of the Ocean State. When we spend a dollar at a business, we are voting for that company’s business model, whether we like it or not. Do you want your dollar to stay in our community, to support the creation of more jobs, to help enrich our local economy? Do you long for the days of neighborhood stores? Do you gain satisfaction knowing that every morsel of food on your plate is produced fresh within a few miles of your house? Then you are ready to be more local. Let’s explore how.
Hey guess what, folks? Rhode Island is full of amazing locally produced food. From the fruit orchards of West Cranston, to the grass-fed beef grazing in Portsmouth, to countless small farms and neighborhood CSAs, we have food and it’s good. Instead of heading to the national chain supermarket, look up the farmers markets and farm stands in your area. There are many, even through the bleak drudge of winter. And the prices may surprise you if you avoid the more artisanal of the food stands and focus on simple.
This is a particular pet peeve of mine. It’s hard to get voters out for the presidential elections every four years, and most can’t even begin to tell you any of their local representatives without a quick visit to Google. Voter apathy, especially among Millennials, is high. Get involved in your local political scene, and become a part of forming the reasonable policies and ordinances of your own home. It’s hard to get psyched over politics these days — the vast ineffectiveness of our national leaders disheartens people. Instead of throwing your hands up in despair, look up who is running for office in your town, county and state, and support them. Attend town hall meetings. And vote, vote, vote! How can we complain about no one listening if we don’t speak up?
This is one area where Rhode Island tends to thrive, at least in some regions. Despite the proliferation of major corporate brands throughout major thoroughfares, a strong domestic root in small business remains relevant! Search out your locally owned hardware stores, furniture shops and restaurants. If online shopping is your cup of tea, be sure to use the filter search settings to peruse local online vendors first.
It seems so simple that many decry localism as just common sense with a touch of haute arrogance — a new generation regurgitating well-known facts about the death of America’s Main Street and the importance of fighting global proliferation into our communities. Yet for all its simplicity, every day, every single one us in RI spends our money at businesses with corporate models we know do harm to our communities and the global community in many ways. That money is our vote for that corporate model, and that means it’s a vote taken away from your neighborhood.
In 2014, let’s keep our dollars, and our votes, here in Rhode Island where they belong.