Home | About | Donate

Fight of the Century: Localization in a Globalized World


Fight of the Century: Localization in a Globalized World

Richard Heinberg

CD editor's note: The following is an excerpt from Richard Heinberg's latest book, Afterburn: Society Beyond Fossil Fuels (New Society/April 2015), which appears at Common Dreams with the kind permission of the author and publisher.


What if politicians had to genuinely debate something like this with each other before advancing further to serious and worthy contender?


One thing keeps striking me these past few days. In the 1960's, we faced all manner of threats, and needed to mobilize to meet those threats. One thing we couldn't do is spend endless hours sitting at a computer or using a smart phone, researching and discussing it. All we could do was use word of mouth, radio ads, flyers on lampposts, and a land line phone, all to summon ourselves to demonstration after demonstration in the streets, in the parks, and everywhere, as well as hold actual town halls and similar direct contact meetings.

Somehow, that all worked. We got a war stopped, and just maybe we helped overthrow two corrupt presidents. By contrast today, we seem to be slipping backwards, and I say "We," because I assume I'm talking about those of us who want to see revolutionary change again.

As my brother lay dying over a year ago, he constantly urged me to, "Put down the (expletive deleted) Internet, and go get involved in life!" Amen. Time for direct action ...


This is a most excellent article. My faith in CD is somewhat restored. I'm saving this piece, sending it to others, and looking for the book. Awareness is the first step of preparedness.

Undoubtedly, a thorny path lies ahead (and has already begun to appear for many of us). Whoever and wherever we are, there are things we can do. Action, any activity from feeding hummingbirds and gardening to manning food banks and volunteering at the local library, or whatever local need appears, is empowering.


From this incisive article:

"The convergence of debt bubbles, economic contraction, and extreme inequality is hardly unique to our historical moment. A particularly instructive and fateful previous instance occurred in France in the late 18th century. The result then was the French Revolution, which brought with it war, despotism, mass executions—and an utter failure to address underlying economic problems. So often, as in this case, nations suffering under economic contraction double down on militarism rather than downsizing their armies so as to free up resources. They go to war, hoping thereby both to win spoils and to give mobs of angry young men a target for their frustrations other than their own government. The gambit seldom succeeds; Napoleon made it work for a while, but not long. France and (most of) its people did survive the tumult. But then, at the dawn of the 19th century, Europe was on the cusp of another revolution—the fossil-fueled Industrial Revolution—and decades of economic growth shimmered on the horizon. Today we are just starting our long slide down the decline side of the fossil fuel supply curve."

Repeated to remind the forum faux revolutionaries that what they seem bent on creating may lead to further authoritarian-style right wing controls rather than salvation.

No mention of TPP and trade treaties that are as much in place to facilitate corporate exploitation of other nations' assets as they are to kneecap laws in place to protect workers and environmental assets. These are another barrier to finding ways to offset what now is an inevitable collapse taking place through 3 primary venues:

  1. Collapse of the natural world
  2. Collapse of the faux economies in paper products devoid of genuine worth (traded into the many trillions)
  3. Collapse based on a world awash in weapons from those used by street thugs, police, and drug dealers to those deployed by guerilla and "professional" armies and the like

Perhaps Mr. Heinberg spoke of TPP and TIPP in his new book. This was an excerpt, after all.


The course I've taken as a US citizen over the last 20-some years is as an advocate for modern mass transit, electric rail and fuel efficient hybrid/electric buses, not to complement automobiles but to reduce dependency upon them and reduce the necessity for long-distance travel and transport overall.

According to the philosophical prescriptions of New Urbanism, urban/suburban travel consists of 4 basic modes: cars/trucks, mass transit, walking and bicycling. Cars/trucks inherently present a severe impediment, not only to other basic modes of travel, but to the cars/trucks mode as well. In order for motorized modes of travel and transport to optimally function, the other modes must also function.

This travel mode dicotomy can be compared to scales of economy which vary from local, regional, state, national and global. The global economy, like the cars/trucks mode of travel, functions optimally when the lesser scales of economy also function. And like the cars/trucks travel mode, the global economy presents a severe impediment to the lesser economies. In other words, a dominant global economy will self-destruct in the same way that urban/surburban environs self-destruct when the cars/trucks mode of travel dominates.

My course of action prescribes building the lesser economies that can reduce the dominance of the big business global economy that only exists because poor people can be exploited for their labor and the environmental impact of motorized travel ignored. The technologies with the most capability to direct a course of action are plug-in hybrid EVs matched to rooftop photovoltiac solar arrays. Big business would rather consumers believe all-battery Tesla and hydrogen fuel cell EVs are the future, but that is just another lie.