I went to the Thursday forum on the Springfield Economic Growth Initiative held by MassINC and the Urban Issues Institute, the first of a number which will be held this year in Springfield, and it was quite interesting.
After a brief introduction to the initiative, we who attended were invited to address the planners about our vision for Springfield in twenty years and how we might get there. We were asked to keep our remarks to three to five minutes.
People are so funny. Some people had come clearly prepared to give a speech, and they barely looked at the planners-- they turned to address the audience! Most of those people ignored the time limit and a couple didn't even address long-range issues but talked about problems now. But most people had something interesting to say; poor people took a lot of the blame for Springfield's problems, but I expected no less.
Whether they knew there was a name for it or not, a lot of people focused on directions that would relocalizing our economy. What is Relocalization? This is from the Relocalization Network:
Relocalization is a strategy to build societies based on the local production of food, energy and goods, and the local development of currency, governance and culture. The main goals of Relocalization are to increase community energy security, to strengthen local economies, and to dramatically improve environmental conditions and social equity.
Think about this: we're surrounded by farmland yet import most of our food. We have natural sources of energy but are dependent on the grid and imported oil. Most of our clothing comes from China. Most of our restaurants are national chains. Why is this so, given our incredible natural resources and a city full of people desperate for training and a new start?
Even more than revitalizing our local economy, we become a part of the solution to save our planet.
Willits, CA may have one of the best Relocalization effort in the country, check out their website. Also worth checking out, if you want to find out about what Relocalization is: EcoLocalizer and Boulder Valley Relocalization,
A number of local groups are working on aspects of Relocalization. I'll get a list together and post it.
Photo from Corquey's photostream at Flickr