Local vs. Global

This week we had the opportunity to visit a number of family operations, each making their own artisanal products for local sale. Amongst them, a baker, sweets (cajetas) maker, furniture maker and potter. The processes involved with making each product was fascinating specifically coming from family operations, mostly manual with few and small tools (often recycled materials). The pride on the faces of the families was also heartwarming and really nice to see.

All items were made in the homes of the families. Food items came from decent conditions but not what would be considered acceptable under North American standards. It appeared liberated of standards and regulations which often unnecessarily complicate production operations (in my opinion). Some people might worry about sanitation but I’m sure each family takes precautions to maintain their reputation for quality. Moreover comparing the severity of common food-borne illnesses against the restrictions on our freedoms to produce and sell, not surprisingly I would choose freedom. Of course there should be common best practices and some checks in place for more serious concerns, but all-in-all freedom fosters morals, trust and responsibility, reputation-building. Laws foster rule-following and obedience for avoidance of usually financial consequences. Laws might be useful but I think only because we lack a more personal or community response.

Local production is also a lot more attuned to local demand and sensitive to environmental resources available. Inventory does not need to be plentiful and there is a lot more incentive for small-scale operations to not be wasteful. How many manufacturing companies can say they don’t create much waste or that their production is closely aligned with demand. I often wonder in shopping malls what happens to all the excesses of clothes once they go out of fashion or all the trendy, seasonal/festive items that will be fashionably expired by the following year. So much waste!!

More and more, I am convinced that buying locally-sourced sustainably-made/grown products is the only thing that will save our world which is currently being drained of its resources oh so rapidly. If you ask me, globalization has done more harm than good. Again I think of the deforested mountains where monoculture crops of pineapples and dragonfruit are grown here in Nicaragua for export hundreds to thousands of miles away by earth-unfriendly trucks to other countries. We say that health is more important than wealth yet everyday we make choices that contradict that belief. And I think it’s important to add that the health of our planet is no less important than our own personal health. An obvious example: buying cheap, non-organic, non-local produce from the grocery store is just as bad for the environment as it is for our bodies. We choose mass-market fashion over sustainably-made or recycled clothes. We don’t think twice about where the materials for our furniture comes from.

I’m guilty of many of these choices myself and my habits will definitely change going forward but I think it’s important for everybody to think about – really reflect on – the consequences of each decision we make, each vote with our hard-earned dollars, every inch of destruction we cause to the environment that we are leaving for the next generation (do it for the kids!). I think if we can’t say where or how or what exactly our purchases come from, then they are probably not the right purchases to be making.

Anyways, ponder on!