October 25, 2004
If you buy into the rhetoric that globalization is all there is, countryside does not matter much. If the technology treadmill to ever lower production costs is all there is, the countryside’s historical resources: food, lumber, energy and minerals do not matter much. If global capitalism is all there is, the countryside may be waiting a long time for some benefits to trickle down. If life — human beings included — is just so much DNA caught in a vast and remorseless evolution beyond our control, there is not much the countryside can do about its fate.
Some have bought in. Back in April, Lawrence Solomon wrote an essay in the National Post in which he gloats over what he calls a “prominent government panel,” that recommends that unsustainable rural areas in Canada’s heartland be taken off life support and allowed to die a natural death. The headline on the essay reads: “Rural phase out: In a major turning point, an Ontario government report suggests a restructuring and eventual abandonment of much of the provincial hinterland.”
I have not bought in. But globalization has a way of getting into our thinking and doing without realizing it — and undermining the future of countryside.
In London, last week, Avi Lewis came to the seventh rural development conference sponsored by the Ontario Rural Council with a message about constructive resistance to globalization. Lewis has just returned from Argentina where he has been engrossed in producing a documentary, The Take, a passionate tale of workers wresting control of the means of production from the global capitalism that has failed them.
The conference sparked some fresh thoughts about our circumstances.
Globalization creates distance between decisions and effects. Head office is somewhere else than in rural Ontario. Laws are for the benefit of others. Solution: welcome more local decision-making. Downloading more responsibilities to municipalities is the right agenda. It’s high time the resources are there to do the tasks well.
Globalization is top down. The management structure is a pyramid where CEOs rake in vast rewards. Solution: favour cooperatives, partnerships, networks and local democratic decision-making.
Globalization favours “one size fits all.” It reduces us to “units” and consumers. Solution: make every community different. Build on the uniqueness of our local countryside. Capitalize on the strengths of local people.
Globalization wants governments to stay out of the way of markets and be an ambassador for trade expansion and the profit principle. Solution: demand that governments return to first principles – public service and fairness for competing interests.
Finally, globalization wants us all to shrug: there is no other way. Solution: stand up to the shrug and set an example.
Elbert van Donkersgoed
This commentary was first published as Corner Post, Farm & Countryside Commentary #354.
For details about The Ontario Rural Council, visit www.torc.on.ca.