16 – 18 October, 2015
One of the reasons humanity faces so many ecological problems is because so many of us have forgotten about Place. Increasingly, humans who can afford to do so are living consumer lifestyles that draw resources from a globally connected market of production and consumption. Local production and manufacturing is allowed to collapse as nations embrace ‘free’ trade. Debate in Australia on trade agreements like the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) or the China Australia agreement often focuses on things like working conditions, access to markets, or the ability of an agreement to impact on the right to enact local legislation to protect the environment.
Yet there is almost no discussion about whether it is ecologically wise to continue to build our economies to rely on the long distance export of goods. Yes, much of our dominant economic theory is based on the idea of competitive advantage, the ability of a country, company or individual to produce goods and/or services at a lower opportunity cost than their competitors. The argument goes that we should play to our strengths, so if we have lots of coal or farm production and someone wants to buy it, then we should focus our economies around those products where we have some advantage.
But where is ecological sustainability or community in this formula? ‘Sustainability’ need not be some overly fancy or technical concept. It is simply the ability of our planet to provide resources while also dealing with the pollutants we create in accessing and using those resources. There is no doubt that at present we are using resources way beyond the earth’s ability to provide them into the indefinite future and also deal with our wastes (such as greenhouse pollution).
Many people are responding to the unfolding ecological and climate crisis through being politically active. Resisting, organising, divesting, taking direct action, growing food, supporting environmental groups, volunteering their time. One aspect of this response is to help re-build community. This takes a myriad of forms, and the beauty of local responses is that by definition, they will be influenced by their local environments. They may be guided by common principles shared by others, but the exact form local community action and co-operation takes will be, to a degree, a product of the local environment, and what it offers in terms of resources and climate. ‘Place’ is re-entering the political debate, at a time when it is desperately needed.
That’s one of the reasons it is so exciting that Castlemaine in Central Victoria will be hosting the ‘Local Lives, Global Matters’ conference in October.
Castlemaine is a thriving, progressive town in the central goldfields, nestled amongst remnants of the great Box Ironbark ecosystem. It has long attracted community-minded and creative people. As a town where the main employers are still the meatworks, the hospital and a jail, it is a town where there is a healthy mix of class demographics, despite a real lack of ethnic diversity.
Local Lives, Global Matters will be a four day conference that addresses
- local economies and livelihoods;
- equitable, re-democratised societies;
- social and ecological justice;
- and the spirituality that connects us to the land and each other.
The organisers say:
‘The Great Transition’ to creating a truly sustainable relationship between humanity and nature must take place in the current generation. Biodiversity loss and climate catastrophe are inevitable consequences of our current social and economic systems, and both are close to critical tipping points. The never-ending quest for corporate profits drive ever increasing resource use and the degradation of the natural world on which we all depend. Our global trade regimes prioritise the interests of corporations over people and nature and are symbolic of our upside-down values. Political decision making has been captured by corporate interests, eroding democracy and creating political apathy.
Against this rather bleak backdrop, local communities all around the world are creating a better future: strengthening relationships between people, land and integrated systems. Local Lives Global Matters builds on what is already happening by fostering thriving, local and regional economies and societies and accelerating the transition to world without fossil fuels and growth addictions.
Local Lives Global Matters is inspired by, and follows in the footsteps, worldwide Economics of Happiness conferences. Presentations, workshops, panel discussions, plenaries, story-telling, art, music, film and site visits will showcase local in initiatives and kick-start new ones.
We have come together to inspire change at both personal and systemic levels.
It will feature more than 100 presenters, including Rob Hopkins, the co-founder of the Transition Network, Helena Norberg-Hodge, the founder and director of Local Futures, and Dave Rastovich, a world renowned professional surfer.
The organisers would love to hear from you if you were keen to volunteer to help make this conference a reality.