Support Local Business, Support A Stronger Local Economy

Last week I came across emails and articles about our local dairy (1)(2), Bushy Park Farm Dairy, having to close down. I find this rather disturbing considering the bumpy road we are on in terms of rising energy costs. If our local dairy goes, and the input costs continue to soar (if not the whole system collapsing), where will we get our milk, cheese, and ice cream from? I don’t know about you, but I have no intention of parting with my ice cream!

Ok, but hang on a sec. What exactly is the problem here? How is the supply of our dairy products (along with pretty much everything else) so vulnerable? And how might we do something about it?

The problem with centralized supply
The availability of cheap fossil fuel energy allowed many things to happen. We saw an explosion of mass production, and goods were able to be transported great distances at minimal cost. It also allowed for production and distribution of goods to become far more centralized. Now this would all be great and dandy if fossil fuel energy was infinite, and if its extraction and utilization didn’t have significant impacts on our biosphere. Sadly, that is not the case.

Burning fossil fuels to produce goods en masse and distribute them all over the world puts huge amounts of greenhouse gases into our atmosphere and, to sustain this, countless ecosystems are destroyed just to supply the resources needed. The result: climate change (and all that comes with it). Now that should be enough to inspire some sort of change in how we do things, but for many, it isn’t.

Those who aren’t willing to make changes are in for an even bumpier ride. Remember those resources you needed to produce and distribute all these wonderful products? Well not only are they becoming more costly, but also more scarce. We can already see things getting more expensive in our supermarkets, but at this rate, we won’t even have the energy to get those goods from one side of the world to the other and onto the shelves. We’re not quite prepared for that are we? No; but we can be.

Going Local just makes more sense
So if all my groceries, furniture, clothes and all the rest are going to be costing a whole lot more because of the energy needed to get them from one continent to the next, would they be cheaper if that distance was radically reduced? I think you’re onto something there!

If these different things were being produced, processed and distributed in and around my town (or even just the country), that whole cost of flying them around the world is cut out. Keep in mind that not all goods are produced and processed on the same continent never mind then same town, so the total flyer miles accumulated on the final product could possibly exceed those of some of our top businessmen.

What about the impact on the local economy? All these expenses for processes taking place outside your locality are obviously having to be covered by you, the consumer, leaving very little behind to develop the local economy. It looks a little something like a leaky bucket, but as Rob Hopkins stated in a recent article (3): “…every outpouring is a potential local livelihood, local business, training opportunity…”. These are opportunities to plug those leaks and allow incoming money to continue to circulate within the bucket. More money in, less out; a growing, more resilient local economy.

Back to securing ice-cream supply…
Now with all that in mind, lets take look at the situation with our local dairy. I’m sure very little of our milk and other dairy products are produced outside of South Africa, but none the less, having a producer within your locality is extremely valuable and deserves support. Better to realize that now within the context of these global challenges than having to start form scratch later down the line.

Now this is where your power as the consumer comes in. Its your decision to purchase a local product from a business you can easily visit yourself over another product which has had to travel a lot further. Its your decision to purchase from a producer with a good reputation and is so involved in your community, than from another you know nothing about.

There are other factors involved in the case of Bushy Park such as rising energy tariffs (which will be putting considerable strain on many businesses within the next few years, if not already) so rectifying the situation may require a whole lot more than just a boost in consumer support, but it sure is worth a shot.

So give some thought before your next purchase. Give preference to local products where you can and in so doing contribute to securing local jobs and a stronger local economy. If not because of climate change, then at least for the economic benefit to you and your community.

——————————————————————————————
(1) Dairy farm could close soon
http://www.peherald.com/news/article/1794

(2) Sometimes the e-mails are Correct
http://mype.co.za/new/2011/06/sometimes-the-e-mails-are-correct/

(3) Transition Network empowers local groups to promote sustainable issues
http://www.guardian.co.uk/sustainable-business/transition-network-local-sustainable-issues?intcmp=122

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4 Responses to Support Local Business, Support A Stronger Local Economy

  1. Pingback: NMB TN Newsletter – 29/06/2011 | Nelson Mandela Bay Transition Network

  2. Hugh Laue says:

    This is doubly sad considering that Bushy Park cares for its cattle in a humane way and produces superior products, plus if you buy from the factory shop the milk is only R5.50 per L. Their butter is cheaper too. We’ll miss them dearly.

  3. Pierre-Louis says:

    “I am picking on us, all of us who live here and who need to develop an awareness that we need to support and grow our local economy. This is where jobs and poverty reduction will come from.” says Tim in The Herald “Think Local and create jobs – 20/06). Indeed.
    This together with food security is I believe a so crucial but also so misunderstood/un recognized subject, that it is worst setting a discussion forum just for it. Would The herald Newspaper take up the challenge ?
    I don’t understand why Tim states that it is “more urgent for us to take action against poverty than against global warming”. How can we dissociate the two as CC will create long term and definite poverty ?
    “Burning fossil fuels to produce goods en masse and distribute them all over the world puts huge amounts of greenhouse gases into our atmosphere and, to sustain this, countless ecosystems are destroyed just to supply the resources needed. The result: climate change (and all that comes with it). Now that should be enough to inspire some sort of change in how we do things, but for many, it isn’t” writes Ryan of the Transition network around the closure of our Bushy Park dairy.
    In the same vein of Tim article, if we allow CC “( instead of poverty) time bomb to explode, it will take out every Rhino, every Elephant, every forest and everything that this country has built up over the centuries” But CC would be worst as it would also impact on our survival base which is our environment. It won’t be poverty indeed because it won’t be anything or almost anything.
    Tim continues writing that “I was struck by how few ideas at all were put forward about issues impacting on the local economy”. Indeed but isn’t that ideas are like brush strokes ? They require a frame and a vision otherwise they would go all around and would not make sense. Policies are the frames but where is the vision ? How can we set policies without a vision ? Isn’t it the latter, informed by climate change, peak oil and the growth myth the most important document in order to finally pull together towards the right direction ? Without vision, we are blind. One said long ago “where is no vision, the people perish”.
    On the National level, the climate change white paper, the IPAD 2, the Integrated Resource plan 2010, the energy plan, the new growth path…………are the policies. They are not aliened because they were made before National Planning Commission (NPC) finalized the national vision, that will show the way (hopefully the right one, which is the low carbon future).
    Tim goes on saying “we have developed the idea that we need “outside investment” or an “export programme” to get our local economy to work. ….or that we need to build an IDZ so we can export Aluminium to Argentinean cool drink can fabricators! We have come to think that we will be rescued by big investment from “outside”. We believe that somehow these actions will make the poor less poor.”
    Indeed “our thinking is mistaken” but only a discussion on the subject and the join articulation of a low carbon vision would highlight the importance of “localization”. The latter would create a local and sustainable development that ARE the base of long term and equal employment opportunities.
    “Every time we purchase from these transnational corporations we are taking away from the local economy, we take away from local culture, we damage the environment through waste, emissions and packaging. But what can we do?” Tim continue and ask
    The good news is that the NPC is requesting inputs for the National vision and the Municipality for a local one, that will inform its Integrate Development Plan. But the bad news is that neither try to make it an educational, inclusive and integrated process.
    Tim proposes that “Perhaps the first step we must all take is to help each other understand that “localisation” (not Globalisation) of the economy is: Good for the environment, Good for job creation, Good for quality, Good for well-being. Maybe the second step could be to build consciousness through our purchasing decisions. We could buy milk from a local dairy. We could support local restaurants (avoid the chains)……..” He ended by mentioning rightly that “This is urgent”.
    Ryan adds: “Now this is where your power as the consumer comes in. Its your decision to purchase a local product from a business you can easily visit yourself over another product which has had to travel a lot further”
    Excellent but who still lives in a real world, knows and care about the horrible impact of “globalization” ? This requires a deep discussion, educational process and change of mind, lead by a champion entity (municipality ?).
    Jonathan Swift once said “vision is the art of seeing things invisible”. We have a power of imagination but the latter will only make sense if it is informed by factors that will most probably shape our future.
    Our local group, the Transition Network has submitted its vision to the Municipality. It hopes that the latter will be considered and will initiate some fruitful discussion. Regards PL Lemercier

    .

  4. ryansnoopyallan says:

    Thank you to Time Hewitt-Coleman for sharing this link to an article he wrote on the same topic last week…..

    http://theurbancircle.blogspot.com/2011/06/think-local-and-create-jobs.html

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