Book Review - Going Local: Creating Self-Reliant Communities in a Global Age by Michel H. Shuman
Review by Meghan Mast
Before the phrase “going local” made its way onto trendy buttons, t-shirts and re-usable bags, Michael H. Shuman wrote a book about it. While the idea is now gaining popular support, ten years ago when this book was published, it had faced substantial criticism.
In the acknowledgments, Shuman writes, “I promised myself at the outset not to shy away from taking positions that would challenge and shake up more than a few friends and colleagues, so let me assure readers that indeed few (if any) of the people listed below agree with all the ideas presented.”
“Going Local” was written during a time when the popular idea was that for a community to thrive it needed to be competitively involved in the global economy. Through research and experience, Shuman discovered conflicting information. He found that dependency on outside sources often crippled communities. Meanwhile, he found that communities could thrive if they could become self-reliant by producing locally, owning business locally and recycling finance locally.
Self-reliant communities would be immune to global disasters because they would not be dependent on necessities from outside the community. For example, an increase in oil prices would not mean an increase in price of food for a population of people who grew all their own food.
Although Shuman recognizes that people may disagree with him, he believes that everyone can agree on the benefit of thriving communities. This subject transcends political ideologies, he says, insisting that the idea has something to offer both progressives and conservatives.
This is a how-to book. A guide for how individuals can help localize their economy. It’s about how to stop money from systematically exiting communities, how to improve job satisfaction and how to appreciate place.
“Going Local” is an interesting look back at when these issues were first coming into the public eye, before the idea was trendy and when it was viewed as a radical alternative. Although radical at the time, the idea is simple. Community matters and this book reminds us why.