Less Net



Local Sufficiency - page 5

Technological change is complex and no one model can capture the full range of innovation, adaptation, and maintenance that would be required for local sufficiency, given the diverse elements, from basic agricultural techniques for organic farming, through to advanced sensors in energy efficiency equipment. Under a local sufficiency framework, the mix, in any case, would be determined by specific local conditions. Indeed, during the transition phase, there must be opportunities for experimentation, including schemes for local currencies and investment banks to support new programmes. Inevitably, as part of that experimentation, some initiatives will fail, but a pool of knowledge and expertise will grow as to the most appropriate and effective applications.

This also raises issues about forms of ownership for local sufficiency that can support long-term investment. Certainly there is a case for the local state to own natural local monopolies like water supply and public transport.  It could also be in a position to own a substantial stock of land, and to allocate it for various essential activities, including the growing of local food, and the building of social housing. Here, it could enter into a range of contracts for service provision with locally-owned companies, including co-operatives, for community housing, transport and energy schemes. These companies would, in turn, contribute to a strong local multiplier of income and investment that will provide further resources to develop the local economy.

In the medium term, some difficult issues will have to be addressed about the relationship between the local and the globalised economy. For example, when local food production and distribution has reached a stage of maturity, it must be within the powers of the local state to close down globally-dependent sites like supermarkets if it is judged that their material and energy throughput and negative environmental impact contributed to resource depletion and global warming in ways that jeopardised the resilience of the local system that was now providing a viable alternative.

Local Economic Democracy

One possible method for achieving a fair assessment of the balance between the local and the globally-dependent elements of the economy is through a democratically accountable body. A Local Economic Forum could be set up, where elected representatives assess how the local economy was functioning, based on the criteria of local sufficiency and environmental recovery. It would be its responsibility to produce an annual report, assessing the state of the local economy against agreed objectives, and to produce forecasts and recommendations, including where necessary, on the closure of sites that were damaging the prospects for local sufficiency.

Further stages in the democratisation of economic decision-making could include a Regional Economic Forum, where again, assessments of the various local programmes are made against regional objectives such as an integrated public transport network based on rail and bus travel. In this case, when the network is sufficiently robust, the forum could recommend the closure of regional airports.


These sorts of policies would release substantial areas of land that could be brought into public ownership. In the case of land released by the closure of supermarkets, to be passed on to community land trusts as community-supported agricultural schemes, or for more remote sites like regional airports, as market gardens.

These examples of Economic Forums and Technology Networks are used to demonstrate that the application of a new industrial and technological paradigm can be achieved relatively quickly and successfully but they are, by no means, the only options. Rather, they signpost ways in which adaptation and innovation can be applied rapidly to new productive capacity. In practice, there will be many other approaches taken in the light of local conditions.

Local communities and locally-owned companies could work together to design new housing estates with no underground sewerage, where all waste was composted and recycled, water supplies treated through organic processes on site, and  all the materials for build, energy efficiency and maintenance provided locally. New forms of public transport could also be developed such as a hybrid, road/rail bus that can use an expanded rail network and continue journeys to remoter areas by road. 

These are practical examples of the sorts of technologies that have already been applied or developed to the prototype stage, many others exist, and there are no insuperable barriers to their application if a local sufficiency framework were adopted.

1. Rachel Carson, Silent Spring  (H. Hamilton, 1963)

2. Donella H. Meadows et al, Limits to Growth (Potomoc Associates Books, 1972)

3. Rene Dumont, Utopia or Else (Andrew Deutsch, 1974)

4. see http://unfccc.int/kyoto_protocol

5. Donella H. Meadows et al, Limits to Growth - The 30 Year Update  (Earthscan, 2005)

6. United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Transnational Corporations, Extractive Industries and Development (UNCTAD, 2007).

7. Ibid, p. 90, see also, Kenneth S. Deffeyes, Beyond Oil, The View from Hubbert’s Peak (Hill and Way, 2005).

8. Thomas Homer-Dixon, The Upside of Down - Catastrophe, Creativity and the Renewal of Civilisation (Souvenir Press, 2007)

9. For localisation see Colin Hines, Localisation, A Global Manifesto (Earthcscan, 2000), Michael H. Shuman, Going Local - Creating Self-Reliant Communities in a Global Age (Routledge, 2000), For a critique of globalisation, see Walden Bello, Deglobalization - Ideas for a New World Economy (Zed Books, 2002)

10. Adrian Smith and Andy Stirling, Inside or Out? Open or Closed? - Positioning the Governance of Sustainable Development (Science Policy Research Unit, University of Brighton, 2006)

11. Bara Douthwaite, Enabling Innovation - A Practical Guide to Understanding and Fostering Change (Zed Books, 2002)

12. Department of Energy, Energy Research and Development in the UK - Energy Paper No. 11 (UK Dept of Energy, 1976)

13. Hilary Wainwright, Arguments for a New Left - Answering the Free Market Right (Blackwell, 1993), for a review of the Technology Network set up by the Greater London Council in the 1980s

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