I just got home from a screening of “The Economics of Happiness”. We watched it at a local restored theater in Blossburg called the Victoria Theater.

This is what it looked like for many years until a local man who used to frequent it as a boy, bought it and brought it back to life.

Anyways, the documentary was basically about how globalization has pretty much destroyed the local community. That in fact, there is no more local community. The globalization of most products and their marketing has destroyed the sense and “need” of local economics. The products you purchase that are grown or made on one continent and then shipped to another for finishing touches and then sent to another for assembly or packaging then shipped to the nearest merchandiser for you to buy has somehow ended up cheaper than buying that same thing that was made or grown down the road. All done by over regulating and taxing the local producer, and subsidizing every facet of the product that traveled the world over to get near you.
This fact does have some troubling repercussions. It drives much of the population into joblessness, poverty, stress, and depression. Many politicians and big corporate business owners would have you to believe that globalizing helps create jobs locally and in the third world. It may create jobs locally but its taking advantage of and manipulating the people and cultures of the southern hemisphere. Putting them to hard labor, pulling them from agriculture and self sustaining livelihoods and bringing them to shacks in the big cities to live in slums to earn a slaves wages. Locally, it does the same thing. It draws people to big cities which then increases the demand for resources to support the population. They pay is usually lower end and they end up working their lives away for meager pay.

Now, having said all that, I did watch the film with somewhat of a critical mind. What I mentioned above is a broad brushstroke. I understand that without some globalization we would not have many things such as many electronics and other technology, coffee beans and other products not grown locally, cars (need rubber from somewhere), and many other things that are mass produced to fill demand. The population on Earth is exploding. But this gets to the core of the issue…do we need all these things to make us happy? Or would a general happiness index find that a simple life (how simple?) results in greater overall general happiness.

It was stated in the film that 1 acre of land could feed 20 people. The general feel of the point was that local small farmers can out produce large monoculture industrial farming. I don’t doubt that’s true, but with the rising population, can that really feed EVERYONE? I don’t know. If everyone moved out of the cities and spread out throughout the land….how much open land would really be left? How much of open land is actually habitable? I guess if the Ladakh people of Tibet can live where they’ve lived for the past 500 yrs without any outside influence, then no doubt there is a lot of places people could live self-sustainably. How much natural resources would need to be removed for that to happen? Is there enough room to have farms outlying the cities to feed them? I think an unspoken message in this movie was that the population is getting dangerously too large and that something needs to be done to control it. That was an unsettling thought to me.

Then they began talking about transition towns or cities. This idea has me intrigued. The idea is to develop whole communities that are less dependent, or not dependent at all on globalization or petroleum products. Sounds like Utopia, but I don’t believe Utopia will ever exist here on this earth. But I do believe that living wisely and being a good steward of your local environment is a good thing to do. So just because I don’t believe that heaven will ever be here on earth, doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t try to live in a way that conserves the environment and a moral economy.

The best quote I heard in the documentary was from an Indian gardener:  “We can not live infinitely on a finite earth.”