We are told that we should think globally and act locally. But that is not enough. The world needs people who can think locally, too. The world needs people who balance a global perspective with a capacity to think in local terms: with care for local people, local cultures, local life, local needs, local landscapes, local plants, local animals. There is beauty in the "local" that is lost if people focus only on the global.
Creative localization is the activity of building local communities that are creative, compassionate, participatory, humane to animals, good for the earth, and spiritually satisfying, with no one left behind. The local communities can be neighborhoods, villages, cities, or countrysides – and those who creatively localize can come from many walks of life. They can be teachers, afarmers, businesspersons, physicians, construction workers, factory workers, or accountants. In helping to build these communities, they are doing the great work.
Why do they do it? There are many reasons, but at the heart of creative localization is an impulse to nurture. In the spiritual alphabet offered by Spirituality and Practice, “N” is for nurturing. The desire to nurture includes, but is more than, a desire to heal and solve problems. At its core is the ideal of health: health in the body; health in the mind, health in the spirit, health in community, health in the natural world, health in relationships. Health means wholeness in what the late Thomas Berry called mutually enhancing relationships. People can enjoy health and other animals can as well in their way. Different kinds of living beings have their different kinds of health.
Communities, too, can enjoy health. A community that is just, sustainable and joyful is a healthy community. Its health is not static; it can change through time. But always it has and seeks a kind of harmony relative to the situation at hand. A creative harmony that includes differences.
Is the universe itself nurturing? Is there something within it that leans toward health, toward wholeness, toward creative harmony – albeit not in a coercive way. Perhaps so. At least this is what process theologians believe. They believe that even the soul of the universe, even God, is a nurturing spirit. Even God seeks and helps inspire a healthy world. This can be one of God’s many names: God the Nurturer.
To be a nurturer is not simply to help others, it is to be helped by others. Nurturers know that nurturance is a reciprocal process: to nurture is to be nurtured. It is certainly true that we can be nurtured by one another; but we can also be nurtured by the Earth. Every single moment of our lives we breathe air, and our very bodies are composed of the Earth, including water. The idea that humanity is one thing and the Earth quite another is an illusion. We are earth-creatures, earthlings.
We find our souls in living in community with others on our small planet. It is not enough to think globally. It is important to think locally, too. In local thinking, with health as its ideal, we find our souls.
Six Dimensions of Creative Localization
Energy: Generating power locally from renewable sources such as solar, wind and hydrogen, and where possible, using technology created and stored locally.
Food: Growing food locally or regionally using regenerative agriculture techniques that work cooperatively with nature and the earth.
Housing: Developing affordable housing in blended neighborhoods that encourage mutual support.
Education: Engaging all individuals in a life-long process of discovery to contribute creatively and meaningfully to society with values rooted in humanity, community and ecology, and to live joyously in harmony with diversity.
Culture: Developing a culture that values balance, sufficiency, human freedom and creative expression, rather than acquisition, consumption and servitude.
Economics: Pursuing economic policies that maximize the happiness of all and the ecological sustainability of the planet.
Michael Witmer and Lynn De Jonghe,, the Cobb Institute: A Community of Process and Practice
One example: The Transition Network
There are 900 initiatives registered and over 1800 around the world.
"In Transition 2.0 is an inspirational immersion in the Transition movement, gathering stories from around the world of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. You'll hear about communities printing their own money, growing food, localising their economies and setting up community power stations. It's an idea that has gone viral, a social experiment that is about responding to uncertain times with solutions and optimism. In a world of increasing uncertainty, here is a story of hope, ingenuity and the power of growing vegetables in unexpected places"
Reality is a process; nothing ever stays the same.
The process of reality is creative, emergent, evolutionary, and social.
There is a profound relationship between creativity, beauty, and life.
All life deserves respect; nothing in nature stands alone; everything is connected.
Thinking and feeling are connected; mind and body are not separate entities; aesthetic wisdom and rational inquiry are complementary.
Human experience begins by feeling the presence of the world and being affected by it.
Human happiness involves sharing experience with others and responding in harmony to these relationships.
Local communities in different parts of the world are making a constructive difference in responding to a plethora of crises: global climate change, political authoritarianism, economic disparities, poverty, war and the threat of nuclear war, consumerism, and a general sense of meaninglness.
Interestingly, these communities are having a good bit of fun along the way. Some of them are part of the transition network described above. Sparked by the creativity of their own ordinary citizens, these communities are inspired by the ideas of local livelihoods, local training, local food, local energy, and local currencies. They are interested in inner transformation as well as outer transformation. They are resilient.
But they are not resilient in a static or homogenized way. They embrace cultural, religious, and philosophical diversity; and they do not hide from enriching tensions. Even as they have their roots in the bonds of local affiliation, they have wings to fly. They are creatively and adventurously resilient.
Depth and Breadth
In the spirit of such resilience, they are hopeful but not naively optimistic. They encourage us to accept the hard parts of life, to be honest about suffering, to be serious about the challenges faced by a world that seems bent upon its own destruction; but also to plant ourselves in beauty, to embrace a spacious and gracious simplicity of living with less "stuff," cultivating what one of our columnists, Patricia Adams Farmer, calls "fat souls."
A fat soul is someone who can live in an open-minded and open-hearted way, filled with a sense of respect and care for the community of life. A fat soul has roots and wings.
Moreover, the people in these communities are committed to what another of our columnists, the philosopher C. Robert Mesle, calls "relational power." Relational power is the power to receive and absorb influences from others in a generous way, and then to respond with creative generosity, guided by the hope of mutual well-being. Relational power seeks win-win solutions, not win-lose solutions.
Indeed, in a Multi-Polar World, another of our columnists, Les Muray, points out that this kind of power also applies to international relations and hopes for the world. An appreciation of relational power entails a critique of colonizing and imperial rule --political, corporate, consumerist, or capitalist -- and, in local settings, a welcoming of consensus thinking over conflict thinking. Relational power does not hide from conflict, but it also knows that, in the last analysis, persuasion not coercion is the most lasting kind of power.
Improvising and the Open Future
In these and other ways relational philosophies have an important role to play to play in encouraging transitions to a post-petroleum world. Such philosophies emphasize that we humans dwell within, not apart from, the network of felt relations, human and ecological, that shape our lives; and that we have possibilities for living creatively and compassionately amid these relations. These philosophies see the future is influenced by the past, sometimes in deeply damaging ways, but believe that, in the present itself, there is a kernel creativity that can help create a different kind of future.
Thus, these philosophies are not mechanistic or deterministic. They see the universe as a whole, not only as a web of interconnected events, but also as a journey, a pilgrimage through time and space that creates time and space within the pilgrimage. The future doesn't exist until the universe creates it.
A Divine Lure toward Creative Transformation
There's a religious side to all of this. Some among these philosophies -- Whitehead's version, for example -- speak of a divine lure toward creative transformation, present in the cosmos and present in life on earth. The Whiteheadian version of relational thinking sees the transition movement itself as one way of responding to this lure. God calls toward peace among people and peace with the earth, toward creative frugality and adventurous living.
This does not mean that all participants in the transition movement are, or need to be, religious. Nor does it mean that they need belong to a single religion. From the Whiteheadian perspective the diversity of cultures and faiths in our world makes the whole of life, and the whole of the divine life, richer. Even God takes satisfaction in the multiplicity and is nourished by it.
This means that transition communities can be, and need to be, multi-faith communities and the inter-religious dialogue can have a practical aim: namely to draw from resources within and beyond religions toward the creation of what Martin Luther King, Jr. called beloved communities. Each religion has something to offer, and no religion has all the answers.
Perhaps it is ideas such as these -- wide souls, relational power, a creative universe in which all things are connected -- which can provide philosophical support for transition communities. In Five Foundations for a New Civilizationand Ten Ideas for Saving the Planet, John B. Cobb. Jr. offers more particular ideas that deepen what has been said above. There is a need for hospitable urban design, for sustainable economics, for a revitalization of rural life, for wise and responsive governance that moves in the direction of biocracy.
But it all begins with a combination of creative and experimental practice, guided by good intentions and courage of soul. It is the business of the future to be dangerous, says Whitehead. He adds that, with fortitude and spunk, creativity and resilience, the future can be beautiful, too.
-- Jay McDaniel. January 2020
Combining Theory and Practice in a new kind of Economics