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Clothing (partially) made in Vermont

Carl Etnier, Rutland Herald
So many people have started talking about local food that the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary named “localvore” their 2007 “word of the year.” A localvore is a person who eats locally grown food, generally from within a specified radius, say 100 miles. Someone who aspires to immortality, at least through a footnote in the dictionary, could invent a similar word for a person who purchases locally in general. The concept of local purchasing is gaining cachet; Buy Local Vermont, formed in 2006, is one of dozens of similar organizations around the country.

The “buy local” movement is (so far) primarily about patronizing locally owned businesses. The clothes and books and bikes sold by those businesses usually come from as far away as similar products in chain stores. In fact, the products are often identical. For example, Michael Pollan’s paean to local food, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” is published by Penguin, and no matter where you buy it, it is printed wherever it is that Penguin prints their books.

Buying locally makes a surprising economic difference even with non-local products like books. According to a study in Austin, Texas, buying Pollan’s book for $16 at a locally owned, independent book store keeps $7.20 in the local economy, while buying it for the same price at a chain store means only $2.10 is kept local. (Contrary to a popular belief, locally owned stores often offer similar prices to the chains.) And buying the book online, of course, keeps hardly any money local – mostly the wages of the people who deliver the book to your door and the people who service the delivery trucks.

Finding locally made products is the next logical step in the localvore and buy-local movements. Local production is a security issue as much as an economic issue. Global supply chains using trucks, railroads, planes and container ships depend on cheap oil, good international relations, healthy economies elsewhere in the world, and other things we often take for granted. The more of what we use is produced locally, the more resilient our economy will be to disruptions like reduced energy availability after peak oil.

I asked around to find stories about local clothing and fiber production in Vermont or the region.

Carl Etnier, director of Peak Oil Awareness, blogs at and hosts radio shows on WGDR, 91.1 FM Plainfield and WDEV 96.1 FM/550 AM, Waterbury. He can be reached at [email protected]

(2 March 2008)
Author Carl Etnier is an Energy Bulletin contributor.

10 Plus: Megan Quinn Bachman

News-Record (Greensboro, NC)
Q. Your film has been called “a marvelous film that provides a welcome abundance of toxic, depressing predictions for the future in the world of post-Peak Oil.” It has an optimistic bent. Why?

A. We saw that people were scared to death by so many of the movies and the articles predicting doom and gloom, and they were so much in a state of despair and denial that they weren’t doing anything. They just continued their overconsumptive lifestyle because they were immobilized by fear. So, we wanted to provide people with some possibilities for action, some practical options. We were so inspired by the innovation and perseverance of the Cuban people when the Soviet Union collapsed and they lost half their oil overnight. We thought we could motivate Americans to do a little bit more and start taking some small steps to address peak oil and climate change before we have a crisis like Cuba.

Q.Has that happened?

A. Yes. I think it has encouraged people to start curtailing their energy use and moving toward more cooperative living. We hear about people who have never gardened before start trying.

But for the most part, the film is a tool to spread the message that our energy-intensive lifestyles cannot go on forever and that we need to develop local and personal responses.
(2 March 2008)

How Are You Preparing to Survive?

Alex Steffen, WorldChanging
A reporter from a big news organization you’ve heard of is looking for some help with a story he’s working on:

“With all the talk about possible serious environmental and/or economic crisis on the horizon, have you found yourself taking steps in the last couple of years to be prepared for a worst-case scenario? What specific things are you doing to prepare for the worst? …”

Though we hew close to the path of optimism here at Worldchanging, we also recognize that being prepared for disasters, thinking ahead about what to do in an emergency and paying attention to survivability are not signs that you’ve given up on making the world better. Taking reasonable steps merely indicates that you’re planning to be around to see the bright green future when it gets here.

Personally, while I have a decent emergency kit and food cache, I draw the line at preparing for the downfall of society, mostly because I know that most so-called preparation for societal collapse is fantasy, but also partly because it makes me crazy (as in less happy, less smart and less useful) to constantly anticipate the apocalypse.

So, what do your survival plans entail?
(21 February 2008)
An unusual topic for WorldChanging. Many comments at the original. -BA