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Rethink & Relocalize


Raymond De Young is an academic who isn't working for a military think-tank, or explaining why we should just keep climbing the consumer ladder. His new "Localization Reader" will likely fall into hands that get dirty in gardens, and active in your community.

De Young is Associate Professor of Environmental Psychology and Planning, in the School of Natural Resources and Environment, at the University of Michigan.

I came upon Raymond's work through the psychologist Carolyn Baker. She passed on an article about how to survive our knowledge of a society under extreme stress - with a technique as simple as a walk in the park. The article is titled "Restoring Mental Vitality in an Endangered World: Reflections on the Benefits of Walking".

This really struck a chord with me. I walk through some trees, or along a stream, every day of the year. I've had a few almost hallucinogenic moments just looking at the delicate patterns in a patch of weeds. Should we worry about all the millions of minds who have departed for electronic screens, living in electrons?

Here is where to find Raymond's blog "The Localization Papers".

Along with Thomas Princen, De Young has selected a bunch of useful papers on relocalization, for a new book, "The Localization Reader, Adapting to the Coming Downshift" coming from MIT Press.

I like the mix of papers. You get classic works from people like M. King Hubbert, Joseph Tainter, Ivan Illich, and Wendell Berry. But they've also captured some of the new relocalization voices like Sharon Astyk and Rob Hopkins.

In our interview, I ask what De Young means by "downshift". It turns out it may be a more positive substitute for "collapse." De Young describes it more like deciding to shift down a gear in a car, as we shift downwards in our unnecessary consumption of resources, indeed of the Earth.

In the end, we get back to the problem of surviving the tidal wave of bad news, hitting us every day. I ask De Young how he copes, and is there more the rest of us can do, to maintain our vitality?

Neither of us are saying we should be "suzy sunshine" all the time. A bit of depression and cynicism is also healthy, given the slightly suicidal path our civilization is taking at the moment.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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