Photo credit: Supreme Court Pediment by Flickr.com user Kevin Harber

"Relocalization" and the Presidency

I can't get excited about the presidential race. I know who I'll vote for, and I'll dutifully fulfill my democratic obligations on Election Day this fall, but I won't be doing much more than that - which surprises me. In the past, I've eagerly participated in the quadrennial circus to elect a new President. In addition, over the years I've volunteered for various congressional campaigns, contributed (very) modest amounts of cash to candidates, and eagerly stood in long lines to cast my vote. This year I reserved all of the above for a colleague who ran for county commissioner here in Santa Fe. And I did so for two reasons. First, no one nationally is talking intelligently about issues that matter to me (whether they are talking intelligently about issues that matter to fellow Americans is an open question, I think). Take food and energy policy. Or climate change. Or family farming and ranching. Nothing substantive is being proposed, not by the two presidential candidates or by anyone in Congress (with a few exceptions). Take the new Farm Bill, please. There was a golden opportunity to change course. Instead, we'll be growing more corn for ethanol. I can guess why substantive discussions are being avoided: our leaders understand that as a nation, we're in a jam of serious proportions. The proverbial chickens are coming home to roost after partying hard for sixty years and no one is willing to confront the mess we've created. For example, on Independence Day, I listened to a great deal of chatter on the radio about energy independence. All I could think was: "We're about twenty-five years too late." At least the fireworks were pretty! Second, if I've lost faith in our national leaders, I hold out a great deal of hope for local ones. In fact, I think over the ensuing years, the most important political unit will be the county and the most influential political leader the local county commissioner. That's because commissioners have real power to change things at local scales and because they are responsive (or ought to be) to local communities. And out West, where I live, counties are large in size, and thus control many resources. "Relocalization" is much in the air these days, from talk about local food and farms to innovative ideas about local energy production. And given rising energy prices - which promise to go much higher - these discussions will only become more numerous, which is a great thing. I suspect it's a harbinger of bigger things to come. The next step is to relocalize democracy. Start over at the grassroots - including, the grass and the roots. ---------- Courtney White is co-founder and Executive Director of The Quivira Coalition, a nonprofit organization dedicated to building bridges between ranchers, conservationists, public land managers, scientists, and others. He is the author of Revolution on the Range: The Rise of a New Ranch in the American West. For further ruminations by Courtney, see www.chronicleofconsequences.com.