Helena Norberg-Hodge: World Localisation Day 2022

In honour of World Localisation Day, we're publishing a special Unstress podcast with Helena Norberg-Hodge, a returning guest.

Helena is one of my favourite people and someone who inspires me much. Her organisation, Local Futures, has been around for nearly four decades.

Join us as we discuss a very inspirational movement. What's going on in our
local neighbourhood, how we connect with people and food, how supply chains become short, and how we may enhance not just our personal lives, but also the lives of our communities and the planet's health.

Helena Norberg-Hodge: World Localisation Day 2022 Introduction

Well, today we are going to be focussing on World Localisation Day and we are going to be talking to one of my favourite people, one of the people who I find so inspiring and always enjoyed talking to. 

The legendary Helena Norberg-Hodge. Whose organisation Local Futures has been going for about 40 years and she lives now in Australia. She travels the world when she can of course, and she is a truly inspiring person with a truly inspiring message, which I think we have all come to realise is so critically important: 

What goes on in our local community, how we connect both with people and with food, and how supply chains get short, and how we can improve not just our personal lives, but the lives of our communities and the health of the planet. Look, it’s always a pleasure to talk to Helena. I hope you enjoyed this conversation I had with Helena Norberg-Hodge.

Podcast Transcript

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to Unstress. My name is Dr Ron Ehrlich. I’d like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which I am recording this podcast. the Gadigal People of the Eora Nation and pay my respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.

Well, today we are going to be focussing on World Localisation Day and we are going to be talking to one of my favourite people, one of the people who I find so inspiring and always enjoyed talking to. 

The legendary Helena Norberg-Hodge. Whose organisation Local Futures has been going for about 40 years and she lives now in Australia. She travels the world when she can of course, and she is a truly inspiring person with a truly inspiring message, which I think we have all come to realise is so critically important: 

What goes on in our local community, how we connect both with people and with food, and how supply chains get short, and how we can improve not just our personal lives, but the lives of our communities and the health of the planet. Look, it’s always a pleasure to talk to Helena. I hope you enjoyed this conversation I had with Helena Norberg-Hodge. Welcome back, Helena.

Helena Norberg-Hodge: [00:01:28] Very glad to be here. Nice to see you.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:01:31] Helena. I wanted to talk about World Localisation Day, which is coming up in June 2022, but I wondered if we might just remind our listeners because you’ve been part of, you have been, Local Futures for a very long time. And I wondered if we might just remind our listeners about that.

Helena Norberg-Hodge: [00:01:49] Yeah, well, basically it came out of experiences in non-Western cultures, indigenous traditional countries like Bhutan and Ladakh. I had many, many years of experience speaking the language fluently. And it became clear this is in the mid-seventies, that in the name of development and growth, what governments were doing was creating more and more dependence on global trade and global corporations, and that inherently that meant destroying local communities, local farmers, and local businesses. 

It was particularly clear that in less developed countries that there were still a large proportion of people on the land growing food for their own region, for their own country. And they were being destroyed, pushed into cities to do often meaningless work. And often it led to terrible conflict, local conflict because the jobs were scarce.

Helena Norberg-Hodge: [00:02:53] So having had that experience in the seventies, ever since that time, I’ve been raising awareness about what isolated we can call globalisation, policies, whereby governments were continuing to create dependence on long-distance markets and just as I tried to raise awareness about that.

I tried everywhere and I was working internationally on every continent. I tried to raise awareness about the need to strengthen local economies with a particular focus on food. And I would say that that movement, which has been growing, you know, particularly in Australia, I only started 20 years ago, but I really was the early voice to help get new farmers’ markets started and the local food economies in Sydney and Melbourne and around the country. 

And I’m so thrilled at how these initiatives have grown and taken off, despite the fact that all the policies that governments are implementing work directly against them. The rules, the regulations, the taxation, every single thing makes it almost impossible to do what we’re doing.

Helena Norberg-Hodge: [00:04:15] So for me, I so want people to know that this testifies to the most, you know, a very clear signal that people want something else. People want a better relationship with the environment. Of course, they want more stable and reliable economies. Of course, they want more stable, meaningful work. 

And of course, they want community. They want more connected to each other. The whole localisation movement with food at the centre is offering that and it is a movement that’s growing despite, as I say, pressures in the opposite direction. And so for me, that just is incredibly inspiring and particularly gives me faith that this movement is not going to go away. It’s strengthened by COVID and governments better start listening. 

But above all, I’m trying to get environmentalists and social activists and anyone who cares about the state of the world, anyone who cares about a future for their children to look at this movement. 

Helena Norberg-Hodge: [00:05:23] So while localisation day is something that we set up three years ago and we’ve been able to get the support of some prominent people like Jane Goodall and Noam Chomsky, Russell Brand, Brian Eno and quite a few others. And that’s also quite remarkable because it’s very hard to get the word out where we’re so, you know, imprisoned by a corporate media. So it’s quite remarkable what the movement’s accomplished. It’s remarkable what we’ve accomplished despite all of these constraints. And I’m glad that you want to help get the word out. 

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:06:02] Oh, I most definitely do. And I felt passionate about it. Well, even before I knew about what you were doing because I think I remember saying many years ago that I think neo liberalism, which is all about globalisation, will prove to be one of the great environmental and social disasters of human history. I know that’s a big statement, but I quite like making big statements. 

Helena Norberg-Hodge: [00:06:27] It’s a big movement in the liberal movement. So it needs a big, strong critique. 

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:06:32] It does. And I guess this pandemic and it’s something that I have been aware of, the role of the corporations on health care, particularly the environment and human health for a very long time. But I have to say that I came out of these last two years of the pandemic gobsmacked. I mean, just almost breathtaking. The length, depth and breadth of corporate influence. 

I mean, I’ve stopped referring to news organisations as news organisations. They are media outlets. I know. And that’s why I love talking to you, Helana, to hear you say that this is a movement that is not going away. How have you seen the last two years, you know, unfold and how have you interpreted it?

Helena Norberg-Hodge: [00:07:25] Well, I mean, I think it’s really important to step back a few steps and look at the fact that there were many voices, even starting with the foundation of the environmental movement. There were voices like Rachel Carson, who was a leading, very respected scientist in America, who said, wait a minute, science is going in the wrong direction. It’s getting too specialised, too reductionist, too mechanistic. 

We need to understand that the interdependence, the wholeness, and the complexity of life require different knowledge systems, more holistic, and more interdisciplinary. So she raised awareness about the fact that DDT, which, you know, I’ve been happily invented to get rid of those bugs we don’t like that is actually killing the birds that we do like.

Helena Norberg-Hodge: [00:08:18] And so this is a big wake up call. And it was one of the foundational voices of the environmental movement. And I join that movement, as I say, in the mid-seventies, and was in touch with many scientists. And I say every continent, but particularly Europe and North America, who were questioning the direction it was going.

 One of them was George Wald, who was a Nobel Prise winning biologist at Harvard. I met him in ’83, and at that point he was already probably about 75. And he was also saying in his years at Harvard, he was becoming more and more concerned about the narrowness that meant that different biologists couldn’t even speak to each other.

Helena Norberg-Hodge: [00:09:05] And then, of course, later on with genetic engineering, there were many wise voices worrying about this hubris of playing with life, with implications for millions of years, and with less and less regulation to ensure that this so-called scientific discovery before it was applied in the market, was actually tested properly, and these regulations were being reduced because big business was becoming more and more powerful.

More and more it was literally whole institutes at universities owned, bought and owned by corporations like Monsanto. And, you know, we had, I think, particularly around genetic engineering, you know, their questioning of what was going on. That, of course, was happening in every arena. And the fossil fuel escalation, the use of fossil fuels was still continuing, as it still is today.

Helena Norberg-Hodge: [00:10:10] And so I think when we step back and understand that we’ve had this tragic situation where our governments, I would say blindly in the sense that, you know, we’re talking about governments, we’re talking about huge bodies. And within those governments, the majority of people have not had an overview. 

In fact, you know, I would say that our so-called leaders don’t either. They get advice, you know, and again, it’s coming from very narrow, narrowly focussed expertise and expertise on what creates healthy, thriving people, healthy, thriving ecosystems, and healthy societies. That expertise has been abandoned a long time ago.

Helena Norberg-Hodge: [00:10:53] So we’ve been in this very dangerous situation where profit by big corporations at the expense of the majority has been favoured and supported. And it’s endemic to economic policy. So the economic policies started with a principle of comparative advantage. And that principle said, “Oh, it’s not in your region’s interest to maintain a diversity of production so that you are more self-reliant.” No, no, no. 

The modern economy will show you how wealthy you can get if you specialise in export and then import whatever else you need. Now, that formula is actually fabulous for global traders, but it’s never been in the interest of the majority of people or even in the interest of national governments. 

Helena Norberg-Hodge: [00:11:48] But the overview, the look at what’s happening globally and what it meant that all around the world, first, you know, through force, through slavery and genocide, people were being forced away from production for their own needs, a range of products for food, for fibre, for building material. 

Now, now you’re going to be on a monoculture producing. Just sugar or just tea for the global market, meaning for the global traders, who then made lots and lots of money selling it in countries where that money value was going up.

Helena Norberg-Hodge: [00:12:22] And again, we have to remember the money value. Who controlled that? How did it happen that on one side of the world, the currency was worth 100th of a currency on the other side of the world? This was manipulated by global players from the beginning and yes, the industrialised nations played a big role in exploiting less industrialised countries. 

But by the time I helped to start something called an International Forum on Globalisation and we started studying what these trade treaties meant, it was very clear that these policies were not helping the majority of people in America and Australia and Sweden. 

So this fundamental relationship between global trade has been and global corporations and our countries we need to understand and very importantly its impact on knowledge, how we gather information, how and when we say information, you know, talking at the level of science for medical care, for farming and food production, for understanding the living world and how we can use nature for our needs without destroying her.

Helena Norberg-Hodge: [00:13:39] Now, this combination of large and scale global economic units with ever more specialised science. Now that is something that I was warning about in the 80s or early 80s. And I would say that if we could just have a little bit of funding if they could be, which will happen, I’m sure that there will be bodies like ours where a type of think tank, you know, some people say we’re doing what the neoliberals are doing, holding on to a world view to be disseminated in society. And the difference is that our worldview is holding on to knowledge about the workings of life, and the workings of social relationships. 

You know, what we need as human beings in terms of connection and community, the connections to the land, the fundamental principles of diversity and nature. And what would technology and economics and politics look like if they were adapted to that reality of the living world?

Helena Norberg-Hodge: [00:14:46] So we’re now, you know, seeing such a need for essentially having, you know, far more funding to do the research to spell out in greater detail both how and why we’ve gone so wrong from a global perspective and why, when we understand it from a global perspective, we don’t need to waste time blaming particular players. 

If you look at the escalation of this system, you will see that left and right have been absolutely as guilty. The escalation of handing over power to global trade and global corporations at the expense of the environment and your own society. Left and right have been doing it in almost identical ways.

Helena Norberg-Hodge: [00:15:37] However, the left has definitely tried a little bit within essentially a structural madness where they handed away most of the money and power to be a little bit more concerned about the poor and the disadvantaged and the environment. But structurally, fundamentally, they’ve been supporting this path. So let’s not join the blame game. Let’s not try to identify particular individuals, or particular players, but really step back and look at this system.

Helena Norberg-Hodge: [00:16:09] And then also, you know, as I say, open our eyes to the evidence that human beings around the world, on every continent are not only wanting something else but are doing something else from the bottom up. So when you see the pandemic in this light, then it’s a logical outcome of having allowed big business to run the show, to run the science, to run the regulations, which means essentially deregulating themselves while they have been lobbying governments to regulate everybody else. 

So we’ll have a fabric of virtually every individual, every small place-based business, and even national industries, under the view of government bureaucracy, which has become bigger and bigger and bigger. And at that level, any place-based from the tiniest little business to a national industry is being heavily regulated and squeezed for taxes.

Helena Norberg-Hodge: [00:17:18] In the meanwhile, those that operate globally are not only free and can move as they like and essentially don’t pay tax, but they are so influential that they are getting governments to sign in black and white. You will not do anything that will inhibit our profit. And if you do, we will take you to our courts. Our goal this we are so doing, I think, in governments. This is madness.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:17:46] Well, I think it’s the domination of media as well, that provides the mouthpiece for it. So this is a story, I think, that is very easy to miss. But once you hear it, it’s very difficult to ignore. I mean, I think this corporate capture and I think it is a corporate capture, I think this whole idea of government by the people for the people has long gone. We have corporate capture. Is there anywhere in the world, Helena, that you have seen a government that you would hold up and say, here is an example of how we could or should work?

Helena Norberg-Hodge: [00:18:25] No.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:18:26] Oh, dear. I wish I hoped you wouldn’t say that. I hoped you wouldn’t say that.

Helena Norberg-Hodge: [00:18:31] No. No, I can’t, I’m afraid. This again remember from my point of view, you know, I’m from Sweden and a lot of people are still looking up to Scandinavia as being sort of examples of what we need. But there too, the gradual capture and handles that have been in a while for a very long time. And fundamentally after the Second World War, with the advent of industrial fossil fuel-based agriculture. 

And along with that, larger and larger cities where people are isolated in high rise apartments, separated from each other and separated from the land, you had serious mental problems depression, alcoholism, and suicide.

Helena Norberg-Hodge: [00:19:15] And so once you’ve seen the indigenous inter-generational communities connected to each other, connected to the land, as I have in Ladakh and Bhutan, and you then come back to Sweden and you see the contrast. You’ve become aware of how insanely wrong the direction has been for a very long time. 

But it’s you know, what I would say is that I’ve seen a lot of attempts of movements to try to do things differently. And there was a very exciting movement in Italy started by a comedian called Beppe Grillo. And it was a little bit like Russell Brand in the English speaking world that he had been starting to do a lot of his very loved comedic pieces about the banking system and their power and how crazy it was.

And then he said, he was quite a wealthy man by that point, he said, “No, we need people’s movement to take back government. It’s completely corrupt. I’m starting a people’s movement.”.

Helena Norberg-Hodge: [00:20:21] Because he already was famous throughout Italy, he then was able to travel the country and within six years, created a movement that was strong enough to go in and essentially be in Parliament with at that point, I think a third of the vote. And then they grew and they were getting close to taking over power. However, I would say the sort of two main reasons why it failed. 

And one of them was that they were very naive about technology. So they saw a lot of the way forward as being through technology. They tried to practise direct democracy through the Internet. And I met Beppe several times. And they used our film, The Economics of Happiness, they showed it around the country. 

And I know these young parliamentarians are working so hard trying to maintain this direct democracy. And it was just like virtually impossible. And they were, of course, attacked within Italy on a daily basis, constant attack, because, as you say, the media is totally part of this corporate structure.

Helena Norberg-Hodge: [00:21:38] As these entities have grown, the media has become more and more corporatized, more and more global, and absolutely centrally part of the problem. So every avenue of knowledge has been co-opted from science to the media to scale. So they were under constant attack. What was so interesting was that around the world, even in neighbouring France and Spain, no one got to hear about them. 

No one got to hear about the Five Star Movement and how they managed in six years to go into Parliament and really, really threaten to take over the whole country. It was amazing and to me, it was one of the most frightening examples of the control and the stranglehold by the media. 

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:22:23] Which is kind of when we see the pandemic, too. I mean, I know there were meetings, there were gatherings around Australia and down in Canberra. Well, whether it was 50,000 or 250,000, there were a lot of people down there, who didn’t even write a mention on any of the media. 

So apparently a gathering of 50000 to 250000. Maybe there were more, I don’t know. But there were certainly a lot of people there. I think we can agree on that. Not even a mention. And that was 2022. This is within our memory here.

Helena Norberg-Hodge: [00:22:58] Oh, very much. I don’t know. But I had been marching in San Francisco against the first Iraq War, and we had been a couple of hundred thousand and there had been, you know, like a dozen people waving the American flag right in the news they presented as people even back then. So I want people, when they look at the pandemic now, to not only view it in the narrow light of the pandemic itself but to understand this build-up and not also, for instance, with the World Economic Forum.

Helena Norberg-Hodge: [00:23:32] My experience is that the World Economic Forum has gone from bad to worse, just as our governments have. Why? The fundamental structures, how is it that global banks and corporations have got so much wealth and power? We really need an integrated view to understand how insane it is now that you have, you know, the world media is like two men battling. 

It’s going to be Zuckerberg who tells us what to do or is it going to be Elon Musk? This is insane. And it does require a bit of really stepping back to look at it, to understand why decentralisation is so important and why localisation is so important. Because in the current situation where we are now, we need to use our global communication as much as we can to communicate with one another that we should be putting out the message that these tools should now be used for communication, not for business. That’s what we should be doing. 

If we really understood the structures, we would want to create a rebellion right now to say that these tools have furthered this centralised power that is taking us over the cliff if we don’t wake up.

Helena Norberg-Hodge: [00:24:51] And in the meanwhile, what’s going on at the local level demonstrates the multiple needs for both nature and people to have more connected, more human scale structures. The reason why things work better at that level. 

Once we really understand that, we would want to actually be looking at how do we also ensure that communication and media flourish at the local level, at the regional level, at the national level, at the international level that we will only be able to do that if we understand those layers and if we make sure that the local isn’t being hollowed out and that all the power and the and the wealth is going into the hands of a few, you know, people will be… 

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:25:43] Yeah, well, it’s an extraordinary business plan, really. I mean, we talk about conspiracies. I don’t think it’s a conspiracy at all. I think it’s a business plan and an incredibly successful one. I mean, I think I’ve heard one figure of something like the last two years resulting in a redistribution upwards to those at the World Economic Forum, no doubt of about $3.8 trillion. 

And I can certainly know many people, including myself, were the last two years have cost a considerable sum of money. I know where that money has come from and I now know where it’s gone to, so it’s quite extraordinary.

Helena Norberg-Hodge: [00:26:18] Yeah, it is enormously so important to realise that again, I just don’t, you know, looking before the pandemic, then you would see if you had looked at our starts that the middle classes were getting poorer and poorer. That governments were getting poorer and poorer. These have been this de facto government of internally global plan, global banks, global media, global corporations whether pharmaceuticals, whether agribusinesses, whether in engineering field and telecommunications, very important and very much working with the military. 

So also, some people have seen the collaboration essentially between the Pentagon, Silicon Valley and Wall Street. And we’ve created this casino, which has already been essentially run by algorithms but is more and more in the hands of algorithms. And you know, some people are now calling that whole thing the machine. And in fact, it is a machine. As a very, very dangerous machine.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:27:25] Yeah, but I want to come back to your optimism because I love that optimism. And I think it’s what we need to focus on because if we become too overwhelmed by the forces of economic growth and globalisation, that’s one thing that’s going on. But let’s focus on what we can do. 

You mentioned you brought food markets and local food supply. Talk to us a bit more about what we as individuals can do, and particularly as we move towards this day of focussing on world localisation, what should we be doing as individuals?

Helena Norberg-Hodge: [00:28:00] Well, the main thing is that we want people to put a value on educating themselves with the big picture and that we want them to see once they sort of get it that, “Wow! There is this evidence that this is not a system created by human beings and some kind of human realm.” This actually system the start of the force. It’s not natural. Neither does it correspond with what human beings are or want, nor does it correspond with some kind of evolutionary process. Those ideas are endemic in Western society. 

We’ve been pushed into believing that, “Yeah, human beings are just greedy, they’re stupid, they’ve heard about climate change and refuse to do anything.” And it’s actually a lie, but it’s a lie promoted by people who really do believe it. And then subtly people like Yuval Harari who is sure well-intentioned. 

A lot of these people are well-intentioned. Even then, the WEF, that you know putting out the message that, you know, this sort of techno-economic development is inevitable and evolutionary. That’s implicit and explicit, put up all the time. Now, once to wake up to the bigger picture, you’ll be, “Wow. No lives, including human beings, are seeking and constantly organising themselves to come back to a type of self-regulating feeling, reconnection.”.

Helena Norberg-Hodge: [00:29:30] And the reconnection is highly starting with two brain hearts, because we’ve been trained to overemphasise the left brain hubs, and now there’s more and more scientific evidence of how beneficial it is. Once we start training our brains become whole again and connected. Then connecting more deeply to our hearts, on the gut. Waking up to the gut, being essentially part of the soil, part of the living earth. It is connected. This is who we are. 

And so in every single area, you want to look at in psychology and medicine and engineering and architecture, you will find people working a way to create a more ecological alternative path. All with evidence. That people want that and that where it’s being implemented demonstrates these multiple benefits.

Helena Norberg-Hodge: [00:30:25] And the term local is very important. And once you understand how it’s the global nature of a dominant system that made it so invisible that we didn’t understand it. Then the local, which brings it back to the scale where we human beings can see more of what’s happening. I mean, one of the best ways also to explain is how important it is in our interaction with nature, to have more eyes, hands and hearts engaged in restoring, whether it’s on food, on forestry and in the seeds. 

We need that deep respect and engagement with diversity. Every moment in the living one is unique, is different. Every single plant is different from every other plant, every human being is different, and all of us humans and earthworms and Leeds change from moment to moment. 

What we’ve allowed happen is a standard machine-like view to actually shape an artificial word which tries to impose this grid of standard uniform monoculture. So you either go on forever, but I just do want to say…

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:31:42] I know. I know. Well, you know, I know that you are also very passionate about indigenous knowledge and we are going to, I’m wanting to focus on that myself in the programme in my life. And I had the pleasure recently of talking to Tyson Yunkaporta who wrote that wonderful book, Sand Talk. And I’ve read Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu, which adorns my bookshelf as a must-read. But I guess the thing that I would say that could summarise an indigenous approach is “connection.” That’s the word that summarises an indigenous approach. Connection. 

Helena Norberg-Hodge: [00:32:18] But the connection isn’t enough. This is a problem in that we have to understand that indigenous means of place, it means local. And so we need to use more holistic language and we need to understand that now we’re being all the time massaged to have simplistic ideas. And so now regenerative agriculture, for instance, is very popular and there’s so much happening that’s good there, but it’s also in danger and or it is being co-opted just like the word sustainable. 

And so we’ve got to again, once we are more aware of what’s going on, we’ve got to talk about more diversified, smaller scale, local community-based. And once we start and slower, we actually want to react against the arguments, oh, this is going to speed up the harvesting. You know, let the AI, let the robots start doing this. And the robots are going to spray so much more carefully than human beings can to be really looking at solutions that don’t entangle us further in debt and high tech where it’s not necessary. 

And that’s a really, right now, one of the sad things is that a lot of people are being co-opted in that way and that the Green New Deal, which sounds great, renewable energy sounds great. But again, we don’t have the holistic analysis that looks at the fact that big industries are trying to push for the mega wind farms, for plastering thousands of acres of land with solar panels. 

We need to be alert and awake enough to say, nope, every piece of land should be breathing, should be alive. Whether productive and farming or of wild habitat. There’s no need whatsoever to plaster any land with solar panels, nor is there a need for the mega-farms that all feed the mega-industry and the global system.

Helena Norberg-Hodge: [00:34:23] So the global media, the global system is feeding in ideas that mean that so many good environmentalists and greens are being co-opted into doing things that are actually profoundly unhealthy. And it’s more than anything, it’s about the systemic path’s now into the future. 

After COVID, what happened is that COVID strengthened both paths. It strengthened beautifully the path towards local community based, connected, deeply connected ways of life, people developed also awareness about the need for local, shorter distances, shorter supply chains. They started even growing some of their own food, making their own bread. And even though they often couldn’t connect deeply, they connected to their neighbours and their communities to look after each other. 

There are beautiful examples over the world. But at the same time, this path whereby global banks, corporations, and particularly this collaboration between high tech military and a financial casino, that path pushing us into AI-led agriculture and literally that end result will be 100% of humanity and bigger and bigger megacities dominated by A.I. And there we need to be clear about not supporting that path.

Helena Norberg-Hodge: [00:35:56] And so what do I want people to do? I want people to be more informed so that they can inform themselves and others about these divergent paths and be clear about actively supporting the life-affirming path, express their love and appreciation for life, and express the literacy that they do. Understand the difference between wanting to be cared for by robots, which is already happening.

In Denmark, I saw nursing, you know, with robots and you know that they wake up enough to their deep-felt needs. And it’s, I have to say, is many women leading the way? The localisation is led by women. They are more in tune with that deep connection between them and the living earth. And as you know, also, as you know, giving birth and the need for their children.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:36:51] Look, I think the sooner we let women take over… I mean, you know, the argument for men is you really need to be qualified to do this properly. Well, if the evidence is anything to go by, boy, have we really fucked that one up? So let’s look at an alternative. 

I mean, I think one of the things about the pandemic is that you know, prior to it, you would have had people but I don’t know how to put a figure on it, maybe five or 10% of the world population who were really focussed on the importance of localisation. And I would guess that that number has doubled during this period at least.

Helena Norberg-Hodge: [00:37:25] Yeah. And not only that but now with the war, the unbelievable war, it’s increased more. You know, now what we’re seeing is that the discussion is even going into policy-making and higher and higher levels. They’re having to wake up. They’re seeing the supply chains. Now, you know, and that you know. 

But you know, and also that boat in the Suez Canal getting stuck and evidence in the size of that bloody thing. And if they only knew also part of the information needs to be that countries are not just trading, they are swapping identical products because if we don’t swap and we keep our own, multinationals don’t make money. It’s all you know, it’s a world ruled by multinational corporations interlinked and I also just want to stress, remember, most of the people who work in those corporations, don’t have a global view. They’re not in touch with this local move. They’re not evil people. And I feel the same way. 

But most of the people in the World Economic Forum, certainly in the U.N., I’ve been trying to warn for years that people shouldn’t be romanticising the U.N. because the U.N. is nothing but appointees of these various national governments. And if you go around the world and you ask people about their satisfaction with their national governments, you know, it’s been going down, down, down like this in every single country. Then there was this idea that, oh, the UN was different, you know, that it was somehow an idealistic body. And in some cases, yes, you know, it took a better position than, say, the US government, but we got to be, yeah…

Helena Norberg-Hodge: [00:39:12] Anyway, to come back to why big picture activism is so important, it’s really important that we tune in and understand that there’s a real practical alternative path that’s actually in existence on every continent. And don’t let the propaganda from the dominant system tell you that buying food from 30 miles away is not part of a systemic way of reducing emissions. Those that are trying very hard, they’re making all kinds of bogus studies and arguments to prevent this naturally growing local food movement. 

What’s also happening is people are realising, “Wow, we can get together in the local area. And if we pull our money, you know, like some communities, only 100 people putting in $1,000 each have been able to create projects that have been amazing.” Or things like a group in Vermont who not only has started with the local. 

On food and local energy, local finance. But they need you to have a centre and they wanted to have a place in the middle of a small town. And so they asked the owner if they could reduce the rent a bit because as a community group, they didn’t have that much money and he reduced it a little bit.

Helena Norberg-Hodge: [00:40:36] Three months later, after he saw what they were doing, he halve the rent. So this is always the when people see the benefits of community, they see the benefits of caring for the land and the direct relationship with the man. The number of prisoners that I’ve seen who have flowered as they’ve been helped to learn how to garden and where to really effective is where there is the wisdom that we need, the connection to each other and to nature. 

And those projects that help, whether it’s prisoners, juvenile delinquents, torture victims, people are depressed. Virtually every ailment, when they help to connect to each other in a deep, meaningful way, sharing stories to actually know people, see you and hear you as you are, not as some kind of perfect, good looking, wealthy, important person, you know, as a real human being with warts and all. And that deeper connection happens in a group, along with a deeper connection to the earth, to animals. 

We see, you know, across the world, remarkable results and very quickly. So that also is what gives me the hope that if we can spread this wake-up and if more and more of this can be facilitated and supported, we could see remarkable healing. So much faster than we imagine. 

Helena Norberg-Hodge: [00:42:11] Now, having said that, of course, in the meanwhile, we have these humungous cities, we’ve got enormous institutions. And, you know, we’re not going to be changing all of that overnight. What I’m saying, actually, I’m listening to my husband’s warning is that you know, “You sound you just overselling. Nobody’s going to believe you when you say, oh, it’s so easy. 

And you can just you know, and look at what’s happening in the world. It’s not that easy, Helena.” What I was talking about earlier about how easy it is to get people together in community and to connect to nature and how rapidly the healing happens. I don’t care what my husband says. 

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:42:53] I agree. 

Helena Norberg-Hodge: [00:42:54] I am not going to play that down because I’ve just seen it again and again and again. And it’s so much more significant than people realise because when you see it also friends with the local food, we are demonstrating that small diversified farms as diversified as possible, virtually or optimal, can produce vastly more per unit of land and water than any monoculture ever can. 

Doesn’t matter how many chemicals you put in, or how much water, you would never be able to produce more per unit of land or water than if you diversify. Now, this is a fact that needs to be spread out rapidly because our governments are locked into this dance of being global capital, global AI reports say, no, no, you’ve got to get bigger and bigger, more and more monocultural, more production for export and then less import. Like I say, even the same thing now. 

So yes, those big systems, we’re not going to change them overnight, but when we start changing things at the local level and people come together and hear and see productive, meaningful possibilities, they are so much stronger. And this is how we will change the world.

Helena Norberg-Hodge: [00:44:17] And this is also now what we’re seeing is that where we see policy change, we were asking before about governments, I would say, for instance, the regional government of Ontario and Canada has done very meaningful things to support local food economies in a meaningful way, but to find real and meaningful and honest and not just language attempts generally it’s local governments or sometimes regional governments where you can see the reality. 

People, you know, voicing their needs and where projects are showing governments that things work better. Things are starting to change now. But we really need a big, big push for big picture activism and is for the reason you said, which is that the media is a central part of the problem. And so we’ve got to actively do what you’re doing, you know, to have podcasts, to have discussions and to get the word out.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:45:17] Which is exactly, Helena, why I love having you on to share that really important message. And I think it is it is our future. It is our future to be local. And it is for our health, not just as individuals, but for the planet. Listen, we’re going to have links to your website and we’re going to have this out before the World Localisation Day in June 2022. So again, thank you so much for joining us today and sharing your wisdom and your knowledge and your vision with us. 

Helena Norberg-Hodge: [00:45:50] Well, I have to apologise for talking so much, and I… 

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:45:53] No, you never have to apologise for that. 

Helena Norberg-Hodge: [00:45:56] I’m really happy. So if you want to speak more in between. So it doesn’t sound so… 

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:46:02] Oh, no, no, no. Look, I love listening to you and this is an indulgence for me, Helena, that I get to speak to people like you will rather listen to people like you. And I get to ask them questions as we go along and they answer them. And I just love what you’re saying. You know, the whole focus is on indigenous. I have to thank you for your recommendation of this wonderful book, The Web of Meaning by Jeremy Lent

Helena Norberg-Hodge: [00:46:29] Yeah. 

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:46:30] …who was just. It’s just a feast. And you mentioned that to me the last time we spoke. And I also, you know, love your observation that we’re inherently good because I never thought of evolution as a political statement. But the way it is portrayed in the West of survival of the fittest and you know of the selfish gene is a perfect fit for neo liberalism capitalistic, extractive model. 

And yet billions of years, a billion years ago, 500 million years ago, something wonderful happened when two cells got together and worked synergistically and then multicellular organisms worked synergistically. So, you know, we actually work better synergistically than we do as selfish genes or survival of the fittest. 

Helena Norberg-Hodge: [00:47:23] Absolutely. And I mean, I think, I’d say if we could understand that we started going backwards when we went into this mechanistic worldview and we try to impose again, remember, a noble one, global monoculture. That’s what started. 

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:47:39] Yeah, well. 

Helena Norberg-Hodge: [00:47:41] …that’s going on naturally. It goes against evolution.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:47:44] Yeah. I think one of the things also that I can see emerging is this, and it’s part of what is called The Great Reset, which has come out of the World Economic Forum, and that is the championing of vegan food. And, I ethically, I totally get where that’s from. But when I start to look at the ingredients, as I did yesterday in a supermarket of plant-based foods, I believe that plant-based protein will be to the 21st century what ultra-processed food was to the 20th century. The difference is that well-meaning people have been co-opted to champion the courts.

Helena Norberg-Hodge: [00:48:24] Yeah. No, and that’s what’s been happening in many other religions now in a very scary way, around gender, also around, you know, wealthier, poorer divisions at every level of being encouraged by, again, algorithms as we learn from that social dilemma. We have to be so aware of how this mechanistic system has been operating and how it’s speeding up to put together at the local level to discuss face to face.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:48:58] You mentioned Yuval Noah Harari, and I am very, I’ve read a lot of his books. And I do think there’s one thing that he said that I think is true. And you’ve mentioned algorithms here, too, and that is when technology gets to know you better than you know yourself, it is really time to get to know yourself. 

Helena Norberg-Hodge: [00:49:20] Well, yes. And it’s really time to control the technology. 

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:49:24] Yes.

Helena Norberg-Hodge: [00:49:25] Because remember again that technology didn’t come out so nice when you chat with your neighbourhood. It came out of billions and billions of dollars. 

Helena Norberg-Hodge: [00:49:37] You know, almost all these technologies have come from the military. Their suit is top-down surveillance control. And remember, again, standardisation, you know, beating us into this cage of imprisoned standard and boring identical entities, you know, bits and so, yeah. 

The richness of lives there, you know, for me, I guess also I get really excited when I realise that throughout the entire modern era, in these 500 years and before that in Indigenous culture, there was never a focus on increasing diversity as I’m seeing with some of these new farms and the local food movement because there wasn’t a need for it. You know, indigenous people had enough land and space and so they did what was needed and had a good life. They worked a fraction of the time that we do. Absolute fraction. Even in a place like Tibet, you know, in that cold climate.

Helena Norberg-Hodge: [00:50:36] But now when I see the potential for us waking up to coming back to that, you know, a genuine evolution, how can we make life flourish and to do that in needs more cooperative real ways. We have to because I was talking about diversity is so dangerous now at the top this is a language that’s being used all the time, biodiversity, regenerating, sustainability. 

So we have to learn to distinguish between authentic commercials and fake. And, you know, you said, you know where veganism comes from, but where I’m sitting, I see it coming from big business.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:51:19] Oh, yeah.

Helena Norberg-Hodge: [00:51:21] Yeah. I mean, we’ve been looking at this import and export of identical products as well for this global corporate empire to get richer. So now obviously is far more difficult to deal with animals. And I love the sentiments of people who don’t want to kill animals and don’t want to eat meat. Absolutely. But we have to really look at how much more animal lives and of life, we’re going to destroy people down that corner.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:51:51] Well, I know that one of my heroes that I’ve had on the podcast before is Allan Savory. And Allan said, well, he said two things. One, in particular, was, that it’s not the resource that’s the problem, it’s how the resource is managed. So I think animal agriculture is a good example of that. I think the way animals are treated in industrial agriculture is unconscionable. In a more holistic, dare I call it regenerative approach, they have one bad day in their life. And, you know, that’s not bad. 

So the other thing that he said, which I know you will love, is that if you’re waiting for the change to come from above and he’s not talking about religion here, he’s talking about government, then you’ll be waiting a long time. The change has to come from the ground up, which is exactly what Local Futures is about.

Helena Norberg-Hodge: [00:52:42] Exactly. Yeah. Oh, thank you so so much. And I do hope, I mean, so… We turn it off?

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:52:49] Yeah. Let’s just say thank you so much for joining us, Helena, because I know we’re going to have a chat as soon as we stop recording. So but we will have links to your website. And thank you so much.

Helena Norberg-Hodge: [00:52:59] Thank you.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:53:00] Well, when we consider the world that we’ve lived in, well, for the last 40 years, but certainly the last two have kind of condensed and put that world on steroids. You know, the last two years have seen global corporations flourish beyond even, I believe, their wildest dreams. 

As I mentioned, I think there’s been a redistribution of upwards of $3.8 trillion. Most of the recipients of that would be the attendees of the World Economic Forum, no question about that. So as a business plan, it is working brilliantly. 

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:53:36] And if my own personal experience, if your personal experience, if you know to people in small business, in education, in tourism, in entertainment, in hospitality, you name it, anybody but a global giant has suffered not just to the effects of isolation, but the financial costs that have gone with an impact on business. Well, it’s not hard to see where that money has gone to and the control that has occurred. 

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:54:08] So I think it’s always so interesting, in fact, and inspiring to hear Helena and be so positive. And I guess when I consider and I would just pick the figure out of my head there, that may be 5% or 10% of the population are really focussed on maybe it’s higher than that, maybe it’s 15% are really focussed on localisation and by that, I mean shopping locally, you know, going to local farmers markets, engaging with local food supply. 

I know I have been using Ooooby, I think I’ve put enough O’s in there – Out Of Our OwnBackyard – and that gives me a choice, of buying food from a radius of 200 or 400, 1600 or whatever number of kilometres that I want. But I’m aware of where my food is being grown and I’m supporting local farmers and I’m getting directly to them via Ooooby. So that’s just one example.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:55:09] But if 10 or 15% of the population has been aware of the importance of localisation prior to the pandemic, I think while the vast majority of the population are blissfully ignorant of the issues. As I said, this is a story that is very easy to miss, but once you become aware of it, very difficult to ignore. I think the number of people that have become aware of it has increased, I hope, I think that number is doubled. 

It might be now 15, 20, well, dare I say 25%. We’re going to reach a critical mass. Of course, the challenge is that our media is so dominated by the messages that are coming from corporations. There is so much noise from those media that it’s hard to know what to believe.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:55:55] In fact, in my own particular case. Look, I’ve stopped listening to the news. I used to religiously listen to the SBS news, thinking I was getting world news, really important news to keep up to date with. And I used to read the newspapers. I used to call newspapers like The Guardian or the Sydney Morning Herald. I think the Saturday paper still offers some journalism that we could consider journalistic, but that’s, you know, borderline. These are media outlets. 

And so I now spend my time connecting online with people whose opinions I value, and I definitely value Helena Norberg-Nodge‘s views on the world. And that’s exactly why I want to share her with you. So go online, and check out Local Futures. Join in on World Localisation Day. I hope this finds you well. Until next time. This is Dr Ron Ehrlich. Be well.



This podcast provides general information and discussion about medicine, health, and related subjects. The content is not intended and should not be construed as medical advice or as a substitute for care by a qualified medical practitioner. If you or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately qualified medical practitioner. Guests who speak in this podcast express their own opinions, experiences, and conclusions.