The Criminalization Of The Localized Economy
February 19, 2012
Richard Heinberg’s recent Museletter 237, “The Fight of the Century,” includes a curious point about criminalization: “. . . It will increasingly be up to households and communities to provide the basics. . . This is a strategy that will . . . in many cases be discouraged and even criminalized by national authorities.” The question is whether such localization can survive our political leadership. Yet the localized economy is probably one of the few self-evident proposals for a future that seems to have a rather slim number of options.
The illegalities of the “localized” life begin with the fact that many of the changes that need to be made to house design, in our post-nearly-all-materials world, are in fact illegal, if not strictly criminal. Here in Canada, one cannot legally build or inhabit a house that does not have conventional plumbing and electricity, for example. And the insurance companies have their say: a house will not be insured if it is heated mainly by wood. To be respectable, one must use our declining fossil fuels, it seems. In fact, insurance companies now look for all sorts of certification, most of which cannot be considered related to alternative approaches, but all of which are expensive.
The same problem of illegality applies to many other activities, even if these are just common sense. Localized agriculture, as I learned first-hand a few years ago in Ontario, is increasingly plagued by pointless rules related to processing, packaging, labeling, and similar issues, to the extent that small-scale farmers are simply forced out of business. Much of this is done in the name of “health,” but such farmers do not have the ability to set up the required laboratories and other equipment that would make their businesses compliant with these ever-expanding regulations.