|*Image source here|
Reader Giles responded to a comment on the last giveaway post, and it has sparked enough in me that I've opted for a post in-lieu of a response in the comments, simply because I think it is an interesting subject to discuss. Here is Giles quote for any who may have missed it:
"After reading your entry I looked at the underside of our electronics, at the little etiquettes on our clothes, our shoes, the china, where the books were printed, our bicycles, even the furniture...Almost all that we have in the house is made in China or Mexico or Europe... I'm all for international trade but I wondered what China or Europe bought from us: many things but mainly raw materials (ore, wood, scrap steel, etc.) and airplanes. I wonder how long we'll be able to maintain this kind of economy.
So...I have a solution ! If more and more people ride bikes like they already do in Denmark and the Nederland for instance, and thus people won't travel long distances by car to buy everything, more local stores would open (or stay open) and local stores tend to buy locally made stuff. Q.E.D.
I'm dreaming... but Christmas is the season of dreams."
I am all for dreaming, and dreaming big. Dreams are one of the biggest ways we see growth and change in our world. I also believe there is potentially a whole can of worms we can open with this subject matter. I do think it's important to discuss, but I also know there are many sides to the discussion, so I hope others will throw in their thoughts (respectfully, please). I will first say, I have no problem with foreign-produced goods, so please don't send me hate email stating that I dislike your country. What I do think is important for each nation is to purchase and make goods locally, in addition to international trade. This discussion seems to be hotly debated by some, and completely disregarded by an even larger group, but perhaps now is as good a time as any to chat about the subject.
Over the summer, I read a book (Re-Made in the USA) that spoke in regard to the United States and its inability to continue to thrive if things continue the way they have over the last 40-50 years. The author proposes that much of our debt and current monetary issues stem from the idea that we are not taught as American children to purchase local/American goods, as is taught in many other countries (like China, Japan, Germany, and many other countries). In addition, we no longer produce much in the U.S. (some things, but very few). For example, we used to produce many textiles for clothing and now it's nearly impossible to find any garment made in the U.S. As Giles pointed out, we don't produce electronics or their parts either. We buy from Walmart's across the nation that seem to only purchase goods from the lowest cost manufacturer (which often means that we're buying goods from countries that don't have the same enforced laws in regard to the environment, workers rights, etc). I'm not advocating necessarily for all commerce over seas to be shut down, but the reasons that we started heavily purchasing from other countries several decades ago are no longer valid in today's world.
I don't know the intricacies of politics and economics for our neighbors to the north, but it does seem that buying goods that are made locally as well as sold locally makes the most sense. It's really quite a challenge to do, but when we start paying attention to where the things we buy are made, we do quickly realize that not much is made even on the North American continent, let alone in our respective countries. In fact, I would say that almost every contest item being given away here was made in China (with a few exceptions that I was able to find that were made in Oregon or even here in Colorado). I was actually looking for hand-made, U.S. (or at least N. American produced) goods, and I had a difficult time finding anything at all. Items are out there, but they are either incredibly costly, not what I am specifically searching for, and/or require so much research that I think many of us give up and just get what we need, not realizing how much it really is affecting our nation. What I'm saying is that I am guilty of all the the things that I'm saying we shouldn't be doing, and that is bothersome in itself.
I'm also definitely all for a world in which we travel by bike to get everywhere, but even that has become difficult with suburban sprawl. For example, if it was my only means of transportation, currently it would take me about 6 hours a day to travel to and from the location I need to go. Which then brings up the question of whether I would have even returned to college if I had to travel such distances by bike? There is a closer university I could have selected, but it is also much more costly an institution and the program takes longer to complete. Still I would probably spend 2-3 hours a day on a bicycle. In a perfect world, everything would be within a reasonable distance by bike, but it doesn't seem to be a reality for a good chunk of - I'll just say this country, because I don't want to speak for other areas of the world.
On top of this, assuming that schooling was not an issue for me, there really is not much of a selection of goods locally (within, let's say a 10 mile radius). Our local mall is in bankruptcy and currently only houses about a dozen or so stores because the others have left town, and while there are other stores to buy from around the city, they tend to stock fewer and less-desirable items, inevitably leading to city inhabitants looking to other nearby cities for goods/services. Of course, this then requires travel by vehicle. Finding something locally made is truly like finding a needle in a haystack. I do think this is changing as the city's demographics and thoughts about 'staying local' change, but all of these things take time, effort, and a supportive local government.
What is my point and what do we do? If you've been in this space for any length of time, you know I can ramble on about things, sometimes with no point at all. However, I truly believe that if we start asking for locally produced/manufactured goods, and refuse to buy lower quality items, it is possible to change the current situation. However, the reality for many of us is that we cannot afford to opt for the more expensive choice, even if it would be the better all around solution. While I want to believe that it is truly cost-based, I know that there is also an element of laziness in all of it. It's easy to ignore the situation if it isn't directly affecting us, but in reality it is a direct cause and effect. Am I going to stop buying every X-country product? No, because it isn't a feasible reality for me at this point in time, nor do I think every country other than U.S. is producing "bad" products. I do, however, believe that it's possible to make better choices more regularly, and at times, maybe that means buying recycled products, too. In my mind, reusing is always a good option as well, rather than buying something brand new.
What do you think? Is it possible (or likely) that you would purchase only local items? Have you attempted to do so in the past? If so, what were the results? Is it even possible to have international trade and still keep a thriving local economy? What about only buying within a walk-able or bike-able radius? Would you give up your vehicle if everything you needed regularly was close by? I know many who have, so it is possible. Feel free to leave your thoughts, as I know I definitely don't have the answers to this complex situation.