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Caroline Minnear
Caroline Minnear
4 months ago

Thank you for this hopeful article. I feel validated in my beliefs and in the way I choose to live my life. Lots of small scale meaningful connection can have deep and lasting impact. We forget how powerful we are in creating cultural change. It’s slow but it can be done.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
4 months ago

Good to hear a different voice, without the cynicism that does nothing to advance the debate. I think you’re absolutely right, in that small-scale change is required before cultural change on the larger scale can begin to take effect.

Last edited 4 months ago by Steve Murray
Glynis Roache
Glynis Roache
4 months ago

Caroline, I actually had a similar overall response to you. Perhaps it is a female thing to focus on the domestic aspects of the article, eg the final lines, ‘working at the local scale as neighbours can start to draw out the shared sense of the sacred: a clean environment, a safe community, a thriving home’. I see nothing amiss and a lot to gain in encouraging people to attend to the genius loci of their own cabbage patches. It could certainly change neighbourhoods – and some of those in cities, particularly the less central areas, are disgusting examples of a clear abnegation of personal responsibility. Shops could have a lick of paint and the pavement in front could be swept. These are things that shopkeepers in small towns did for years. But now, if the council doesn’t do something 
 Well, enough said. 
   Whether or not such particular attentions can change the entire world order is a conceptual leap that has obviously been made before. And as a more sweeping concept, it has evidently been a heavily handicapped runner – in the opinion of the superiorly informed. Nevertheless, I found this modern slant/recapitulation interesting and some of the commentary on it excessively harsh.

Glynis Roache
Glynis Roache
4 months ago

Okay confusing. I disappeared last time I posted the above and the commentary landscape has changed somewhat since then, but I reposted in an effort to see if it happened again and then it promptly came back. I give up.

Last edited 4 months ago by Glynis Roache
John Riordan
John Riordan
4 months ago

The mistake made in the article is to suppose that lots of small, localised change can happen at a scale big enough to make a difference without culture first providing the reason for it to happen. In the absence of shared culture, the only way to effect widescale change is government.

In other words the culture change has to come first.

laurence scaduto
laurence scaduto
4 months ago
Reply to  John Riordan

I disagree. For sixty-odd years now top-down-change has been the default assumption and things have just gotten worse.
The political systems of many nations in the post-industrial West simply no longer work. The wishes of the people are not represented. In the US, nothing really effective has happen since the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. That was the mid 70s.
We can just step aside from the Red v Blue wars and take care of our own friends and neighbors. And children. And birds and businesses and frogs and wildflowers… In the process we might just revive our old representative democracies.

Last edited 4 months ago by laurence scaduto
Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
3 months ago

Things have “not gotten worse” over the last 60 years. The world was only just recovering from a calamitous war that killed tens of millions of people.

Talk about rose coloured spectacles!. Actually the nostalgia is a real emotion, but no-one thought they lived in the best of all times 60 years ago!

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
4 months ago
Reply to  John Riordan

I can’t see that, historically, that can be justified. All change has occurred from individuals and movements at the micro level, which then gain support and filter through to the macro. If that weren’t the case, where would “government” get its ideas from? The perfect example is the Reformation.

Peter Lee
Peter Lee
4 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

That use to be the case; I am not sure it is anymore.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
4 months ago
Reply to  Peter Lee

Time to rebalance in favour of the way it used to work then, because clearly, cultural change driven by government isn’t working and probably never will.

Chris Mackay
Chris Mackay
2 months ago
Reply to  Peter Lee

Rubbish.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
3 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Do people actually think sometimes before writing? Ivan Grozny, Martin Luther, Mohammad, Henry 8th, Napoleon, Caesar, Saints Paul and Augustine, Churchill, De Gaulle. Etc etc.

All change has certainly not arisen from “the micro level”.

Of course ideas influence people and people influence ideas. But ideas can’t just float around – they need enaction. How could it be otherwise?

Chris Mackay
Chris Mackay
2 months ago
Reply to  John Riordan

John
You are upside down I’m afraid

Anders Wallin
Anders Wallin
4 months ago

The question is what kind of lived lives would be in line with an agenda like that in the article.

Chris Mackay
Chris Mackay
2 months ago
Reply to  Anders Wallin

Yours, mine and everybody’s. Society is the accumulated experience and wisdom of us all, distilled into our morals and ethics, which, magically, appear out of ‘nowhere’. Bottom up, rather than imposed from above by our ‘betters’ in an authoritarian manner.

T Bone
T Bone
4 months ago

This is just a repackaging of Rousseau. An existential belief that modernity must be rejected in favor of localized communalism.

Consumerism is Modernity. You simply can’t “scale back” consumer product availability without widespread inflation and inflation can only be tamed through government intervention (bureacracy) or supply increases (scaling up).

This concept sounds nice but it’s been tried repeatedly and is a failure. Degrowth Economics is not going to save Humanity. It will do the opposite.

Robert Millinship
Robert Millinship
4 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

OK Mr T-Bone. Could you please tell us what will work then?

Peter Lee
Peter Lee
4 months ago

No Global institutes; minimal government, no oligarchy and a laissez-faire economy.

T Bone
T Bone
4 months ago

Material abundance and respect for private property.

A free market economy that reduces conflict by trading, even with hostile nation states. The virtues of Republicanism where local economies are freed from a central command structure that forces their companies to produce products (like EVs and solar panels) even when hardly anybody wants to buy them.

A free market will create abundance and wealth. Wealth not ironically drives environmental protection. Believe it or not, environmental stewardship increases when people are more comfortable in their surroundings and don’t resort to pillaging. But even with wealth, people won’t feel comfortable if the government doesn’t make it a priority to protect their property. Redistributive governments are much more tolerant of theft as they often find the nature of private property to be inherently oppressive. The Defund the Police Movement is a good example of an ideology that rejects Private Property as inherently good.

laurence scaduto
laurence scaduto
4 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

My case:
By your un-stated reference to the Rousseau v.s. Hobbes/Locke philisophical see-saw you set up a divisive narrative of polar opposites.
Most of us are in favor of neither side. Something in between suits us better. There’s plenty of room. Maybe you should join us.

Last edited 4 months ago by laurence scaduto
T Bone
T Bone
4 months ago

The use of the term “divisive” to describe someone that disagrees with you on a large scale question is proof of a disingenuous argument.
A truly divisive comment would be a vile, personal attack on someone’s character. I’ve done no such thing.

As a Conservative or Classical Liberal, I’m firmly on the side of Locke over Rousseau…even if Locke’s blank slate thesis is scientifically invalid. Every Nation founded on Locke’s principles of Private Property became free and prosperous. Every State founded on Rousseau’s General Will Communalisn turned into Socialist dystopias.

You’re a Utopian Left Winger. That’s fine. Just own it and stop gaslighting How do I know that? Because I can pair your comment here with your comment above.

Chris Mackay
Chris Mackay
2 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

Another example of size matters over substance. Inflation is caused by government trying to spend itself way out of deficits or trying to buy more power by selling you your dreams come true through your vote. Silliness personified.

Archibald Tennyson
Archibald Tennyson
4 months ago

I kept reading, looking for some roadmap towards the author’s desired future state. Instead, she just quoted some authors who don’t know what to do either. Then the article ended.

Bret Larson
Bret Larson
4 months ago

Too bad the hordes of government union workers will vote for their solutions for everyone.

John Riordan
John Riordan
4 months ago

“Free-marketeers, relatedly, look to the unfettered global market to innovate our way to unleashing energy abundance never before captured in human history — a fantasy of the world economy run on nuclear power with Silicon Valley-backed AI-run vertical farms underwriting fully automated luxury capitalism.”

I recognise the intent for parody here, but actually this is possible. Technically, that is. Politically it’s extremely difficult because we now suffer under an ideological yoke in which consumption is regarded as bad on principle, not necessarily because it may result in negative externalities. Paul Ehrlich, the high priest of the environmental movement, better known to the rest of us as the Chief EcoBuffoon who gets everything wrong, revealingly once asserted that even if humanity could devise a 100% clean energy system that was cheap, unlimited and available on demand, he would still oppose it.

The truth is that back in the 1960s when someone memorably said that nuclear power could lead to energy too cheap to meter, he wasn’t wrong, whoever he was. And he’s still not wrong: recent advances in nuclear technology haven’t just made it safer and cleaner: those advances have increased the total available energy in nuclear fission platforms by a factor of thousands, meaning that humanity isn’t facing the loss of cheap energy within our lifetimes as per the fossil fuel problem, but thousands of years into the future.

I don’t wholly reject the article – it describes accurately some neuralgic economic, political and geostrategic problems that won’t be easy to solve. But please don’t include the march of technological progress in the doom equation. The capacity for inventors and engineers to deliver radical and transformative improvement to our lives has not changed. What has changed is the extent to which they are permitted to do this.

Last edited 4 months ago by John Riordan
Tom Condray
Tom Condray
4 months ago
Reply to  John Riordan

I, too, had a problem with the premise that the world must, somehow, learn to do with less.
Whether it is nuclear power in the form of thorium salt reactors, or other forms of nuclear energy production that are much safer than the current means, there is plenty of opportunity in today’s technology to provide the kinds of energy requirements the world needs to support its present population in safety and comfort.
Of course, demographic research demonstrates pretty conclusively that once we’ve achieved a level of prosperity that permits everyone to pursue their own personal goals, population will decline, and we will face a host of other existential problems thereby.
The only certainty in poverty is increasing population as parents need children surviving to adulthood to care for them in their old age.

M. Jamieson
M. Jamieson
4 months ago

Localism in general seems to draw both from left and right wing ideas, while belonging properly to neither.
But this essay reminds me quite a bit of some of the ideas in Small is Beautiful, as well as the Distributists like Belloc and Chesterton. So, the 1970s for the former, and early 20th century – and really coming out of the Catholic economic writings of the late Victorian period – for the latter.
Not so new after all.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
4 months ago

Making my first comment here on UnHerd, hope I get it right. I’m scandinavian, from a family with all roots in the poor rural 90% year 1900. Then going through the 20th century’s possibilities to study, and social reforms, most of me and my cousins would be middle class now,
On one hand that could be seen as rightist, but at the same time the drive to get a job as life expectancy, close to where you live, no big need for travelling and, well, being content with what there is in my home town, most often biking to my job, seldom using the car.
Does it seem like something not too far off from this ideas? I sense in the article the urge for maybe something more idealistic?

(btw how to make my name appear in the heading? Edit – i found out myself 🙂 )

Last edited 4 months ago by UnHerd Reader
Travis Wade Zinn
Travis Wade Zinn
4 months ago

Interesting, thoughtful article – looking forward to following developments along this line of trajectory

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
4 months ago

It really doesn’t matter what we do. The hot countries are not going to give up air conditioning. Ever.

Anders Wallin
Anders Wallin
4 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

And well, people living in Scandinavia like some heating too, this time of year

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
3 months ago
Reply to  Anders Wallin

You’ll just have to run around naked in the snow and whip yourselves with fir twigs I’m afraid. 🙂

Oliver Ellwood
Oliver Ellwood
4 months ago

There is nothing new in this concept. What the author has described is conservatism of the type Roger Scruton advocated for. The problem is that the left cannot bear to see anything positive said about conservatives preferring to go along with the narrative that they are never more than a step away from full on f*scism. Suggesting that local stewardship of the environment is a totally new idea is nonsense.

Last edited 4 months ago by Oliver Ellwood
Caroline Ayers
Caroline Ayers
4 months ago

Loved this article! Interestingly, it pretty much reflects the political stance of Russell Brand. I love Russell Brand and most people who don’t like him havent actually watched his podcasts over the past few years. He is left of centre (if you can glean any such divide) but pro free speech and very pro the idea of localism – returning democracy to community based decisions, preserving traditional agriculture, stopping technoglobalists from taking power and forcing everyone to eat bugs and fake meat. (ie RB is no longer a sex pest/drug addict/media bad lad). This article was excellent and inspiring! Thank you UnHerd!

Richard Calhoun
Richard Calhoun
4 months ago
Reply to  Caroline Ayers

Isn’t Brand under Police investigation due to ‘claims’ from women?

Anders Wallin
Anders Wallin
4 months ago
Reply to  Caroline Ayers

Hi Caroline, I have not read anything by Russell Brand. Apart from the left/right dimension, would you say that he writes (or talks) like a man brought up in a place not rich on social and cultural capital? I find that people born in such communities tends to have a somewhat romantic and unrealistic view of the world. (I was born in a not so fancy Stockholm suburb but I live with my family in an area in a university town where most, well, was born in more prosperous surroundings. Where a job is not just a job)

Last edited 4 months ago by Anders Wallin
laurence scaduto
laurence scaduto
4 months ago

An excellent essay. And a breath of fresh air, too.
I think most UnHerd readers would agree that it’s time for a significant change. So I’m a bit put off by all the negativity in the Comments. It’s not a very winning stance. The times call for something more constructive.
Please go plant a tree. You’ll feel better.
Meanwhile, I’ll be looking forward to more from Ms. Colby.

Last edited 4 months ago by laurence scaduto
Saul D
Saul D
4 months ago

If you want to reduce poverty, you need abundance, and abundance requires efficient methods production and logistics – they also need to be safe and sustainable. Sorry to say it, but small producers is fine for the luxury-end of the market like organics and handmade where cause-based money from the wealthy is liberally available. But for mass consumption, volume and scale is needed. If you increase scarcity then you increase poverty.
How are we then to balance the need to lift people out of poverty, which requires raw energy, more food, more comfort goods like refrigerators and washing machines, more electricity, better distribution networks, more infrastructure, against the potential environmental cost? We need cheap abundant clean energy, more technology to reduce waste and bring down costs, and better, smarter resource management – no place for amateurs. Europe has added forests, cleaned water ways, reduced air pollution, while also increasing food production yields. Better stewardship is possible, but it needs professionals and science.
Localism has to sit on top of the reality of the scale needed to feed, clothe and house 7-8 billion people. It would be great if duty on beer in pubs could be abolished so we could all share heat in a convivial atmosphere, or all walk to work to reduce car journeys, but the need for connections is part of the need for scale. That doesn’t stop anyone connecting locally or giving back to their community under their own volition. Looking after people is an act done locally, but don’t confuse it with the effort required for feeding the world.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
4 months ago
Reply to  Saul D

Another comment that’s misconstrued the article.

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
4 months ago

Utter hogwash. The giveaways are the words Left and hostility to ‘the market’ which, along with weasly liby demy & Derek Hatton ‘localism’, actually brings us back to current insane Net Zero driven No Growth Pol Potism. What we need – and do not have offered by any political or Establishment party – is a Neo Thatcherite party dedicated to wealth creation and the support of enterprise. We need a massive counter revolution to destroy the vast non productive parasitic and sick Neo Socialist NHS State erected by Blair and the EU since the 90s. It and its ghastly grad fuelled Blob seen its regulatory overload and Brownite tax for the ‘poor’ only shatter our growth, ruin the plumbing of our financial system (crazed destructive interference which have torched investment, savings and pensions,) and crushed business. And now the money tree has not worked. This Order claims to be Progressive but it has torched free speech and triggered culture wars, placing civic society under an iron boot of authoritarian Blob driven lockdown control, engineered a toxic new multiculturalism, fomented climate catastrophism and green lit the destabilising chaos in our broken public services with GDR style welfarism and uncontrolled mass immigration. This piffle about Left Conservatism ignores the hard truth that the Fake Tories are largely Left- Fake Wet Tories who have bowed the knee to the Progressive New Order and so are part of the problem not any solution.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
4 months ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

Bravo! Not sure I entirely agree but bravo anyway!

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
4 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Thanks Hugh! I do sound rather mean. But take out Pol Pot’s Manifesto and I see similar and ominous tones in this ‘go local back to nature’ dreamy romantic guff!! We will soon energy blackouts and the collapse of public services. Whats more menacing to be sure is the way the Net Zero and Climate catastrophists who are willing this dystopia upon us channel the Khmer Rouge Anti Growth Year Zero pitchfork thinking. He seems to have been forgotten.

Anders Wallin
Anders Wallin
4 months ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

Don’ know how to put it, but lets say elite projects, both in a more romantic left agenda, like uncontolled immigration and neoliberal belief in the deregulation of everything making everything ”market”, neither has proved very succesful in my Scandinavian home country, even if we have produced a lot of billionaires.
neither is doing good things for the environment or the majority of citizens.
The tone of the article might be somewhat idealistic, but it might not require sociological rocket science and killing the Market to get things going more in this way.

Richard Calhoun
Richard Calhoun
4 months ago

What a pessimistic take on the future you have, even though you seem to be aware of the possibilities coming down the line.
Anyway, just so you know, the problem is the ‘Big State’.
The World may have rejected communism but the embrace of socialism this last 20+ years has resulted in massive global debt and Govts. controlling our economies.
The way forward is up to the electorates, and the signs across the EU give us hope that at long last there is a strong movement against the political establishment.
The UK electorate will make their choice in 2024, but this is going to be a long haul, expect 3 elections in the next 5 years, before it’s settled as to what direction we take.

Adam M
Adam M
4 months ago

I’ve always found environmentalism interestingly unique as a (largely) leftwing yet conservative movement. It seems to serve as a way in which liberals can express their conservatism.
Most of the ideas outlined above derive from Distributism and the work of Chesterton and Belloc.
Paul Kingsnorth is also a modern proponent of a similar worldview.

H W
H W
4 months ago

Yes! Just say no to relational poverty. The ideological convergence of left and right most blatantly obvious in Public Private Partnerships merges the sectors of mega corporations & state & unions & academia and pits them all against the oldest, most essential, most efficient sector: family & friends.

Rick Frazier
Rick Frazier
4 months ago

This article reminded me of my management consulting days when I introduced the simple, yet profoundly useful concept of polarity management. We do a terrible job of managing polarities in the U.S. The article brings forth a very common one: centralization versus decentralization. Both have upsides and both have downsides. They are not problems to be soved with either/or thinking. They are polarities that are either managed well in order to experience the upsides of both poles, or managed poorly such that the downsides of either pole inevitably materialize.
We are clearly overemphasizing centralization in the U.S. and those who prefer this pole refuse to acknowledge its downsides. This author is someone who recognizes the downsides and wants to move closer to the decentralized pole. I get it. I tend to hang out on the decentralized pole myself. Some of the commenters here have raised anticipated red flags of overemphasizing the decentralized pole and that’s important for managing polarities.
I feel impotent to influence the direction of my country on a grand scale, but I do feel empowered to make a difference in my community. I think it’s a psychologically healthy choice when it feels like no effective mechanism exists to raise red flags and be heard when the downsides of centralization become obvious. Fortunately many of us have the option to move to states where the overemphasis on centralization is less severe…and I did. But the U.S. federal government has become an extremely powerful centralizing machine with no interest in relinquishing any of that centralized power. In fact, it continually seeks more.

Darwin K Godwin
Darwin K Godwin
4 months ago
Reply to  Rick Frazier

Well said. You get my vote.

Last edited 4 months ago by Darwin K Godwin
Warren Trees
Warren Trees
4 months ago

“Primarily known as a Leftist, Lasch retained a respect for the positive potential of the state, as long as it remained in balance with strong families, neighbourhoods, and working “guilds”.”
The main reason why we don’t have strong families is due to the overreach of the state.

Last edited 4 months ago by Warren Trees
Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
4 months ago

Welcome! We have brownies, both regular and extra-crispy!

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
4 months ago

No offence, but this reads like an essay from a first-year poli-sci student. She has strung together a bunch of sentences littered with jargon to advance a naive theory about going local and rejecting the modern world. I don’t want to discourage young writers, but I suggest she incorporate the KISS principle in her writing.

AC Harper
AC Harper
4 months ago

Half the world’s population now lives in urban areas, and that proportion is increasing.
Now I applaud the idea of a clean environment, a safe community, a thriving home (who wouldn’t) but there is a huge amount of work to do to reach this fine ideal, in particular how you can make it work in urban areas or ethically reverse the inflow of people to more dispersed locations.
You would think that accepting the demographic change of lower birth rates in developed countries would be mentioned as a worthy step forward, but people are generally unwilling to accept this restraint.
The essay is a rallying call without a plan for implementation.

Anders Wallin
Anders Wallin
4 months ago
Reply to  AC Harper

I live urban, but just by getting a job locally I find myself much more in line with the article, even if the author of the article might have something more drastic in mind. It doesnt have to be sociological rocket science to get going in this direction?

glyn harries
glyn harries
4 months ago

Excellent, and reflects what grassroots Left environmentalism has always said,’ Think Global, Act Local’.

John Riordan
John Riordan
4 months ago
Reply to  glyn harries

Well, the Left is famously good at doublethink.

Frederick Dixon
Frederick Dixon
4 months ago

It sounds like the sort of thing that might be proposed by the Social Democratic Party – left on the economy, right on culture, immigration, law and order.

Darwin K Godwin
Darwin K Godwin
4 months ago

Welcome to the United States 1788. If you need to scramble your political labels in order to get there, I suppose that’s fine.

JMN Gould
JMN Gould
4 months ago

Is subsidiaritism a word?

John Riordan
John Riordan
4 months ago
Reply to  JMN Gould

Subsidiarity is. It’s sort-of famous for being a fundamental principle of the EU in its dealings with member state governments which it then completely ignores whenever it wants.

Last edited 4 months ago by John Riordan
Alan Gore
Alan Gore
4 months ago

Yet another eco-pipe dream of a world of local councils, each running its village on solar panels and amicably deciding which fields to plant in kale this year. But a real society has to smelt steel, and what if someone still wants to travel to some distant country? Bike paths can only take you so far. How would such a society build an airport? An MRI machine?

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
4 months ago

I see Torquayvtoday joining Sheffield and loads of other devolved councils- all beautifully in tune with Mother Nature in their environment – who have just chopped down forests of trees in acts of total vandalism to the rightful horror of their connected local people. You need to read up on the total collapse of Scotland and Wales and the disaster of devolution before promoting such hippy dippy tosh.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
3 months ago

Utter claptrap. The Chinese are going to embrace a technological future even if fluffy, nostalgic westerners (for what exactly – read some accounts of life in Victorian England perhaps) do not.

Dick Barrett
Dick Barrett
4 months ago

A passable undergraduate essay. B-

Dylan Blackhurst
Dylan Blackhurst
4 months ago

Total and utter nonsense.
This future the writer falls apart for one very simple reason. It doesn’t support modern medicine at all. You need power. And modern materials. Hugging trees won’t get it done.
Laughably naive.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
4 months ago

Yes. None of these people seems to have noticed that the NHS runs on massive quantities of plastic.

Zac Chave-Cox
Zac Chave-Cox
4 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

The central point is not what it would be nice to be able to do, but instead, what we will actually be forced into. I would love to hang on to modern medicine. We also know that we are going to have less abundant cheap energy as we run lower on fossil fuels, and the naivety comes in thinking we can magic that problem away with “innovation”. So, in time, we must scale down unnecessary energy use to focus on those things we most want to preserve about modernity, and in the process, try and get back some of the spiritual meaning we’ve lost in our time of abundance. I don’t think anyone is suggesting stopping using power, and if we can’t find a better alternative to plastic then I’d rather have modern medicine than a plastic-free world. None of that addresses the central dilemma that we are living beyond our means.

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
4 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

You lost me when you said, “the NHS runs”.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
3 months ago

Ok then, Crawls?

Anders Wallin
Anders Wallin
4 months ago

I wrote my first comment on UnHerd as ”UnHerd reader” a few minutes away. Does that seem more possible?

glyn harries
glyn harries
4 months ago

It doesn’t say that anywhere, at all. You have simply made up something. Are you sure you are not replying to another article?

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
4 months ago

What is even more naive is your wilful misinterpretation of the article.