Sunday, July 6, 2014

Small can work

I'm always asked how collective sufficiency in small neighbourhoods networked into bioregions can really be scaled up to succeed globally. There are many ways to address this question but I find many people are overawed by size: bigger is better. Certainly this is a characteristic of power in capitalism.

The Spring issue of Pulse, the journal of the bioregionalism promoter Planet Drum Foundation based in San Francisco contains an illuminating article by Kirkpatrick Sale that draws from his contribution to Rethinking the American Union (Lingsto, D, ed., Pelican 2012). Sale directs the Middlebury Institute for the Study of Separatism, Secession and Self-Determination and has written many books, including the 1980 classic Human Scale.

Given current technological and socio-political conditions, Sale concludes that the optimum size of a state is between 3,000,000 and 5,000,000 people living on 35,000 square miles. He reveals that small nations monopolise the Sustainable Society Foundation's top ten in 2011. Seventeen of the world's richest nations occupy fewer than 10,000 square miles. Eighteen of the top 20 countries measured in terms of their GDP have fewer than 5,000,000 residents (seven of them fewer than 1,000,000).

These figures are presented as evidence of Sale's thrust: devolution, dissolution and secession is the way to go.

My questions centre on the possibilities and viability for semi-autonomous development of such regions. How far do these states self-provision or do they rely on cheap imports? How much does their success rely on domination in terms of trade and so on. Still, really interesting figures you'd have to concede.

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