Think Local, Act Individually


One of the most common platitudes thrown about and adopted by lots of well meaning folks is the ever noble sounding,

“Think Global and Act Local”.

The message is that we are to think of ourselves as part of a global community and of global problems and solutions foremost. When we
have these global solutions in mind we are to then to act upon them at a local level. The phrase and variations of the concept such as ‘glocalization’ have been embraced by businesses, environmental groups; think tanks, charitable organizations and most any group that values feel good PR over real thought.

The origins of the phrase are uncertain but the most likely origin of the specific verbiage was with David Brower, founder of numerous environmental advocacy groups including Friends of the Earth (aka FOE) and the Sierra Club. Versions of the” think global act local” slogan are incorporated into branding for corporations worldwide including most notably Sony’s and McDonalds. Much like other collectivist saws the phrase has become accepted as noble if not always practical wisdom. Using the phrase in advertising or soap box oration is a guaranteed check mark in the political correctness column. Unfortunately as go the dictums of society also go the direction of societal thought. When we accept and throw out phrases such as “think global and act local” we create or at least bolster a political and social underpinning. This is fine except the concept of think global and act local is inefficient, contrary to human nature, destructive of local and individual problem solving and potentially deadly.


Let’s look at the goals the phrase appears to engender. The entire planet has a handful of common human and environmental needs. They are needs that are a product of our biological existence such as, but not limited to, the need for:

• food
• clean water to drink
• shelter
• clothing
• personal security
In the think global, act local paradigm we are to consider these and other needs, many of which are political constructs rather than biological imperatives en masse. We are to then consider it our local responsibility to plan and act in a manner that furthers the fulfillment or mitigation of those needs globally rather than locally.


If our local efforts to solve problems common to the world in a global manner are to be effective they must be coordinated in some manner, Each and every unfulfilled want worldwide, regardless of the reason for that want going unfilled, must be directly addressed by local action in every corner of the globe and the results of that local action somehow transmitted to the loci of those unfulfilled wants. There is only one way in which such global thought and local action can be reconciled and that is by a central authority controlling both, a central authority with the power to implement globally dictated thought and transmit locally produced solutions.


Of course we know that the reasons for human needs being unfulfilled are varied and require various solutions. Solving those needs requires foremost the direct feeling of those needs and the resulting initiative to take action. Much like pain in the human body serves to alert the individual to the source and severity of a problem and to create incentive to address the underlying problem; need and direct desperation are most effective when they are felt by those directly affected. The solution to the localized needs may require correction of local behaviors, beliefs, and practices. Such correction or change is painful and resisted until the pain of the need outweighs the pain of not changing. While there are needs that are common globally, the solution is best served by local thought and consideration and individual action. There is no advantage in global coordination or consideration unless the needs and the reasons for the needs going unfulfilled are exactly the same globally. Consider cyclical drought for example. The resulting need for water to drink, water in which to bathe and water to irrigate crops and water livestock may require reducing the population in that area by individuals leaving for areas less prone to drought. The problem may require reduced consumption by individuals and an increase in water fees to address that requirement. While humanitarian assistance from outside the affected area may be temporarily helpful it is not a solution. The problem can not be aided by rationing water world wide or initiating conservation in areas that do not experience cyclical drought. Thinking globally and acting globally is inefficient, contrary to the local pain and cure needed to address the problem and potentially deadly.

Now you may ask, ‘Ok, inefficient I see, counter productive I see, but deadly’? If you consider the ultimate planning and control of human need fulfillment being centralized into one coordinating body and the historical record of governmental authorities determining need and controlling the supply of needed materials or services then the danger is obvious. All governments ultimately fall under the control of factions, regardless of checks and balances. They use resources to reward those that agree with them and withhold them to punish those that disagree. The result is often starvation, genocide and marginalization of entire segments of society, all deadly consequences of central control. When there is no neighboring counter balance, no place to flee from such tyranny then the chances are that such behavior will not be corrected or resisted. Additionally when we think globally and subvert local needs to global collective needs we remove the initiative to correct the problem but rely on a continual central bail out rather than real solutions. This is a deadly trend as local problems linger and spread when they become thought of as global problems. Truly thinking global leads to expanding all problems globally. The loss of local and individual consideration of local and individual problems and solutions creates a deadly lack of true, effective solutions and a generalized spreading of problems rather than a local solution.


A better slogan, if we must have a slogan to augment common sense, might be to “Think local and act individually”. All of the common needs of the world, by virtue of their commonality will still be addressed but they will be addressed in effective, lasting ways at their source instead of by a global mentality which applies solutions not needed to areas that do not need them and at the expense of local initiative. When we think locally and act individually we avoid the danger of a single monolithic authority, prone to human bad nature controlling the fulfillment of vital needs.

Updated: June 25, 2016 — 5:55 pm

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