North Texas Daily

We must act small to think big through localism and community

We must act small to think big through localism and community

We must act small to think big through localism and community
February 01
11:50 2021

The first semester at the University of North Texas initially is lonesome. This feeling is a familiar one among many college students who move away to school for the first time. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways at UNT to become part of a community. 

Students can get involved with student organizations, make a habit out of reading the physical edition of the North Texas Daily and shop locally at the Downtown Square and at the Denton County Farmers’ Market on Saturdays. By doing this, students can directly participate in localism without knowing it.

Simplified, localism emphasizes the importance of participating in a local community.

Umbrella characteristics of localism — which is to promote on a local scale — include farm to table produce, supporting small businesses, community organizing, mutual aid, protecting environments and restoring city autonomy. The power of acting locally unifies communities and allows them to deal with the issues directly impacting them. The challenges ahead are massive because big businesses have cannibalized and polluted local economies while the U.S. government has wasted trillions of dollars fighting never-ending wars. 

The Walton dynasty and Jeff Bezos’s empire have been on a conquest against mom-and-pop stores causing many to go out of business. Economists refer to this as the “”Walmart effect” where small business owners lose everything, while Walmart and Amazon rake in record profits of billions. Even small attempts to hold big retail stores accountable have been challenged. 

Climate change threatens the survival of our species and pollution is so widespread that there is a collection of plastic in the ocean referred to as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and it is more than twice the size of Texas. In response to mass pollution, Laredo banned single-use plastic bags in their city. This was a step in the right direction, but the targeted interest of big retail intervened. In 2018, the all-Republican Texas Supreme Court ruled Laredo’s plastic bag ban was not enforceable, citing state law on solid waste disposal having priority over the city’s ordinance. 

A similar case occurred in Denton in 2014 when the city became the first in Texas to ban hydraulic fracking only for the Texas Legislature to pass a law retracting the ban. 

The Republican Party of Texas’ blatant hypocrisy in turning its back on small government — a value they claim to champion — must be challenged. 

Massive corporations have done lasting damage to local economies and environments. To counteract the damage, autonomy must be restored to local governments. The repeated mantra of faux fiscal conservatives in opposition of funding federal programs, like Medicare for All, tuition-free college and the Green New Deal, is these programs “cost too much.” Meanwhile, a report from the Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs at Brown University found that the United States had spent $6.4 trillion on wars in the Middle East and Asia since 2001. 

There is justification for the cost of the Iraq War making it the second most expensive war in U.S. history while 38.1 million people live in poverty in this country. The resources exhausted to fund endless U.S. warfare in the Middle East should have been used domestically.

Martin Luther King Jr. prophesized exactly one year before his assassination that, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

Americans agree there is a common good to be had from paying taxes on roads and bridges, not bombs and ditches. This is not to argue the stance of localism should be connected to isolationism. Instead, it is time to retire U.S. imperialism and replace it with diplomacy and foreign aid. 

These challenges local communities face have all the money and power on their side. It may seem bleak, but history shows there is precedent for community organizers challenging massive institutions. 

Some examples of this include, but are not limited to, when in the 1960s, the African American community came together in Montgomery, Alabama to boycott and put an end to segregation on public buses. Across the country in California, the Black Panthers organized a free breakfast program to combat hunger in their communities. National Geographic found that “By the end of 1969, the Black Panthers were serving full free breakfasts (including milk, bacon, eggs, grits, and toast) to 20,000 school-aged children in 19 cities around the country, and in 23 local affiliates every school day.” The 2018 Oklahoma teachers’ strike protested low pay and poor teaching conditions and resulted in a $6,000 raise for educators and more funding for schools.  

One community will not be enough because ironically the benefits of localism are maximized when community involvement is high in every city. 

Only when we are united together in our communities can humanity overcome the impending ecological climate change crisis, expunge racism and bigotry from our institutions, and actualize an economy that works for everyone.

Featured Illustration by Olivia Varnell

About Author

Brett Davis

Brett Davis

Columnist on The North Texas Daily's opinion section since 2020. His stories focus on politics and point out hypocrisy. He is a current undergraduate student at UNT majoring in political science and history. Also, he is the vice president of UNT College Democrats and a student relations coordinator for SGA. In 2019, Davis graduated from Central Texas College with an A.A. in interdisciplinary studies.

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