On Being Local

It’s funny how easy it is to fall into an echo chamber—at least of sorts. I’ve heard so very much about Proposition 37 that I’ve about been driven ‘round the bend. I’ve heard so much about it that I felt compelled to spend a bunch of Saturday writing a post about it. And then I was surprised when Angelique, who occasionally acts as my editor, made a comment to me that there are probably lots of Proposition 37s on ballots this year, so I should be sure to specify “Illinois.” I wasn’t writing about Illinois. I was writing about California.


While I have friends who don’t fall into any of these categories, my current “echo chamber” is mostly full of people who care deeply about food, farming, science and research. So the fact that California has a proposition on the ballot to require the labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in some food has caused a huge hullabaloo amongst people I do and don’t know personally. I had heard so much from a wide variety friends, acquaintances and internet haunts about California’s Proposition 37 that I had come to assume everyone had, and everyone I knew (or who reads my blog) was aware of it and would instantly know what the phrase “Proposition 37” means.

Clearly, I’ve let myself get sucked into a food-movement vortex and I’ve been rather distracted. Time to fall back & regroup. I definitely have some (conflicting) opinions on California’s Proposition 37, but I realized last night that they are not terribly important at this time. I understand that Michael Pollan says passing CA Prop 37 will define if there really is “a food movement” in his recent op-ed for The New York Times. I understand the feeling that California, with its huge economy, geographic area and so forth, will end up potentially dictating to the nation what happens with GMOs.

But it’s not directly relevant to me right now. And so my opinions, while they may have been useful to someone if I’d had them fully formed earlier this year, are not particularly relevant either. If, as I expect it will, this issue comes up in Illinois soon-ish, then I’ll revisit these opinions. Hopefully, I’ll have learned more by then about the ins and outs of GMOs-as-business, GMOs-as-food and GMOs-as-research subject. Maybe, just maybe, even GMOs-as-they-pertain-specifically-to-Illinois. Illinois is, after all, what’s directly relevant to me right now.

Interestingly, and unfortunately, I’ve not been hearing about Illinois’s ballot. No joke. I’ve heard/read/taken in exactly two comments about things I’m going to be voting on in less than a week. One was a friend’s FB comment on an amendment to the Illinois constitution and one was a friend’s tweet:

I didn’t even realize Chicagoans get a vote on who sits on the water reclamation board…

Here I am. Deeply invested in eating my food locally, spending my money locally and so on. But I’d given far less thought to local politics than I had to California’s politics. This is sort of ironic, given I have just started volunteering to help arrange the 20131 Chicago Food Policy Summit.

Maybe more than “sort of ironic.”

In the end, this is the crux of being local. As my food-obsessed friends say, it is about voting with my fork. As my boycotting friends say, it is about voting with my wallet. But, in the end, it’s about voting with my ballot too. And while, in every case, these “votes” need not be informed, we’d all be better off if they all were.

I’ve heard, more than once, how easy it is to get distracted in an election year, especially a presidential election year. This is the first year I’ve experienced it and realized how true those words are.

The “big” contests get the most play. For most of my voting life, this has just meant the presidential campaign. It’s meant that even if I got a little distracted by the “big” contest, I still saw things about the “little” ones. The local-er to local-est contests. This is the first year where I’ve experienced distraction based on the intersection of my interests (food!) and my friends/acquaintances and the having those friends/acquaintances be all over the country, literally speaking. The “big” contests, thus, were the presidential race and California’s Proposition 37.

This is one of the hazards of owning an internet connection and not a TV or newspaper subscription, I suppose.

I have some catching up to do around Chicago and Illinois ballot measures, constitutional amendments, and candidates. I could just go fill in my ballot based on the letter(s) next to someone’s name, and pass over the amendments, but I’m actually going to invest in that catching up. I truly believe what I said above, that any type of “vote with your [X]” is better done informed, and I hate to admit I’m not right now.

It’s going to be kind of like cramming for an exam. Just like in school. Good times.

fn1. My apologies – for now this link goes to the 2012 Summit information. I assure you, there’s a 2013 Summit in the works. I was just discussing the request for proposals for the Summit yesterday.

2 thoughts on “On Being Local

  1. I don’t think it’s wrong to be invested in a political sphere outside of your own locality. After all, that’s how activism works these days. You’re right, though, that local politics, and how legislation will affect you and your community, is extremely important. I think too many people just vote by party color, by ideological label, and don’t take the time to understand what’s really being proposed.

    Kudos to you on taking the initiative. Democracy needs more voters like you.

    • Thanks for the compliment.

      We really do need to be invested in the greater political sphere, no doubt about it. Changes on a big level will, to some extent, impact what’s going on locally. My issue is just being blind to changes on the local level because you’re (I was) keeping your (my) eyes on the “bigger” levels.

      I hope, as time goes on, it becomes more natural to me to balance both.

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