Why Local Matters – A World That WorksPosted: November 3, 2013
We are such a globally “sourced” world now but even if that keeps the costs of goods low to the consumers, I don’t really think this is a good thing for the mass of humanity and quality of life. I would rather pay more and have a world that works for everyone. My partner, Stephen Yemm, often muses that countries should keep some basic goods production in operative condition – both for employment and for security. Also, we both became a bit more aware of the issue of human trafficking by watching a 2010 movie recently – based on a true story – titled The Whistleblower.
So, this desire for “a world that works for everyone” is not a bleeding heart liberal perspective but a very practical and realistic perspective, on the state of the global economy as it exists at the moment. There is too much emphasis on more and more consumption, for one thing. There is too much exploitation going on – of people and resources. There is something wrong when local agricultural land is purchased and used to grow foodstuffs for a more affluent consumer, while the local population is left dependent upon charitable “excess” big ag food hand-outs.
On Halloween, during a long drive with family from St Louis, after having a bit of themed fun there at the old Lemp Brewery (such well-built architecture; and so sound, even at a century old !!), my husband and I explored issues of restroom partition hardware. The “Lemp” story is about how those old German brewers recognized the advantages of LOCAL natural resources (including the river and the huge caverns below) to bring financial success into their ventures. While I don’t have any ready answers regarding our own business’ involvement with anodized bright aluminum finishing for restroom partition hardware – thanks to my iPhone, during that long drive home on Halloween night, I learned a lot.
It does pay to ask questions, and do the research, and try to understand the environmental complexities of the choices that we make. We first began to have questions about the origins of the hardware that is kitted up by our “partner” in restroom fabrication some years ago. In truth, we only have control over the high density polyethylene plastic that we source from 100% post-consumer processors but which is the bulk by volume of any restroom partition installation. However, the buck stops here at our business, when it comes to financial involvements. We experienced a shower installation which included stainless steel hardware. Imagine our disappointment and shock, when rust started showing through !! In researching the problem, the best answer was that it had an “inferior” coating. It seemed to have been sourced off-shore by our fabricator in order to save money and keep costs low.
Rather than accept their offer of an inexpensive solution (they were willing to replace that hardware with pretty much the same product), we simply couldn’t accept the possibility that it would just rust all over again; and therefore, our customer would be left disappointed once again, regarding the performance of our produce on their project. So, we paid more, to purchase “Made in the USA” stainless steel hardware; and we have heard no more complaints about that installation. Another restroom partition associated partner, recently shared with us their concerns about the environmental impacts of brightly anodized aluminum hardware being sourced off-shore, most likely from China. Stories abound about real circumstances that would leave any thoughtful person concerned, about China’s inability to police sufficiently, all the businesses that sell products into the United States. We are proud be a “Made in the USA” producer of quality building-related materials.
On our drive home from St Louis, thanks to google and my iPhone, I got a little education about the anodizing process, which includes significant potentials for disturbing pollution. It was inspiring to read the story of an Ohio manufacturer, Anomatic Corporation of Newark, OH, which expresses itself as a great role model and an example of “government working” and the value of enforcing environmental regulations. The air and water that people in the vicinity of that processor must cope with, is less likely to cause health impacts because they are a business that actually cares, even if they are also coerced a bit by regulation. Much of that anodizing process has moved off-shore because the environment oversight is less burdensome for the multinational corporations whose practices are often exploitative. You can read about the great lengths the Anomatic Corporation goes to, in order to anodize metal (which does lend important durability aspects) in an environmentally safe way, at this link – http://www.anomatic.com/pdf/anomatic-sustainability-the-environment.pdf.
The tide goes out and the tide comes back in. Such are the cycles of nature. After WWII, the United States sent their genius of automation, Dr Edwards Deming, to help the Japanese recover from the wounds of war. I still remember when the words “Made in Japan” suggested the same inferior quality that the words “Made in China” do now. I know that I read labels – I’m not buying any food product for my children or our felines that isn’t made in the United States. I simply lack the confidence to trust my beloveds well-being, to Chinese oversight.
I am happy to see some plastics manufacturing returning to the United States but I have deep concerns about fracking, which is the source of the industry’s optimism. I am happy that there are efforts to train workers for sewing jobs in the state of Minnesota. Garment and Shoe Factories were once major employers in our region. Mining was also. I think we are shortsighted to have allowed the demise of the steel industry in this country. We are short-sighted not to care about the well-being of people – about a world that works for everyone. I mean that word “works” in a very broad sense – the people have “work” to do that maintains their sense of pride and self-worth, that the systems that supply basic goods – food, clothing, etc – to people are maintained locally, without the need to transport such items by air or ocean.
I want a world that works because everything is in balance again; and people and resources are not exploited, simply to line the pockets of the wealthiest 1%. Rising wages in Asia are also helping to return “work” to the United States. I know that it is naïve to expect that automation and robotics are going to cease being an important aspect of production; and honestly, to the degree that it keeps people out of harmful environments, I’m all for it. However, for a long as 30 years ago, I personally believed that such a return to a balanced economic situation is necessary – for the overall quality of life to improve and progress. Those in the significant position of specifying materials are part of that opportunity for improvement. The more informed and aware these professionals are, regarding the small details and fine points of their choices, the more certain it becomes that our children will find in their own tomorrows, that the world does work for everyone; and that local well-being is an important part of that equation.
Blog author ~ Deborah Hart Yemm is co-founder of
Yemm & Hart, a green materials producer