Santa Cruz is a town with a strong sense of local pride. Every other car seems to sport a Santa Cruz bumper sticker and every other person seems to own a Santa Cruz sweatshirt, so it’s a natural fit that Santa Cruz is hosting a Local Living Expo this Friday to bring attention to the role our local community can play in addressing global problems.
The Local Living Expo features the Santa Cruz premier of “The Economics of Happiness,” a new documentary that explores how a focus on local community can help solve the problems of the economic crisis, climate change and rising levels of unhappiness in the United States. After the film, a group of local authors and experts will discuss the ways in which the Santa Cruz community is coming together to address these problems.
One of these experts is Michel Levy, the co-founder of Transition Santa Cruz, an organization whose mission is to prepare Santa Cruz for a future in which cheap fuel is no longer abundant and our community will need to be more self-sufficient. Levy describes the fundamental issue the film raises. “We have all this incredible material wealth and resources,” he says, “but we’re polluting our environment, and we have really serious social problems, and a lot of people aren’t happy.”
The first half of the film explores some of the negative impacts caused by the forces of globalization: erosion of culture, loss of sustainability, and increases in pollution, crime and homelessness. The second half of the film, Levy says, “looks at ways that people are starting to respond to this positively by making different kinds of choices and revitalizing their local communities and economies, which is exactly what we are trying to do with the Transitions Movement.” This movement includes a focus on farmers markets, local agriculture, local economic systems, local currencies and local control over business.
Proponents of globalization argue that the forces of international free trade have helped to create a more efficient marketplace and bring millions out of poverty, but Levy is skeptical. “If you reduce things to what’s most efficient monetarily or the most efficient for capital,” he says, “then that doesn’t automatically translate to what’s best for human beings.”
Despite the negative effects of globalization, Levy thinks Santa Cruz is doing a good job of bringing focus back to the local economy. He credits a lot of this interest to the Santa Cruz nonprofit Think Local First, which is a co-sponsor of the Local Living Expo. “We have quite an interest here in shopping locally, and the whole idea of buying local has become a widely accepted idea,” Levy says. “All of this is a great opportunity to have better lives.”
The Local Living Expo takes place Friday, March 18 from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at the Rio Theatre, 1205 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. The film will be screened from 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. with speakers to follow. Tickets are $5/adv, $7/door. More information at theeconomicsofhappiness.eventbrite.com
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