I want to believe everyone has our best interests at heart when they make plans and decisions that will affect us. After hearing the Windsor Essex Development Commission presentation Wednesday evening I got to wondering if some organizations are not as interested in being progressive and proactive. Perhaps they need the status quo just to be relevant. What if the future is radically different from the present? What if events take hold of the world that could undo everything that we take for granted? Below I have outlined three scenarios. Each could have devastating effects on the world economy and the Windsor-Essex regional economy; since it is biased toward export markets we would definitely be affected.
- Presently there is real concern in the world financial markets. The financial wizards invented investment vehicles out of worthless mortgages, collected huge commissions and got rich. Now we find out that these financial vehicles are nearly worthless. Billions of dollars of investments have disappeared already and more invented wealth is soon to follow. Add to this turmoil a U.S. Federal Government $9 trillion in the hole and their dollar losing value and you have the makings of a severe financial crisis.
- The evidence is mounting that world oil production is not going to meet global demand within a short period of time. Competition for oil and petroleum products will continue to put upward pressure on costs for transportation and industrial and agricultural chemicals. This competition may lead to resource wars but certainly will significantly impact global trade. Currently there is no alternative energy technology/infrastructure to replace gasoline and distillates on the required scale to maintain business-as-usual.
- The U.S. government has been taking increasingly aggressive positions around the world, moving its armies and navies into provocative postures and more or less causing a great deal of international tension. At some point it may very well happen that the world will find itself at war. Not just a regional conflict like Iraq or Afghanistan but a real war between two major armies and their allies shooting it out over oil, religion or politics.
Economic recession/depression, peak oil or war, either of these will wreak havoc on an economy based on exports/global trade.
The Windsor Essex region is 70% - 85% reliant on exports of manufactured and agri-business products. What if instead our economy was more balanced between exports and domestic consumption? A more evenly balanced local economy would allow us to absorb the shocks of lower consumption of our products in export markets weakened by any of the scenarios I outlined above.
How can we develop a regional economy? In the event of one of the above problems we will eventually sort ourselves out. To do it proactively the only way to overcome the large corporations that have taken control of our economies is to lobby the Provincial and Federal governments to create trade rules that would enable this to happen. There is a precedent for this type of Federal law, CanCon. CanCon of course forced media outlets to provide Canadian programming and artists the opportunity to be heard and seen. What if retailers had to provide space for a percentage of regional agricultural products and consumer goods? Free trade agreements would prevent us from eliminating products from other jurisdictions but a CanCon law would not stop retailers from selling any product, it would merely offer us the choice to buy something from closer to home and put our money back into our own pockets.
Think of all the consumer goods that we use. In a previous era we had local economies and produced goods much closer to home. The companies were locally owned and the profits came back to benefit our communities. Somewhere along the way we were told globalization was better and more profitable. Somewhere along the way we lost the ability to provide for ourselves and less and less wealth was kept close to home. The effects are all around us. Sprawl, urban decay, apathy and disinterest in local life and culture.
I’d rather not wait for one of these scenarios to play out for things to change. I’d like to see local businesses and our Windsor Essex Development Commission, Windsor Chamber of Commerce and other interested groups and our politicians work together to develop a local economy that can sustain itself in a future fraught with challenges.
Even if none of these problems arise, would it be so bad to have a vibrant and diverse local economy?