Helena Norberg-Hodge


The Ladakhi community lost their ­“humanness” when they gave up their traditional resources and no longer practiced their traditional ways of life. This has happened to almost all western civilization communities and is happening more and more throughout the world. Humans are losing their humanness by revolving around the money economy. People want food as fast as they can get it which ruins the majestic waiting for food to sprout out of the ground. They miss the natural environment providing food for them without toxic chemicals. The clogging of our veins and organs with unnatural and poisoned food is what we get for wanting food that is convenient. As the members of the western civilization become more unhuman, they take steps closer to destroying the whole natural environment that once provided for them. The invention of the money economy has pushed humans to become unnatural and unhuman. For many, the rise of the global economy marks the final fulfilment of the great dream of a ‘Global Village’. Almost everywhere you travel today you will find multi-lane highways, concrete cities and a cultural landscape featuring gray business suits, fast-food chains, Hollywood films and cellular phones. In the remotest corners of the planet, Barbie, Madonna and the Marlboro Man are familiar icons. From Cleveland to Cairo to Caracas, Baywatch is entertainment and CNN news. The world, we are told, is being united by virtue of the fact that everyone will soon be able to indulge their innate human desire for a Westernized, urbanized consumer lifestyle. West is best, and joining the bandwagon brings closer a harmonious union of peaceable, rational, democratic consumers ‘like us’. This worldview assumes that it was the chaotic diversity of cultures, values and beliefs that lay behind the conflicts of the past: that as these differences are removed, so the differences between us will be resolved. As a result, villages, rural communities and their cultural traditions around the world are being destroyed on an unprecedented scale under the impact of globalizing market forces. Communities that have sustained themselves for hundreds of years are simply disintegrating. The spread of the consumer culture seems unstoppable.

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Localist, Permaculturist, Rural Ecologist, Culturalist, Local Food Advocate & Environmentalist

Helena Norberg-Hodge is a pioneer of the ‘new economy’ movement. Through writing and public lectures on four continents, she has been promoting an economics of personal, social and ecological well-being for more than thirty years. She is a widely respected analyst of the impact of the global economy on communities, local economies, and personal identity, and is a leading proponent of ‘localization’, or decentralization, as a means of countering those impacts. Norberg-Hodge is world’s leading analyst of the impact of the global economy on cultures and well-known for her articulation of the counter-development movement. Since 1975, she has worked with the people of Ladakh, or “Little Tibet”, to find ways of enabling their culture to meet the modern world without sacrificing social and ecological values. She was educated in Sweden, Germany, England and the United States. She specialized in linguistics, including studies at the doctoral level at the University of London and at MIT, with Noam Chomsky. Fluent in seven languages, she has lived in and studied numerous cultures at varying degrees of industrialization, giving her a unique international perspective. She has lectured and taught extensively around the world from the Smithsonian Institution to Harvard and Oxford universities. She has given lectures on sustainable living to forums such as the US Congress, the World Bank, and the IMF. She is the founding Director of Local Future (International Society for Ecology and Culture), a non-profit organization based in the US and UK, with subsidiaries in Germany and Australia focused on promoting a systemic shift from economic globalization towards localism; concerned with the protection of both biological and cultural diversity. Local Future aims at strengthening ecological diversity and community. Helena is also the Co-Founder of the International Forum on Globalization, an alliance of sixty leading activists, scholars, economists, researchers and writers formed to stimulate new thinking, joint activity and public education in response to economic globalization. She also directs the Ladakh Project, renowned for its groundbreaking work in sustainable development on the Tibetan plateau, for which she received the Right Livelihood Award or Alternative Nobel Prize. Energized by the fate of a people who had captured her heart, Norberg-Hodge established the Ladakh Project to seek sustainable solutions that preserve cultural integrity and environmental health while addressing the hunger for modernization. Since then, other Ladakh-based projects have proliferated, supporting renewable energy systems, local agricultural methods, and the spiritual foundations of Ladakhi culture. She is the author of numerous works, including Ancient Futures:  Learning from Ladakh, which together with an award-winning film of the same title. She and Local Future have just released a new film on globalization and localization called “The Economics of Happiness”, about the growing worldwide movement for economic localization. Ancient Futures, has been described as “an inspirational classic”, and sold about half a million copies; chronicles the environmental and social impact of economic development on the northern Indian region of Ladakh.

It has since been translated into 42 languages. Ancient Futures opens with author Helena Norberg-Hodge’s first visit in 1975 to idyllic, preindustrial Ladakh. She then tracks the profound changes that occurred as the region was opened to foreign tourists and Western goods and technologies, and offers a firsthand account of how relentless pressure for economic growth precipitated generational and religious conflict, unemployment, inflation, and environmental damage, threatening to unravel Ladakh’s traditional way of life. She is also the producer and co-director of the award-winning film, The Economics of Happiness, and the co-author of Bringing the Food Economy Home and From the Ground Up: Rethinking Industrial Agriculture. The film describes a world moving simultaneously in two opposing directions. On the one hand, government and big business continue to promote globalization and the consolidation of corporate power. At the same time, all around the world people are resisting those policies, demanding a re-regulation of trade and finance—and, far from the old institutions of power, they’re starting to forge a very different future. Communities are coming together to re-build more human scale, ecological economies based on a new paradigm – an economics of localization. The Economics of Happiness has been shown around in the world and been featured in more than twenty film festivals. It won Best in Show at the Cinema Verde Environmental Film and Arts Festival in Florida and Best Director Award at the EkoFilm Festival in the Czech Republic. Over the years, she has received support from many world leaders, including H.R.H. Prince Charles, Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, H.H. the Dalai Lama, and Indian Prime Ministers Indira and Rajiv Gandhi. In 1986, she received the Right Livelihood Award, or ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’ as recognition for her work with the people of Ladakh. Helena was awarded the 2012 Goi Peace Prize for contributing to “the revitalization of cultural and biological diversity, and the strengthening of local communities and economies worldwide.” Ms. Norberg-Hodge is on the International Commission on the Future of Food and Agriculture, launched with the support of the government of Tuscany. She is also a member of the editorial board of The Ecologist magazine and a Co-Founder of the Global Ecovillage Network. Helena has lectured in seven languages and appeared in broadcast, print and online media worldwide, including MSNBC, The London Times, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Guardian. She has written numerous articles and essays, and her work has been the subject of more than 300 articles worldwide. In 1993, she was named one of the world’s ‘Ten Most Interesting Environmentalists’ by the Earth Journal. Her work has been the subject of more than 250 articles in over a dozen countries. In Carl McDaniel’s book Wisdom for a Liveable Planet (Trinity University Press), she was profiled as one of eight visionaries changing the world today. The Post Growth Institute counted Helena on the (En)Rich List, a list of 100 people “whose collective contributions enrich paths to sustainable futures.”