What Does ‘Local’ Mean These Days?

Just a little musing I’ve been doing of late (usually before my coffee fix!)…

When I went food shopping the other day I realised that one of my criteria for buying was to go for produce that was as local to me as possible. That way, not only am I supporting local farmers and industry, but I am also reducing food miles and therefore saving the earth! In reality of course, I’ll be lucky if I can find more than a handful of local producers while doing my weekly shop in the supermarket.


However, I then got to thinking, in this day and age of fast communications – what is local? With food, it is probably easy enough to explain – although definitions still have to be set to demarcate the geographical territory where ‘local’ ends and ‘here be dragons’ begins. For other goods, especially manufactured ones, this is not so easy… not in the UK anyway where we have lost most of our manufacturing industry to cheaper production methods abroad.

What about people? Who are the people who regard as ‘local’? The ones in your street or town? Or maybe the friends you speak to every day at work or on the Internet. In the old days (and probably in the dictionary too), local would have meant your community, the place you live in and work in (which were probably not that far apart). But these days, not many people even know their neighbours anymore – and families have a tendency to fragment and move apart.

Instead, for many of us, our community  is based upon who we see and speak to on our computers, phones and iPads. Social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter means that we are able to connect with people thousands of miles away – people we will probably never see in the flesh – and we can become friends (and sometimes even cyber lovers) with them. They are not, by any true definition, part of our local environment spatially, but in some strange way these far away folks are more local to us than the man in the next street.


There would have been a time when local also meant familiar… when people tended to stay around where they were born These days this isn’t always true. On the other hand, in these days of Internet, easy travel and communications, the familiar isn’t necessarily local – in a geographical sense. I really don’t think the word will change its meaning or become obsolete in its current usage in my lifetime – but there may come a time when the concept changes a little.

One Comment

  1. It is definitely true that ‘local’ is a changing term and its uses are increasing in scope. Personally, in my own endeavours to be environmental, local stretches to a 30 minute drive to a nursery for ‘local’ veg and fruit. My milk, however, is found closer to home; a dairy farm 5 minutes away who deliver.

    I agree though that in the future ‘local’ could very well evolve to encompass those we know via our local internet connections!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *