Think Globally, Act Locally

‘Local character’ is thus no mere accidental old-world quaintness, as its mimics think and say. It is attained only in course of adequate grasp and treatment of the whole environment, and in active sympathy with the essential and characteristic life of the place concerned.

Patrik Geddes, a pioneer in town planning

Although, the meaning of the phrase ‘thinking globally, acting locally’ has changed over the years, the fact is that acting locally is more important that trying to act globally. The local environment and changes in it form and shape people and their well-being compared to high or global politic decisions. Of course, the change in taxation or other laws affect your well-being, too, but they don’t directly affect your environment. Your actions however can strongly contribute to the improvement of the local conditions and possibly have an effect on larger communities as well.

As the quote says – the treatment of the whole environment – is important. Therefore, this should be the basic rule for the city and other local bureaucrats – to consult people affected in the places or communities (I have always envied those┬áposted official notices on local changes in environment in the UK). Traffic decisions, gardening decisions and other local improvements (or degradations) could have a grave impact on the overall well-being of a community and so they should be treated as such1.

1 The question is if there are enough processes in question available to consult public on the changes before or during the planning stage? There is Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), but this comes too late – usually after the planning is already done – and only has a status of a recommendation, therefore often ignored by the traffic planners or developers.

  • sandra

    I would not rely on a prescribed administrative process within an everlastingly rigid institution. Especially when it comes to the public good for a community.


    EIA is not that helpless. Take an example of our D4 and its Marianka-Karpaty tunnel. In thanks to some active citizens (civic capital is still alive! even in postsoviet countries!) was a decision about its routing postponed.

    In regard to more constructive participation:
    I am currently writing a thesis on social capital/ civic engagement and public spaces in Bratislava and I was surprised with the amount of people I had ran across. Some of them are working their ass off, but eventually, where is will there is way.

    (just wanted to say hello, nice to read something on SK in EN)

  • Daniel

    Thanks for the comment, Sandra.

    I haven’t said EIA was helpless, but it’s certainly just a recommendation. Anyway, I have personally seen cases where EIA was a mediator process to start the direct communication with the project investors. So, yes, it works, it just requires well developed culture of communication between the investors and public.