Better a Witty Fool than a Foolish Wit

Inner Workings of My Twisted Mind.

Environmentally Unconscious

Growing up in Santa Cruz, I was always aware of an odd sort of disconnect between what people preached and how they acted.  I’ve tried my hardest to not fall in to that category of Cruzans who waxes poetic about how we need to do our part for the environment before getting into a gas guzzling SUV and driving two blocks to 7-11.  Even when I announced that I was moving to Los Angeles, many very helpful souls berated me for moving to this unsustainable urban wasteland, before slipping into the comfort of their Hummers (seriously, this actually happened more than once).  

Now, I would never claim Los Angeles to be some bastion of ethically, morally, non self-centered people.  Because it certainly lacks any sort of ethics or morals, and I’ve met few Angelenos who aren’t ridiculously self-absorbed (myself included), but I noticed something very interesting yesterday.  I was selling books at an Doctors Without Borders event.  One of the doctors wrote a book about his experiences working in Africa.  Of course, rich people can’t help themselves when the chance to throw money at the ‘Africa problem’ presents itself.  Angelina Jolie and Oprah Winfrey have made all the rich Angelenos absolutely horny over all things Africa, and they all want to come together in some sort of Bacchanalian orgy of talking about what they’ve done, how many times they’ve been there, how many African children they have, etc.  It’s slightly nauseating though their hearts are in the right place.  
I, as a representative of an independent book store, sit in the mirrored lobby of a refurbished Art Deco movie theater that no longer shows movies and sell the $27 book to people donating more money than I’ll make in a lifetime.  And the question I get asked the most at these events, “Can I get it on Amazon?”  I also get a lot of “Oh, that’s expensive.”  It’s the price of a new hardcover book.  I’m sorry, it’s not 1970, hardcover books are, on average about $25.  It’s called inflation.  
So these people will pour money into a third world country, that desperately needs it, I’m not arguing that point, but they won’t pay full price for a book that they might be able to get for a discount on amazon.  I guess what I don’t get, and maybe it’s just me, is how people can pour money into something and not care what happens in their own neighborhood.   Can’t both be accomplished?  Can’t we give foreign aid and still work to keep our neighborhoods unique and distinct?  
Maybe that’s my Santa Cruz coming out.  The fierce localism that permeates every one of us that grew up listening to the constant arguments about Borders and Home Depot coming in and forcing our beloved local businesses out.  
But really, perhaps we should be thinking in a broader kind of vision.  If African aid is your thing, fantastic, but does that mean that you should drive a Hummer through the rough terrain of L.A. and buy everything from Barnes and Noble, Sam Goody and Costco?  Can we do it all?
Peace, Love, and Shop Local,

October 29, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

1 Comment »

  1. Hi Julia,

    Great post. I always love the discussion of local vs organic. When I was at Berkeley we had a guest lecture by Michael Pollen about local food production. He talked about a pig farmer who was not certified organic but refused to deliver his meat to people outside of a 100 mile radius. It intrigues me, which is more important? Is it sustainability in a larger sense (co2 use) or ecology (no chemical use). Is it useful to help local people (welfare, local help, community organizing…) or internationally (raise the status of people in Africa who are more disadvantaged than even the poorest of the people in the US)? I work internationally, playing on people’s desire to help the Africans, (and BTW, the Africans play to those desires- with lots of grant requests to help AIDS victims, orphans and women…) but I’m always interested in ways Spirit in Action could help people nationally. What about American Indians who are seriously disadvantaged and could really benefit from business development?? I don’t know. It’s more expensive to start businesses in the US than one in Africa (we give people $150 in Africa to start a business…). I do know that for me I do take local food seriously, even in Minnesota. I’ve learned about freezing food and canning, and there is still a lot available here in the winter, it just takes dedication. And for me, I’ve decided is that local food is where I most want to spend my money, more than tv, more than netflix, more than books even (I use the library, of course) because, let’s face it, our purchase power, and putting my money where my mouth is, is one of the most important ways to take a stand in today’s world.

    Amen to buying local, AND thinking globally and acting locally,

    Comment by Tanya Cothran | October 30, 2008 | Reply

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