I’m increasingly trying to buy local because I really believe that a small business keeps money in a community. Its not terribly easy in Lebanon. But, food has been easy: My weekly pilgrimage to Souk Al Tayyeb and patronizing my local mom and pops stores has been a joy- I know the people picking my food and baking my bread. That extra few dollars is worth it to me. But what happens when the desire to buy local conflicts with other values? Or lifestyle? Unraveling the pitfalls of consumerism has truly kept my mind busy lately…
So, I have an iPad, and it has served me well. After moving countless times in the last 8 years, I am tired of packing up all my books and letting them sit in my Dad’s basement- the iPad allows me to keep the books I buy with me wherever I go. As a masters student, I download all my reading onto my iPad instead of getting it printed at the printer, saving thousands of pages in a single semester. This iPad also does other magical things, like deliver books wirelessly to me that I would not otherwise be able to buy in Lebanon. eReaders in general save paper in many other ways- on my iPad I get 4 magazine subscriptions, buy countless books, and read the New York Times every day. All those pages must add up.
But what about that voyage across the Pacific that my iPad took? Do the toxins emitted from that ship cancel out all of my saved paper? What about the economic system that has placed that iPad factory in China in the first place? Do my few thousands of saved pages make up for the fact that a woman in China is making next to nothing to put that iPad together? Or what about the fact that my own country will inevitably suffer from our position as a tireless consumer of imported goods? Or…what about the fact that I can only buy these online books from major corporate, profit-driven booksellers such as Amazon.com and Borders?
That’s what has me worried- I don’t want to go home to Point Reyes this summer and be a hypocrite. I want to buy books from Point Reyes Books. Point Reyes Books supports my local community with donations, by hosting great events, and by employing locals. But Point Reyes Books can’t zoom books onto my iPad. When I leave after the summer, I will have to leave my poor books behind, sitting on the shelf, when I wish they could be with me.
So far my solution is this- there are books I have not been able to buy on my iPad. Jane Jacobs: The Death and Life of Great American Cities is one of them. Apparently a major American classic is not worthy to be on the iPad. It was, after all, written in 1961.
So, instead of being tempted by Amazon.com’s cheap prices, I will head down to the bookstore when I arrive in Point Reyes and buy my copy there. At least then I can hang out with the Smart Meter protesters that I have been admiring from a far (I will make sure not to bring my iPad and offend their electromagnetic sensitive sensitivities) and not feel like a total hypocrite…
Sometimes I wish I didn’t know about the incredible impacts a small local business can have. I wish I didn’t see the consequences of the neo-liberal economic mantra which is rotting my country from the inside out. I wish I could tell myself that the pollution created by these corporations that feed our consumerism is really just us using our God-given ingenuity on this earth God gave us because that is what God wants us to do. But I can’t.