I suspect that the high level of apathy among voters in America stems from the fact that analyzing most issues give them a headache. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized there are no easy answers. If you follow the effects of trying to do something good, eventually you find yourself doing something bad.
Take electric cars. I love the uproar about how wonderful electric cars are, because they don’t use fossil fuels. Hey, folks, how do you think we get electricity? Frequently, it’s from burning coal. It’s a dirty fossil fuel, but at least it comes from America, rather than the Middle East.
The whole concept of dilemmas hit home for me this week when I went to visit a new store in town called Sprouts. It’s best described as a competitor to Whole Foods — very organic, very healthy. I was frankly hoping I wouldn’t like it, because I don’t like finding new places to spend money. But it had a terrific meat counter (which means I don’t have to schlep 10 miles at Thanksgiving for free-range turkey), a nice selection of locally grown produce, and a dazzling array of bulk foods.
I especially like the latter. If there’s one thing that gets me cranky, it’s overpackaging in the consumer packaged goods industry. (Last week I received some DVDs from Amazon. Can you please tell me why, if a DVD is not going to be on a shelf in a retail store, it has to be wrapped in cellophane to keep the DVD from being stolen?) The idea of being able to buy snacks and cooking ingredients sans boxes and waxed paper innards just makes me go all gooey inside.
Then I remembered that my local produce stand, called Sunnymount, also had bulk bins that I hadn’t gotten diving into. As wonderfully spacious and bright as Sprouts was, I realized its layout was enticing me, not necessarily the product. Sunnymount is small and quaint and compact — and local. Sprouts has 51 stores in 4 states and, according to its Web site, is one of the fastest-growing retailers in the U.S.
As the non-profit Institute for Local Self-Reliance points out, when you spend $100 at a local business, $45 says within the community. If you spend $100 at a chain, $14 stays within the community. Case closed, in the local retailer’s favor?
Not in the least. Life just isn’t that simple. In addition to its locally grown produce, Sunnymount also has tropical fruits (you can have my papayas when you pry them from my cold dead fingers). In the winter, it sells produce flown up from South America (I think; I’m afraid to ask how far it’s travelled). Sunnymount may be small and quaint, but its carbon footprint is pure 21st century.
So now I’m really flummoxed. If I add Sprouts to my shopping list, then I’m using more gas to become more environmentally friendly. If I continue to shop at Sunnymount, I’m supporting a local retailer … and several freight airlines.
I feel another headache coming on. I wonder how far the ibuprofen traveled to get here.