I recently caught up with a friend from Malaysia, who told me that the large shopping mall near where I used to live is now closed. I was not surprised. There was such a proliferation of shopping malls in Kuala Lumpur and its suburbs, as well as some cities in the world, at the expense of local businesses and the environment.

This shopping mall in question was built with the destruction of a rare piece of natural land, with trees, other plants and beautiful wildlife destroyed. What rose in the place of such outstanding natural beauty was a cold, empty, concrete mausoleum peddling wares that nobody wanted. The first few malls were successful, and greedy developers jumped on the bandwagon, trying to copy early successes, without questioning, ‘Does this town really need another mall?”

There were hardly malls and superstores when I was growing up. People had more of a sense of community and family. Generations would still trade in the same shop: butchers, greengrocers, newsagents. There was a sweetness to the beat of everyday life.

Now, almost all are gone from the high street, squeezed out of business.

These large chain stores buy in bulk for pricing advantage, paying scant notice on quantity and ethical sourcing. It is all about cheap, cheap, cheap. The products come from sweatshops, from raw materials that destroy the environment and are sometimes toxic, breaks easily and in the long run, do not prove to be cost-effective because they do not last.

The mall culture is all about excesses and encouraging people to buy what they cannot afford. Why not spend time outdoors and support the local businesses?

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This is the boulangerie tucked away in the village square of where I am. The breads are freshly baked every morning, and the proprietor who baked those bread herself and her daughter serve behind the counter, and know regulars by their names. There is one superstore (Carrefour) in this town. Sure, bread in Carrefour is cheaper, but you can taste the love in the boulangerie’s.

Yes, it is more expensive and the upside is, it encourages me to eat simpler, buying less, spending the same or even less by the choices I make. This is my lunch.

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