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Cape Cod Culture: Shaped By Tides of Small Businesses and Drowned in Economic Globalization

Editor Kelly Broder

According to the Orleans Conservation Trust, the rise in sea levels seemingly heads the forefront of natural forces that threaten the existence of Cape Cod, our beloved man-made peninsula. Initially, the gradual rise seen several thousand years ago was benign–it actually shaped the Cape into the distinct physique we see today. In the last decades, the drastic encroachment of rising sea levels has threatened the existence of Cape Cod and its inhabitants. But Cape Cod grapples with more than just environmental stressors. Similar to the advance of the sea levels detrimental to the Cape’s seaside figure, large and obtrusive corporations browbeat the local businesses essential to the prosperity of the Cape Cod economy and culture. The tide of locals’ businesses has struggled under the encroaching flood of larger, non-local corporations.


Following the tyrannical practices of capital-hungry robber barons that defined the Gilded Age of American History, heads of large companies today exploit working-class citizens while simultaneously wreaking havoc on the environment– all in the name of globalized capitalism. Consumerism has championed the United States’ economic culture since the turn of the twenty-first century. Globalization is the concept of global interconnectedness and mutual dependence. In the last several years, interdependence has forged bonds between nations in terms of trade, diplomacy, commerce, and other affairs. A certain degree of this connectedness is crucial to the individual prosperity of nations. The ability to rely on one another for aid in times of crisis is imperative. But this profound increase in globalization has catalyzed a rise in the dependence on multinational corporations. Quintessentially, the success of smaller businesses who devote their efforts to forging humble relationships and local cultural significance are impaired by citizens’ reliance on companies whose greatest asset is mere convenience.


For the majority of the population, supporting local businesses may seem like a campaign monetarily unlucrative to the individual patron. Large corporations are often well-equipped with tools to accelerate the affordability, convenience, and accessibility of their goods. What unique features and economic incentives do Cape Cod businesses have to offer their community? What moral dilemmas must be addressed to create a more equitable global society? How can individual community members positively incite global progress? 


Locals’ Passions & Magnates’ Profits


The impact of local businesses can be seen not only through the increasing prosperity of the Cape’s economy but through the impact on locals and the culture of Cape Cod. As a second home for vactioners, weekend-getawayers, and a place of permanence for Cape Cod locals, the southeastern region of Massachusetts has long provided its inhabitants with summer fun at the beach, sunny and carefree drives along Route 6A, and a steadfast presence of quaint local businesses.


At 16 Jarves Street in the historic downtown of Sandwich, Massachusetts, a small bakery has presided since 2007. Beth Giampietro and her husband Joe, the owners of Beth’s Bakery & Café, have weathered the ups and downs of owning a small business in the increasingly commercialized Cape Cod economy. These “big box” stores include multinational corporations and other large businesses. Companies like Amazon, CostCo, Stop & Shop, Dunkin’, and others often have increased access to resources, a renewable workforce, and the financial flexibility to grapple with the economic depressions that have become apparent since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. Beth asserts that “having that community feeling where everyone knows who you are and cares about you is important. You can’t get that from those big box stores” (Giampietro).  Since March of 2020, local businesses in the U.S. have declined by 29% (Business Insider, Taylor). In the same timeframe, 45 of the 50 most valued companies in partnership with the U.S. reported a dramatic increase in net profits (The Guardian, Sainato). Of the same 50 businesses, 27 initiated layoffs of over 100,000 workers in all. These company profits were neither reciprocated back into the community nor invested in the workers who performed the labor required for this success. Instead, the vast majority of these profits were dispersed to company shareholders; the large business people with enough economic affordability to throw their millions into the ground, effectively germinating an exponential increase in personal profits.


One of these prominent business owners, Jeff Bezos, founder, and previous president and CEO of Amazon, added a hefty $70 billion to his wallet in 2020. Elon Musk, co-founder and CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, boasted an additional $140 billion to his personal accounts in 2020 (The Guardian, Sainato). According to Forbes, the financial elite–the top 1%–hold roughly 30.4% of all wealth in the United States. This unequal distribution of wealth accurately reflects the severe inequities the mongrel American capitalist system breeds. Giampietro says she and other small business owners are “forced into buying from these big-box stores.” The necessity of purchasing supplies for an affordable price is imperative for the success of locals’ businesses. But this issue isn’t exclusive to small business owners. Households also struggle to find affordably-priced convenient products outside online shopping websites like Amazon and Shein. This problem is universal in a globalized economy. The masses become dependent on the convenience of fast-shipping and low rates. But at what cost? 

Business conglomerates often employ workers in foreign nations to cheaply produce goods. These products are then sold to shop owners, who struggle to compete with their suppliers’ companies. The counterintuitive cycle continues. A rabid beast–with no sign of calming–continues to both bite and caress the hand from which it is fed. Several majorly striking differences between multinational corporations and local shops include the level of personal connection and community.

Over the last fifteen years of welcoming locals and tourists into the cafe with her husband, Joe Giampietro, a trend among the clientele has formed. A vast demographic of the bakery’s customers are made up of regulars–those who have made a habit of visiting the bakery on a weekly basis. As customers enter the antique window-paned door, a sense of deeply-rooted friendship welcomes them into the community Beth and Joe have fostered over the last decade and a half. Beth shared her insight on the community impact local businesses have on Cape Cod. Giampietro describes the bakery as “that kind of place where groups can come together to meet.” Contrasting the lack of community present at chain restaurants, Beth’s Bakery is a stronghold for friends’ gatherings in the Town of Sandwich. Beth spoke reminiscently on an emotion-filled interaction she once had with a customer. The customer was in the midst of family tragedy, and she had experienced a significant loss from someone close to her. Beth initiated a conversation with this customer, and they discovered their mutual share of the Christian faith. The two of them prayed for the woman’s situation with hope for wellness and clarity. Beth recounted this memory with tears in her eyes saying “It  was kind of sad but at the same time it showed that we have that community here, that we care for one another–always” (Giampietro).


Convenience Kills 

Proponents of globalization argue that the increased global interdependence raises some solutions to problems found today; namely poverty and high unemployment rates. Capitalism offers lower costs for companies that create new job opportunities for citizens stagnant in their social ladder. The practice of globalization has offered the world’s economy and social landscape a plethora of changes ever-present in the twenty-first century. Global interconnectedness has lessened international aggression while promoting some economic growth. But each of these has a limited potency. While it may be more convenient to shop from larger international businesses, the effects of supporting these corporations prove detrimental to the overall prosperity of the working class and our natural environment. 


The vanguard of proponents for globalization propose that capitalism takes credit for the general affordability of goods and offers a greater selection of products. But this is not the bona fide reality of our world. Children starve, families suffer, entire communities thirst, and low-class workers are exploited. These problems aren’t the result of some unknown force that runs rampant without the influence of humans. Capitalism fuels these injustices. The privatization of companies allows juggernaut businesses to unfairly subject their employees to substandard working conditions and stingy wages in order to maximize personal profits. 


With the advanced mechanization of the healthcare, agricultural, and natural resource industry, why is it that less than 1% of citizens in low-income countries are vaccinated against the life-threatening Covid-19? (Maxmen) Due to the limp moral backbone of free-market capitalism, pharmaceutical companies have no requirements imposed upon them to release the latest knowledge they have gathered on manufacturing Covid-19 vaccines. As companies refuse to share their resources with developing countries, inhabitants of impoverished nations remain at the highest risk for catastrophe caused by the global pandemic. These global inequities are the direct result of inhumane practices observed by money-hungry corporation owners. When, if at all, will the system of capitalism be refined to combat these issues? Which countries will be to blame for the neglect of others? 


As product demand increases as the age of consumerism and commercialism excels, company heads attempt to maximize profits by cutting wages for workers in lesser developed regions. Competition among corporations leads to the dependence on employment of workers in Southeast Asia. Countries such as China and Malaysia possess lax regulations that breed opportunities for western companies to capitalize on exploiting already socioeconomically debilitated workers. 


The increased importation of foreign goods also contributes to the loss of cultural identity. Societies that were once revered for their unique diasporic qualities have begun to meld into a homogenous and tacky sap of capitalism-inspired values. America, the melting pot of the world, has been admired as a culturally diverse country since the vast immigration of the late 1800s. 


In our Melting Pot, Chinese culture is celebrated only with feasting on fried rice and pork at New Years. Belgium is represented by the sweet waffles at ski lodges. Coffee is only sometimes appreciated as an Arabic contribution. Only a select few acknowledge the German tradition of hosting a pine at Christmastime. These cultures, while surely integrated in our lives, are not acknowledged or cherished with admiralty by a large enough sector of the general public. Can we blame globalization for this? The unique cultures of our globe become muddled and commercialized when economic globalization takes precedence in the minds of big business owners. 


Environmental Impact  

Aside from the multitude of economic, social, and cultural downfalls globalization proposes, there remains a significant impact on the environment. As goods are transported around the globe, exceedingly high rates of fuel use increase at ungodly proportions. Globalization has spurred economic specialization and increased transport of goods. The damage from these includes heightened emissions, habitat loss, and depletion of natural resources. 


Regions that produce goods are home to the largest numbers of carbon emissions. Carbon is a natural element that, when in high quantities, damages the ozone layer, subsequently increasing the amount of harmful UVA and UVB sun rays exposed to our natural environment. 


Globalization has also contributed to a lack of product diversity. Monsanto is the largest seed-hoarder on the planet. With a company value of 21 billion US dollars, Monsanto’s tyrannical reign dominates the global agricultural industry, and they hold absolute control over small farms dependent on Monsanto’s daughter companies (“Monsanto’s Total Assets 2017”).  Not only does Monsanto have rights to more than half the seeds on the globe, they also contribute to the increase of harmful pesticides’ impact on the environment and the human population. The herbicide solution Roundup has been sold by Monsanto, now Bayer, since 1976. Containing glyphosate, a known human carcinogen, Roundup proves detrimental to all aspects of our natural environment. 


Aside from the social issues globalization offers, a slew of damage to the environment rears its ugly head for future generations. 


Although the vast majority of American citizens are at fault for contributing to the widespread dependence on conglomerate corporations, there exists numerous methods in which we can take action to combat the negative effects that germinate from globalization. Supporting local businesses stimulates the local economy while encouraging product diversity and cultural development. Similarly, continuing to pursue education on local affairs strengthens the potency of the action taken by the general public. 


Every year, amidst the global pandemic and the increase in social issues’ prevalence, unique ways to support local endeavors have arisen. Our small businesses are in need of help from the local community. The examples offered by local leaders and politicians are more influential than some may think. The sway these officials wield is highly impactful to these businesses, artists, and other local contributors, as they set a precedent for how their supporters should consider municipal affairs. On a national level, executive branch leaders and Congressional representatives have the ability to introduce policy to regulate trade with immoral businesses conglomerates. These acts have the ability to discourage inhumane business practices like poor working conditions and environmental distress. Governmental leaders can positively affect the level of aid administered to other nations in times of need through the pre-established connections made by the system of globalization. 


We must find a way to use the institutionalized tool of globalization to mitigate the harmful effects globalization has imposed. All nations face the same catastrophe: climate change. Our global environment’s risk of collapse is accelerated by pollution, the sinful fruit of globalization. Leaders and business owners need to provide sustainable options to palliate the negative effects of globalized capitalism. 


The opportunity to positively impact has presented itself. Support others when you can. Educate yourself on issues different from your own. Take informed action. Vote with confidence. Challenge systems of oppression. 


Just as the great Laurentide ice sheet provided a foundation for the esteemed Cape Cod, local businesses supply our peninsula with a foundation for a unique cultural essence. Giampietro urges you to “get [your products] local, it may cost a little more, but supporting us–supporting local businesses– really helps the entire community in the long run.” As Beth suggests, the power to overcome these issues proposed by globalized capitalism lies in the will of the community. Each consumer, each customer, each voter, each individual is able to adopt a new habit to improve the success for local businesses.  


World-renowned climate activist and researcher, Jane Goodall, similarly urges passionate folks to think and act locally before attempting to make strides toward global change. She says to “act locally first. See that you can make a difference.” This locally-focused mentality is often overlooked, leading to feelings of discouragement. Goodall says that “taking that first step gives you hope that your actions do make a difference.” She continues on to say that this cycle works as “a feedback loop; and then you inspire others.” As Jane suggests, let us not overlook the small changes we can first make to initiate change in our local communities. Rather, us passionate people should work cohesively to make a meaningful impact in our global community. 


Works Cited 

Beer, Tommy. “Top 1% of U.S. Households Hold 15 Times More Wealth than Bottom 50% Combined.” Forbes, 8 Oct. 2020, www.forbes.com/sites/tommybeer/2020/10/08/top-1-of-us-households-hold-15-times-more-wealth-than-bottom-50-combined/.


Collins, Mike. “The Pros and Cons of Globalization.” Forbes, 26 May 2016, www.forbes.com/sites/mikecollins/2015/05/06/the-pros-and-cons-of-globalization/?sh=108d8854ccce. Accessed 23 Mar. 2022.


“COVID-19: How & Where to Buy Local | Mass.gov.” Www.mass.gov, www.mass.gov/service-details/covid-19-how-where-to-buy-local. Accessed 23 Mar. 2022.


Giampietro, Elizabeth. On Supporting Local Business. 31 Jan. 2022.


“Glacial Origins of Cape Cod Presentation Recap – Orleans Conservation Trust.” Orleans Conservation Trust, 2019, orleansconservationtrust.org/glacial-origins-of-cape-cod-presentation-recap/.


“Global WASH Fast Facts | Global Water, Sanitation and Hygiene | Healthy Water | CDC.” Www.cdc.gov, 8 Dec. 2021, www.cdc.gov/healthywater/global/wash_statistics.html#:~:text=Access%20to%20Clean%20Water%2C%20Sanitation%2C%20and%20Hygiene&text=Globally%2C%20more



Mattera, Philip. “Monsanto: Corporate Rap Sheet | Corporate Research Project.” Www.corp-Research.org, 26 Sept. 2020, www.corp-research.org/monsanto#:~:text=In%202012%20a%20French%20court.


Maxmen, Amy. “The Fight to Manufacture COVID Vaccines in Lower-Income Countries.” Nature, vol. 597, 16 Sept. 2021, www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-02383-z, 10.1038/d41586-021-02383-z.


“Monsanto’s Total Assets 2017 | Statista.” Statista, Statista, 2017, www.statista.com/statistics/248428/monsantos-total-assets-since-2008/.


Office of Advocacy. “Small Businesses Generate 44 Percent of U.S. Economic Activity.” SBA’s Office of Advocacy, 30 Jan. 2019, advocacy.sba.gov/2019/01/30/small-businesses-generate-44-percent-of-u-s-economic-activity/.


Oladipo, Gloria. ““A Marathon, Not a Sprint”: How Chris Smalls Defied Amazon to Form a Union.” The Guardian, 10 Apr. 2022, www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/apr/10/chris-smalls-amazon-union-staten-island.


Rosenberg, Tina. “Globalization.” The New York Times, 18 Aug. 2002, www.nytimes.com/2002/08/18/magazine/globalization.html. Accessed 23 Mar. 2022.


Sainato, Michael. “Billionaires Add $1tn to Net Worth during Pandemic as Their Workers Struggle.” The Guardian, 15 Jan. 2021, www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jan/15/billionaires-net-worth-coronavirus-pandemic-jeff-bezos-elon-musk.


Schiffman, Richard. “Review | How Monsanto Propagated an Unenviable Reputation with Hubris and Herbicide.” Washington Post, 29 Oct. 2021, www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/how-monsanto-propagated-an-unenviable-reputation-with-hubris-and-herbicide/2021/10/28/2900b83a-1586-11ec-9589-31ac3173c2e5_story.html.


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Taylor, Kate. “In 2020, Big Businesses Got Bigger and Small Businesses Died. The Vicious Cycle Won’t Stop until We Take Action.” Business Insider, 3 Jan. 2021, www.businessinsider.com/in-2020-big-businesses-got-bigger-small-businesses-died-2020-12.