Waste not. Want not. How we all benefit from saving resources
Enlist the Better Angels of our nature.
We hear reports of bad behavior during a global pandemic.
Hoarding, looting, in some cases, racism and xenophobia, are in the news. Some people arm themselves with guns, which scares other citizens. And some may engage in price gouging, and even looting, during the crisis.
What we hear less often, because it is not sensational, or conflict driven, is about people’s generosity in the “age of plague.” If there is no conflict, or sensationalism, the drama created by sharing and cooperating, is not news that gets reported as much.
What drives people’s need to feel secure by hoarding, or just shopping, is their need to have some aspect of psychological control. But there is another way for people to behave that offers even more empowerment: Sharing.
What History can teach
Grandmother was born during the Great Depression. She had five siblings, and no father figure after age nine. He disappeared to California seeking work and income. She taught us lessons learned by valuing resources. When we protect and save a resource, there is more for everyone, more resourcefulness, and greater empowering roles, a greater sense of solidarity. There is also a strength and resilience that only comes when people recognize their own ability to contribute.
During the Great Depression, people worked hard to conserve anything, and everything of value. In our disposable, trashy culture, we lost this ability. But now, in times of need, it is reemerging. This is a good lesson from the Earth, and for humanity.
When we over-consume, we indulge our wasteful, and selfish selves. When we share, and create more durable goods, we are taking care of each other, and the planet. Trust, the most valuable thing of all, spreads faith everywhere it is most needed.
Grandma went on, as a young woman, to marry a soldier and support WWII. The same shortages came about. The leaders, and community network, sprung into action, once again urging people to save. They saved metal. They saved building materials. They planted “Victory Gardens,” and saved seeds, sharing with neighbors in need. They saved cloth. They saved jars, and containers of every kind. They even saved kitchen scraps, and lard, for both animals feed, compost, and more.
They shared jobs. Women joined the war effort and work force as never before. People knew that sharing everything tangible, and then some, was good.
All of these things, and more, including homes themselves, were shared among people who then had great purpose. A sacrifice sounds like a negative, in today’s parlance, but sacrifice is actually a very huge advantage for people to feel that they matter.
In times of need, we need each other
We are all learning to conserve medical equipment, And to save healthcare worker’s time, but not making all but the most essential visits.
Curiously, we are learning to show caring by sharing distance.
Many people today are starting local gardens. They have more time at home, and more concern about supply chain (goods and services) being limited. At such times, the creative and resourceful side of human beings can be a life line in both physical and psychological support systems.
Make it do
In the house where I grew up, under the wise and beautiful guidance of Gramma Katy, the motto was: “Use it up. Wear it Out. Make it do, or do without.”
I always thought this was about eating everything on my plate, wearing hand-me-downs, or gathering kitchen scraps to enrich the soil.
But, saving and sharing is more about the big picture, and what we value, including one another, and all limited resources. It was not a big deal in the old days to run out of toilet paper, or paper towels. Any cotton, or paper, (biodegradable) material works well and saves time, money, and resources.
People are doing this again, and it’s wise. Nor is it limited to paper products.
In the present context of shortages, uncertain futures, we all need each other. Our finite planet that has needed our attention and appreciation for her gifts for some time now, is floating on in space. We don’t know civilization itself will ever be the same. Going on eight billion people, all of whom are brothers and sisters who need clean air, water, food, and shelter, we have been given this very unusual time to turn to one another, and to learn how to both save and share.
Stories that counter the doom and gloom narrative, are out there. Some media reports, and some telecasts of talk shows, may highlight these. If you are only hearing the terrifying stuff, it’s time to remember our better angels, our humor even, and our resilience.
As a social species, we survive by treasuring all we have, including one another.