Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Roots of conservation

Well, my baby and I tried watching the debate last week (it's fun to hear a 21 month-old say McCain and Barack Obama), but wound up turning to the Family Feud on Ion Television, instead. What a waste of an opportunity for both candidates. First, they only agree to a format where they get about two minutes per talk, then they spend those two minutes spouting the same general rhetoric that you hear on their commercials and in their stump speeches. Big, fat waste of time.

But, one discussion really made me angry and frustrated, and made for fodder for this post. When asked about energy, and, even more directly, when asked about sacrifice, neither candidate spoke of the need for Americans to use less. In fact, the only time I've heard this idea promoted in the public sphere lately is from, of all places, a Chevron commercial. Local, state, federal, and Presidential candidates are all spouting the horrible line that we have to use all available methods and opportunities for meeting our demand for energy, including clean coal, nuclear, wind, drilling, blah, blah.

We have reached a strange time in our history, when sacrifice is no longer asked of us during times of trouble. What does it say about us that the people running for office feel that to ask us to sacrifice is a sure way to lose an election? Or, is it a sign of the financial times, that their major donors are absolutely wedded to the current economic conditions, and therefore require spending, even though we know that we are sitting on false values created by a bloated housing market? And, how does this relate to our ethical relationships to the environment?

The root of the word conservation is obvious, as are its implications. Believing that we can consume our way out of our financial and security problems is wrongheaded, and it's bad environmental policy. Under typical bad economic conditions, and in times of war, we are often asked to stock up and save things, to use less and hold onto valuable assets. Right now, for some reason, our candidates are not encouraging this behavior, and I am saddened by it. Many Americans like to sacrifice for the betterment of their country, they like to feel connected through actions, but being told to purchase another Chinese-made toy as your American duty is an empty gesture.

So I would like to simply suggest to folks that you use less. Hold onto some money, learn to can some food and get a garden going (for those of you in climates like California's). Perhaps walk down to a local pond or creek and catch some bluegill for dinner every week or so. Also, get to know your neighbors, so that you can help out in case they see some bad times. Call up the local government and get a free tree or two to plant. Take some short trips around to the local open areas near you, spend a little bit of money locally, and learn to appreciate your place. If you see something not quite right, let somebody know, or ask to fix it. Getting to know your environment while using less can go a long way to protecting it. Also, if you needed it, you get a good reason to catch some bluegill.

1 comment:

Rebecca said...

This issue has really been on my mind in a big way lately, given the fact that unadulterated greed is what caused our current recession. Greed on the part of Wall Street gamblers and, yes, greed on the part of average Americans who choose to charge up a fortune and live a lifestlye outside their means.

I was particularly disappointed, too, at the weak responses by both candidates to the question posed by an elderly woman who asked their views on whether/how Americans should sacrifice the way past generations did. You would think that John McCain could have knocked that one out of the park. But both of them briefly touched on it and then moved on to some other spin.