What Our Grandparents Can Teach Us About Saving the World

We hear how hard it is for people to give up our fossil fueled lifestyle; Mike Davis asks in the Sierra Club magazine :"Our culture appears hopelessly addicted to fossil fuels, shopping sprees, suburban sprawl, and beef-centered diets. Would Americans ever voluntarily give up their SUVs, McMansions, McDonald's, and lawns?"

He reminds us that in World War II "Americans simultaneously battled fascism overseas and waste at home. My parents, their neighbors, and millions of others left cars at home to ride bikes to work, tore up their front yards to plant cabbage, recycled toothpaste tubes and cooking grease, volunteered at daycare centers and USOs, shared their houses and dinners with strangers, and conscientiously attempted to reduce unnecessary consumption and waste. Lessing Rosenwald, the chief of the Bureau of Industrial Conservation, called on Americans "to change from an economy of waste--and this country has been notorious for waste--to an economy of conservation."

So many TreeHugger buttons are pushed: Local food. "With the participation of the Boy Scouts, trade unions, and settlement houses, thousands of ugly, trash-strewn vacant lots in major industrial cities were turned into neighborhood gardens that gave tenement kids the pride of being self-sufficient urban farmers."

Retooling Detroit: "The war also temporarily dethroned the automobile as the icon of the American standard of living. Detroit assembly lines were retooled to build Sherman tanks and B-24 Liberators."

Bicycling: "that national obsession of the 1890s, the bicycle, made a huge comeback, partly inspired by the highly publicized example of wartime Britain, where bikes transported more than a quarter of the population to work. Less than two months after Pearl Harbor, a new secret weapon, the "victory bike"--made of nonessential metals, with tires from reclaimed rubber--was revealed on front pages and in newsreels."

Zero waste, recycling, green living: "One particularly interesting example was the "rational consumption" movement sponsored by the Office of Civilian Defense (OCD), which encouraged "buying only for need" and set up consumer information centers that gave advice on family nutrition, food conservation, and appliance repair. The OCD consumer committees challenged the sacred values of mass consumption--the rapid turnover of styles, the tyranny of fashion and advertising, built-in obsolescence, and so on--while promoting a new concept of the housewife as an "economy soldier" who ran her household with the same frugal efficiency that Henry Kaiser ran his shipyards."

Read the whole article at ::Sierra Club

read also John on ::Victory with Rosemary, and ::Pride, Peer Pressure and Marketing against a Common Evil

Tags: Energy | Local Food | Recycling