21 Lessons in Sustainability from the Great Depression
Margaret Bourke-White/Public Domain
It was déjà vu all over again when I read Sami's recent post Sustainability Lessons from the Great Depression; four years ago, when this Great Recession started, we did a major series on sister site Planet Green and a few on TreeHugger about lessons from the depression, and on the idea of frugal green living. And while the economists say we are climbing out of the recession, the new austerity budgets coming out of Washington, Ottawa and London ensure that the recovery is spiky and uneven, leaving many behind. It sure doesn't feel like a recovery to me and it is perhaps time for a refresher course in Frugal Green Living. First, a bit of a roundup in TreeHugger:
George Monbiot wrote in the Guardian almost exactly a year [now five years ago] ago that a recession might not be a bad thing, and that perhaps there can be too much growth. He also wondered if we all have enough cars and cellphones, and don't need to keep making them. Perhaps he should be careful what he wishes for. More in TreeHugger
Louis Michel Van Loo, 1767, Musée du Louvre, Paris/Public Domain
Leonard Cohen may have sung about a Famous Blue Raincoat, but Diderot had an equally famous scarlet robe that he didn't want to give up, writing Regrets On Parting With My Old Dressing Gown, or, A Warning to Those who Have More Taste Than Money.
All is now discordant. No more coordination, no more unity, no more beauty.
There is a lesson here. More on Planet Green
Thorstein Veblen, who knew something about consumption. University of Chicago Centennial Collection/Public Domain
In which I thought that there might be a flight to quality in hard times. Steve Mouzon wrote:
When people make lots of money, a perverse thing happens. You would think that with more money, people would demand better stuff. But when prosperity abounds, the necessity of thinking long-term decreases. When times are tough, however, the thought of replacing a tool, a piece of furniture, or whatever on a frequent basis is really frightening... we simply cannot afford to do that. So I believe that the Meltdown will begin to cause people to think long-term again, and to begin to value enduring things.
More in Planet Green
Now that things are tight, it is time to start making the things we own last longer rather than simply throwing them out and replacing them. More at TLC
It's easier to fix things if you've got the manual; here is where to find them. More at Planet Green
National Parks Service/Public Domain
My father … told me that if I wished to be a scientific man I could do so.... He also gave me a piece of advice that I have always remembered, namely, that, if I was not going to earn money, I must even things up by not spending it.
Teddy Roosevelt came from a wealthy family and never really had to worry about money, but he knew that you have to live a lifestyle appropriate to your income and not borrow the difference. Many of us might have smaller houses, fewer cars and lower debt had we learned that lesson. More at Planet Green
It's Cheaper. Faster. Greener. Cheaper. More in Planet GreenMore on Planet Green
Dustin Kirk/Video screen capture
Minimalism is about understanding what stuff you do -- and don't -- really need.
Do not "economize." Please. That is not the point. The economy is clearly insane. Even its champions are terrified by it now. It's melting the North Pole. So "economization" is not your friend. Cheapness can be value-less. Voluntary simplicity is, furthermore, boring. Less can become too much work.
More in Planet Green
Convenience is unhealthy, fattening and polluting. We need less of it.
The global warming crisis, for example, has been entirely caused by conveniences, and the solution, many say, must be just as convenient as the problem: electric cars, clean energy, smart homes, organic convenience foods. I'm not entirely convinced -- I think we're going to need to rethink our love of conveniences.
And some various tips:
Frugal Green Living: On Becoming a Weekday Teetotalitarian Didn't happen.
Frugal Green Living: How Much Insurance Do You Need? Depends on your age.
Frugal Green Living: Do You Really Need a Budget? Yes and no.
Frugal Green Living: Know What You Spend and Where Lessons from my dad, who didn't have these problems.
Don't Pay the Idiot Tax The operating costs and depreciation on big new cars.
Frugal Green Living: Looking Back At The Idiot Tax What happened two years later: Gas prices drop because of recession and people start paying it again.
Frugal Green Living: Resources and Sources The websites I followed. It's harder now.
and if you don't have ten bucks, five that are free. If it is more than a tent. More at Planet Green
Library of Congress/Public Domain
All the food sites, and our own Collin, say you should make a grocery list and plan ahead. But TreeHugger food writer Kelly shops every day and has the option to adapt meals to serendipity, the daily ebb and flow at the greengrocer and the farmers market. More at Planet Green
Roosevelt library/Promo image
There are a lot of economists who think that austerity isn't what we need right now, but in fact we need more stimulus. There are even those who stand up in the Senate and on Fox News and say that the New Deal and all that spending didn't have anything to do with ending the depression. But the investments that were made then in infrastructure, around the countryside and in people are still paying dividends today. Perhaps it's time again to look at these Great Stimulus Ideas from the Great Depression.