It is all too obvious how difficult the financial crisis is for the average family. But the financial meltdown is an inevitable correction, which will result in a reality-based economic model and a return to healthier personal, family and social values.
As we look ahead to what economic forecasters are calling a protracted recession, it's quite discouraging and anxiety-provoking. As the scope of the crisis widens by the day, we are seeing the global scale of the problem. The growing interconnectedness of commerce and culture is becoming more apparent. Across the globe, economists, political leaders and people in general have a shared objective – how to best navigate ourselves through this time of transition.
As a child growing up the 1950s, I remember my parents working to maintain a middle-class lifestyle. While we were proud of the trappings of success, with the model year of the car in our driveway being the yardstick of family prosperity, the values of thrift and resourcefulness were still considered essential to our family well being. In our backyard, located modestly behind the decorative hedge and rows of peonies were carefully laid out beds of cabbages, lettuce, peas, broccoli and other seasonal produce, tended as a matter of course.
Behind the vegetable patch stood a large square-shaped clothesline that was always in use. Although we had an automatic washer and dryer, my mother could not bear to waste energy when the fresh air would dry our clothes and linens for free.
One of my responsibilities as a child was moving the lawn. As a skinny boy, I pushed an antiquated, clunky mover to get the job done. When we finally moved to the modern age and got a power mower, my father bought an electric mower. He did not want the fuss or the stink of dealing with gas-burning mower. While gas was cheap back then, electricity still cost less.
Just about every young boy on our street wore patches at the knees of our jeans. New clothes were reserved for Sunday church service and special events. There was pride in being thrifty. While my parents enjoyed the exuberance of the emerging post-war economy, there was still a bedrock common sense applied to all expenses, born of the cold reality of life during World War II.
A few months ago, I read a survey taken in California in which 16 year old girls were asked to name their favorite activity and 71 percent named shopping as their number one choice. Just a generation ago, results of that survey would have been dancing, horseback riding, ice skating, singing or similar personal interests.
With today's escalating credit crunch, the notion of shopping as entertainment is finally falling by the wayside. Our appetite for consumer goods is slacking, and although caused by necessity rather than choice, the result is the same. As difficult as this for business and the short-term economy, we will benefit in the long run from lower per capita consumption.
Besides the economic uncertainty, of course, is the overarching concern of climate change and its myriad consequences. These twin threats require complementary solutions, as we are starting to realize that a healthy economy needs a healthy environment, clean energy and restrained resource use. Our challenge now is to recognize the opportunities during this time of transition to a more stable economy and a healthier relationship with our environment.
Today we are seeing many positive changes, which bode well for our future. Businesses and governments are embracing the concept of renewable resources. Scientists and researchers are reaching for green energy solutions and carbon management strategies, which, just 10 years ago, would not even receive funding for study. Communities are creating shared agricultural programmes and small neighborhood gardening co-ops are sprouting up in many areas. In the employment sector, green jobs have become the preferred employment choices today's school graduates.
Although we are each affected differently by the financial crisis, we need to focus on the positive and look for the opportunities that accompany change. We can learn from the traditions of food security, thrift, and modesty passed down from our parents and grandparents. We can pool resources with our neighbors, spend more time with our children in lieu of buying them more things, learn more about sustainable living practices and show our children how to put them to use.
As individuals and as a culture we are on the road to learning how to live sustainably. We can each take heart that, as rough as the road may be, the destination is a worthy goal.
About Greg Seaman
Greg Seaman is the founder of Eartheasy.com, a website focusing on environmentally sustainable living. Greg has over 25 years of off-grid living experience, which inspires much of Eartheasy's content. Eartheasy.com has been recognized internationally for its' contribution to environmental welfare, and chosen as a content provider for the The Weather Network, numerous publications and media outlets.