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Eliters Newsletter
Issue Number 69
November 2008
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Is there a silver lining to the financial crisis?

It is all too obvious how difficult the financial crisis is for the average person and 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. And as the scope of the crisis widens by the day, we're 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 in 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, behind the decorative hedge and rows of peonies, were carefully laid out beds of cabbages and lettuce, peas and broccoli, and other seasonal produce. The vegetable patch was located modestly behind the flower beds, and was tended as a matter of course.

Behind the vegetable patch stood a large square-shaped clothesline. It was always in use. Although we had an 'automatic' washer and dryer, my mother couldn't bear to waste energy when the fresh air would dry our clothes and linens for free.

One of my responsibilities as a child was mowing the lawn. As a skinny little boy, I pushed an antiquated, clunky push mower 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 a gas-burning mower. And 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. 71% named "shopping" as their #1 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. And as difficult as this is 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 government 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 programs, and small neighborhood gardening co-ops are sprouting up in many areas. In the employment sector, 'green jobs' have become the preferred employment choices of 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.

Contributed by yeahicrackmeuptoo but written by Greg Seaman

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