Simple is as simple does. We live in a world that our ancestors—even our grandparents—would barely recognize. For example, my mother was born and raised on a small dairy farm north of New York City. She was a young girl during the Depression years and remembered clearly the tenor of those times. One of her jobs on the farm was to take care of the chickens.
MEND OR MAKE DO
Chickens are surprisingly amiable animals and my mother named them and treated them as pets, but without fail, one each Sunday would be served at dinner. She would tell me as a matter of fact that they were lucky living on a farm. Her family always had enough to eat and what they didn’t grow they could barter for.
For people in the Depression, making things that lasted became a necessity.
What she left out of her stories was how close to the edge most people lived during that time; how little people had and how basic their most pressing worries were: safety, shelter, food. “Use it up, wear it out. Make do or do without” was a common saying during those years and is succinct at summing up peoples’ relationship to the goods they owned. For people of that time, making things that lasted became a point of pride, as well as a necessity.
WASTE IN HASTE
In stark contrast to my mother’s childhood, our way of life today is defined by an incredible abundance of “stuff” that we buy, use, and toss out. Ironically, we now have a very different and an entirely new set of reasons to be frugal with the world’s resources: climate change and resource degradation.
To borrow from Thomas Friedman’s book on green issues, the world today is hot, flat, and crowded.
To borrow the title from Thomas Friedman’s book on green issues, the world of today is increasingly hot, flat, and crowded. In a sense, you could say we solved the Depression era of scarcity too well. By this I mean that we’ve figured out how to make goods cheap, abundant, and durable but to such a degree that we consume too much and in the process create incredible quantities of trash.