Friday, January 1, 2010

Why Ration?

Happy New Year from the Rational Living household! A new year seemed like a good time to reassess why we undertook this year-long rationing project (of which we just completed our first week). The Man of the House has provided the following essay…
--Rational Mama

When Rational Mama asked me to help explain the reasons we are undertaking this project, I was looking forward to writing a well organized and moving essay. It turns out that I am not quite the essayist that I used to think I was. Maybe it's the 15 years of not writing anything or maybe if she gave me a due date I could wait until the night before, get hopped up on Mountain Dew and microwave popcorn and pull an all-nighter of writing AND studying for the calculus midterm. Actually, my personal solution to the coffee vs. soda dilemma was to swear off caffeine completely, so the Mountain Dew solution isn't really an option now.

Anyway, when she mentioned that she would like to do something like the rationing project someday I pretty much immediately said "lets go."

For my part I think I was aware that I am guilty of being the type to talk about all that is wrong in the world and what should be done and then go back to hiding in my comfortable middle-class oblivion without committing to do anything about anything. Then this opportunity to commit to making some real changes to our habits and lifestyles came up. It just seemed like the right time to actually “get off the sofa” and do something. I don't have any delusions about saving the world from gluttonous consumerism and all it's cascading affects but at least for my own mental well being it's better than living with blinders on and pretending that nothing is wrong.

This is where the moving essay was going to be but for now you will have to settle for a quick survey of some of the issues that could be improved by those with the most using less and sharing more.

First off, there is the environment. This is the big one and it is more complicated that I can do justice. It’s not just one of the issues, it is many issues rolled together. Let's be clear from the beginning: in high school I was the idealistic type of environmentalist who thought we were supposed to save nature for nature’s sake. I have replaced that guy with a realistic and occasionally cynical and pessimistic environmentalist. I now realize that nature doesn't feel or care - people feel and care. We need to protect nature for the people. I’m sorry to have to bring up such an overworked topic, but Global Warming is real. Your children and grandchildren will live in a world shaped by our actions today.

So how is this an environmental project? That is the complicated part. I really believe that everything is connected and every action has consequences. The more we consume, the greater our impact on so many levels. We have chosen the World War II rationing scenario to make it interesting and give us specific guidelines but the real issue for me is to slow down our consumption.

Another personal goal is to increase awareness of some more directly humanitarian issues we feel strongly about.

By rationing, we are forcing ourselves to be mindful and not take for granted how lucky we are just to live in one of the "first world" nations. For example, as I gave the dog a bath, did some laundry, ran the dishwasher and took a bath yesterday I was really aware of how much I take for granted an abundant supply of clean water - and that is just the beginning. During our year of rationing there will be restrictions on what we can eat and when, but we will never go hungry. We may move the needle on the thermostat (between 60 and 62 degrees Fahrenheit going into January), but we won't be truly cold. We will carpool or walk when possible and combine and minimize shopping trips but I still am grateful that I am not one of the people I see standing in the snow and wind waiting for public transit.

I am not half the researcher Rational Mama is but in the future I will be posting highlights of other areas of the world (and some not so far away) where people have to make due with so much less than even our restricted amounts, along with some ideas about what we (and you) can do to make an impact. More good impact, less bad impact - that is the general idea we are working on.

I hope you enjoy reading about the nuts and bolts of our experiences trying to match the restricted consumption that was experienced by “The Greatest Generation.” While you do, please remember that they are considered Great because of the sacrifices they made and the change they brought about in the world. It may be difficult to convince today's populace in general that global environmental degradation is an enemy on par with those faced in WWII. But perhaps as you follow along with our little project you will consider if there are any small sacrifices you can make to help give a better world to our descendants and comfort to those who are suffering now.

--The Man of the House

1 comment:

  1. Great post from TMOTH - thank you! We live in Scotland, and I'm trying to bring up our little boy (3) with an appreciation of just how lucky we are, despite not being wealthy by modern, developed-world standards. We have a safe, stable roof over our heads, food in our cupboards, clothes on our bodies and we're reasonably healthy, which makes us "richer" than the vast majority of people on our planet.

    It's wonderful to hear I'm not the only one who tries not to take these privileges for granted. :-)