I am embarrassed by our culture of waste. I dont mean overconsumption; I
mean waste. Its shocking enough that Americans with less than 5% of the
world population account for 25% of the worlds energy consumption. Worse,
we dont even use much of these resources. We literally pour them down the
Like letting sprinklers run during a rain shower or allowing water to run into
the gutter because the ground is saturated or the sprinkler head is misaligned.
Despite city concerns about water availability for the future, we act as if water
were an infinite resource.
Every day I see vehicles with their motors running while drivers run into buildings
to do errands. Oftentimes I see parents sitting in idling cars waiting outside
a school for a child. Sometimes the vehicles sit there for five or ten minutes
spewing noxious gasses into the schoolyard and wasting gasoline. We act as if
world oil reserves will last forever. There is scant acknowledgement that gasoline
is a precious resource that should be carefully managed.
At construction sites I see dumpsters filled with perfectly reusable wood and
other materials combined with non-reusable rubble destined for the landfill. And
yet we continue to non-sustainably cut down our National Forests and private timber
One might argue that we need to live more simply and use fewer resources. From
daily observations, I must conclude that the average person doesnt yet have
the awareness that resources are finite.
Back in Colonial times Ben Franklin wrote, A penny saved is a penny earned.
That concept seems to be lost on the American public today. Government policies
offer little guidance or education for residents. When we drive more, we are rewarded
with new roads and parking garages; current water pricing has little effect on
wasteful practices, and planned obsolescence is not taxed but rather considered
good for business.
In the 60s I lived in a third world country where everything was used and reused
because residents had so little. Water was fetched with time-consuming labor.
Old tires were made into sandals, discarded cans were reused or reworked into
sheet metal. The lack of resources and absence of government subsidies did not
mask scarcity. Market forces produced a culture of reduce, reuse, recycle.