Friday, May 06, 2005

Conservation and Deaquisition

I am a nursing student and a few months back, before I discovered that my career might be short lived, my dad and I were discussing what I would do with my newfound wealth. The fabled starting salaries of nurses in San Francisco to me are staggering. After all, I have learned to live on $20,000 a year and that includes rent. Dad jokingly suggested that I buy a house in the Berkeley hills and I confessed that I would like to try, for one year at least, renting a flat on the top floor of some downtown high-rise. Toss in a lease on a Jag or some other extravagant vehicle, fine restaurants, frequent vacations - ah, the dreams of avarice. Whatever happened to the young man who grew his own sprouts and was proud of his large compost pile? Wasn’t he into French intensive gardening, solar power and recycling. Seems he’s been asleep.

What does it mean to conserve? This definition is from a website aimed at residential water conservation in Arizona and serves as well as any:

“Conservation is the management of resources such as water so as to eliminate waste or maximize efficiency of use. A related and complementary concept is sustainability. Activities are sustainable if they can be maintained over time without depleting the natural resource base….”

I remember a man named John Anderson running for President as an independent between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan in 1980. He proposed a “conservation ethic” to deal with our energy woes, which appealed to my compost pile/solar panel mindset of the time. Do we need to revive the idea of a conservation ethic?

In relation to petroleum, the obvious flaw in the above definition of conservation is in the words, “sustainability” and “maintained.” The supply of petroleum can never be sustained or maintained; it was always destined to vanish. These past thirty years since Reagan dismantled Carter’s energy reforms, conservation could have been used to jumpstart alternative energies. Wind, oceanic, solar and even nuclear alternatives could have been brought up to a level to where we would no longer need oil (at least for our energy needs). It seems to me that, at this point, conservation is really just a palliative measure, tapping the brakes as we head over the edge like Thelma and Louise.

I have an addendum to the definition: conservation - the practice of 'deaquisition.' In contrast to the practice of acquiring things, as our western culture has honed to a fine edge, I propose developing the art of letting things go – deaquisition. We will in the near future, likely be forced to do without. By practicing deaquisition, the psychological blow will be lessened. Why not spend a day or two in your house with the electricity off? (Remember to empty your refrigerator first). What is it like not having a refrigerator? What do you do when the sun sets? What is it like not having a TV on for three days? I have had no TV for nine months now. I remain current and well connected via the internet. Hmmm, that would be a stretch for me - no internet.

I will detail this more in the future but I am just thinking, would you rather be pushed off the top of a four-story building or be given the option to walk down the stairs?


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