Yesterday saw a pile of current conversations that wound up freezing me in their headlines. Too many things to comment on!
No Impact Man was focusing on "work", or perhaps "chores"; and simultaneously this article on sun-dried laundry appeared in the NYT.
Lots of overlap in the two, if you read carefully. I made a comment on NIM, so you can take a look there if you want. The NYT article really set me off; every other paragraph stimulating book-chapter long "amen, and furthermore" responses, in my head. I'll restrain myself, a little anyway.
Ms. Hughes launches her article with "AS a child, I helped my mother hang laundry in our backyard..."
Stopped me right there.
It makes a HUGE difference how you experience the world as a child. Truly vast. I really don't want to be a constant sourpuss - the Governator's "temperance preacher at a fraternity party" - but making the changes in lifestyle that the planet clearly needs may be next to impossible for many of today's children.
Raised in a world where they not only don't have to lift a finger, but where the whole world seems (to them) to be desperately concerned that they should be "getting" everything they "need"- it may be literally inconceivable to them that they should, must, change their self-absorbed lives. It's a great deal like asking someone raised as a good southern Baptist to suddenly convert to Hinduism. You're going to have trouble there.
The advantages of being raised in a sustainably oriented household are many; and not least of them is that true "need" is much easier to see, and understand. SOMEBODY does have to "take the compost out" - or it will stink, and breed flies, and everyone's life will be miserable. Somebody has to go get firewood from the pile, or the house will get cold. In a very short time, the child can see much further- if someone doesn't MAKE a firewood pile, the family will freeze- and die. Really.
There are two advantages to this. The child understands real need. Necessity - REAL necessity - is a concept most children from the 1st world have no real grasp of. We are now facing a world where necessity must be attended to, by all.
AND- the child learns, immediately, that he/she can HELP the family. They learn that what they do matters, and that they are truly a help, to their parents, and the family.
Feeling useful is unbelievably important. Personally, I'm convinced that its opposite; knowing you are useless, is the chief cause of alcoholism, drug addiction, crime, and suicide.
I'll state this here, for what may be the first time anywhere; as a behavioral scientist, I think it's possible the human primate has a "self destruct" function hardwired in. If you are truly useless to the tribe- then you are a threat to the survival of your relatives; and the best thing you can do for them might be - to self destruct. One way or another.
Ok, see what I mean about boggling? This is what the first line triggered. Dismal thoughts!
The upside is: living sustainably does provide multiple antidotes. This is not just my opinion; you can read about it in "Time, Soil, and Children—Conversations with the Second Generation of Sustainable Farm Families in Minnesota", a beautifully hopeful book by Beth Waterhouse.
Children raised with their eyes open - see. Hang on to that.
Chapter 2 came here; "That simple decision to hang a clothesline, however, catapults me into the laundry underground. Clotheslines are banned or restricted by many of the roughly 300,000 homeowners’ associations..."
Sigh. There are legal barriers to a lot of sustainable stuff- some of them based on health concerns, some of them based on nothing at all but a warped sense of propriety. Like green mowed lawns. Ok, maybe a couple chapters... I won't go there right now.
Chapter 3 - "Not only that. Heading outside to the clothesline and hanging each load takes about 7 minutes — 6 minutes and 30 seconds longer than it takes to stuff everything into the dryer."
Oh, no!! Not 6 minutes and 30 seconds!!! I've talked several times about "saving" time- and wasting it; sure I'll talk a lot more eventually.
Chapter 4 - "But the rope lines started to sag, allowing the sheets and heavy wet towels to drag in the dirt. The wooden clothespins soon became weathered and fell apart."
There's the other one I want to get into today. We've FORGOTTEN the technology and skills we need for many sustainable activities - like living without a household refrigerator, like using the sun to dry laundry, like living without endless just-turn-the-tap hot water.
If the writer had had her mother available- or the universally longed for Grandma - those mistakes would not have been made in the first place. The fact that the "store" labels this rope as "clothesline" means nothing at all. Several different kinds of rope will work, depending on different situations- but it's not a trivial choice. The job the rope has to do is quite a demanding one, and success requires considerable knowledge about the behaviors of different kinds of rope. (I'll toss out three factoids here; never try to use nylon; it stretches; polypropylene, it develops slivers; and, what I prefer for clothesline is plastic covered steel wire.)
Likewise with the clothespins. Some on the market are junk; but all of them should come in out of the rain when not in use. The sun eats everything. Grandma had a pin bag, that traveled along the line; pins went in, and out, at need, and the bag sheltered them from the weather when they weren't in use. My Grandma took the pin bag inside, between wash days.
This kind of lost information is extremely common; and it's going to be a problem as people try to recover what they see as "simple" practices from the past. They remember Grandma and Grandpa doing these things, and with the simpler eyes and expectations of childhood, they think all those chores were SIMPLE - because Gram and Gramps did them so easily.
They WEREN'T simple. They required quite a lot of training, knowledge, and learned skills. But getting folks to understand that can be quite difficult. And it's very discouraging for many people to attempt what Grandpa did so easily- and fail completely.
As we get further into the sustainable green world we must have, we need to regenerate also our genuine respect for the "elders" - and the priceless knowledge they have.
We need them. And we need to relearn what they know, before we lose them. SOMEBODY (not me!) needs to launch an "Urban Foxfire Book". Seriously. There are still Grams and Gramps about who remember living in an apartment with no refrigerator; even with an outhouse. No airconditioner. Limited electricity. No hot water. Etc. This would be an absolutely fabulous project for kids to undertake; just as the original Foxfire books were.
So? I'm looking at YOU.
There were more "chapters" this article kicked off for me, but I think we're approaching overload here, so we'll leave them for now.