You probably remember the fable about the people who found a goose that laid a golden egg every day so they cut it open to get the eggs. Of course, all they got was a dead goose.
As I absorb the troubling news from around the globe, it seems to me that we – civilized human beings – are doing something similar.
By maximizing production without regard for the environment, we hasten the exhaustion of the world’s resources and overheat the economy, causing chaos.
It seems to me that the answer to civilization’s survival is conservation – and a simple way of life.
I often wonder if Jamaicans would have been better off if we had learned to manage on the things the island could produce instead of trying to live like Americans.
During World War II, Hitler’s U-Boats kept fabric and flour from getting through to us, and we made do by bleaching old flour bags to make bed sheets and grinding up mango seeds to bake buns. Gas was rationed and my father put the Model-C Ford on blocks and bought a two-wheel buggy he called a parry-cart. We had two horses, Silver King and Jiggs, and we got around by buggy or on horseback. It took us longer but we got there just the same.
We had no electricity or running water in the Jamaican mountains back then, but our family played cards by the light of a remarkable piece of technology called a Tillie lamp. It was something like a Coleman lantern and burned kerosene oil. We lit oil lamps to see our way to bed and when we couldn’t get kerosene we filled soup bowls with coconut oil and floated wicks in them, using the tops of tin cans buoyed up by chunks of cork.
Looking back nostalgically, I wonder why diesel locomotives muscled out the old steam engines, why coal burning plants replaced hydroelectric power stations, why so many people have to board airplanes to get where they are going. My crazy grandmother, Rose, used to think nothing of walking twenty miles in a day to bring the Lord’s message from one corner of Jamaica to another.
It seems to me that of all the amazing technologies we boast of today, nothing is more reliable than putting one foot in front of the other until you get where you are going.
And, as I listen to TV commercials about cars that park themselves, I wonder if the Indians have a better idea – a car that’s so basic it costs no more than a couple of thousand dollars. It’s called the Tato Nano (illustration above).
These thoughts come to mind as I read about the riots in France and the British Government’s plan to layoff half a million civil servants and slash such benefits as housing subsidies to the poor.
And who knows what the looming elections will bring to America?
What if enough of the foaming-at-the-mouth budget slashers get in power to bring the country to its knees?
By suddenly choking off domestic spending and laying off government employees, they would trigger a devastating cycle of joblessness and deflation.
America’s economy would be in turmoil. For the vast majority of Americans, the “civilized” way of life, as we know it, would no longer be sustainable. As the marvelous modern technology becomes too expensive for us, we might have to learn to live like past generations did.
The effect would inevitably be global. Without the U.S. market, the global economy would sputter and die.
It’s possible that, in the long run, the world might be better off. But I must admit I would miss the indoor plumbing. Those two-holers can get really drafty on a cold and windy night.