Boston.com has an interesting article today talking about the ways that New Englanders are hunkering down and getting ready for a long, cool economy. It’s been particularly difficult for regular families to handle steep increases in oil and gas bills, not to mention increases in everything else from house insurance (how is our value going down but our insurance going up?) to food ($4.95 for a gallon of milk) to electricity.
But my mother, who is in her 80’s, likes to remind me that we really don’t need a lot of the stuff we buy these days. And, as noted by Margaret Isham, 52, an artist in Providence interviewed for the article, scarcity can have the positive effect of breeding respect for what you do have, particularly the simple gifts in life such as good friends, a fun hobby (my current kick is making bread), or relatively good health. Scarcity also breeds innovation, as we discover newer and healthier ways of doing things. A great example of this is the planned re-use of a brownfield in Coventry to make a solar energy field.
When a recession hit in the 1970s, Kathleen Carter barely noticed it. She was young, single, working as a bar manager in a restaurant, and on the verge of buying a home. Economic gloom registered only as a distant echo.
Now she is 55, and the current slowdown is impossible to ignore. Its effects bear down on her every day. She has had to put every household expense under a microscope, and she is cutting back wherever she can.
“I’ve gone into survival mode,” said Carter, a married mother of two who works part-time as a singer and lives in Kennebunk, Maine. “I’m asking: How much do we need, really need?” [full text]