My lawn is turning green again. With the drought we had, it went from green to brown, and beyond that to grey. And then the rains came. A few days later and back to green and back to mowing, no time spent in the grey. Good news and recoveries don’t have to take as much time as bad news and declines.
Optimists find good news in a blade of grass. Washington State has been in a drought for months, which is one reason this year’s fire season set records. 100% of the state is in severe drought and ~68% is in extreme drought. I don’t remember mowing the lawn in August, and only had to do it in September because, as Erma Bombeck wrote, “The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank.” The rains came back in storms that felt like October. After the skies cleared (and I fixed my fence – again) I mowed the rest which had gone past brown to grey, I noticed new shoots of green arising. Welcome back.
That was quick.
The world’s economy and ecology are not just blades of grass needing a bit of rain. But, just because it took years, decades, or centuries to get into the current condition, doesn’t mean it will take just as long to recover. Left to natural processes and without changing our way of life, the necessary recoveries may never happen. But people are working hard at finding new ways of living. New technologies are being introduced. We may actually be learning from our mistakes.
My situation has been less-than-optimal for more than four years. My finances have gone from green, to brown, to grey. A frugal lifestyle and some reasonably steady revenues have helped keep the remaining grey from turning to dust and blowing away. It is too easy to assume that either 1) nothing will change and I’ll be stuck in this tedious situation that has me working seven days a week without being able to pay all of my bills, or 2) it will take four more years to recover from my quick decline. The optimist in me knows, and the mathematician confirms, that small bits of good news can create big benefits. The difference between not being able to pay all my bills versus being able to pay them confidently is a small amount by a great reduction in stress and a great increase in ease. The optimist in me also knows that any email, phone call, or conversation can dramatically improve finances, stress, emotions, and sustainability. Hey, I’m an expert; surely that’s worth something.
Within the last few months, I’ve come across news of:
- health care costs coming down (or at least not growing as quickly),
- graphene making progress on everything from desalination to hydrogen production to incredibly strong and transparent and light building materials,
- US carbon dioxide production dropping to levels of the early 80s,
renewable energy rising in a self-reinforcing cycle of decreasing costs and increasing effectiveness,
- billionaires who recognize that income and wealth inequality are getting too extreme,
- more people bicycling or walking rather than driving,
The good news continues. I capture a lot of it in my blog, Pretending Not To Panic.
The bad news is easier to report, but the good news is in there.
It is far easier to concentrate on the downside, the potential disasters, the apocalyptic. It makes for compelling stories and news. That doesn’t mean it isn’t true, but it is only part of the story.
I’m witnessing a return to values, habits, and attitudes from more frugal times. The mainstream continues on, but there are significant communities of people growing their own food (without calling them Victory Gardens), people moving into smaller homes (which is the Tiny House trend), people focusing more on community rather than television, people getting by with less either by choice or by necessity. Each trend is easy to dismiss, but their effects are becoming strong enough to elicit immune responses from the conventional institutions. The natural health community has to defend itself against regulatory agencies that don’t know how to respond to food that isn’t mass-produced or herbal treatments that weren’t funded by multi-billion dollar corporations. The Tiny House community has to work around the housing industry that continues to sell the concept of bigger is better and that smaller is degrading to the neighborhood. Television and conventional media know they have to do something different, but only experiment gingerly while YouTubers and podcasters follow their intuition usually failing but sometimes creating empires from simple ideas.
Personal finance is about personal choice. Conventions that were relied on fifty years ago didn’t have much competition, and yet the Sixties happened despite more difficult communication. Conventions now are meeting competition and innovation that may be nuisances but may be historically disruptive, and can disrupt far more quickly because of the Internet. We are in a time of great experimentation at a time when we need to test new solutions. It is happening. We don’t know if the experiments will generate solutions to the problems of our current cultural drought. But, as I plan out my finances and consider my future I know to assume that a lot will change, I’ll probably be surprised, and that good things can happen quickly. It might mean having to do some work, like mowing the lawn after a rain, but that’s okay. Droughts don’t last forever and it can be fun to dance in the rain.