Conservation for a new kind of war |

Conservation for a new kind of war

I’ve been asked several times in my life where I acquired my conservative lifestyle. My partner’s daughter has gone so far as to call me “progressive.”

I find this flattering. I drive a ’84 diesel Volkswagen Rabbit that gets more than 40 miles a gallon with a maximum speed of 65 miles per hour, at least downhill. I have a large vegetable garden and eat out of it seven months a year, ride my bike, use a solar shower and sleep outside instead of using air conditioning.

I am energy and environmentally conservative. Now I am called progressive. To me it is just common sense: “Waste not, want not.”

Where did I learn this from? My mother.

Living in Germany after World War II, conservation was a necessity in order to survive. Having a vegetable garden meant eating. Nothing was wasted, and everything was recycled. They rode bikes or walked.

As a child growing up in the Bay Area, my mother always had a garden – the only one in the neighborhood. “It’s easier to go to the store,” the neighbors said. But we composted. “It draws flies,” the neighbors complained. Mother dried our clothes on a clothes line. “We just put ours in the dryer,” they said. As a family we took walks.

I was given a bike and instructed to ride it to school or walk.

During World War II in America, people were encouraged to conserve food and materials for the fight against Hitler and fascism, and they did it enthusiastically. Lessing Rosenwald, the chief of the Bureau of Industrial Conservation, asked Americans “to change from a economy of waste . . . to an economy of conservation.”

“Victory gardens” were planted. Gas was rationed. People carpooled and used public transportation. This was 60 years ago. Now we call it progressive.

So what happened? Where did the strong, independent, self-sufficient America go? Cheap gas, suburbia, commuting and too much food.

Now Americans whine every time gas goes over $3 a gallon, but we continue to burn more gas than ever. Our president admits that “Americans are addicted to oil.” Will we do something about it?

We’ll support freedom and democracy as long as it doesn’t inconvenience us, as long as it does not stop us from waddling away from the TV to our large car and driving down to some fast-food restaurant for a multi-calorie, high- fructose, poor excuse of a meal. More and more, the world sees us as overindulgent, self-obsessed and wasteful.

The America of today is an insult to the Americans who conserved and sacrificed and fought for our freedom. America could change – they did once before. Drive less, live where you work, get a small car, ride a bike, walk, loose weight and conserve. America likes to think of itself as the greatest country in the world. We better start acting like it. Our future depends on it.


Dieter King lives in Nevada City.

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