Sensible living

The world has changed -- and adjusting means getting back to basics

The world is changing – more radically and rapidly, and perhaps with more finality, than any of us ever dreamed.

For most of us, the “old” ways of just a few years ago seem oddly distant and unapproachable now. History may look back on this as the end of the Era of Conspicuous Consumption and of carefree borrowing and spending.

The financial collapse of 2008 and the Great Recession have forced our hand. We’ve all had to cut back – on almost everything. Many of us are in a kind of survival mode.

In truth, though, the new economic realities have only preceded – and, with any luck, will help us prepare for – other likely tectonic shifts in life on this planet. As author Chris Martenson warns in his book Crash Course, “The world has physical limits that we are already encountering, but our economy operates as if no physical limits exist.”

Those limits include oil and other natural resources that fuel an exploding and wasteful civilization, resources that Martenson reminds us are finite and depleting.

In short, we can’t go on forever like we have been. We’ve got to change.

Meanwhile, Western governments’ insane spending has paralleled our overconsumption, and threatens a collapse of monetary systems – the likes of which we are now seeing in Greece and other Western European nations. America isn’t far behind, and definitely is not immune.

That reality alone will likely necessitate changes in our own lives. Many folks are making those changes already. They’re investing differently, if at all; cutting family budgets; driving less; saving more; storing basic necessities; and shifting some “wants” out of the “needs” category.

They’re learning to garden and even raise farm animals, or joining the “community-supported agriculture” movement to arrange the purchase of locally grown foods – which aren’t trucked all over and are fresher. That carries with it the happy by-product of supporting local farmers.

Many of these things folks might call “sustainable” living. Perhaps. But we find that term overly narrow and loaded with ideological baggage. Instead, we choose to call it “sensible living.”

The principles of sensible living include taking care of yourself with proper eating and exercise; seeking ways to become more self-reliant; keeping up on world events, while keeping after your local politicians; planning and protecting your assets as best you can; watching your energy use better; and, of course, reusing and recycling.

Sensible living incorporates not only many of the tenets of sustainable living, and none of the political overtones, but it goes way beyond worrying about our carbon footprint. Simply put, sensible living is just doing what makes sense in every aspect of life for the times we live in, from energy to the environment to the economy to eating and even the everlasting. (On the latter point, Patricia Aburdene, in her book Megatrends 2010: The Rise of Conscious Capitalism, argues that spirituality is one of the top trends today.)

For the smart and nimble, the new economic realities and the rise of sensible living practices provide opportunities. For instance, it’s clear that sensible community planning will have to take into account the future of transportation – which could benefit areas such as Augusta, home to two of the world’s leaders in electric vehicle manufacturing (E-Z-Go and Club Car).

Sensible living also pays off in other ways. Author Martenson likes to say that when he quit his Fortune 300 job and moved his family to a small semi-rural community, he cut his standard of living in half and doubled his quality of life.

Indeed, it’s getting back to what matters most. What makes the most sense.

It’s intriguing and exciting, too: Sensible living seems to be the proverbial “common ground” we’ve always sought. The more liberal-leaning among us might approach sensible living as a way to preserve Earth, and it is; the more conservative folks see it as a hedge against political, economic or natural disaster, and it is. Whatever the motivation, they’re finding each other doing many of the same things.

Claude O’Donovan of Aiken, S.C., remembers the perceived threats during the Cold War – but says he can think of many more today. After starting to store basic supplies a couple years ago, he and his wife Sunny became connected with a network of “preppers,” and formed a group for the CSRA that has been meeting and learning about food and water storage and more. The O’Donovans recently ate a nice meal cooked in their new solar oven.

An eye toward sensible living also might even change how you look at otherwise ordinary things, such as a vacant city lot. Where there are now weeds and bushes, there could be crops grown by an inner-city cooperative – which not only results in fresh produce that is sometimes hard to come by in disadvantaged areas, but also has the capacity to be a learning tool and character-builder.

We believe a media company such as ours has a special obligation to spread awareness of the increased need for sensible living, as well as sharing its unlimited array of principles. We intend to have that mission flavor much of what we do in the coming months. We want an interactive exchange with our readers in which we all learn about ways to improve our lives, while adjusting to the new reality, in ways that make sense for both us and the planet.

We’ve invited a local practitioner of sensible living, Janie Peel, to write a monthly column on the topic – which, again, touches on every aspect of our lives. Her first installment is on this page.

“I was so thrilled to know The Augusta Chronicle’s Editorial Department is embracing the concept of sensible living,” she told us. “This concept has been a part of my life since I went off to college. Growing up in a farming/ranching community, we always had whole foods, local foods, and well water. No preservatives, chemicals, or additives in our diets.

“At college, I was introduced to fast food and starchy dorm foods, and quickly gained the freshman 15. This would not suffice my personal goals, as I am a product of a long line of vain, healthy and active women. I learned to research and choose foods/products/waters that work for my body type. No diets, just good nutrition. Making sensible choices is what works for me. As a professional health coach, I have learned to help others make choices that are right for them.”

We’d like you to join in the conversation. Tell us what you’re doing in your own life to practice sensible living. Send us a letter to the editor or even a column-length (750 words, plus or minus) article about it. Shoot us an e-mail (letters@augustachronicle.com, subject line “sensible”) or leave us your thoughts on our Facebook page.

Our country’s financial difficulties may not be over and, in fact, they may only be beginning if our leaders in Washington don’t get their act together. But in any event, it can’t hurt to get back to the basics.

It just makes sense.

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