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Post No.: 0756frugal


Furrywisepuppy says:


Many people from much older generations were raised to be frugal, and they still care about saving every scrap of paper and not wasting food because they lived though times of scarcity and even rationing. And many of those from the youngest generations alive today are frugal and care about saving and not wasting too because of what they’ve been taught from birth about being stewards of the planet.


Whether the primary reason for being thrifty is due to scarce goods, saving money, the environment or something else – we collectively need to be more frugal, resourceful and efficient. We should buy stuff not because our existing stuff is old but because it’s no longer usable. This is especially applicable for those of us living in the ‘developed’ world because globally, between 1990 to 2015, the richest 10% were responsible for 52% of all carbon dioxide emissions in the world, according to both an Oxfam and a UN study. For the richest 1% it was 15%, which was more than twice the amount that the poorest 50% had emitted! They collectively accounted for only 7% of all emissions. (Globally, the richest 10% were those who had incomes above ~$35,000/year, whilst the richest 1% earned over ~$100,000.) So shouldn’t it be sensibly right that the richest most need to learn to be more frugal and less profligate? The poor cannot exactly get any more frugal. And shouldn’t it be morally right that the richest, who generally only got richer during this critical time in climate change history, compensate the poor for the effects of rising global temperatures that mainly the rich have been causing for everyone to bear?


We don’t have to be poor or unable to earn money in order to be frugal – just savvy or in possession of practical intelligence, content with what will suffice (which by definition is sufficient), and not insecure about having neatly patched holes on clothing for instance (Post No.: 0722 explored fast fashion) or not having the very latest or newest things. If modern people cannot fix or craft simple things then they will have less practical intelligence than cavepeople! Anyone can do things like re-purposing paper for wrapping gifts, or saving water that’s only been used to wash a face to flush the toilet.


Instead of, or along with, going to the gym to just exercise, we could help the planet, save money and get some exercise by doing chores or other daily activities more manually, like washing clothes by hand, walking or cycling to work, and cooking more rather than ordering takeaways – like people from generations before, who didn’t use as many machines that consume electricity or fuel. Labour-saving domestic devices have helped especially women to enter paid employments because of the time liberated from doing domestic chores, but if men or women choose to go to a gym anyway, they could consider treating their chores as an exercise session. Put some music on; get in the mood! Any physical task can be exercise if you go intensely and/or for long enough.


Living creatures in general exploit energy-saving shortcuts i.e. they like being lazy – in moving, in thinking, if doing so doesn’t kill them. For humans, this can mean exploiting labour-saving technologies. But these sometimes increase overall energy expenditure because in order to save a human’s own bodily efforts, it means expending more energy elsewhere, like using the fuel to move a 1,300kg vehicle when the 65kg person could’ve walked to the shops down the road instead.


Being frugal is good for one’s wallet as well as the planet – for example buying larger packs usually uses less packaging per volume of the content we want. Unfortunately in some cultures, people who are frugal and save resources and therefore help the environment can be mocked as ‘tight’, ‘miserly’ or ‘stingy’, even though they might be generous to others and only tight on themselves. Short of licking plates clean (unless you’re a dog – woof woof!) or hoarding too much junk – we need a culture of praising people for eating everything that’s edible on their plates, saving potentially useful fabrics and not wasting anything in general, instead of trying to look down upon them.


It’s not always about saving money. You may have paid a retailer enough but you won’t likely have paid the environment enough – not that the environment wants cash but time to recover.


I particularly find it alien when people replace things that still functionally work or can be serviced, all because they want ‘something new’, and this includes things around the home like new doors, windows and kitchens. If things still work then use them. If things can be fixed then fix them. Only if they can’t then replace them.


So you can do the best for the environment but some people will negatively judge the age of your clothes, phone, car (or lack of) and furnishings in your home. With these cultural attitudes, we’re not going to safeguard the state of the planet.


It’s about snobbery. Some people even think that getting on public transport is ‘beneath them’ because they’re classist. (However in the UK at least, another reason is that, whether publicly or privately run – public transport can be quite expensive, unreliable and not all routes are served. Other countries, whether democratic or communist, manage to provide cheaper and more reliable public transport systems for their citizens!) Sharing public transport is better for reducing emissions and congestion than everyone using individual private vehicles to make much the same journeys.


Buying things gives us a temporary shot of dopamine each time. But it’s not just about getting stuff that’s new to us – otherwise something new but cheap would satisfy our desires each time – but getting stuff to socially signal to others that we can afford the latest stuff. So we won’t experience as much excitement from buying a model of phone that’s two generations old, even if it’s new to us and not yet discontinued, compared to buying the very latest model (even though older models can be vastly reduced in price and offer not much, if anything, less in real-world functionality compared to later models). If you were the only person left on Earth, you probably wouldn’t covet as many things as you do now, which shows us that many of the things people want are merely to try to impress others, like the labels on their clothes. People also do too many things just because of FOMO, their peers are doing something, social pressures and social proofs – not to be virtuous people but to be obedient to a consumer society.


We need to behave more long-term-minded. We should be inspired by the likes of the ancient Native Americans, at least in the main (for we shouldn’t stereotype all of them as being the same), when it comes to living in better harmony with nature and with consideration for sustainability. The problem with this though is that groups that try to live sustainably will get dominated by other groups who’ll grab and use as much resources, and thus power, as they can for themselves, as soon as they can (like what the European settlers, imperialists and colonialists in America did).


It’s like an organism that eats as much as it can, to grow as big and strong as it can, will dominate an organism that isn’t as greedy and doesn’t exploit all it can in the short-term, possibly to the point of wiping out the latter altogether. The former, for living unsustainably, will eventually wipe itself out too, but it’ll have dominated those who lived sustainably in the meantime. This makes it appear like ‘greed is good’. But no one will win in the long-term without the cooperative, collective management of non-renewable resources.


This is possibly one hypothesis (amongst a few) why it’s so difficult to find or become a species that conquers the stars to colonise space beyond one’s home planet. A species that’s intelligent enough to accumulate power to serve itself at the expense of other life (i.e. by decimating biodiversity) might not be intelligent enough to collectively calm itself down in its avarice at this point to act for its own sustainability.


The greedy appear more successful but an analogy is like, person A preserves the commons and lives sustainably, but then person B comes along and rapidly and selfishly depletes the commons plus has the barefaced cheek to say, “Look at all the stuff I’ve got. This is a sign of my success. A sign that I’m better than the first guy.” This is the tragedy of the commons.


Billions of lives over millions of years were literally laid down to make all the fossil fuels that currently exist underground, then humans came along and extracted and burned much of it within merely a couple of centuries, generally increasing entropy at a rate never seen before without replenishing these consumed resources. Humans then expressed with fuzzy smugness, “Look at how much we’ve shaped this world to our desires. We’re better than all you other species past and present!”


Humans only seem ‘successful’ because they’ve been spending far more than they’ve been earning (replenishing to nature) – like a person splashing out on credit cards, living a lavish lifestyle, but passing on the repayments of their debts or costs, not so much onto their older selves but onto future generations of life; human and otherwise. If the material stuff we display is a proxy signal for success then anyone can ‘look successful’ by consuming more than they’re replenishing. But this ‘success’ is harming the true success of the species, if the true success of a species is measured by its longevity.


Can humans be smarter than this? Okay, even the worst probable climate forecasts don’t anticipate the human species going extinct any day soon. Populations aren’t going to drown because they’ll just gradually migrate to where there’s still land – although this might increase the number of territorial conflicts or it’ll cost a lot of public money to build and maintain effective coastal defences. Many humans are going to suffer however – especially the poorest in the poorest parts of the world. That’s why we still need policies, systems and global cooperation, perhaps laws and regulations, in place to make everyone act for humanity’s long-term interests. And it’s still currently possible to prevent the worst from happening.


Right now though, many governments are prioritising rebuilding their own economies to recover from the pandemic. Whenever there are recessions, the resourceful and frugal normally get punished with low savings rates to encourage them to spend instead. (Means testing for benefits or welfare payments has its pros but a con is that it punishes those whose savings are just over a certain threshold too.) Our own country’s economy tends to be prioritised over the collective global environment. Spending is encouraged rather than saving or considering things for the far future, especially when we seem to have the resources available right now, including fossil fuels. Even the immediate response from European countries to the war in Ukraine and trying to wean off Russian gas and oil has been to try to find alternative sources of gas and oil, like from the Gulf – which has only highlighted how we should’ve concentrated on ramping up our renewable energy production years ago. Hopefully this is the last wake up call we need to urgently wean off fossil fuels completely.


In short, we don’t need ‘eco-friendly’ carbonated drinks makers – we need to learn to drink still water. We don’t need ‘eco-friendly’ straws – we need to learn to drink straight from a cup. These are such ‘first-world problems’. We all need to be more frugal, a little less lazy and a lot less insecure and snobbish.


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