Rebecca Walker


Monday, October 06, 2008

The Silver Lining: Five Ways To Make the Crash Pay for Itself


Hey beautiful people,

Like everyone else, I've been thinking about the economy. This week I've been identifying with my paternal grandmother, who grew up during the Depression. All us grandchildren used to laugh when she emptied the sugar packets from restaurant tables into her purse, and moved her money from bank to bank to get a free toaster or portable television for opening an account.

On my mother's side, my uncles rolled pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters every couple of months, and then took the rolls to the bank to change into dollars. My mother and her siblings were all about paying for things outright, too. Credit was for people who didn't understand the system, who lacked restraint, who would one day lose what they owned because if you owed on it and couldn't pay, well, that was that.

And they had already, as black sharecroppers in the Jim Crow south, lost enough.

So I'm wondering how we can use the current economic crisis as motivation to change our generation's behaviors for good. If my son can look back on this moment as the turning point in species sustainability, this economic nightmare will have officially earned a silver lining.

You all might be way ahead of me, but here's what I've come up with so far:

1. Macro: Let's push for what Van Jones calls the "green collar economy" in his book of the same title. We can use the current energy crisis as the impetus to completely transform our domestic business model. Instead of an ever-expanding prison industrial complex, let's have an ever=expanding environmental industrial complex. We can create American jobs, train skilled workers, and propel our nation to surplus and eco-sustainability without leaving at-risk youth, working class people whose jobs have gone overseas, or regular middle-class Americans behind.

Micro: I'm slowly acclimating my family to the idea of getting our power from the sun and wind. We use solar panels during the day for showers, but I've also got solar chargers for the Blackberry and I'm working on getting one for the laptop. Solar chargers have a long way to go, and at the moment the cost benefit isn't there, but the shift in mindset is crucial. It's mind-blowing to see it takes a full day of direct sun to charge my Blackberry.

2. Macro: Take greater accountability for our health so we don't have to rely on the medical industrial complex for wellness. More than exercising and eating right, this means incorporating exercise into our workplaces--like the Google campus and so many other future-forward companies have--and turning our mind on while we exercise. Mind and body are one, and real health is more than the absence of illness.

Micro: I'm looking into HSA's, or Health Savings Accounts. I've just written how they work ten different ways and none of them made sense, so I'm just going to give you this link to start your research. Switching from regular private health insurance to a tax-free Health Saving Account invested in the market over the next twenty years could reduce health insurance costs by more than half--and help build a nest-egg for the future.

3. Macro: Develop a better relationship to credit. The US is 300 billion dollars and counting in debt to the Chinese government alone. Now is the time to get into CASH. I know Suze Orman has been telling us this forever (and so have our parents), but it seems to make even more sense right now, as the crisis swirled around a potential credit freeze.

Micro: It's actually liberating. I was zipping through the airport last week and instead of whipping out the plastic, I handed over the green. It felt GREAT. I knew I wouldn't see some crazy airport charges on my statement, long after the mags and bottle of water had been consumed. Of course, that doesn't mean shutting down credit cards--we still need those, but it does mean using them less.

4. Macro: Re-thinking the way we look at food, in terms of basic proteins and healthy fats.

Micro: When I heard the price of grain was skyrocketing and countries are facing rice shortages, I bought huge sacks of rice for my house. Also cases of beans. Rice and beans are a perfect protein. If the economy collapses and food can't make it to the island, or the fuel tax on imported goods is out of this world, we could eat rice and beans for weeks and maintain good health. Throw on a little Bragg's and an avocado from the tree and you've got yourself a perfect meal.

I should mention that when I raised this around the dinner table, everyone's eyebrows went up--they think I'm extreme, but as far as I'm concerned, better to be safe than sorry.

And finally,

5. Macro: This is a time for giving what you can, receiving what's coming your way, and believing in amazing abundance.

Micro: I've been going through closets and putting everything I don't need, use, or deem essential into bags to drop at shelters, clothing recyclers, and anywhere else they may do some good. Even and especially "the good stuff" because, well, who doesn't deserve the good stuff?

I'm also working on getting better at receiving the non-material essentials--love, advice, gratitude, admiration, affection, hugs, you name it, if it spreads goodwill, I'll take it. Even if the sky doesn't fall, and it looks like it probably won't, there's no better time to remember that true wealth is being loved, understood, and respected for who you are.

How are you making lemonade out of lemons?



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post. Thanks mostly for the part about rice and beans. I have been thinking a lot lately about how to incorporate quality yet simple food into my life.

Blogger Danielle said...

Your great uncles had the right idea. I have a big Ozarka 5 gallon bottle that I *only* put pennies in. (Pennies I find, pennies I get from change from purchases, everything). I can't wait until that thing is full and I can roll it all up.

I could write a novel on this topic, but I think that the main thing that we as a society needs to do is strive to live lives that are both simple and prosperous. Each person has to define that for themselves. I also think we should learn to be happy living in homes that are considerably smaller than what we are used to living in. We can all stand to eat less, too.

I like your rice an beans idea. Isn't "living on rice and beans" considered to be some kind of reference to living in poverty? And here you say it's the best meal you can have. Hmmm... sheds new light on how we (collective we) need to change our perspectives on even the little things.

Blogger C.L. Jones said...

Very excellent advice. I will, if you don't mind, share this with others. The Healthcare this is EXCELLENT advice. In general we really need to be more proactive in our daily lives about everything. I don't think I will ever apply for another credit card. The last one I had was about six or seven years ago--and I was done after that.

peace sis!


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