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Three Things Americans Don’t Understand

1. We completely undervalue the U.S. Postal  Service. As one of the oldest public institutions in this country (along with public libraries), the Postal Service has provided regular, reliable, convenient, and inexpensive delivery of mail without interruption. Now it struggles with layoffs and budgets cutbacks, and nobody seems to care. 

But how will it be when we have to drive 45 minutes to the nearest post office? How will it be when the mail isn’t reliable, when it might come or it might not, when it might keep your mail safe or it might throw it away?

I’ll tell you one thing that will feel real pain if we manage to let the mail service fail: Small businesses. My artist daughter currently spends $2 to ship her work to buyers using the USPS. The one time I buyer requested one of the big “express” mails, the same size box cost $12 to ship.

Save small  businesses: Save the USPS.

2. Bigger is not always better.

Mass production and “economies of scale” have come close to destroying the individual artisan in this nation. And under the artisan umbrella, I include farmers. If it costs me more to grow fresh vegetables in my backyard than it does to buy them from  the local megamart,  where they probably came from California or Chile or Costa Rica or Mexico, how can a local farmers’ market compete?

Sure, locally grown is fresher, probably less poisonous, likely more nutritious, but the farmer has to make a little money from  the sale of it, or she won’t be able to plant again next year. Meanwhile, “economies of scale” make it cheaper to grow, insecticide, pesticide, fungicide, grade, crate, label and ship the same vegetables from some massive amoebafarm halfway around the world.

If we care, we really need to buy local  whenever possible.  Even if it costs a dime or two more.

3. Americans have no clue that water is not forever.

Water is a non-renewable resource. Many parts of the world are already struggling with water shortages ranging from minor nuisance to disastrous. Yet here we are, merrily going along with our half-hour showers every day, our faucets left running in the sink, washing a load of clothes every day when nobody can remember the last time most of our clothing was actually dirty, our throwaway bottles (sometimes only half-empty) of water, our cars that must be washed once a week.

And my very very favorite, lawn sprinkling.  I lived for a while in  California and hated that the neighborhood association required lawn sprinkling. So what if the grass would go brown and die if you didn’t sprinkle it? Didn’t that tell you something?

But it drives me the worst crazy here in Missississippi.  In order to get our grass as brown as California, we’d have to set it on fire. That’s if we could get it to burn. Mississippi grass is hardy and green and tough as a week-old biscuit, and it needs watering like I need more candy in my diet.

Which is to say, um, not much.

One day I saw what,  to me, was the ultimate show of water arrogance here in our fine state. It was raining. A nice,  soft, gentle rain, the kind that makes things grow like wildfire around here. And in the pampered crop fields of someone I won’t name, the irrigation system was just chugging away, spraying precious non-renewable groundwater up into the water falling naturally from the sky.

Sometimes  I despair.

* Support the USPS.

* Support local  farmers and small businesses.

* Start saving water,  before it’s too late.  I don’t like  to think  about my grandchildren having to walk miles every day just to get a single bucket of water  for a family’s use.  It’s happening now in some parts of our world.

It can happen here.

NOW is the time to take action,  not when it’s too late.

End of rant. For now.


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