Moving from Scarcity to Abundance
Do what you can
With what you have
Where you are.
— Theodore Roosevelt
I asked a diverse group of sustainability students and people aspiring for a self-sufficient lifestyle, “How can you make a 20 mile per gallon car get 80 miles per gallon?” Amongst all their scientific and fanciful responses, not one touched upon the simplest answer: “Take three passengers!”
When we shift from our ingrained scarcity paradigm, to the abundance paradigm, we unlock the potentials of the many resources we already have. Part of that shift is a shift of language. Why not talk about “people miles per gallon?” We already use “people-hours” as a metric for measuring the amount of work needed to do a job. Some are starting to use the term ”food miles” as a measure of the carbon footprint of what we eat.
We are also conditioned to think that the solutions of our environmental problems will take much research, great expenditures of time and resources, miraculous innovations and major political acts. A key element of the abundance paradigm is to realize that our problems are not simply a result of what we have but rather how we use what we have. When we shift our thinking to the abundance paradigm we realize that the source of our power and prosperity is in large part the choices we make.
In addition, by changing our thinking we may find out that the most ecological act is to repurpose what we have rather than manufacture new, albeit better, stuff. What is often obsolete is how we use what we have. Unless we change how we think, even new stuff will not change our life in a qualitative way. We must examine our relationships with what we have so that we can transition to a lifestyle where we make the new, innovative technology more relevant and purposful.
It is a question of being the cause of change rather than just the response to it. This is the essential factor that will spur our psychological and cultural evolution. Otherwise we are just living to catch up – to make our life conform to the changing economic and material landscape. The inherent danger to this type of existence is that we are allowing others to control our way of life and make the choices that ultimately limit our options, and condition our values and how we relate to what we have, and think we need.
The scarcity paradigm is programmed into us because it is the driving force of a consumer economy. If we are resourcefu,l then we will not feel driven to consume needless products. When we see the abundance that we have, we see new potentials and develop a new power of creative living using our resources in an unexpected and more socially satisfying way. This is the first most important stage to our liberation from our addiction to have.