Leaving money behind

We live in a world driven by money.

We measure our success and failure by it. We think first of using it when we want something.

But money is just a symbol. We can do all these things in other ways.

For example, you would like to do some planting.

If you plant perennials, you need to spend far less money in future years. If you plant annuals, you’ll be buying new plants every year.

That’s as true in the world of growing food in your yard as it is having beautiful flowers to look at.

The money economy has put a premium on annuals. Why not? More money can be made that way.

Plants have been bred to produce more (beauty, for flowers; quantity of foodstuffs, for fruits and vegetables) if they’re annuals. The world of perennials looks less enticing at first.

Yet interlocking perennials is nature’s way. Systems of them are more stable under many more conditions. They support each other.

We also ignore the value of many free things, in order to be able to pay for them.

Take water. In dry parts of the world, or places where there aren’t aquifers ready to be tapped, it’s the norm to capture rainwater.

Bermudian houses all have roofs designed to capture the rain that falls. It’s a lush island, but fresh water other than the rain can be hard to come by.

We just let the rain fall. We don’t capture it at all, for the most part.

Having used annuals, and having used fertilizers for weeds, we’ve also killed a lot of the things that keep the soil open, loose enough, absorbent enough. So the rain just runs off, and then we need in turn to water.

Which we pay for, whether as a power bill to run pumps for wells, or as a water bill for municipal delivery by pipe, or both.

If we’d planted differently, our ground would be alive, not dead; our soil would absorb more — and if we’d captured the rain water gravity could deliver it on hot dry days (and less would be needed) for free.

Not only do we ignore what’s free in favour of paying for things, but we overuse a few things simply because they’re there.

Some journeys should be done on foot. Some by bicycle, e-bike or scooter. Some by public transportation. Some do require a private motor vehicle.

We may not have all of these at our fingertips — public transportation isn’t everywhere, and not everyone owns a two-wheeled way of getting around (but then, not everyone owns a car, either!) — but most of us have at least two. That means every journey involves a choice.

Too often, though, we just jump in the car, even when some other means of getting there from here would be better.

I have four errands to do this morning. I also need to get some daily exercise. I’ve planned them out to make it one walking trip. I could use public transportation for one leg, but have decided instead to get my exercise in (or part of it, anyway) while it’s not quite so hot and sticky. I could have cycled, but then I’d be looking for a place to stow the bicycle at each stop — so, for this, foot it is.

With a car at our fingertips, that kind of thinking doesn’t take place. For most people, four errands would become out-and-back, out-and-back, with maybe only two of them done in a trip. When you have a car, you don’t tend to think ahead so much.

Convenience costs money. Not spending it takes planning.

What all this has been about is that last word: planning.

You can live with very little money in the middle of a money economy — but it takes planning. Planning where to live. Planning how to live. Planning your day. Planning for the future whenever you do stick a crowbar in your wallet and expend some coin.

The money world is so much easier: just spend, every last-minute thing is handled that way. (Given that our money is a symbol for accumulated debt, it’s no surprise that spending what you don’t have is so much a part of it.)

But as the years go on the money world will keep contracting. More of us will find ourselves mostly outside of it.

Might was well start learning to be a perennial now, eh?


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