I don’t care if that’s not a word.

When I say “conservationalism,” I’m referring not only to the concern for welfare of natural plants and animals, but the conserving of all resources we, as humans, make use of.

I get intrinsic satisfaction from conserving.  I remember recently my dad forced me to buy new shoes because my old ones had holes in them.  I resisted.  I figured that my old shoes were fine.  I would just wear them until they fell apart.  My dad won, however, and got me new shoes.  The biggest advantage to this is that now I can walk through puddles without getting my socks wet.  Other than that, my new shoes look nicer, but I don’t think I care enough to merit me paying for them with my own money.

There are a few reasons I like to conserve.  The first has to do simply with money.  I tend to prefer to buy very few but expensive possessions that will last rather than cheap possessions I will have to throw away sooner than I would like.  A good example that illustrates this principle is my love for LEGOs.  Not only are LEGOs versatile, colorful, and inspiring, they will pretty much last forever.  When I much younger, my mom actually gave a few LEGO pieces that she had from when she was a kid.  They were in very good shape for being 20 or more years old.  Despite years of use and abuse, the worst things that have happened to my LEGOs are them getting lost.

That being said, LEGOs are expensive.  There’s a reason they last forever.  However, I would rather have high quality yet costly LEGOs than Mega Bloks or Best-Lock for cheap.  Although quite honestly, I would rather have nothing than Mega Bloks or Best-Lock.

What does this have to do with conservationalism?  I like to use things for as long as possible.  When I can milk the most use out of my possessions before it starts getting impractical, I can potentially save money otherwise used to replace them.  I’m sure I overvalue money a bit, or at least I used to.  When I was a kid my parents used to pay us for doing chores, and they usually payed us in quarters, maybe dollars.  I’m not saying we deserved more, but because it took so long for us to earn one quarter, we valued that quarter much more than we might otherwise.  I think we can trace a lot of the crazy things we do back to our childhoods.

In addition to getting intrinsic satisfaction from saving money, I feel like I add to the productivity of the world every time I save resources.  If you think about it, every light you turn off to save electricity, every scoop of food you dig out of the bottom of the jar, every mile you walk in your holey shoes along with everything else you do eliminates the need for someone else to produce that electricity, food, or shoes to compensate.  Instead of replacing what you wasted, that person can produce for somebody else.  I think there was an example somewhere of a person who thought that because they broke a window in a building somewhere, they are creating a job for a glassworker who can come and fix the window.  However, if that person didn’t break the window, that glassworker would be able to use their skills and materials to produce something else with more use.  They would be pressured to be creative and innovative in order to find customers rather than rely on maintenance for work.  If that person never breaks the window, the glassmaker would be a better person, and the world would have the unbroken window as well as an additional glass product to make use of.

Everything you do affects the productivity of the earth’s population as a whole, down to a very small level.  I even try to be neat in places where waiters or janitors will clean up after you because I know that if I am neater, there will be less demand for janitorial workers, and they will be pressured to find more sophisticated jobs.  At the same time, the environment in which I reside will be cleaner because I took time to be careful.  Preventative action will do a lot.  “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  Or something along those lines.  (Googles in background)  Oh okay – Benjamin Franklin said that.

I like to recycle too.  It’s harder now that I’m at BYU and they make you sort different materials yourself, as opposed to California where you just stuck everything in the same blue trash bucket.  Plus, you can’t even recycle glass on campus.  What’s up with that?  It makes me feel guilty every time I throw something glass in the dumpster.  Unless it shatters, because breaking things is fun.

I recycle because it eliminates the need to do extra work to obtain raw materials.  Every piece of plastic, metal, glass, paper, or cardboard we can save for someone else to use lessens the stress on an oil well, mine, factory, or forest somewhere in the world.  The less we have to use raw materials, the more we can let the environment be free from human effects.

There you go.  That’s why I’m obsessed with recycling and overusing things that you might think should be thrown away.  Not because I’m super concerned about the environment.  Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s good to be aware about environmental problems and the effects humans have on their surroundings, but I am more concerned about one of the main causes of environmental problems, which is wasting resources, rather than the symptoms, which are extinctions, unnatural evolution, and destruction of habitats.  I support individual action and example much more than I do government policy.  If we all choose to make individual sacrifices to conserve our resources (which protects the environment), I would feel much better about myself and others than if we were required to pay extra taxes for some overpaid committee to decide what’s best for us and make decisions we can’t influence.  With exception, the majority of organizations whose goal it is to protect the environment should be privately owned and funded.  Understandably, the government is needed to deal with large scale problems and needs to set some regulations on the people and firms affecting the environment, but we should try to do as much on our own as possible.  By doing so, we can show that we can take care of ourselves and the environment without the help or coercion of anyone else.


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