Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Connecting Streams

With the prices of almost everything rising, it is almost overwhelmingly tempting to do more of the same: Work harder, longer, and for more money; cut back on luxuries; put pressure on government officials to cut taxes and find out whether corporations are making too much money; and support trade policies that keep jobs from being exported. Sadly, in this era of diminishing resources and a stressed biosphere the old strategies will only make things worse.

What we should be doing is looking for ways to connect ways to connect output streams to input streams. That is, everything we generate (including “waste”) should be made usable by someone or something else. We should avoid creating anything that does not propagate some value beyond its initial use.

This approach applies to services as well as products. When I do something for you, you should eventually be able to take some part of that and pass it along to someone else rather than getting exclusive use of it. Knowledge and understanding are intangible examples of this (which is why most things I write have strong educational and thought-stimulating components).

The quality of what we create becomes more critical as resources become scarce. This, to me, is the essence of “frugality”: optimizing the value of what we make because there isn’t much to go around.

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