Monday, March 16, 2009

Lviv and Being Resourceful

A few days ago Amy showed up at our apartment with the package of eggs you see below - cut to fit for six and tied together with the entrails of a cassette tape. She also had a Fanta bottle filled with raw milk. We'd walked past old timers selling it on the sidewalk and I hadn't even noticed that the bottles were being reused.

As a westerner it's tempting to read more than common sense and resourcefulness into this, maybe something in the spirit of the creative reuse noise emanating from Africa. That temptation has something to do with how hard pressed we are to accomplish basic behavior change in our own society. For me it also has something to do with how bats folks went at the Grand Lake Farmer's Market when vendors asked everyone to bring their own bags for Earth Day.

Ultimately a culture is either resourceful or not. Americans may be inventive and driven but this isn't the same thing. I submit as a kind of Exhibit B this tapestry at Lviv's Ethnographic Museum, the shiny bits of which are also cassette tape material. While examples of exactly this sort of material resourcefulness may abound in rural or economically depressed areas back home, Lviv isn't strictly speaking rural.

It's maybe obvious but still worth pointing out that being resourceful is no indication that a culture will stay that way. Last week I posted some photos of vegetables tied together with sewing thread. It's probably acrylic and who knows whether it's better or worse for the environment or you than rubber bands. But could you imagine a city of 700,000 in America where the majority of folks selling stuff from farm stands would have string enough on hand for it to make sense?


Anonymous said...

Did you notice that plastic bags are re-used many-many times? And they are not free at stores, so people don't grab them to throw away when they come home. That's why we even don't need enforcing paper bags - the small amount of waste is self-regulated by life conditions ;)

happy consumptive said...

Our apartment even came with some plastic bags so Amy wouldn't have to learn the hard way ;) - even if we do this at home. I think more people in the bay area are beginning to. We usually only toss a bag when something unfortunate has happened inside it, or when it breaks. When I visited Japan a colleague gave us a square piece of cloth they said had become fashionable again as a way of carrying small things home from shops. So cultural but also generational.