Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention. But more than that necessity is the ground rule of the universe. It is the basis of economy. I don’t mean the spendthrift economy that ‘makes the world go round’. I mean real economy. To use each unit for all it is worth and when it finally falls apart to use those parts which are still serviceable. This is no mystery. Think of the manufacturing industry that has grown up in the last couple of hundred years or so. If there is a mould that will produce a part that can be used in many different ways – shall we say a rivet or bolt – then we can be sure that there will be a ready market for such a thing. The production of sheet metal that can then be sold for use in production of specialised equipment. This is all obvious to any economist.
What is not so evident it seems is that a tree standing in a forest may have many different uses. For some it will be shelter, for others a routeway through the undergrowth, for still others it will be a nesting site, for others still it will be nourishment for the young as they chew their way through the bark into the sunlight for a brief mating life prior to planting eggs deep within the soft tissue of the tree again. Some will feed off its leaves, others from its fruit, still others from its flowers. Some will use the fruit as medicine, others for staple food.
All of this is lost to the sawman standing at the foot of a 300 year old tree with his chainsaw in hand. The governor has said ‘its in the way of the latest railroad route, clear the way’. That man, manager of many, tried on his performance by still more distant bosses, has never seen the tree. He has no idea that a colony of insects lives in its stem, that a flock of birds use it as a roost and an outlook over the forest. He doesn’t care about any of that. All he is concerned with is that the track will be laid in time, thanks to his efficient management and bullying of the workforce.
So another ancient heirloom is lost and as it tumbles to the ground the sawman prays it will not split or he will lose his job and not be allowed to try his expertise on the rest of the forest which lies ahead of him.
But when the trees have gone and the line whips people from one conurbation to the next there remains only desolate waste. When the cattle have moved in and eaten the fields to sterility and the soil is blown away in a dustbowl the sawyer may sit on the train on his annual journey to see his family and cry as he sees the devastation his one simple action has lead to.
Nothing has been re-used. The land has been used in a new way. It does not sustain life, it provides a brief spell of profit for some burger chain whose one ambition is to expand across the world and never mind the cost to the forest and all its myriad life forms.
Yes Necessity is the mother of Economy, and sustenance means to sustain, not cheap burgers for every teen-age wannabe or harassed parent seeking to appease their kids, but nourishment. The soul is nourished by a walk in the woods. The woods hold water in suspension all around us and, bathed in their bliss, we find we can relax and absorb the beauty of the world again. We are restored to our humanity, no longer rattling along in some mad rush to pay our bills, counting the days till we get paid again and gambling that the dues will not fall before we are able to cover them. Meanwhile the banks foreclose on this farmer and that tenant, on this defaulting mortgagee, as increasingly the human race exploits its advantage over others. That is not necessity. That is poverty extreme.