Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | December 26, 2007

Cookie scarcity lessons

“One good husband is worth two good wives, for the scarcer things are, the more they are valued.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

I spent most of a recent Sunday baking cookies for holiday gifts. I enjoy baking and, as a result, my family is used to tasty treats coming from my oven year round.

But on this Sunday, with the knowledge that the sources of the aromas filling the house were not destined for their palates, the fruits of my baking labors were suddenly even more appreciated than usual.

Those baked goods took on a new level of desirability. My daughter, for example, hoped that a carelessly placed oven mitt might smash hot, fragile cookies on the way out of the oven, or that cookies might fall apart as they were transferred from cookie sheet to cooling rack, rendering them too ugly to give as gifts, although still perfectly edible.

I heard questions like “Can I have that gingersnapper that looks funny in the middle?” and “Did any of the cranberry chocolate chip cookies break?”

Scarcity made even my cookie seconds precious.

As I pondered this phenomenon, I considered a few situations outside the scope of my kitchen.

I first thought about water. Between low reservoir levels, weather pattern changes due to global warming and the perchlorate plume snaking through South County’s ground water, perhaps scarcity will help us stop taking this precious natural resource for granted.

Perhaps fewer people will water their landscaping during the winter, when it’s almost always unnecessary, and perhaps more will take greater care with watering the rest of the year. Careful landscape watering can save hundreds of gallons of water per month per home.

Perhaps fewer people will choose bottled water when perfectly safe tap water is available. The Santa Clara Valley Water District – which sells tap water – has rightly banned the purchase of bottled water with district funds and prohibited the sale of bottled water on its premises.

District officials point out that it takes three times the amount of water in a bottle of water to produce that bottle of water, that tap water is more rigorously tested than bottled water and that bottled water is 120 times more expensive than tap water.

Gilroy city councilman – elected officials for another entity that sells tap water – are setting an excellent example in this regard by banning bottled water on the dais.

Perhaps residents who traditionally pay little or no attention to the workings of the Santa Clara Valley Water District will be prompted by water scarcity to become engaged and informed and hold their elected officials accountable for the financial and administrative problems that seem to riddle the district.

I thought about this country’s precious civil liberties, a term that I suspect many people can’t even define. Wikipedia defines civil liberties as “freedoms that … protect the individual from government. Civil liberties set limits for government so that it cannot abuse its power and interfere with the lives of its citizens.”

Perhaps this year, with a presidential election to spotlight the issues, Americans will finally demand that habeas corpus – the right to challenge one’s detention in court – be restored.

Perhaps we’ll become alarmed at warrantless wiretapping and demand that our rights to privacy and protection from unlawful searches – guaranteed in the Constitution but meaningless if citizens don’t insist that they be enforced – be restored.

I thought about and governmental checks and balances, which are being eroded at an alarming pace.

Perhaps we’ll be stunned at the Bush Administration’s moves toward an imperial presidency and elect to the House of Representatives and the Senate representatives who will require that the three branches of government become coequal again – the way our government was designed by the Founding Fathers.

I thought about the rapidly approaching presidential primary elections.

Perhaps we’ll evaluate the myriad presidential candidates based on their words and deeds in regard to civil liberties and constitutionally mandated checks and balances. Do they condone or condemn the situation at Guantanamo Bay? Do they immediately react to crises by restricting civil liberties? Do they plan to uphold or diminish the important roles of the legislative and judicial branches of government?

Scarcity can prompt us to reset our priorities. I hope that we learn the lessons of scarcity that my holiday cookie baking demonstrated and apply them beyond the kitchen.

“The waste of plenty is the resource of scarcity.” ~ English author Thomas Love Peacock


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