Opinion

Your bobka wants you to be sustainable

Skype.com is a wonderful way to communicate with anyone anywhere, computer to computer for free. There’s a time delay, whether you are using a head-set, a web-cam or just typing.

As a result, sometimes your questions get way ahead of their answers.

Since I have been so eager to hear how Slovakia has been for my son, when we Skype, I typically flood him with questions: How you are feeling? Are you eating well? Are people good to you? Are you learning a lot? How have you been? Do you have any exciting new adventures to report?”

As you can imagine, he gets four paragraphs from me in 20 seconds flat and then slowly — very slowly — answers appear.

They are always pensive and give me pause. He had two main answers to the question, “What differences do you see between America and Slovakia?”

“Everyone here has a bobka.”

“Really?”

“Yes, I even asked kids at school and they all have bobkas. My host brother said he has five.”

“Five? Is that even possible?”

Bobkas, he explained, are amazing. While his host father and mother work, bobka is home.

She makes fresh bread every day and amazing soup, when she isn’t canning vegetables and fruits from the garden and preparing wonderful meals from scratch.

Meals, he insisted, that are waiting for his host brothers and him, when they came home for lunch at 12:30.

This time it was my turn to pause. I didn’t realize how much this meant to him.

I wrote, “I’m sorry that I could not provide a bobka for you. I didn’t intend for you to go without. I lost my grandma when I was nine and I think I have spent my life searching for one.”

He wrote back, “Me, too.”

We can probably wax poetic for pages on the value of grandmothers, but I don’t need any letters from angry women, saying they are not about to give up their retirements to stay home and cook fresh, organic meals for any 17 year old boy.

So, I’ll move along to the rest of his response on the difference between America and Slovakia.

“Here, no one wastes anything — not food, not water, not gas, not electricity — nothing.”

It’s been true that the past few generations, we Americans have been wasteful, but that appears to be changing. Everywhere I turn people are hosting sustainability conferences and lectures.

I attended four in the past two weeks and could have attended more.

Sustainability is the new buzzword, like “paradigm” was in the 1990s.

Remember people telling you back then, “We are in the middle of a paradigm shift,” and you were left thinking, “Should I duck?”

I really dislike buzzwords and new invented languages, whether teacher-ese, or politician-ese or whatever, because they are so exclusive.

A lot of people are developing strong allergies to TLA’s and FLA’s (three- and four-letter acronyms) for the same reason.

Sustainability is a simple concept, nothing that requires a special language. People can call themselves “sustainability strategy specialists,” but when I think of the title, my bobka comes to mind.

She raised five children through the Great Depression after my grandfather died. She understood that sustainability simply means “the ability to endure, to hold up over time, to sustain without breaking.”

The word is popping up more and more because people fear another economic collapse. They’re afraid that our food bank crisis is/was a symptom. They wonder how they will continue to commute with high gas prices.

They worry about covering their mortgages. They worry about paying for heating.

This fear is paralyzing, but the opposite of it is action. People are taking action in surprising ways.

I want to tell you of a few gleaned from the sustainability conferences.

Gleaning. People are gleaning, which means the practice of gathering crops and produce left after harvest or left abandoned.

It’s ancient, so old the Bible mentions it, and so archaic that French gleaning laws go back centuries.

It essentially ensures that harvestable, edible food — from fruit trees and more — is not wasted.

In cities like Seattle and Portland, America people are mapping out abandoned fruit trees. I know some people who are informally mapping out South Kitsap. Wouldn’t that be a great Eagle Scout project? A Scout could do it with GPS.

The use of solar energy technologies is exploding, not necessarily in Kitsap County, but elsewhere. In spite of receiving less sunlight than most other areas, including Washington state, Germany has installed 59 percent of all known solar systems across the globe.

The leaders of the country made the decision to go solar with the support of the people.

A study conducted by IERE, the Institute for Environmental Research and Education, showed that conservation methods alone can reduce energy consumption by 75 percent.

While people joked about the savings from inflating your tires, reducing your speed limit makes a huge amount of difference in gas savings.

A vehicle traveling at 70 mph has twice the aerodynamic drag of one traveling at 50 mph. It boils down to physics.

While hunger issues are so distressing, it’s comforting to know that people in cities everywhere are using every available space – from roof tops, to traffic circles and medians to vacant lots – to create community gardens.

I recently listened as a woman very aggressively described how she couldn’t feed herself if she wanted to. She couldn’t garden, she couldn’t can and she couldn’t cook.

I felt sorry for her. I guess she was missing a bobka, too. Fortunately, even without a bobka, we have good models and a lot of people thinking and moving forward to live more sustainably.

Mary Colborn is a Port Orchard resident.

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