Redefining quality of life

Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times

There is a proverb that’s cropped up in my life with increasing frequency recently – or I’ve just noticed it more because it’s more meaningful to me now – that goes, “the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second best time to plant a tree is today.” 

That’s a paraphrase, of course, and I’ve heard it with everything from five to 50 years. The point is, it’s never too late to consider your legacy and the small improvements you can make in the world around you. You may not be able to eat the fruit today, but in another 10 years you might get a taste. In another 50 years someone else, perhaps your grandchildren, will appreciate your foresight immensely.

This came to mind again earlier today, as I was reading an article about a nearly 50 year old study related to what the writer claimed was the inevitable collapse of industrial society. As resources dwindle, the study said, the current consumer industrial model will collapse. While the study isn’t so pessimistic that it predicts the extinction of mankind, it does predict a dramatic decline in the quality of life and a shrinking population. In essence, our children – the study said – will not have the quality of life we have come to take for granted. 

I’m always a little skeptical of predictions, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t make me think. 

While the best time to begin building a more sustainable economy would have been 50 years ago, it isn’t necessarily too late to begin making changes to the way we do business – to make it more ecologically and economically sustainable. 

It also might be a good time to begin redefining quality of life. Quality of life doesn’t need to mean having the latest consumer gadget or paid subscriptions to premium video services. It can have other meanings, and, to me, nothing says quality of life like a good meal. 

No matter what economic winds blow out of my control, I can make sure my children will continue to be fed. 

It’s why I’m taking the tree proverb to heart – literally – and planting fruit trees on our property. I’ve got pawpaws I started from seed and have grown in buckets for the last several years. I’ve got apple and pear root stock from the agricultural extension agency, which I’ve grafted with varying degrees of success and failure – and will try again. 

I’m also preserving any native wild berries, and fruit or nut bearing trees and shrubs. Trees that are known to build relationships with certain mushrooms are also being encouraged to grow on our property. 

I know, as I plant these trees and attempt to establish these mushroom varieties, that it will take years and years before we see the fruit of these efforts. But someday apple butter might be made from trees I planted. Mushrooms I started might be sauteed with eggs from the hen house we rebuilt. Vegetables might be grown on land that we improved. Our boys might still have a good quality of life, no matter what else happens to the world around them. 

We can’t do a thing about the fickle winds of economic fate, or much at all about the environmental sacrifices already made on the altar of the economy. 

But we can plant a tree. We can teach a kid to pick mushrooms, and look forward to summer and blackberry cobbler. We can slow down and enjoy the things that have always made Carter County and eastern Kentucky a place worth living. We can redefine quality of life, starting today. 

Jeremy D. Wells can be reached at editor@cartercountytimes.com 

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