11/29/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

An Old Fairy Tale Recycled for a New Age

Hard times demand special skills and special steadfastness. Even though we have those attributes in good measure, given a choice, most of us still would opt for soft times. But here we are in the middle of a financial, energy, and climate tumble with which only Alice in Wonderland could identify as we swirl down the scary hole into a new land of mind-boggling contractions. Even some of Alice's characters seem like "déjà vu all over again."

The Knave of Hearts who stole the tarts? Fannie and Freddie and subprime lenders.

The Queen of Hearts? "W," playing croquet, saying, "off with their heads" but no one every pays a price.

The Gryphon? Henry Paulson who tells everyone what to do.

The Cheshire cat? Alan Greenspan who has disappeared, all but his smile.

The Mock Turtle? Ben Bernancke who seems rather melancholy.

Congress? The March Hare and the Mad Hatter take tea. (Certainly there seems to be more than one mad hatter.)

And Alice? Who, like the market, keeps growing to large proportions and then shrinking to small ones. Her house of cards fell down around her, too. At the end of the story, Alice wakes up to reality, as we have just done.

When resources shrink, however, our resourcefulness grows. Our country is going through a monetary epidemic that is reinventing our financial system. We don't know whether we are post-capitalist, pre-socialist, or a brand new iteration of none of the above. World markets are now connected in a vexing way. International interdependency is not a condition that reassures us. We are in a bewildering "brave new world."

Immediate alternative energy development and conservation are an absolute necessity for our safety and health. In the meantime, while all this change is shaking out, we need to nurse ourselves and our country back to health and out of the bad dream.

Obama has stressed in his campaign that we are all in this together and need to make some sacrifices. He is right. Time to look at what we can do individually and collectively. For starters, we can save energy. Yes, I know. How can one person solve the energy crisis? Of course, one person cannot, but put us together and we can make an impressive dent in demand. All at once, we can have the fun and wit to frustrate OPEC, Chavez and Putin. At the same time, we can put our own house back in order.
I have a little list. You have heard it before, but practice makes us perfect.

• Use energy saving light bulbs and turn them out when not in use.
• Encourage your city and county officials to operate facilities with energy conservation as a priority.
• Encourage the same principles at work.
• Keep your tires inflated to save gas and practice smooth driving habits.
• Carpool. Do errands together and save trips. You will save money and protect our lungs.
• Recycle paper, metal, and plastic.
• Buy local as much as possible to save transport.
• Buy energy saving appliances and support green architecture.

There is one more thing. Our country has been through some shocks lately, years of damaging leadership, and a long, contentious election campaign. With the challenges ahead for us all, we need to take a deep breath and exhale. Time to tone down our voices and help nurse our patient back on his feet. We still have our humor, good will, and determination. No one can take that away from us. These are all great prescriptions for recovery. Alice rebounds nicely from her flight into Wonderland, older and wiser; so can we.