This week, The New York Times ran a piece suggesting that tensions in Iran and Syria may soon bring us $5 a gallon gasoline. Nothing any of us can do about that.
Frankly, over the last four years since the start of the Great Recession, it's hard not to feel helplessly blown around by the economy. Today's question, whether a restructuring of Greek bonds will set off credit default swaps, one of the great magnifiers of the subprime mortgage meltdown, is barely comprehensible. But if you paid attention in 2008, well, it's hard not to worry that there will be some shocks attached that may reach even to the level of American households. And let's not even talk about the housing market.
If you are 20 and jobless, you can join Occupy Wall Street and change the world. If you are 40 or 50 with a mortgage and a bunch of kids, probably not.
But it is possible to opt out of a volatile economy just a little bit. Instead of buying all those $5 gallons of gasoline, you can plant a vegetable garden and conserve gasoline by skipping a few trips to the supermarket every month. You'll also be rejecting all of those petroleum-rich fruits and vegetables you'd otherwise be buying in the Price Chopper, depressing the demand for oil just the tiniest bit and possibly convincing Big Ag to rethink. You'll be paying $2 or $3 for a package of seeds and harvesting bushels of food in return. At a minimum, your vegetable garden will make you feel more self-sufficient.
That is, until you are blown around by that other great force no ordinary person controls: the weather.