Driven by high fuel costs, many of us are moving from the suburbs back to urban centers, sparking a period of urban renewal that billions of dollars in public funding and decades of urban planning failed to accomplish. In essence, many of us are driving less and living more. Telecommuting and shorter workweeks are also evolving trends. Recently, some local municipal governments have started giving employees the option of working a four-day week to help them reduce fuel costs. Suffolk County, N.Y., approved a measure recently to allow workers to adopt a flextime four-day workweek or take furloughs to cut down on commuting.

Finding ways to do more with less not only makes economic sense, it could help ease our dependence on foreign oil, and reduce the harmful environmental consequences of hydrocarbon pollution. Because we feel we need their oil, we lack the real leverage to encourage countries like Saudi Arabia from spreading radical Islam, a direct sponsor of terrorism in the Middle East. With oil prices sky high, at least some of the windfall profits these nations are making go directly to funding terrorists. Moreover, most of us, whether or not we call ourselves conservationists, agree that global warming is a real thing. Any measures that we can take to reduce our consumption and waste will make our planet a more livable place, and may prevent catastrophic changes in the environment.

During times of struggle, whether individually or collectively, we would do well to look within and prepare ourselves for the road ahead. We should not get so consumed by our hardships that we fail to see the good that can come of them, or rather what we can become by learning from them. This is not the time to curb our enthusiasm, but rather to unfetter it. This is a call for rational exuberance — the optimism that stems from knowing that tough times make us stronger.

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