We Americans have many good traits, but our astonishing proclivity to waste is not among them. The strange thing is, I don't think that a single one of us intentionally sets out to be wasteful -- it's just that we don't seem to give it much thought. This, alas, amounts to the same thing.
We weren't always a wasteful culture. For our Yankee forebears, conserving resources wasn't just a moral imperative -- it was something you did to stay alive. Even our more recent predecessors, chastened by the Great Depression, well knew the value of conservation. But the unmatched prosperity that followed World War II changed us as a people. It convinced us that, with our new wealth, we could have anything we wanted in limitless abundance.