My search for local foods has gradually morphed into a larger awareness of environmental issues in general. I’ve always been a nice shade of green (Scott calls me his little "treehugger"), but this past year’s reading of books and blogs has brought it all into sharper focus for me. I’m reading about issues concerning the world’s food supply, sustainability, plastics, energy efficiency, global warming, consumerism, the environment and I’ve tapped into an ever growing circle of bloggers who care about the same things.
It appears that I am hardly the only one who is making the leap from green leanings to really caring about these issues. Just in the last few days, I’ve seen three articles online that address different aspects of environmentalism and how they are gaining in popularity. Recent trends include those who are growing their own food, shopping as little as possible, living sustainably beneath their means, and a growing interest in "creation care" among evangelical Christians. Then there’s some really great blogs. Green Bean Dreams is one of my favorites and links to many more. Some people have gone to radical lengths to reduce their impact on the environment (No Impact Man). It’s only radical, though, if one is starting from an American lifestyle. I think people living in the slums in Kenya would find the resulting lifestyle luxurious.
As much as I love nature and want to protect what’s left for the future, what really drives my concern is a realization that the American lifestyle is just not fair to the rest of the world. There is a story in the Old Testament that seems particularly relevant. After King David slept with another man’s wife (and then had her husband conveniently killed in battle), he was visited by the prophet Nathan. Nathan told David a story about a poor man who owned just one little lamb which he cared for and treated as a member of his family. A wealthy neighbor, instead of slaughtering one of his own lambs, took the poor man’s lamb and served it for dinner for his guests. David is enraged until Nathan replies, "You are the man!"
Think about what America has done to the rest of the world. We buy up stuff made in sweatshops or from countries where environmental regulations are minimal because the stuff is cheap, and in doing so we cause even more companies to set up factories overseas because "they have to in order to compete." We fill up the ocean with disposable plastic. We sell cheap food to poor countries, undermining their local economies while we subsidize our own products. We give foreign aid but insist that the food be made in America. We sell patented seeds, making indigenous farmers dependent on the purchase of both seeds and pesticides they never needed before. Our policies have contributed to the devastation of the environment in countries like Haiti ("Mountains Beyond Mountains"). It goes on and on. We can say, "Well I don’t do that – it’s the big corporations or the government, or whatever," but the injustices so permeate our culture that I’m not sure there’s anyone living in this country who can claim total immunity. We’re the people on the life rafts of the Titanic watching the others drown.
So what can we do? Well, we can learn to take up less space on the life raft so there’s room for some others. We can vote. We can use our resources in such a way that we are helping and not hurting people. We can educate ourselves so we don’t, for example, blindly buy chocolate harvested by children in slavery. We can support sustainable agriculture and manufacturing. We can refuse to buy junk we don’t need. We can give of our resources realizing that a little money can do a lot of good when people really need it (Three Cups of Tea, Deep Economy).
Some of us live with more security than others and I think that those who have the most should contribute the most. For example, those who are able should buy the hybrids and solar panels. But those with less can make a difference, too. Katrina at Kale for Sale recently posted a list of suggestions, most of which even a single mom raising kids on an inadequate salary could do! Everything helps. We can speak up (Ooo, that's a hard one for me). And we can all take the next step, whatever that is, of learning what it really means to live within our means. Join me on the journey.