Individual choice, or system?

Posted on April 3, 2009 by ELCA World Hunger

Hello from your new blogger: Anne Basye, who wrote the hunger resource Sustaining Simplicity: A Journal.

 I wrote this book in 2005 and 2006, and it came out in 2007. Those of you who have read it or used it in study groups know that it shared one person’s story of living life simply in hopes of prompting more ELCA members to start reflecting on their lifestyles. (And boy, does this blog look at lifestyle! Thank you, Hunger colleagues.)

Since then, Al Gore’s movie has brought global warming into everyday life, and the economy has gone haywire. If global warming and the economy were on everyone’s minds, I started to wonder, why wasn’t everybody moving towards simple living? I got impatient and crabby—at home, in my congregation, and especially at work, where we were taking the first frustrating steps towards figuring out how to be a little greener.

During my crabby phase I realized something that relates to Nancy’s last post about the challenge of selecting the “best” product when your criteria include justice and the environment. Living an intentional life requires systems. I may not have a car, but I don’t wake up every morning wondering how to get to work, because I’ve set up a system of alternative transportation that includes a bike, public transit, car sharing, and friends with cars. Living within that system, I can be confident that I’ll get where I need to go with a pretty small carbon footprint (and no car payment, insurance, or gas!)

But in general, trying to make choices that are easier on the earth, lighter on the pocketbook, and less demeaning of others takes a lot of time, because there’s no system. Every choice is individual. How much easier it would be if we could be reasonably sure that the energy we used, the goods we purchased or made to feed, clothe and shelter one another, and the vehicles we chose to move around the world in all fell within green, just parameters!

Perhaps naively, I’ve always believed that the choices I make widen the path for others seeking lifestyle alternatives. Now, how can we work together to transform the tedious “this product yes, that product no” of individual choice into something that changes the whole system we live in?

That’s what I’ll be blogging about in the weeks to come. See you soon!

Anne Basye

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