Stuff and Nonsense?

Posted on January 7, 2011 by Anne Basye

I love the voices on this blog: Lana eating snow and shopping for a GMO-free meal; David probing our call to social justice; ELCA camp directors talking about the carrots and lettuce their campers are growing, eating, and giving away.

And then there’s me, carrying on about public transportation, old socks and shoes, and how, while we profess our belief in God, we act as if The Market is at the center of our lives.

“Maybe,” Nancy suggested gently the other day, “it’s time to remind blog readers what your topics have to do with World Hunger.”

What a good idea! Even I forget, sometimes, when I get carried away. So, here goes.

Most of my 33 posts since April 2009 focus on stuff: buying and selling stuff, storing stuff, having too much stuff, recycling stuff, giving stuff away, disposing of stuff, and transporting ourselves and our stuff. Recently I’ve looked at our notions about our economy—the role it plays in our lives; the assumptions we make about it; the possibility that the Market, not God, is the deity we really serve.

Figuring out how to reuse or recycle several hundred unmatched socks at Holden Village was my September stuff preoccupation.

My corner of the hunger discussion is our North American lifestyle. It’s about how our overstuffed lives keep us from walking our anti-hunger talk—and sometimes completely contradict the beliefs we profess to hold.

Consider this: Statistics show under our present system, a child born in North America will consume, waste and pollute in his or her lifetime as much as 50 children in developing countries. This good-sized tendril of the root causes of hunger starts in our own backyard.

We Lutherans love to cooperate in starting and supporting water projects in other countries. We rejoice that in Chiapas, Mexico, our support is helping an indigenous community irrigate its fields. Meanwhile, speaking of consuming 50 times more than everybody else, at home we treat our water with little respect. We run our faucets while we brush our teeth, take 10-minute showers, and insist on bright green lawns no matter what the climate. It took three liters of water to make our 1-liter plastic water bottle? 70.5 pounds of water to manufacture (in Asia, probably) a 2-gram, 32-megabyte memory chip and its plastic package? Not our problem!

It’s odd to me that our passion for water in Chiapas doesn’t inspire us to connect the dots between green lawns and the fact that, for example, the United States consumes 95 percent of the Colorado River’s water.  The paltry 1.5 million acre feet of Colorado water we give to Mexico is about what farmers in Sonora used in 1922. They can’t farm; the indigenous living along the Sea of Cortez, where the Colorado once emptied, can’t fish. And how are the farmers down the road from that thirsty computer microchip plant faring? All we know is that we can get a computer for a song at Best Buy, and when it wears out, we can recycle it. We don’t want to know streams, groundwater, and children will be poisoned when an offshore e-waste recycler sends it back to Guiyu, China—increasing the very poverty, hunger and environmental degradation we claim to oppose.

My little blog posts fall under the World Hunger program objective, “to encourage members of this church to practice responsible stewardship of their lives and their financial resources toward the prevention and alleviation of hunger.” To me, responsible stewardship means making sure our left hand knows how the plastic water bottle it plunks  down at the cash register aggravates a situation the World Hunger dollars in our right hand hope to alleviate.

As consumers we are discouraged from connecting the dots between our stuff and its consequences. As Christians, we’re obliged to. Convenience and personal comfort at the expense of others are not gospel values. The opposite is true: the gospel exhorts us always to act with our brothers and sisters in mind.

See? My blogs are not stuff and nonsense, but stuff and challenge. Thank you, Hunger Rumblings. I’m grateful for this space and everyone blogging along with it.

Anne Basye, Sustaining Simplicity

Share