This morning in church was harvest festival and instead of having some fossilised bread and a soup tin mountain the pastor brought us some alarming statistics. Apparently, the money Europe spends on cosmetics in a year could supply clean water and sanitation for nearly all those who need it. (I’m not quite sure how they work that out but it sounds plausible). I checked his sources, seems to be legit.
I’ve touched upon issues of poverty before, but this did re-awaken me to the scale of the problem. Crucially, the pastor didn’t just appeal for money, but addressed the far more important issue – what are the attitudes and systems that lead to this situation?
Ultimately, it is selfishness that has led to many of these problems. Our greed. Our expensive clothes, food and holidays that we don’t truly need. We in the developed world consume far more than our fair share of resources. Therefore, I want to increasingly do all I can to minimise the harm I do to this world and help others where I can.
I often feel bad about pushing my beliefs on people, like I did in the past. These days, I feel that the best preaching of the gospel is through lifestyle and example. Unfortunately, I just don’t measure up. Despite how broken my heart feels about these issues, it is vital that I actually act. Feeling powerless is no excuse whatsoever. We have a government who represents us and we speak through them by voting, writing to our MPs, protesting and writing to newspapers etc. I don’t want to be part of the silent majority, although the thought of speaking up is scary.
(kudos to the UK for actually following up on some aspects of Gleneagles 2005)
Sometimes I complain that I’m broke. OK so my flat’s a bit scummy in places, and I’m scared of my landlady, but really, I’m so fortunate in comparison to these people. I don’t owe any money, whereas many are born into debt, as this slightly dated but still relevant article on Mozambique describes.
We should love our neighbor as ourselves. Sometimes I don’t treat myself all that well, so what does that say about my treatment of my neighbor? I’m not even particularly informed, I’m just trying to get a handle on what’s going on.
God left this world in humanity’s hands. It must be something like lending your favourite CD to a mate and then finding him underpant-clad, chopping up lines of cocaine on it and feeding them to an adorable puppy until its heart explodes, all whilst cackling gleefully.
What can be done? Here are a couple of ideas:
1. Write to our MPs http://www.theyworkforyou.com/ – this site makes it very easy
2. Live a caring lifestyle – perhaps true change can only be affected through people’s hearts
3. Praying for our leaders. The Bible says this is something we must do. God knows they need all the help they can get.
4. OK sometimes people have to drive, but there are often alternatives for city dwellers – bikes are particularly good fun, and many of us can walk to work… “The risk of cancer from breathing diesel exhaust is about ten times more than ingesting all other toxic air pollutants combined, with diesel emissions contributing to over 70% of the cancer risk from air pollution in the USA.” – reported by Environmental Defense
5. Fair trade produce. It’s a better deal for the producers. “When a coffee shop charges ten pence extra for a Fair Trade cappuccino, the grower gets his due, but most of the mark-up is profit for the shop” says Tim Harford, who goes on to say that “Economists started to point out what was happening, customers got cross, and the big chains now tend to offer fair-trade coffee without any mark-up.”
6. Like Ghandi said, “you must be the change you want to see in the world.”
The only person this post is intended to be preachy at is me…