Sustainable Living . . .

NPR has been running a series, “Consumed,” on the impact of current levels of consumption on our planet. It’s got me remembering my years in Catholicism, and the practice of poverty in a vowed life.

In the monastery where I stayed, we practiced living simply. Each Sister was given two changes of clothing, a trunk, a single bed, a chair, a desk, and a Bible for her use. Everything else was held in common. Some Sisters had other things too–like books–hidden away in their “cells” for years, until Vatican II loosened the restrictions on what we were allowed to possess. But generally, we lived on whatever we produced ourselves locally on the monastery farm, and the gifts of family and friends, who blessed us with things we didn’t buy for ourselves. The experience of living in those circumstances taught me the value of evaluating realistically exactly what I believe I need or want, and of practicing Biblical stewardship in all the areas of my own life.

It is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. (1 Corinthians 4:2)

There’s something to be said for living simply, for not having more “stuff” than we need, and for not pursuing a lifestyle that strains the resources of our planet. The Bible calls it responsible stewardship. Other American cultures, like the Native American tribal codes, admonish their members to “walk through the earth in your lifetime with a reverence that will preserve the earth for 7 generations.”

But, according to metrics established to measure the impact on our globe by the average American Family, we’re squandering resources at a rate that will require 6 planets to sustain our current rate of use. If we keep this up, there won’t be anything left for those generations yet to be born.

The NPR series talked about countries that solved their vanishing-resources problem by genocide or ethnic cleansing–massacring in a recent outbreak over a million families. I won’t mention the country–it could happen anywhere, including the United States, if tensions rose and catastrophe struck. History’s lessons demonstrate that survival pressures work against normal “christian” altruism.

This series, my current life situation, and my ongoing reflection on the meaning of stewardship for His disciples today are leading me to downscale even further than I have already. I’m looking closely at reducing my impact on my world–using the criteria on http://www.myfootprint.org/ and the University of California’s Consumer Calculator site. There are challenges–lowering my meat consumption drastically, walking anywhere, and limiting my buying habits to strictly local products.

I’m praying about how to steward His gifts wisely, working at cutting my consumption, and asking my Father to help me discern His heart for stewardship and sustainability. The Earth is His gift to us, and all the gifts He has blessed us with demand careful stewardship. They are for His Kingdom’s use.

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: (1 Peter 4:10)

In the meantime, tonight I’m making not-locally-grown brown rice, with mushrooms, peas, onions, garlic, olive oil and butter. That’s gonna spike my blood sugar big time, but I have to start somewhere.

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