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Archive for the ‘Stewardship’ Category

I’m reading an interesting book right now, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, in which she chronicles her family’s year of eating only foods grown or produced in their local area of Virginia. The term “locavore” is being used to describe those who are trying to support local farmers and eat foods in season in their particular locales. In doing so, they are trying to create and promote markets for a more sustainable agricultural future. Our current food preferences in the U.S. depend upon fossil fuels to both produce and transport food over great distances. With the rising price of petroleum comes inflation which we are all feeling now not to mention the price that is exacted as we pour more carbon into the atmospere and degrade our topsoil through unsustainable farming practices.

Over the past few months we have been making some efforts to eat more locally. Last summer we bought virtually all of our produce and eggs at the local farmer’s market. We continue to buy eggs, beef, pork and some dairy produced locally but winter in the midwest is not known for an abundance of produce. As I peruse the produce department at my local grocery store and see grapes grown in Chile, Clementines from Spain, bananas from Central America and all kinds of green veggies from California I realize how accustomed I have become to having anything I want at any time at a price I can afford. But I am coming to realize that this kind of global agricultural marketplace comes at a high price to both the environment and, in many cases, to the producers of our ‘affordable’ vegetables and fruits.

I realize that if something does not change, my children will have no concept of how our food is produced and how that food production is connected to the earth and the seasons.  As far as they are concerned, strawberries are endlessly available, asparagus has no particular season, tomatoes are a year round food and meat comes in shrink-wrapped plastic containers. When foods are available to us constantly, we lose any sense of the wonder and anticipation that comes from looking forward to a favorite seasonal treat or the appreciation for the cycle of life and our part in that.  Nothing is special because it’s always available with a minimal expenditure of effort.  When that over-familiarity occurs, we lose some sense of the wonder of God’s creation and our connection to our physical environment.

Over the next few months I’m going to be thinking and writing about what I am learning about trying to eat more locally as well as the hidden costs of the global agricultural marketplace. I’d be interested in hearing your reflections on these issues.  To find information about local farmers and food producers in your area, check out localharvest.org.

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It’s easy to get caught up in buying “stuff” this time of year. Often we feel obligated to buy gifts for people that we don’t know well or we want to give a gift to a loved one but are not sure what to buy because they seem to have everything they could want or need. Why not take a stand this year to honor someone you love by giving a gift that makes a difference for others and the earth? I’d like to recommend two alternatives to giving “stuff” that may or may not fit, be appreciated, used or needed:

  1. HEIFER International is a nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating hunger and poverty and caring for the earth by providing individuals with a source of food rather than temporary food aid; thus helping individuals and families to achieve self-reliance. In addition, HEIFER works to educate the recipients about sustainable agricultural practices. You can honor someone by giving the gift of a cow, pig, goat, sheep, chicks, geese, rabbits, honeybees, trees, etc. that will go to help a family in need sustain itself. See HEIFER’s online gift catalog by clicking here.
  2. The Arbor Day Foundation is working to replant National Forests across the United States that have been devastated by wildfire and insects. At present the National Forest Service has a backlog of over 1 million acres of forest that needs to be replanted and with each new wildfire that number grows. You can give the gift of trees to be replanted in a national forest in honor or in memory of someone ($10.00 minimum gift) by clicking here. You will be able to print out a certificate to give to them or have the Arbor Day Foundation send them one. You can also send holiday cards ($5.95) that come with the gift of a tree planted in a national forest by clicking here.
  3. Of course, I’m sure you would not have to look far in your own community to find an organization whose cause you could feel good about supporting. (Like the Julian Center in Indianapolis, an organization near and dear to my heart. You can access their website here.)

In the midst of this season in which honoring the birth of the savior is overshadowed by honoring the god of the marketplace I pray that we can all stay focused on celebrating in a way that reflects that values that Jesus lived and taught.

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  Luke 4:18-19

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I heard on the radio today that if every home in America switched just one regular incandescent light bulb for a compact fluorescent bulb the savings in carbon dioxide emissions would be equivalent to taking one million cars off the road every year. While the compact fluorescents are more expensive, they last up to 30 time longer and use much less electricity which saves you money in the long run. I can’t tell any difference in the quality of light and if you don’t like the white light typically associated with the tube fluorescent bulbs, just stay away from the bulbs marked “daylight.”

If you’d like to read more about this, click here.

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I bought a blanket for my water heater today at my favorite home improvement store for less than $20.  Our water heater is more than 10 years old so it can be made more efficient by adding extra insulation.  I also turned the thermostat down on the water heater to 120°.  These measures should lower our energy usage and reduce the amount of carbon we are putting into the atmosphere.  Doing my part to be a good steward of the earth and saving money; what more could I ask for?

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I’m wearing a sweatshirt and keeping the thermostat low (you should know that I like to be warm, my husband would say too warm, in the winter so this is a big step for me). We can reduce our family’s carbon dioxide emissions and save money on heating costs at the same time by taking this one step.

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I would recommend that everyone read the summary report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on the “Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability” due to global warming. It’s not very long and you don’t have to be a science whiz to understand it. The report summarizes the current and the projected impacts of global warming by continent as well as by looking at such things as food supply, ecosystems, coastal & low lying regions, health and industry. It includes graphics and charts that are helpful in understanding both the changes that have already occurred and what we could expect if temperatures continue to rise and gives the expected likelihood of such changes. This document is the most helpful thing I have read to give me a broader understanding of where we are and where we are going. Even if you only look at the graphics and charts, you will come away with a better understanding of what changes global warming is bringing and will continue to bring for the foreseeable future.

Click here to read the report.

Click here to go to the IPCC website.

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As I am educating myself about the environmental crisis we are facing, I have to admit that I often feel scared and overwhelmed. These feelings are what have led me to avoid facing the truth for so long. I don’t want to know about the villages in Alaska having to relocate because the permafrost is melting. I don’t want to know about the threat to communities who are dependent on glaciers (which are quickly receding) for their water supply. I don’t want to think about the plants and animals that will be forced into extinction by changes in their habitat. It frightens me and makes me sad to think about the legacy we are leaving for our children.

In forcing myself to think on these things, however, I am learning that there are things I can do and that even one thing, one small change that I make adds to the other small changes that others are making and together, can make a substantial difference. So here’s my one thing for today. I’m turning off my computer when I’m not using it. Leaving computers, televisions, and other electronics on or leaving them plugged in uses a lot of electricity and electricity generation adds a lot of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. It’s one thing and it’s not much but it allows me to face down my feelings of fear and helplessness.

We can take heart from the encouragement given to Joshua when he was about to take over for Moses and lead the Hebrews into the promised land; a task that must have struck fear in his heart because he is commanded three times to be courageous.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

We are not helpless unless we choose to be. We are not alone unless we choose to reject the presence of the one who created us and charged us to be stewards of the land. Today, I’m choosing this one thing. May God add a blessing to it.

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