Amidst the whir of the year, Lent is almost upon us and I look forward to being caught up short and almost forced to slow down. I have always found Lent a time of deepening of relationships – ideally between myself, God, others and creation. Many times, I must admit, it has been mostly about my own internal adventures, and I make space in my life by diverting from what holds me down or keeps me un-free. I join Jesus in the desert where the sheer stark beauty of the landscape helps me to see more clearly and follow more whole-heartedly. But this year, I have decided that rather than choosing away from something that will only benefit myself, I will choose away from, and for, something that benefits all creation as well as me. I enjoy doing food shopping and cooking, and am always on the lookout for bargains and interesting ingredients. But this Lent I will choose only products that have been made in Australia.
Not long ago I moved to Forbes, New South Wales, in the heart of drought-ridden farming country. It seems, so far, that every prayer time and every acknowledgement of struggle mentions the drought. Having come from a farming family, I can appreciate the hard work of living on the land, and the fear of losing markets and cheap supermarket prices. Yet my part of the country, the south of South Australia, has experienced very little drought, and we were far from the frontlines of climate change that I now see around me. So my resolution this Lent is to support Aussie farmers, to only buy their produce, and help drive local markets. Today I had a taste of that in stumbling upon the monthly farmer’s market, at which I stocked up on fruit, veges, olive oil and homemade sauce. The other benefit of this Lenten pledge is the lowering of the food miles of my daily meals. The amount of transport needed for all our imported products contributes so many greenhouse gases that our first-world consumption habits appear alarming. I acknowledge that I have often contributed to this trend, and will find it hard not to buy chocolate, most nuts, spices or coconut products. I am not yet sure about rice, which is grown in Australia, but uses so much of our precious water. However, whatever happens, it will make me more mindful of both our planet and those around me.
I encourage you, too, to make a Lenten pledge. I highly recommend doing this as part of Living the Change, a global initiative of people of faith and values addressing climate change from their own value systems. It is based on two convictions:
· We believe the Earth is a sacred gift.
· We believe each of us has the responsibility to live in a way that supports and sustains our common home.
Living the Change is based on research that identifies how people of faith become engaged in ecological conversion. It calls leaders and faith peers to speak openly about how they are making changes in their lives, and so to inspire others to change too. Not only that, it asks each of us to think about why we care, and what in our value systems motivates us to be different. People of faith, religion or values have a big impact on our world, because they are concerned with being more whole human beings, and do that as a community. The other unique thing about this pledge, as there are so many similar pledges around, is that you can list what you are already doing – it affirms that many people have made earth-conscious, thrifty, authentic life choices for years.
Finally, I invite you to open this webpage to make a commitment to Living the Change in one of three areas – transport, energy and food. You can also make up your own commitment as I have done and share it with others. The website shows just how much of an impact an individual’s lifestyle choices can make. See the handy infographic below for some examples. On the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change website, these benefits have been Australianised. For example, cutting one flight to Europe each year can save 6,000 kg of CO2 emissions. Or halving the amount of meat in one’s diet is the equivalent of planting 3.3 trees. It makes it real. It makes the connections between our actions and the rest of God’s creation tangible. I, for one, plan to slow down this Lent and develop these relationships, and no doubt have a great Aussie-made adventure along the way!