Friday, March 30, 2007

Going Lightly in 2007

Copies of this beautiful poster and notecards can be found at Northern Sun

Since I'm just moving in, I thought I would post a few of my archived posts from my old blogging home just to let new friends get an idea of who I am and some of the things I care about. Back at the turn of the year I posted the following:

One of the new things this year is my iPod and the incredible amount of free podcasts out there! Like the internet, you can just pick a subject, it seems, and then just... GO. There is someone out there talking about the subjects that interest you!

A couple of the podcasts that I have found and enjoy are about one of my favorite subjects: "going lightly." One of my favorites is called "America the Green". These shows have encouraged my efforts at living lightly on our planet - not necessarily because I have learned a great deal from them (I have learned a few new things here and there), but mostly because it reminds me that I am not so alone in my efforts. The impact of global warming is so ENORMOUS that to me, it is somewhat frightening and overwhelming. But that does not freeze me into innactivity. Quite the opposite. Even though I am small, I know that my impact alone can be great on my small piece of the planet - for good or ill - and I would rather lean toward the good.

Another motivator comes in the small voice of my seven-year-old daughter who saw a bit of the film we were watching one night, "An Inconvenient Truth," during the holidays while my father was visiting with us. She will say to me, "Mama, what will happen if the icebergs really DO melt?" I just have to respond to her that we need to work hard to make sure that that won't happen.

I think it is irresponsible and ufair to our children to remain in denial about what is happening. I don't understand how people can see the photos of the number of mountain peaks that once were covered with snow and glaciers and are now becoming green woodlands and continue to suggest that the problem isn't real. I can't understand how some people separate "us" from "the environment" when arguing about jobs that may be lost if we change our energy sources when we are clearly not separate, but are a part of the environment. I read a quote years ago that said something to the effect of, "There will always be an environment, but not necessarily one that will support life as we know it." Have you seen the film or visited their webpage: ? It is powerful, it is important, and I believe imperative, that as many people as possible see this film - especially if you have not educated yourself on the effects of climate change.

This is certainly not simply a secular problem either, but one I feel strongly that Christians should accept and take leadership. Climate change is affecting everyone - including the great portions of the world that already live in poverty and making their lives even harder.

One of my all-time favorite books, one which I re-read practically every year at some point or other, is Living More With Less by Doris Janzen Longacre. Published in 1980, this book speaks with a currency that is astonishing. It is an incredible book published by an incredible woman who did not live to see it published. Part of the bi-line of her life from the beginning of her book says, "In 1976 she compiled the More-with-Less Cookbook [another book I LOVE and highly reccomend], which has become a household item for persons wanting to cook more responsibly in light of world food needs. Doris's 39-month battle with cancer ended her life at 39 years." Her husband and other members of her faith community finished the book for her after her death in November of 1979.

Longacre writes so eloquently about the topic that I have quoted her frequently when I have given talks or led groups concerning voluntary simplicity. The following quotes are from Living More with Less and are a bit lengthy, but well worth the read.

"Volumes can be written on our unbelievable carelessness with God's gifts. We not only neglect the poor, for whom the gospel is to be good news - we exploit them. We nurture purses, professions, cars, and houses more than people. We relinquish freedom and personal productivity in favor of dull conformity. We spoil nature, the only home we have. We don't look beyond predictable, familiar voices for help. We fail to fortify each other in solid communities."

"More with less, then, is no prepackaged way to 'simplify your lifestyle.' There is no fast, easy way. We can rehearse background facts, share experience, and distill standards to guide future decisions, as this book attempts to do. We can attend workshops and conferences, draw on still more experience, and collect a helpful library. But when we close the books and come home from the discussions, one voice still speaks in the silence. For Christians it is the call to obedience. Without answering that voice, and answering again and again, there is no new way to live. That much must be said from the beginning."

"Refusing to accept a connection is one way to back off. Believing it but refusing to accept guilt is another. 'Let's just be careful we don't raise too much guilt,' says a world hunger conference planner. 'But you made us feel so guilty about this coffee break,' says the food committee chairperson, passing out glazed doughnuts in the middle of the meeting. 'I guess we just go out of here feeling guilty,' remarks the recreational vehicle manufacturer to his colleague on his way out of the conference.

One thing is sure. How-to books on pop psychology of the past fifteen years do not look fondly upon feeling guilty or raising those feelings in anyone else. But what if you are guilty?

Is there no damage to the psyche of one who clearly recognizes wrong in specific actions, but refuses to accept responsibility? Can we squash down the guilt and blame it on another? Statements like, 'This meeting, or this book, or that person, or the poor of the world make me feel guilty' bear careful scrutiny. From where comes the guilt? From those who are poor? That's blaming the victim. From those who shared the information? Or from us who live the way we do?

Imagine our current way of thinking superimposed on a New Testament setting.

'Repent, you slippery snakes!' John the Baptist shouts. 'Fill the valleys and bring down the hills! How about a little more equalization!'

'Don't make us feel guilty,' responds the crowd 'Haven't you heard that all of us need to feel okay?'

Instead the crowd asked, 'What then shall we do?' And the answer was clear. Repentance means to recognize and accept guilt, to be forgiven, and then to change. John's answer could hardly be more contemporary. 'He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.' Then on to the more complicated issues: Stard doing something about exploitation, respectable robbery, greed with violence. Practice contentment.

Certainly there are those who carry guilt out of its useful function and into paralyzing complexes. But to live as most of us do in North America, then to study world poverty and our role in it, and to come away without seeing a need for forgiveness and change - is unthinkable.

Do justice must become the first standard for living by which Christians make choices. Our knowledge of others' needs and our guilt must resolve itself into a lasting attentiveness. This means being mindful, conscious, aware, so that never again can one make a decision about buying and using without thinking of the poor. They lurk in the new-car lot and behind the rack of fall outfits. They sit beside you in the restaurant and wait for you in the voting booth.

This way of responding has a simplicity about it which contrasts with the arguments usually called upon when someone asks, 'Does it do any good if I conserve?' Intricate reasoning on the causes and solutions of world hunger has its place. But there are times when the only answer is, 'Because they have little, I try to take less.'"

Whew. To me, this is just powerful stuff. I reread it as much as I do, because I forget. It is so easy to be lulled into the culture at large telling us how much we supposedly deserve while creating a nagging discontent with their advertising campaigns.

So what are you doing this year? Are you practicing contentment? Are you thoughtful and conscious about your purchases? Could you begin to be moreso?

I will list some of the things my family and I do to walk a bit more lightly. When I see lists like this, I often look for new ideas - things I have missed - in my attempt to practice voluntary simplicity.

A note here: I consciously use the terminology, "voluntary simplicity," because I think it defines, for me, a bit more of what I mean, rather than "simplifying my life." While my lifestyle may benefit from simplification, simplifying, in and of itself, is not my goal. In fact, much of the time, voluntary simplicity will mean more work for me, but less damage to the earth and God's people.

So, here are some things we do:
Eat a vegetarian diet, the majority of which consists of home-cooked, whole foods, use cloth napkins, use(d) cloth diapers, use cloth shopping bags, compost, garden, clean with only vinegar and baking soda and/or environmentally friendly cleaning products, use laundry disks and e-friendly laundry and dishwashing detergent, use cloth menstrual pads, purchase 90% of our clothing from used sources, recycle, save drinking water and clean cooking water (ie. from boiling eggs, for example) for watering plants, try not to participate in large scale animal agriculture (purchasing eggs from a friend or from free-range, organic growers, etc.) purchase as much organic food as our budget allows (this varies from time to time), buy in bulk, use plastic bags that come our way to take to the healthy food stores to fill up on bulk items, use non-disposable razors, use non-disposable toothbrush (it has a replaceable head), use environmentally-friendly cat litter that is made from pine pellets that after use and scooping clean, can be used in mulching, borrow little-used items we do not own instead of purchasing, keep our thermostat (here in FL!) at 84 degrees in the summertime, use back sides of paper and old envelopes for note paper and lists, print on both sides of paper, use rags instead of paper towels, and plain, old-fashioned sharing.

There are more things I am sure, but that is my main list so far. Perhaps you have seen that we do not hang out our clothing to dry. I used to, but upon moving here, this neighborhood has restrictions that do not allow for that. Apart from trying to change that at a neighborhood meeting (which I would like to do), I would like to be able to rig something up on our lanai. I am giving it some thought.

I am also attempting to purchase the majority of everything that isn't food or health related this year, used. I am allowing myself some leeway with my knitting and art supplies, but as I become more knowledgeable and adept at that, I may move in that direction with that too, from time to time.

A few interesting websites to visit that address this subject from an angle of faith are: The Simple Way, Serve God Save the Planet,and Alternatives for Simple Living. There are more too, but those are just ones I have visited recently. An inspiring blog that I've mentioned before is Walk Slowly, Live Wildly.

Well, I think this has been enough food for thought for one day. I am always readjusting my goals, but these are some pursuits I intend to continue to visit throughout the year.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Moving In

After some difficulties over at my Homeschoolblogger site, I thought I would try Blogger. So this is more of a test entry than anything else accompanied by a quick photo of some of the loveliest smelling blossoms around. It's orange-blossom season here in Florida and their aroma is heavenly. Windows and sliding glass doors are open and our home is filled with the orange-blossom scent. Is there anyone who doesn't love Spring?

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