Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Christianity and ecology

Christianity and ecology :

The Orthodox Church on wealth, poverty and saving the environment.

One of the nicest cups of tea you can find. Filter coffee for a lazy holiday morning or a late night session. Chocolate bars to die for. How can helping others be such pleasure? The answer is Fair Trade

World trade is designed to make large multinational companies rich. It sometimes seems that delivering food is a secondary consideration, or even a downright nuisance. There seems to be no room at all for caring about the producers or the environment. Most producers of raw materials and food live in areas which are politically unimportant, economically underdeveloped, and financially poor. Who cares about the men and women who grow your sugar or your coffee? Apparently not the big manufacturers or the big supermarkets.

As Christians we must care. It is not a "Liberal Christian" option. Our Lord has called on us to care about our neighbour as much as we care about ourselves. We demand decent wages and working conditions. We should choke on every mouthful we eat or drink if we do nothing to show that we care about the people who worked to produce our food and drink. According to Christian Aid, many of the growers and small farmers live in poverty, hunger, and fear of violence. We would not tolerate it for our families, yet how many of us do anything for these people.

Stop just a minute! Before you decide that you have stumbled onto the wrong website, please read on. This is not a Marxist attack on Capitalism. It is Orthodox Christianity in the style of Saint John Chrysostom. He castigated the rich, who did not care what their lifestyle did to the poor. He preached against moneylenders who pretended to help, but who really pushed the poor deeper into despair. In the modern world, the organisation called Christian Aid has been telling people about the inequality and destructive injustice of so much world trade. You can read more on their website. Many religious leaders are saying the same things.

In the summer of 2002 the world sumit in South Africa discussed the environment and sustainable development. There were a few important agreements which were heavily publicised in the media in the West. However, a great chance was missed. Staff from Oxfam have reported on the negative side of the conference. The rich nations have failed to do anything significant to tackle poverty and the decay of the world environment. The single word which Oxfam used to describe this was "greed".You can read about Oxfam campaigns on their website.

This is in sharp contrast with the spiritual lead taken by the Orthodox Church in the field of environmental discussions. The most senior figure in the Orthodox Church, Patriarch Bartholemew (based in Istanbul) has drawn together religious leaders and representatives from East and West, from Christianity, Hinduism, Bhudism and other world faiths.

As religious bodies such as monasteries own huge areas of land around the world, there has been an agreement to set aside profit in favour of sustainable, organic farming on monastery lands. This helps to show the world an example of responsible stewardship.

In the Summer of 2002, Patriarch Bartholemew, the Pope, and other world religious leaders signed an agreement . They called for a spiritual dimension in the debate about development and the environment. Only a new spirit of generosity and unselfishness, a spirit of sacrifice, can transform world development.

Many people are already involved in campaigning or pressure groups. What else can we do? What can ordinary people do to make a difference? One simple answer is that we can all use consumer power. Make an ethical choice when you shop. Ask if the furniture is made from sustainable woodlands. Check if the trader knows anything about the working conditions of the people who made the goods. Choose products which are traded fairly to give the producers a decent standard of living.

Fair Trade goods are an excellent example of the choices you can make. Forinstance, if you buy "Cafedirect" instant coffee, you will put 4 times as much money into the pockets of the growers than by buying any major brand. This means people in some of the poorest parts of the world can work in their own villages without moving away to the cities.They can earn a living without cutting down more forests or damaging the environment. There are Fair Trade clothing companies and all sorts of Fair Trade foods (sugar, rice, nuts, jams, honey). And you can buy wooden goods which already carry a levy for tree planting and forest management.


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