A high price for cheap choices

AdvocacyChristian DistinctivenessEnvironmental sustainability

This guest post first appeared on David Westlake’s blog in 2014. It is a timely reminder to us to consider our patterns of consumption during the Christmas season.

I have been an intern in Tearfund’s advocacy department for six months now, and I have learnt so much. I have to admit, before joining Tearfund I did not really know that we are living outside our limits. We are exploiting our planet because the current systems put profits before people.

We champion cheap energy before thinking about climate change and investing in sustainable alternatives. And although there is enough food for everyone, we continue to accept economic systems that distribute the world’s resources unfairly and mean that poor people stay poor. This is not how Jesus intended it to be.

Although I have always cared about the environment, I have come to understand that living and acting justly cannot be separated from living and acting sustainably. Over the last few months I have been on a personal journey to shop, eat and live more sustainably. I have to admit, I have not always found it easy.

It is expensive to buy local food. It is miserable to walk to church in the rain instead of jumping in the car. And I do not always find what I want in charity shops on those Saturday afternoon hunts. I am trying to use less water, but I find it so hard to get out of the shower on cold Monday mornings.

But my attitude is shifting as I continue to remember that I am part of a larger system.

Although Fairtrade food may be more expensive, knowing who grows my food and how they are treated helps me decide where I spend my money. Yes, it may be miserable to walk to church in the rain instead of driving – but at least I am not pumping more carbon dioxide into the world. And when my local charity shops do not have the item I am looking for, maybe I need to stop thinking about what I want and just be happy with all the blessings I already have.

It is so important to remember how our lifestyles are contributing to global systems. Although many of us know and understand the problems of global inequality and the human contribution to climate change, our behaviours are not changing. Mine certainly were not.

We have to remember that when we choose the cheap or easy option, someone living somewhere else in the world may be paying too high a price for our actions and choices.

As well as choosing sustainable and just lifestyles, as Christians we are called to ‘defend the cause of the poor and needy’ (Jeremiah 22:16). Jesus challenged cultural practices, confronted the powerful and was an advocate for the oppressed.

As Christ is intercessor on our behalf, so we should speak up with and for others. We must push world leaders to make ambitious decisions and act on injustice and climate change. Being an advocate for justice and sustainability not only discourages us from contributing to the problem, but also provides us with an opportunity to bring about something better.

The work I have been involved in at Tearfund gives me hope that a shift is happening. Meeting passionate people who are living justly and sustainably has inspired me. I am excited that there is a movement of people who are working to challenge the current consumer-centred pattern we seem to be stuck in.

As you have read about my struggles and the journey I am on, I wonder if you have been challenged. What could you change today to live a more just and sustainable life?

The next edition of Footsteps, Tearfund’s magazine for grassroots health and development workers, will be on the topic of climate change. It will be available in January 2016. You can read Footsteps online or sign up to receive it regularly.

Hannah Cribb was a campaigns intern in Tearfund’s advocacy team from 2013 to 2014.