Africana Plus  

No 75 April 2007.3


Rediscover the sacred equilibrium


The first thing to establish before talking of environment is the notion of time. We have to enter into the time of God for whom a thousand years are like one day. In this perspective one must realize that on the planetary and cosmic scale “short term” means decades and centuries. The middle term becomes a few thousand years and the long term is calculated in millions of years. It is the same thing in our link with environment. To raze a forest is much shorter than replacing it; it is not enough to plant trees, one must let them grow during a few decades before one can obtain a new mature forest.

The second aspect to consider is that all things hold together. As Paul reminds us with the image of the body to define the Church, one can say that the Earth is one body and that all that inhabit it are its members. The earth is an ecosystem. According to Hubert Reeves, “in an ecosystem the species that survive are the ones that establish harmonious relations with their environment (…), that have a good exchange: give and receive.” Unfortunately it seems that our species has the tendency of not always establishing harmonious relations with its environment. That is why many ecologists do not predict the end of the world or the end of life – because they are conscious that life is greater than the human being - , but rather the end of humankind that those modern prophets predict as the consequence of our present behavior.

Finally and thirdly one must never forget that if we are part of the problem, we are also part of the solution. We can react when we want. The hole in the ozone layer is a good example: it has stabilized and has even shrunk following legislative, scientific and industrial efforts in this field.

To look lucidly

Let us have a closer look. Are we conscious that 15% of the population consumes 80% of the planet’s goods and that we are a very active part of this 15%? Do we know that Quebeckers, which means all of us, are among the largest consumers of energy and water per head in the world? I ask you: “Do you over consume a little, much, passionately?”

If an opinion poll were to be made on this topic, most people would answer: “A little; those who consume a lot are those who buy more than I do and especially those who buy at a higher price than I do.” However all will agree that we live in a society of over consumption. We consider “little pleasures” many superfluous things. The definition of over consumption, it seems to me, could be: “Economic phenomenon provoked by the fact of going into a store to buy a precise article and to come out with two, three, even four items!”

What is the link with the environment? Here is an extract from an article of the newspaper “Le Devoir”: “The quantity of waste that Quebeckers produce each year is truly phenomenal: more than 11 million tons, which is the equivalent of 22 tons every minute, or of one ton and a half per person! Moreover this quantity is on the increase year after year.”

There is more: we over consume wrapped products! Not only do we pay for the wrapping in the price, but we also pay for disposing of it and the planet pays a big price for the storing of non-decomposable products like Styrofoam.

As for global warming, it is all very simple: since 1976 it is three times more rapid than in the previous century! Presently human activity throws back into the atmosphere great quantities of CO², water and methane vapors that are the main gas producing greenhouse effect. Thanks to us eternal snows are dying and North Pole glaciers have already shrunk considerably. They are ready to free tons and tons of methane into the atmosphere, a most efficacious gas with greenhouse effect. That is what is called an effect of “melting snowball”.

We must remember that “the misery and above all the disparity of wealth (15% consume 80%) represent, with the global warming, the greatest threat for humankind future.

To judge in a Christian manner

The word of God helps us to judge according to these realities. Sentences like “The Father and I are one” (Jn 10, 30), and “What you do to the least of these brothers of mine, you do it to me” (Mt 25, 40), demonstrate to us that Jesus had a strong premonition of the ultimate unity of all that seems divided. The great classic Christian in environment, Francis of Assisi, had also intimately understood the link that united him to his sister the Earth. Likewise many schools of spirituality preach respect for life under all its forms. We know all that, but are we really convinced? We have easily the impression that we are not responsible, that pollution, for example, is the responsibility of industrials. “It’s not me, it’s the fault of the snake”. That is the universal sin.

What can we do as individuals? “Each dollar is a vote”. Here is our democracy. With each dollar that we spend we encourage a way of doing. Industrialists give us what we buy. For example what we have on our plate presents a universal and concrete example of our link with the environment. We have a direct effect on nature each time that we prepare our menu.

Did you know? Our meals travel an average of some 2500 kilometers before reaching our table. A 40 ton truck transporting food produces about five ton of gas with greenhouse effect. Two vans deliver food daily to an average IGA. This means 730 loads a year that produce 29200 ton of gas with greenhouse effect for a single supermarket. Chronic and impulsive over consumption gives an odd statistic: 40 to 50% of the food goes to garbage.

To act, a source of hope

Fortunately new Jonases arise and invite us to convert, to become consicous of our collective responsibility: groups such as Équiterre, Eau Secours, Les Amis de la terre, ATTAC-Quebec, Greenpeace as well as many people of our circle who make particular efforts at home and at work in order to reduce waste. This is a great victory!

What can we do concretely? We have to VOTE! We have the faculty to change things with our purchasing power. We have to stop leaving to others and to fashion the decision of what we will do with this power. We have to buy consciously and not any more compulsively. The purchase of “small pleasures” releases a small dose of endorphin that gives pleasure to our whole body. When we refuse consciously to buy little luxuries, the body feels an emptiness. We have to accept this form of weaning if we want at last to implement the first of the “3R”: reduction.

The 3R = Reduction, Reutilization and Recuperation

Reduction: It is presently the most urgent of the “3R”. Let us watch out for disposable products: foam plates and glasses, cell phones, kitchen rolls, etc. because the quantity of buried wastes has considerably increased, simply because we over consume more than ten or fifteen years ago. That is why we absolutely have to reduce! Let us ask ourselves: do we really need it? Therefore let us reduce!

Reutilization: It is said that “about 85% of the things we throw away could be reused”. Do we think to reutilize shopping bags? Let us think and reutilize!

Recuperation: Some great victories are to be emphasized in this field. Quebeckers have concentrated their efforts on this aspect and recycle much more than before. Let us congratulate ourselves! But let us remember that the goal is to recycle 65% of our waste basket before 2008. The latest news tells us that we are at 42%. Let us persevere and recuperate.

Responsible purchases

When we buy, what do we have to look for? First let us look for local products. Each time we choose a local product, we diminish gas with greenhouse effect. Will we pay more? Yes and with enthusiasm! It is time to realize that we now pay very dearly each time we want to save one dollar. Among others, lost jobs create unemployment and social instability.

Some people will argue: “If we reduce our consumption, if our businesses become ecological and must pay for recycling, everybody will close shop”. But if we regularly listen to the news, we see that we do not have to be ecological in order to loose jobs! All our textile factories have left to operate elsewhere; big companies regularly inform us about important cuts in their pay roll and government seems proud to create precarious employments, and forgive the expression: “capitalism is shooting itself in the foot”: it contains his own autodestruct ion program. It is not ecology that does it.

After the local purchase there is the equitable purchase. A product certified “equitable”, like certain coffees for example, assure us that the coffee picker has received a fair price for his work. It is a form of a minimum international salary or of planetary unionization. Let us add that most often domestic equitable products are biological. Each dollar is a vote.

Let us use fabric shopping bags, recycled paper: it is a way to cease cutting trees uselessly. Let us buy ecological light bulbs that last five years and consume much less electricity. Let us choose winter boots made in Quebec so as not loose this market as we have lost the shoe and textile markets.

Do you know the program of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)? This form of agriculture offers a real support to small Quebec farmers. By directly paying the biological farmer at the start of the season, we assure him of our support and we share with him the climatic risks. Then each summer week we will receive a box of fresh, sound and delicious fruits and vegetables! If we are many to vote for this kind of agriculture, farmers will follow. They will answer our call while ceasing to make their lives a misery with pesticides and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO).

To be co-creator

To interest myself in environment in a co-creator spirit, it is first to make an inventory of my real needs, then to make a budget, respect it and be conscious that each of my commercial decisions has a direct impact on the marvellous earth ecosystem.

At every moment  I have the choice to being a vitamin or a microbe in God’s body, this body in which five loaves nourish 5000 persons, not 5000 loaves that are rotting in the lofts of five persons. We owe it to ourselves to be an active and dynamic member of society!

Lastly let us give thanks to God for having disturbed us in our habits and we will be proud to be his sons and daughters, mature men and women more responsible towards the creation that he has entrusted to us!

Rémy Perras

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