Sunday, March 17, 2013

What Would Jesus Consume and Where Would He Get It?

Unpacking the privilege backpack is slow and painful. One third of the world's population lives on $2 per day or less.  It is time to simplify and re-organize.  We have more stuff than we need---and we are short on joy and love, measures of intangible wealth.  The season of self-discipline and reflection, Lent carries us to Easter---yet another Nestlé and Hershey's boycott until they stop using child slave labor to harvest cacao. Hershey's has pledged to use only free trade chocolate by 2020.  Thirteen years is a long time to wait for a kiss, but I inherited persistence if not a last name from my Grandpa Hershey. 

Jesus said it is easier for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:24). I am inspired by Ryan who today asks today in his blog post, "Will the Poor Always Be with Us?" Like Ryan, I, too, have had to pry my own selfish fingers off a fifth winter coat that I do not need in order to donate it to someone who can use it this year. 

Our house is full. We have a surplus of food, clothing, and shelter. Enough shopping. Enough exploiting cheap labor through rampant bargain-hunting consumerism. Enough cheap substitutes for joy. I want to know who made the $5 uniform t-shirts that my kids' school sells, "made in Haiti". Made by whom under what conditions? I want to know who grew and harvested my fruits and vegetables. Living where? Earning what? Protected from exploitation by whom? 

If we have ever eaten food we did not grow and harvest in the yard, there is blood on our teeth. The time has come for a clear and attainable path to citizenship for the 11 million people hiding, working, and being exploited in the shadows of the USA. "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free..." so they, too can access a university education, attain healthcare, buy a house, drive a car, marry a spouse until death do us part (not just until the migra comes knocking). 

Time to quit waiting for some program or politician to deliver hope.  It is time to examine our own hearts and our budgets, to measure the waste of consumption and the cost of global human exploitation on our human souls. It is time to demand that cell phones to be made with fair trade metals. Time for people to travel the world as safely and quickly as roses. Time for diamonds and ivory to be seen as a symbol of torture. Time to shrink our ecological footprint by flying and driving less, and walking more. Time to see a tiny house and a big veggie garden and think, "I'm home." Time to treat the ubiquitous plastic water bottle as the sign of a poisoned planet and instead of buying more packaged tap water, let's pledge to share clean water from fountains. Time to ask the writings and legacies of César Chávez, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, Gandhi, and Mother Theresa to tell us, "what would Jesus do?"

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Tiny Houses, Tiny Footprints, Tiny Planet

On Earth Day in 2004, I took the ecological footprint quiz in Central Park in New York City.  I had walked there with my daughter in a backpack, since I still didn't know how to drive, let alone own a car. My daughter is turning ten this month, and as she learns about getting big, I have tried to teach her about living small.

We are both inspired by the tiny house movement.  The first time we saw Jay Schaeffer's Tumbleweed Tiny House company featured in a documentary, we became fascinated by tiny houses.  After living my early adult life in Manhattan for six years, until my daughter was 15 months old, I learned how to enjoy life in the real world while keeping my belongings to a minimum.Now, with four kids, we live in a three bedroom with a full basement and a garage, and I cannot imagine packing the family into a 300-square-foot studio.  Living eight years with eventually three children in 600 square feet was challenge enough. 

But someday when I am old and grey, a tiny house is a dream.  I will park it in my adult kids' yards for a month each, and I'll unpack my rocking chair and visit my grandchildren.  In the meantime, I would certainly consider staying in a tiny house vacation rental for a week to try it out.  Here is a video about a tiny apartment built into a shipping container---with amazingly cool Murphy-bed-style furniture that folds out of the wall.

Living small allows the family budget to stretch to meet the needs and desires of living in the real world.  Just think:  fewer rooms to clean, less junk to put away, less storage space to cram full of memorabilia so that people can get out and enjoy life more. I am eagerly waiting the release of  the documentary film Tiny:  The Movie.

Living in a tiny house saves time and money in maintenance and cleaning, which allows human energy to be spent in growing a garden, traveling, exercising, reading, writing, and enjoying outdoor life.  If you've read the book by Richard Louv Last Child in the Woods you know how important it is for children to explore nature.

Gardening with children teaches them history, independence, economics, biology and hard work.  Our family will grow the three sisters (corn, beans, and squash) in symbiotic harmony as the Native Peoples grew for centuries before our ancestors migrated here.

Permaculture is not a trend.  It is a return to our roots.  Someday, when we raise chickens for fresh eggs, we'll put them to work in the backyard food production project as well.  Check out these chicken tunnels for natural insect control:

It's a small world, so let's make tiny carbon footprints to keep our earth clean. You can check your ecological footprint by taking a short online quiz.