Originally posted on Make Wealth History:
One of my most interesting freelance jobs over the last couple of years has been a series of background papers for a new Tearfund campaign. I’ve been waiting to see what would come out of it at the end of the process, and last week the campaign finally launched. It’s called ordinary heroes, and it brings together the development and sustainability agendas in a new and important way.
There is much to celebrate about the number of people lifted out of poverty, rising global life expectancy, and the spread of education. But as long as climate change and other planetary boundaries are in overshoot, those gains remain fragile. What’s more, the billion or so people who haven’t yet shared in the gains of the last half century may be locked out. To finish the task, development agencies need to talk to us in the rich world too.
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Abundance is a word that perhaps sits a little uneasily for a network devoted to simplicity – in fact abundance is part of the problem in a consumer society isn’t it? An abundance of choice, gadgets, food, credit and appetite for shopping has done significant damage to the fabric of communities, our moral vision and notion of what is valuable. As Jenny Flanagan said on this blog, “Everything is available to me right now if I have the money, but I don’t think it makes life better.” Too many of us have had too much of a good thing.
I confess I certainly saw it that way as I ruthlessly simplified and reduced in an effort to combat the spiritual obesity that I had gained along with an abundance of material possessions. Yet an ascetic response in a world of plenty lacks appeal and for understandable reasons. Self-denial is rarely an attractive message.
Breathe however was founded with different convictions. Instead we longed for something not less beautiful but more beautiful. We chose words like appreciate, thankful, connecting, faithful, generous. Even our refusal was rooted in a desire to find ‘joyous ways of engaging with the prevailing culture.’ We were ‘against’ consumerism only in as much as we were for a way of life that was richer and deeper. It was an invitation away from the shallow end and into the beautiful deep. It was an invitation to abundance; less stuff, more life.
The Christian tradition offers significant resources for those seeking this more abundant way and rooted in the character and nature of God. We believe that God is deep in His bones, as it were, a profoundly generous giver. Our planet, even in our age of ecological poverty, remains an incredibly bountiful, plentiful and diverse place. Yet just a few hundreds of years ago when the seas were teeming and the forests almost unending we would have seen how generous this creation really was. Yet this generosity was surpassed in the Father’s giving of His Son, to share our humanity, to redeem our brokenness and to lead us toward a future of renewed earth and heavens where again the lavish abundant gracious generosity of God will be shared with His new creation.
It is in reflecting on this that the apostle Paul tells us that we have an obligation that we should freely choose. There’s a reason why God loves a cheerful giver, because it means we’re once again reflecting the image of God to a broken world.
So out of the abundance of God’s goodness and grace, out of His generous provision to me and my family we want to give and to share. Generosity creates parties and opens homes to the homeless. Generosity turns the dining table from a place to impress to the place of family for the refugee who is separated from theirs. I want to be a cheery advocate of the benefits of generosity. Abundance means I don’t delight in how much I have but in how much I give. As we share and invite others to create, subvert and refuse the shallow end of mindless consumption we instead create a world of joyful participation. As we give away, so we receive so much more. As the scriptures say;
“The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”
A philosophy of less can lead to spare sowing, but a mindset of generosity while not wasteful is bountiful and those who who live that will live abundantly.
Tearfund are launching a new campaign next month called ‘Ordinary Heroes’. For more info visit their website. They have a great series of launch events.
COME AND EXPLORE HOW YOU CAN BE PART OF A MOVEMENT OF ORDINARY HEROES WHO THINK DIFFERENTLY, LIVE MORE SIMPLY AND SPEAK UP.
ALL EVENTS ARE FREE
|DATE & TIME||LOCATION||SPEAKERS|
|14 April at 7.30pm||POLZEATH
Tubestation, Polzeath, Cornwall, PL27 6TB
|Katie Harrison (Head of Media, Tearfund)
Paul Cook (Advocacy Director, Tearfund)
Plus live music from The Grenaways
|16 April at 6.30pm||LONDON
St Mary’s Church, York Street, London, W1H 1PQ Please RSVP.
|The Bishop of London, Richard Chartres
Matthew Frost (CEO Tearfund)
|22 April at 8.00pm||CLAYGATE
Holy Trinity Church, Claygate, Surrey, KT10 0JP
|Dr Ruth Valerio
|28 April at 7.30pm||LEEDS
St George’s Church, Leeds, LS1 3BR
|Mark Powley (St George’s Leeds, Director St Barnabas and Author of Consumer Detox – less stuff more life)
Ruth Koch (Senior Advocacy Associate, Tearfund)
|29 April at 7.30pm||BRISTOL
Woodlands Church, Bristol, BS8 2AA
Krish Kandiah (President, London School of Theology and Director of ‘Home for Good’)
Henrietta Blyth (Director, Tearfund)
|30 April at 7.30pm||LINDFIELD
All Saints Church, Lindfield, W. Sussex, RH16 2HS
Dr Ruth Valerio
Sam Barker (Head of Policy and Government Relations, Tearfund)
|6 May at 7.30pm||LEICESTER
Greenlight, Trinity Hall, Leicester, LE1 6WP
When you were a kid, did you ever have a friend or relative come back from a trip abroad bearing special gifts that you could only buy in that country? I can remember an aunt bringing back cute chinese pyjamas from Hong Kong, and a school friend bringing over terrible American chocolate.
It’s weird to me that we don’t need people to do that anymore. When I travel I stand in the gift shop wondering what on earth I could buy that I couldn’t get at home. If we can’t find something in our hyper-sized supermarkets, we can order it on the internet and get it delivered to our front door. I know that’s what’s known as progress and globalisation but there’s something sad about it too. Everything is available to me right now if I have the money, but I don’t think it makes life better.
Tonight, for dinner, I could eat Mexican, Chinese, Thai, Italian, French, Argentinian, Vietnamese… either in a restaurant or in my own kitchen with the appropriate specialist ingredients (this is especially easy in big cities). Everything is an option. Does that make our lives richer, or poorer?
What makes something feel special if it’s always available? What makes it feel like a meaningful gift, or a treat? When every practical limit on our consumption is being eliminated, the price tag is really the only one left.
We wrestle with that question as a family, because we miss ‘special’. Life with God involves a rhythm of sacrifice and celebration, fasting and feasting. Without one side you lose the other (and I really don’t want to miss out on the parties). Alongside that, we believe that the level of consumption that has become normal here in the UK is totally unsustainable for the planet. We don’t think it’s the best way to live – for the planet, for our own happiness, or even for our relationships. Something has to change, and really the only place to start is with ourselves. Yet it’s so hard to work out how to live a different way when no one is imposing any limits. (No government is brave enough, because their popularity would probably plummet).
So we try to find our own. To choose to scale back on things on a day to day basis, even if it seems like a small thing. We try to only eat meat at the weekends. We don’t tend to buy wine or alcohol unless we have guests, and we stick to water the rest of the time. I don’t buy coffee on my way to work, and try to make a packed lunch. We rarely buy new clothes, and generally limit ourselves to second-hand or Fairtrade. We’re trying to holiday in the UK. If we need something (especially the baby-related kit) we try to find it from friends on Facebook, or on Streetbank from our neighbours, or Gumtree. The next big question is our rubbish. We’re so used to just throwing stuff ‘away’ without thinking about where it ends up. How do we limit the amount we send out of our flat in bin-bags?
It’s not that we never drink wine, or go out for coffee or dinner, or buy a new coat. But those things have become special again because of their rarity. Limits can be a beautiful thing that enrich life rather than withholding it.
I wonder if there are things in your life that used to feel special which have become normal? (Coffee to go, wine, a Twix with your morning cuppa). Why don’t you try an experiment? Could you think of a way to scale back, even for a week or two, and then at the end treat yourself to the thing you’ve been cutting out, and try to savour and celebrate it as something special. I recommend doing it in community! If, like us, you appreciate that rhythm and the way it helps you to live more simply, maybe you could think of ways to reintroduce that rhythm to other parts of life.
This guest post was written by Jenny Flannagan. She has an excellent blog called ‘Jenny from the Block‘ which we highly recommend as a regular read. This post was originally written for Tearfund’s Rhythms website.
The Brilliant Rachel Dickinson is doing a great challenge inspired by Mark Powley’s book – Consumer Detox. Here is a great blog from her ‘Rubbish Free Lent’ about the journey… Check out http://rubbishfreelent.wordpress.com
Originally posted on rubbishfreelent:
At the beginning of Lent I shared my challenge with zeal. I wanted to communicate what I was doing and why, and in seeking to demystify the whole experience I promised to answer anyone’s questions.
I was armed with responses to how I’m brushing my teeth (that’s for another blog post) or what I’ll do if I get ill, but some of the questions threw me. In fact, my boss had read my first couple of blog posts and responded with: “what’s with the no clothes buying?”
To be honest, I wasn’t too sure of the answer. I had just assumed that indulging in sartorial purchases whilst worrying about the amount of clignfilm in my fridge didn’t make sense. But she’s right, new clothes don’t mean items to landfill and I’m certainly not going to get hung up on the microscopic plastic tag attached to the labels.
So it got…
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I love Meat. In fact the very thought of a good juicy Quarter Pounder or a Lamb Curry fills we with great delight. But for a week from Monday 23rd March I am going to change how I eat and take part in ‘Meat Free Week‘
A recent study reported by the BBC says that the way we are eating is not sustainable in the long term. It suggests that as well as eating less meat, particularly beef, we need to get better at wasting less food and eating more healthily. The combination of these factors will be good for all of us and for the planet. Just check out our infographic on how much food we waste now – imagine how different it could be.
Changing our habits, especially the ones we love, is not an easy thing, but the rewards and the significance of doing it in this case are huge.
It’s clear that we are a meat-loving nation, but, if we want to keep enjoying our way of life then we will have to rethink how we live. If we don’t, the report suggests that our carbon emissions will go through the roof, which, as well as damaging the environment in the UK, also has an impact on those living in poverty across the world.
I work for Tearfund and we have been, and remain committed to campaigning for policy change when it comes to matters of the planet and climate change. But we are also convinced that our lifestyles, values and behaviour are also important. We need change at both a local and international level, and we can be a part of the change we want to see in the world.
So if you want to start making some small changes that can have a big impact, why not follow some of these handy tips.
Less is more. Meat is a good thing, but we simply need to eat it less, savouring it when we can but saving money and helping to save the planet is a real win win. Could you be up for taking the ‘Meat Free week‘ challenge from 23rd March?
Growing veg is fun. Just look at this great example of a movement called Incredible Edible. If we have more connection to something, we value it more. If you don’t have access to an allotment, then what about growing in your garden? The Eat Seasonably website is a great resource for wannabe growers. You could also do the Tearfund Rhythms Grow your own action.
Vegetarian food is a lot more delicious and nutritious than we might think. Rice and dahl is simple and delicious and does not need meat. There are loads of great recipes out there.
Love Food Hate Waste offer lots of great ideas and recipes as well. You could also plan your meals and eat your leftovers for a month. This will help you to reduce your food waste by a third!