Guest post from…Anna Yoder, Hesston, Kansas, is a 2009 graduate of Bluffton University (Ohio) with degrees in Writing, English, and Communications. She is currently the web editor at Bethel College (Kansas) as well as a baker for a local coffee shop. Anna is a freelance writer and photographer who attempts to garden in her free time.
I recently read something interesting in one of those “top things people never tell graduates” blogs I stumbled upon randomly via twitter. It went something like this: Everyone will change the world, but most people change it for the worse. Don’t be one of those people.
Okay, that’s not a direct quote. But the general idea was that no matter where you end up going or what you end up doing, you will have an impact. In other words, pay attention to your carbon footprint.
Reading that blog post was not a life changing moment. After all, I am very passionate about all things green, local and organic. (Maybe it was all the Wendell Berry essays we had to read my senior year at college). Still, for me, there was never any type of “Aha! I shall now take better care of the environment!” moment. My deep love for the environment has stemmed from a journey of discoveries through books, people, faith crises, and the realization of how hard it has been for me to successfully grow tomatoes in Kansas.
However, that particular blog post made me stop and think. I never thought about that typically positive “change the world” speech in such a negative manor. If we were all serious about Gandhi’s (sadly now almost-cliché) quote, “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” then apparently Americans want to be a hot, carbon-filled mess.
Now, I want to “change the world.” I want to make an impact (or maybe less of impact would be more appropriate to say). I really want to do what I can to make sure my niece and nephews’ great-great grandchildren have a fighting chance on a livable planet. But I am an American and I am still one of those hot carbon-filled messes.
Yes. Even me. And I am someone who really strives to make positive environmental choices.
Oh my goodness. People, this is not who I want to be.
I think it was back in college when I finally made the connection between faith and environment care and upkeep. The more I learned what it means to live out my faith, the more I realized I could not separate God from any area of my life, including the “small” ones like how I treat the planet.
With that realization, environmental care became more than the notion to not trash the earth because it’s not a very pleasant thing to do, but rather it became an integral part of Christian stewardship. The more I learned about Shalom the more I could not leave environmental stewardship out of it.
Why? Well, because I truly believe that caring for the environment is ultimately caring about people. It is the poor and the marginalized people who are the most effected by our broken systems. It is a privilege of the rich to abuse our resources. It is also a privilege to pretend like we don’t see it.
One of the things I am so passionate about is spreading the “gospel” of fresh, local foods. This especially became true after I spent last summer living in an inner-city neighborhood of Chicago. For the first time in my life, I became aware of the devastating effects a “food desert” can have on a community. It was also the first time in my life that I realized that having access to fresh fruits and vegetables is a privilege in certain parts of our country.
Seeing all these things first hand has only added to my desire for a more sustainable way of life. It was moments like last summer that helped me truly understand that environmental care is more than just faithfully taking your recycling out to the curb every week. Thinking about the huge entanglement with the broken food system, global warming, and limited renewable resources has made simple living suddenly feel like vocation. It is the type of vocation that calls me to challenge the status quo, to stand up for justice, and to follow Christ in every single aspect of my life, including what I put on my plate or throw in the trash.
In the same way that a fresh, in-season, local tomato tastes nothing like the imported red orb found in Wal-Mart in January, I want to live a life that demonstrates there is a better way.
Environmental stewardship is one way that I taste and see that God is good. This is one way I want to live out Shalom and how I show it to others. After all, I love this planet, but I love the people who inhabit it even more.
Follow Anna’s journey via her blog at http://returningtotheland.blogspot.com/