Doing more with less

Last Tuesday night more than 20 people gathered in Hellaby Hall of Christ Church Anglican Cathedral.

Last Tuesday night more than 20 people gathered in Hellaby Hall of Christ Church Anglican Cathedral. The first session in a Lenten ecumenical social justice series centered on the screening of a KAIROS video Remember the Land: Global Ecumenical Voices on Mining.

Rev. Canon David Pritchard, our host for the evening, invited participants to examine the dilemmas posed by destructive and irresponsible resource extraction in the Global South and its impact on indigenous people’s lives. Were there parallels here in the Yukon? What should our response be?

Not surprisingly, discussion quickly turned from mining to how our demand for consumer goods can fuel a ““resource curse” whereby foreign investors and local elites extract great wealth from poor countries while leaving behind a legacy of social inequality, political corruption and ecological damage.

How do we shift our emphasis to quality and durability from quantity and the need to have ever more of the latest gadgets with their obsolescence planned into them? Can a new economy focused on environmental sustainability and just north-south relationships be forged?

This discussion has actually been going on for a long time. Forty years ago, it seemed, though, that only isolated prophetic voices on the margins of society raised a jeremiad at the direction our Western consumer society was heedlessly plunging. Over time, other voices joined theirs as fact after painful fact – such as the climatic effects of rising greenhouse gas levels or the death of our East Coast cod fishery – confirmed the destructiveness of the path we had taken.

Like addicts, blinded to any alternatives by our obsession, we tried to deafen ourselves to the rising chorus of concern. In fact a race to increase the consumption of even greater amounts the world’s resources began. Some leaders notoriously urged us to spend our way out of our economic woes, ignoring the fundamental linkage of our economy to the environment.

Giant garbage gyres threaten our oceans. The last pristine areas of our planet are under assault and social disruptions triggered by raging global inequalities increase under the relentless and ever-more desperate attempts to increase profits for the corporations pushing an unsustainable lifestyle for a minority of the planet’s population. How can we possibly even imagine the needed transformation, let alone start building it?

In the mid-1970s, I recall driving up some 20 or 30 kilometres north from Morris, Manitoba, to the village of Rosenort to hear Doris Longacre, the Mennonite author of the More With Less cookbook, speak. She offered a simple way through our daily meal preparation to begin the personal transformation needed to live responsibly and joyfully in our global community. Calm and reassuring, Doris affirmed until the day she died, in 1979 at 39, that change was possible. She did not lose hope.

Doris kept a ‘Life is too short’ list: “Life is too short to ice cakes; cakes are good without icing. Life is too short for bedspreads that are too fancy to sleep under and Life is too short to put off improving our relationships with the people we live with.” Nearly a million copies of her cookbook have been sold.

Look around our Yukon communities and you can find people like Doris who know change is possible. How about the Potluck Food Co-op folk (www.potluckcoop.com) or the Alpine Bakery Produce Club (www.alpinebakery.ca)? Maybe you can find a way to rendezvous with neighbours and together support each other in living more with less.

The four Whitehorse churches hosting an ecumenical social justice program during this Lenten season invite the community to the second in this series, which will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 26 at 7:30 p.m. in Lewis Hall of Whitehorse United at the corner of Main Street and Sixth Avenue. Stuart Clark of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank will present a talk entitled “Into the Wilderness – Christians Living Into a Future of More with Less.” This will be followed by a discussion about discerning a covenant to reduce our consumption of the Earth’s diminishing resources.

Michael Dougherty is co-chair of the social justice committee of Sacred Heart Cathedral of Whitehorse. Contact pazypan@yukon.net.

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