Local Eating, Global Impact

Many Christians are often quick to oppose any idea that is supported by the group of people we label as liberal, free-spirited, tree-hugging, organic-eating hippies, while many organic farmers may be skeptical of Christian philosophies. Why? Is it because the two groups’ voting records appear to be in opposition? Is it because Christians feel threatened by their “accept everything” mentality? It could be because Christians and hippies dress differently, speak differently and have different passions. Or maybe the reason that many Christians oppose anything hippie is because Christians find them one of the hardest groups to “convert.” Regardless of the reason, an automatic rejection of an individual’s, or group of individuals’, ideas or opinions without a careful evaluation is ignorant and immature.

I grew up in a Christian household in Eugene, Ore., and I’ve often considered it one of the most liberal, Christian-hating, hippie-supporting cities in the entire country. I am almost embarrassed to admit that it didn’t take long before I joined the group of Christians who rejected the ideas of liberal hippies just because of who they were. This was not a result of anything I was taught by my parents, friends or church, but rather it was something I felt was engrained in the Christian culture. So when I learned there was a course titled “Environmental Justice” in my graduate program at Northwest University, one can imagine what my first thought was. “Oh no, now I have to learn about everything the liberal hippies support, for an entire term.” I was even more disappointed when I noticed on the course syllabus that our term project required each student to make at least one change is his or her lifestyle that would positively impact the environment. I began considering my options.

One after another, I realized that my ideas for this term project were either insignificant or impossible until one day I received an email from a fellow classmate. He recommended that I check out a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) website where people can sign up to purchase locally grown organic fruits and vegetables for an entire summer. Immediately, I flashed back to my Eugene days and became disinterested in participating in CSA because somehow, in my mind, it would make me a hippie. That was the last thing I wanted.

After several weeks of considering this option and conversing with my wife about spending the additional money on produce, we decided to sign up. Because we wouldn’t begin receiving our fruits and vegetables for several months, I decided to start shopping at Trader Joes, a small grocery store that offers a wide variety of organic foods. It didn’t take long to debunk my preconceived ideas about organic foods. First, many organic foods actually do taste better. Secondly, they don’t all have a chalk-like consistency I always assumed they had. Thirdly, they really aren’t that much more expensive. And finally, it gave me a sense of pride to support locally grown organic food. “Oh no,” I thought, “I am beginning to think like the hippies I have always been skeptical of. Is that okay?”

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Shortly after I began purchasing locally grown produce, I read a book titled Deep Economy, written by Bill McKibben. In his book, McKibben suggests that the American pursuit of bigger and better has not only failed to make us happier, it has also put enormous pressure on our environment. Instead of continuing to chase bigger and better things, McKibben recommends that Americans pursue smaller local markets. He offered the following examples. The average bite of American food has traveled 1,500 miles prior to being consumed, changing hands an average of six times along the way. There is a farm in Utah with 1.5 million pigs that has a sewage problem larger than the city of Los Angeles. New York imports approximately half of their apples from outside the state, but within state borders they farm more than twice the number of apples consumed by New Yorkers. Imagine the environmental impact caused by farming machinery, refrigeration, and transportation. These are just a few examples McKibben gave to illustrate the negative impacts the American food production and distribution system has on the environment. I began to ponder the implications of these realities in my personal life, and questioned what, if any, responsibility I have in making decisions that positively impact the environment.

I considered the fact that the earth, and everything in it, belongs to the Lord. Furthermore, God has called His people to be stewards of everything He has given to them. Stewardship over the environment is something that many Christians are just beginning to consider. Whether it is carpooling to work, turning off lights when exiting a room, or recycling plastics, paper, and cardboard, everyone can make changes that benefit the environment. For me, although my first supply of local organic produce does not arrive for another two days, I have decided to continue purchasing local food when possible. I will no longer be attracted to certain foods simply because they are cheaper, but rather I will consider the environmental implications of my purchases. I challenge Americans throughout the country to consider CSA as an alternative to your grocery superstore. Individual decisions to support local food production can have a cumulative and far-reaching impact on our environment. Maybe more Christians need to be less skeptical to the ideas and opinions of the organic-eating hippies. I know I am.

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