I love to eat food, and the food I eat is intimately connected to the lives, the environments, and the well-being of people all around the world.
It wasn’t until I reached college that I learned about the damage to the Gulf of Mexico caused by fertilizer use in the Midwest. The fertilizers run from corn fields hundreds of miles away from the Gulf to the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico, leading to the formation of algae blooms and killing a huge number of shrimp died due to oxygen loss. This chain of events is costing the economy in New Orleans tens of millions of dollars. It was the science and economics behind creation care that piqued my interest, but it was the human being, a fellow image bearer, someone else bearing the weight of my choices, that made creation care fundamental to my discipleship.
How I choose to eat and what I choose to eat has impacts that reverberates around the earth, from salmon hatcheries to dairy farms.
In a world of problems seemingly too big to tackle and political rhetoric that adds fear and confusion rather than hope and practical solutions, is it possible that the food on our plates may help us respond to some of our hardest challenges? Could becoming aware of how our diets connect us to farmers, truckers, grocery store workers, and environments all over the world help us to make wiser decisions about how our diets contribute to climate change?
On this continent of abundant resources many of us live in excess, waste, and misuse. Take water for example. Our southwestern states do not have adequate water, yet it is there that the population is growing the fastest. Many of our diets require high energy inputs, inputs that are not sustainable in the long run because the water and the land for grazing simply will no longer be available as the population continues to grow. A hamburger, as Americana as it gets, requires a great deal of water and grain to produce just your average quarter pound patty. And shipping that beef to our grocery store or local restaurant pumps CO2 into the atmosphere, contributing to the warming of the climate. It seems that while our smart phones and jet planes have brought us closer together, we know little about the hands our food passed through on its way to our stomachs.
In thinking about caring for creation in light of the meals we eat and food we share, let us be reminded of Jesus.
Jesus ate food. Three times a day, most days of his life—aside from those forty long days we read about. Dining in the homes of sinners and tax collectors, followers and religious elites, Jesus gathered and ate food with others.
Could it be that Jesus sat, gave thanks, and while breaking bread or sipping the cup was reminded of the creation story in which the land and all that was in it was called “very good”? The wheat and the grapes—what gifts!
In caring for 10 chickens, lots of potatoes, tomatoes, and zucchini this summer in Durham, North Carolina, I was drawn into a liturgical pattern of watering, weeding, harvesting, and cooking. Don’t worry, we gathered the eggs. The chickens remain alive and well; plenty loud, too. There was a sense that in nurturing this small plot of land that there was an act, possibly, of co-creation with Christ, in that my hands could tend to and nurture what God was creating and sustaining. Using my hands, with their dirt-covered palms and ripped-up nails, to eat the veggies grown in dirt just a hop and a skip from my bedroom is a reminder that food bought from anywhere else has hands like mine all over it. From hands in the field, to hands in the factory, to hands at the market, black hands, brown hands, and white hands alike, they have all taken part in each meal. In the same way, those hands whose faces go unnamed and unseen are essential to our meals, and were to Jesus’ meals as well.
Jesus lived in a time and a place when he likely knew many of the hands that played a role in feeding him. Nearly all of us do not live like this. A radical re-ordering of our meals, the food we eat, and the people who sit at our tables is not only possible, but necessary. It is through a re-imagining of the physicality of Jesus’ embodiment and interaction with food as something that “was good”, that I believe our eating, purchasing, and dining practices could be transformed.
I care about climate change because I care about God’s very good earth—and I want everyone to experience its good gifts.
Welcome to our Why I Care about Climate Change series! This series is for you, for the voices that don't shout the loudest, but have important things to say about climate change. Check back on Friday to hear a First Nations leader's perspective. Or subscribe here to our weekly email digest to make sure you don't miss a post!
[Image: Robin Wyatt, 2013, from World Renew media library]