Wednesday, March 19, 2014

eco-lent: week 2, on guilt vs. conviction

As I've been moving through Lent and focusing on these eco-challenges from the Northwest Earth Institute, in the back of my mind I sometimes hear little warning bells going off: Will people feel judged by my actions? Will people think I'm judging them? Am I being too legalistic about these minute details of lifestyle? Am I being too pretentious, or too granola-y, paranoid about the plastic my kids are eating off? Also, what about the fact that a lot of these lifestyle and consumer changes require a certain level of disposable income (pardon the pun)? What about those who can't afford to buy fancy biodegradable soap that still works (or free time to make their own), or replace everything plastic with glass or metal? Is it missing the point of caring for the planet if only those well off enough to afford luxuries can afford the luxury of health?

At the same time, I'm feeling really grounded and hopeful about my choice to take action, however small the action might be.

This week I didn't have a lot of time to blog, but I have been mulling over the question of how to offer prophetic criticism of the way things are without coming across as judgmental and condemning. Perhaps prophets have to be willing to sound judgmental and condemning. I'm going to write a blog post at some point soon (possibly after Lent, but we'll see...) reflecting on Walter Brueggemann's Prophetic Imagination, so that's enough on that theme here.

I've been thinking a lot about the distinction between guilt and conviction. I think it has to do with an internal attitude: the way we choose to respond to a given situation. Therefore, I can choose to feel guilty and defensive when I realize I'm living in a way that is destructive toward the planet (and therefore, indirectly, myself), or I can choose to react in a way that senses the truth of what is being said, internalizes it and decides to change. I can feel convicted, and repent (which means "turn around"). Also, I wrote most of this post before going to worship on Sunday, but my father-in-law's message fit well with this theme. He talked about the parables of the lost coin, sheep and son, and pointed out that in each circumstance, there isn't condemnation or finger-pointing regarding the poor choices of the lost item--instead, there is a huge celebration! When we turn around and make a better choice, God celebrates rather than judging or shaming.

I can't control the way others will respond to what I'm saying regarding ecological degradation. I can try to say it in the nicest way possible, which may be helpful for some. I can choose to show where I'm failing as well as where I'm succeeding, and in my last post I tried to make it very obvious that I'm not really doing a great job at this ecological thing, either.

But then, I wonder about being "nice." Is this the best way to get across a real and timely concern? I think of John Woolman, who I'm sure didn't come across as particularly "nice." He was fairly quiet about what he believed, but he'd just leave the house when he found out someone owned a slave, or ask to sleep in the slaves' quarters with them. This wasn't exactly polite. He wasn't playing a political game of attempting to ingratiate himself toward people so that he'd have a voice; he simply spoke with the voice he had. But perhaps times have changed; perhaps this isn't the way any longer.

At any rate, in order to not let myself get put on a pedestal (in case any of you were tempted...), I'll share with you about my failed attempt--two nights in a row--to eat dinner without needing canned food.

It all started one afternoon last week when I realized we didn't have any refried beans in the house and I wanted to make something that required them. Well, I didn't want to soak them and then cook them, because that was going to take too long. I looked up recipes online and found out you can make them in a rice cooker, and I saw time estimates of 1-3 hours.

To make a long story short, it took over 7 hours in the rice cooker and I kept having to add water. Then when I went to heat them again on the stove the next day, I burnt them.

Though burnt, they wouldn't get very soft, so I tried a potato masher. That didn't work, so I put them in the blender with some onions and garlic, but it wouldn't mask the taste of burnt beans. So...long story short...I went to the grocery store and got some more canned refried beans for my family, and I ate burnt beans for dinner with tons of other yummy stuff on top (cheese, sour cream, tomatoes, guacamole, corn and chips)!

Here are some partial success stories from the week:

  • Experimenting with using vinegar as a cleaning product in ways I hadn't before, such as toilet bowl cleaner, and, unfortunately, cleaning up pee off the floor. (My youngest is potty training...this happened way too often this week!) I haven't gotten to cleaning out partially clogged drains yet. This will have to wait for next week, alas.
  • Going to Costco and not buying anything in a can, due to the unhealthy level of chemical leaching that happens from the plastic epoxy coating on the inside of food cans. It's impossible to go there and not buy anything packaged in plastic, but at least I can remove it from the plastic and put it in a different container. I'm out of glass containers, though, so I had to compromise on this one for now.
  • I'm not sure if this counts as a success story, but our dishwasher broke this week, so we've been hand washing everything. Our hand dishwashing soap is from Seventh Generation and works well.
  • My son, when I gave him a plastic spoon because he prefers them when eating oatmeal so the metal doesn't burn his mouth, said, "Mom, I thought we weren't using these anymore!" I guess the message is getting through to someone!

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