This weekend, I attended the Ignatian Solidarity Network's conference on Climate Change and Social Justice, in Wheeling, West Virginia. I was sponsored to go by my school's Center for Peacemaking. Though I have frequently contemplated the idea of my actions being unjust to the planet, I have spent very little time contemplating the relationship between my actions and social justice. That is, does my decision to be wasteful negatively harm my fellow citizens of this earth? What I have learned this weekend, is that there is a very close connection between my decisions regarding the environment, and the repercussions my actions have on the poorest of poor.
For example, water. One of the keynote speakers this weekend suggested water as the universal language of the world. Every human being needs water to survive. When we are feeling unclean, we bathe in water. When we want to be rejuvenated, we go to lakes and oceans, filled with water. When we need to grow food for our families, the food relies on water to grow: we rely on water to survive. And yet, we have an unhealthy relationship with water.
In America, water is at our fingertips: literally. If we want water, we turn on the faucet and water runs freely, and freshly. But if we continue to treat the planet as we have been, with mountain top removal releasing harsh chemicals into our water table, with our over consumption, with our demand for water-intensive, disposable products, like water-bottles, we are going to destroy our supply of water. And our water supply does not only belong to us, but to the citizens of the planet, rich and poor alike. We will destroy the single thing that unites our planet. Consider this:
Only once we are able to accept that our current consumption levels are unsustainable, will we know how to address the global implications of our actions. Simply by reducing the amount of trash we generate, through consumption of single-use, disposable products, we can change our relationship with water, and with the world. However, if we continue to consume the way we are, then the people of the world will suffer from our actions. This is no way to live on this living Earth. This is no way to show respect for the planet as it has been created.
Environmental degradation is in our hands: if we do nothing about it, we are not only acting violently against our earth, but violent against humanity. With our disposable lifestyle, we are out of equilibrium with the planet and acting in a way that suggests that we are the dominant force of nature. Let us remember our true place in the world: a member of this global ecosystem. Throwaway lifestyles lead to throw away communities. Humans are not a commodity, and communities should be preserved. We can do this. We can live deliberately and simply, so that others may simply live.
Let peace and justice prevail on earth: live deliberately.