Shopping is Important

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Do people change their minds because they hear some facts? Or do they change their minds because they hear something that touches their hearts? Last week, our guest minister spoke from her heart about feeling our connection to the interdependent web of existence. To have an intellectual understanding of interdependence, just look at the facts. From the Blossoming Lotus cookbook:

"In order to support cattle grazing, South and Central America are destroying their rainforests. These rainforests contain close to half of all the species on Earth and many medicinal plants. Over a thousand species a year are becoming extinct and most of these are from rain forest and tropical settings. This practice also causes the displacement of indigenous peoples who have been living in these environments."

As someone who eats meat and even steak now and then, I need to understand the facts and recognize the impact of my choices on the planet and on the people who live on the planet. If you think all of your beef comes from the US, think again. Also from the Blossoming Lotus:

"Developing nations use land to raise beef for wealthier nations instead of ustilizing that land for sustainable practices."

Last quote from the same book, about something closer to home:

"Half of the water used in the US goes to irrigate land growing feed and fodder for livestock. It takes approximately 2500 gallons of water to produce a single pound of meat. Similarly, it takes approximately 4000 gallons of water to provide a day's worth of food per person for a meat-centered diet, 1200 gallons for a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet, and 300 gallons for a Vegan diet."

Facts are helpful, but do they change minds and behavior? Our guest minister proposed that we can deepen our connection to the interdependent web through our relationships with animals. That if we really feel connected to the animals in our lives, we can't help feeling connected to all animals. We'll know in a deeper way that our living spirits come from the same source. In other words, my love for my kitty can extend to all animals (including humans), and my feeling of connectedness and love for the animal world will help me make different choices at the market.

I like the idea of touching hearts to change minds and behavior. The tricky thing is figuring out what affects people in an emotional way. For some, it's connecting to the animals; for others, it's imagining a better world for children and grandchildren. There might be no way to touch the hearts of people who just think about the convenience of today; for those people, we've got to make vegetarian and vegan food easy and delicious. I don't think I'll ever eat a totally vegetarian diet, but I can make more vegetarian choices. It's good for me, good for the animals, and good for the Earth. Spread the word: shopping is important.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

ShoppingisImportant is a guilt-free blog. It's insanely hot around here right now. A lot of people don't have air conditioners because most years, they just weren't needed. So some people are shopping for air conditioners. I say, buy one. There is no point to being uncomfortable in your own house. Yes, they use a ridiculous amount of electricity, and that puts stress on the power grid. Buy an air conditioner anyway, but keep it set at 78 degrees. If you're not comfortable in your house, you won't be searching the internet for ways to retrofit your home so that it will stay cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.

Our house was built in the '70s, with essentially no insulation. We got an energy audit and recommendations to make our house more comfortable and energy-efficient. We're getting a new roof next week. There will be plywood sheathing and tar paper under the tiles (instead of nothing) and lots of insulation batting and blown-in insulation. There will be new vents and a solar-powered fan to keep the air moving through so moisture won't collect up there. We should be much more comfortable; I'll let you know.

So do what you have to do to make your life work. Don't feel guilty! Instead, recognize the impact your choices have and try to mitigate it. Get a more fuel-efficient car, even if a hybrid won't work for you. Eat vegetarian and/or vegan a few times a month. Retrofit your life one step at a time and tell your friends what you're doing. MoL8r.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Our Unitarian-Universalist (UU) congregation is shopping for a new minister. Now I'm not sure, maybe you can help me out here, but if a Catholic priest wants a new congregation, I think he has to ask the Bishop for a transfer and pray he gets one that suits him better. Not so with a UU minister! Ours went shopping for a new congregation, kind of like dating on Match.com. She checked them out, they checked her out and they're going for it. I will miss her tremendously and wish her well on her journey to Ohio, where a lucky congregation will hear an eloquent, thoughtful preacher on Sundays.

I like the dating analogy, but I've never shopped for a date on Match.com, so I'm going to compare the minister search with something I have shopped for. Imagine an intergenerational family who have had a few cars over the last 45 years, but for about half that time has had no car at all. To the family elders, not having a car is something that happens periodically. You just pool your $ and rent cars when you need them. You take the train and the bus, or you walk or bike. The younger people think that's a nice idea, but not very practical. Although it may be ok for the short term, in the long run, the family will get another car, so why not get it right away? Another group advocates getting a loaner; some people groan when they recall the last loaner, oy!

The 5th UU principle affirms the use of the democratic process within our congregations, and it's the same way in this family. Everyone gets a say, and then they say it again. The family rule book is brought out, stories are told about the way the last car was purchased, and those with training in business practices, psychology, and Buddhism back up their opinions with their knowledge and experience. Experts are brought in and family meetings are held. So many family meetings are exhausting! But all agree that this is an important, expensive purchase and will have consequences for years to come. Some family members may decide to move out of the intergenerational housing complex temporarily, or even permanently, if the discussions take too long. However, some in the family believe that moving too quickly could result in getting a car that's all wrong. Choosing the wrong car would be terrible, and they'd be back where they started, shopping again!

What should the family do? Go with the experts' recommendations? Get a loaner? Get the best car possible in the shortest possible time before too many people move out? Take a year or 2 to reflect on the options? Write new family rules? No, really, the family needs your help, please comment! Shopping is important; proceed with caution...

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Don't go shopping today until you've read this:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/04/AR2006070400790.html

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

"They keep talking about drafting a constitution for Iraq. Why don't we just give them ours? It was written by a lot of really smart guys, it's worked for over 200 years, and we're not using it anymore."
-George Carlin

Monday, July 03, 2006

Did you know that $1.3 billion in subsidies goes to farmers who don't farm? That's right, the US government spends our tax dollars to pay farmers not to farm. Read about it here:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/01/AR2006070100962.html?nav=hcmodule


Imagine what that $ could do to help organic farmers. It wouldn't have to be subsidies, it could be low interest loans. Wouldn't it be great to have a representative in Congress who thinks it's important to grow and eat food grown without chemical pesticides? I would write to my brand new Congressman and tell him that, but he doesn't have email yet. I'll write to my Senators though. Please write to yours.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Happy Inter-dependence Day! A bit early, I know, but we are marking it at our UU service today. I am one of the lay leaders and will also sing a duet, This is My Song, about peace for all nations.

I woke up to a column in the Sunday paper about how much $ you can make by investing in non-US companies. Here is my email to the columnist:

Interesting advice about investing in non-US companies in your column today. I wonder if you would consider writing a column that presents additional information to consider when deciding where to cast one’s economic vote. This is a quote from a recent article in The New Yorker:

“Empty containers are the Port of New York and New Jersey’s biggest export, followed by wastepaper and scrap metal. The wastepaper mainly goes to China, and comes back later as paper goods. No empty containers arrive.” –William Finnegan, Watching the Waterfront, June 19, 2006.

Sure, US investors can make a lot of money in the short term by investing overseas, but in the long run, where are we going to get the money to invest if we don’t have jobs? I hope you will write about the big picture: How we invest has long-term consequences for individuals in our country and around the world.

I hope she writes back to me. And I hope I get some comments about inter-dependence. Here's what I'm going to say at the end of today's service:

We build on foundations we did not lay
We warm ourselves at fires we did not light
We sit in the shade of trees we did not plant
We drink from wells we did not dig
We profit from persons we never knew:
All our lives, we are ever bound in community.