On Consumption

April 24, 2012
Adam Klassen |

I have never quite known what to do with Earth Day.

“Ever” is perhaps a bit of a strong word. Up until six or seven years ago I did not even know it existed. True, the United Nations did not recognize April 22 as International Mother Earth Day until 2009, but celebrations have been held on that day since the 1970's.

My experience with crowds of people focusing on ecological issues has been mostly a series of depressing and frightening speeches. Groups gathering to hear the latest horrifying statistics about our climate and how the powers that be seem to be doing so little about it. This is absolutely not true for all the events that I have attended about climate care, ethical food choices, over-consumption and the like, but it seems that many have an easy time finding the problems and a difficult time finding the hope in such issues.

This weekend, on April 22, I was blessed to experience the opposite. An event that revelled in hope and encouraged taking joy in choosing the often difficult paths of questioning the structures in our world that have led to our current climate problems.

A group in Winnipeg organized a Consumption Sabbath, celebrated in the style of an old school tent revival. This was a celebration of our world, the wondrous, dangerous, beauteous, mysterious place that it is, and an encouragement that we all can learn from this place that sustains us.

The focus was on the over-consumptive habits of the western world, of taking more than our share of this gift from the creator. But instead of focusing on the negative emotions the focus was on the unwavering belief that things can change. We must all make sacrifices, but a joy is found in these sacrifices, for it is for the works of the lord we do these things.

We were presented with the idea of Sabbath Politics. A way of organizing the world around times of growth and rest. It is more complicated than this and I admit to know knowing much about it, something I will remedy soon.

A march began the day, starting in contemplation and moving into worship as voices were raised in the singing of old spirituals. A golden oil drum was carried to represent our sin of over-consumption.

In a park across the grounds from the legislative building we were led in singing by a robe clad choir, heard the testimonies of those who have chosen to practice less consumptive habits and heard a fire and brimstone style sermon about the need to change.

There was even an alter-call. We were all called to make a commitment to change for the betterment of our world. My commitment was to stop using disposable products. A small change perhaps, but an important one.

Though the word was not used often I kept thinking of the idea of stewardship. That this world was given to us by God to care for, and we have stripped it of all we can to support lives that are unsupportable. To give us more comfort than can be sustained.

I also left with a feeling of awe about this world. God did not merely create a machine that would support life. God created the tulip, Mount Baker and the Dead Sea. Redwoods, grasslands and shorelines. The dark of the ocean and the light of the desert. There is beauty in all this, and we must never forget that.

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