Thursday, April 24, 2008

Everything is connected...

For centuries, scholars have viewed the world as a machine… a series of interlocking parts that can be disassembled and reassembled without changing the nature of the whole. But with the advent of quantum physics, scientists and philosophers are beginning to see that all things are actually quite deeply connected. On the surface, separate entities may seem unrelated, but upon a deeper examination, it becomes apparent that they exist only in relationship to each other. Like the parts of a body, no part can exist without the rest.

So what does this have to do with social justice? Just this: everything you do has some connection to the rest of humanity. While that may seem like new-age nonsense, I believe it to be true. Even though we may never come in direct contact with the poor, marginalized and destitute of this world, our day to day lives touch theirs all the time.

For example, imagine taking a trip to the grocery store. You get into your car and drive there, emitting exhaust that is contributing (albeit minutely) to the destruction of the ozone layer, which is, in turn, contributing to more severe weather patterns in sub-Saharan Africa. With drought setting in, families in those regions are having a harder and harder time finding food.

So you get to the grocery store and buy a pound of coffee. Now, unless the label says “Fair Trade,” you have no guarantee that the workers who picked the coffee were treated well or even paid enough to survive. You may have inadvertently supported a company that makes a profit by oppressing its workers.

Next, you pick up a few bananas. But did you know that the huge demand for bananas in America is leading to vast deforestation and pollution (twice as much waste is left behind for every banana produced)? Or that buying bananas out of season requires transportation that pumps greenhouse gases into our atmosphere? Again, the poorest of the poor are the ones that pay the price.

Finally, you pick up a bottle of water on the way to the register. There’s nothing inherently harmful in that, except that a single bottle of water takes more than 6 liters of water to produce. In a world with rapidly disappearing fresh water supplies and where 1.1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water, that’s quite an indulgence, don’t you think?

Now, this isn’t intended to make you feel guilty. I only want you to be more aware. To think as you go about your day about how your life is connected with the lives of people all over the world. Awareness is the first step in living your life differently. Sure, changing your lifestyle may not end world hunger or fix the environment… but it’s a start.

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