Wednesday, April 8, 2009

"Plastic Bags are a Distraction" - Monbiot

by Sami Grover, Carrboro, NC, USA

Reusable bags give feel-good factor without real change

George Monbiot is at it again. Not content with shooting down the great green hopes for biochar, or taking on environmentalists' affinity to alternative medicines, the always thought-provoking Mr Monbiot is now challenging that most ubiquitous of treehugging obsessions - the plastic bag. For many greenies, getting a reusable bag may be one of the first steps we take toward a lighter footprint but, argues Mr Monbiot, the current focus on this issue is not only ineffective, it may be downright counterproductive. Read on to find out why.

In his regular column over at The Guardian, Monbiot argues that for many the reusable bag has become nothing more than a fashion accessory - an opportunity to tout your green credentials without really having to make any significant changes to your lifestyle:
As Oscar Wilde said: "Nothing is so dangerous as being too modern; one is apt to grow old-fashioned quite suddenly." These bags for life were discarded with all the other eco-bling as soon as something newer came along. But they served their purpose: they permitted the rich and famous to telegraph their green credentials while still running the Aga, the Range Rover, the yacht and the second and third homes in far-flung parts of the world. By buying the bag, they could tick another box: now, among their other attributes, they were environmentally conscious.

I was reminded of this when I saw the British government's new green initiative, the "Get a bag habit" campaign to encourage reuse of bags, which it launched yesterday with the British Retail Consortium. Not just because the slogan almost rivals Hindmarch's for naffness, but also because it highlights our fetishisation of the plastic bag as the root of all environmental evil.

I should be clear - Monbiot is not arguing that we should return to plastic bags - they are indeed an environmental scourge, and a ridiculous waste of resources. But given the amount of trash we create in general, and given that trash is only one of the environmental challenges we face, there is a danger that we get lost in promoting high-profile, feel-good cosmetic changes while the world around us burns. I must say I couldn't agree more.

So by all means, let's keep reusing our reusable bags - but let's not kid ourselves that this is anywhere near enough to halt the converging crises of resource depletion and climate change that are threatening to throw a very real spanner in our collective works. And next time we want to spend political capital and personal energy on a campaign - let's think long and hard about a plastic bag ban is the most important thing on our agenda.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Lenten Thoughts 4

What We Don’t Want to Hear

“Let these words sink into your ears.” Luke 9:44

We’ve become pretty quick at hitting the mute button. And most of us can mute things even without a remote. We have the ability to turn off when we’re about to hear something we don’t want to hear.

“Let these words sink into your ears.”

The disciples shut down their hearing whenever Jesus talked of his coming betrayal, suffering, death and resurrection. And even though he pleaded with them to pay attention, they didn’t listen. As soon as they heard the word “betrayal,” they muted Jesus. And why wouldn’t they?

Betrayal meant someone close to him someone who knew him, someone he trusted was going to turn on him. And that meant one of them.

Jesus knew that doing the right thing, doing God’s thing, would always make the powerful angry. Jesus knew that fear of those with power would make even his closest friends do things that did not reflect who they truly were. Jesus knew that fear of those with the power to hurt them, even kill them, would make his disciples do things that could kill their spirits.

Jesus also knew what is beyond fear and betrayal: grace and hope. But you have to listen hard for that.

And what about us? Which parts of the gospel do we embrace? Which parts do we mute?

You can learn a lot about yourself and your faith when you try to listen to those parts of scripture that you don’t want to hear. Are there some words of the prophets or some teachings of Jesus that make you uncomfortable or nervous?
“Let these words sink into your ears....Glenna Beauchamp

Our practice in the United Church when we study the scriptures is to remain open to questions and varying interpretations. We want to listen carefully for the Word of God to us. We don’t practice blind obedience. We ask why, and how one saying fits with another, and what did it mean, before it was meant for us.

I hope that these Lenten studies have given you an opportunity to give some thought to some of the scriptures and to the themes of the Lenten season. I appreciate the responses I’ve had from you. They have been thoughtful and insightful.

I look forward to seeing all of you at the services on Easter weekend.

Rev. Arty Miller

Thursday: 7:30 in the auditorium
Friday: 10:30 in the sanctuary.
Sunday: 9:00 in the gym for breakfast
Sunday: 10:30 in the sanctuary for Easter celebration