Choosing Differently

We’re nearing the end of a blistering summer that has witnessed many days where the temperature has been over 100 degrees, even in climates that seldom see such heat. Global warming is rapidly ceasing to be a casual topic or an argument pro or con regarding whether it really exists. It’s 29 years sinceI first edited Friends Journal, yet I clearly remember that environmental issues were a strong concern for Friends in the 70s. More recently, in 2004, we published Lester Brown’s plenary address ("Plan B: The Rescue of a Planet and a Civilization," FJ Oct. 2004) at the Friends General Conference Gathering in Amherst, Mass. This extraordinary speech (on our website at predicted that within a few years, rising temperatures and falling water tables would cause precipitous increases in food prices and provide the impetus—consumer demand—to finally address the grave consequences of our mechanized, fossil-fuel-driven lifestyle. The primary onus for the problems looming large before the whole planet lands squarely on us who live in North America.

In this issue, in "Threshold Theology: An Opportunity to Redefine Progress and the Good Life" (p. 6), Chuck Hosking delineates the difference in mindset between those citizens of the planet who are not contributing significantly to the environmental crisis we are living into and those—like most who will read these words—who are.

"In overdeveloped countries," he says, "many of us like to be in control, and we spend the bulk of our time mastering our immediate environment by remaining indoors, sheltered from the elements, often tuned in to some machine that simulates reality in an antiseptic package." For those of us who have eschewed television, perhaps we can substitute computers, cell phones, or iPods for those reality-simulating machines. Chuck Hosking suggests that "as we discover the drawbacks of our dead-end version of progress, we consider the wisdom of an about-face." His suggestions are radical, timely, and well worth reading.

Two other features in this issue deserve special mention. In "Green Pilgrimage" (p.12), Fran Palmeri traces her conversion from an ordinary gardener, choosing plants for "shape, color, and variety," to a better-informed and newly awakened environmentalist, gardening to preserve native species and eliminate invasive ones while also increasing wildlife habitat. She includes helpful suggestions and resources for those who wish to learn more themselves. In "Is Saving Seed a Human Right?"

(p. 8), Keith Helmuth addresses the very fundamental issue of whether the right to propagate crops from the seeds yielded each year (as humans have done throughout the history of agriculture) can be privatized, forcing farmers to pay multinational corporations for the right to use the seed they’ve grown and collected themselves.

Keith Helmuth identifies this issue as a "war against subsistence"—a war that "opposes all arrangements of culture and economic life that enable communities and regions to create and sustain themselves without contributing to the wealth accumulation of transnational corporations."

These issues are huge, nearly overwhelmingly so. Yet it is time to make choices and to take action. Personal decisions about lifestyle—looking at our ecological footprint in every respect—will seem small, but collectively will matter. We need to be the change we hope to see. Beyond that, it is time to demand vision and courage from our political leaders at every level of government to tackle these stewardship and environmental issues. The fate of our planet and its many inhabitants will increasingly depend upon their decisions—and our ability to persuade them to choose wisely.