Thursday, October 16, 2008

World Food Day and the Global Food Crisis

Well - it's October 16. Whatever else is on your plate today, please take a little time to reflect on the fact that it is World Food Day. Your cupboards may be full and your clothes may be a little snug, but the reality is that access to food is a major issue for at least one in six global citizens - that is, the "bottom billion". And actually, rising food prices are affecting MANY more, both here in Canada and around the world.

The global food crisis is a pretty complex topic and I'm not going to take time in this blog to talk about the various factors that have directly or indirectly contributed to the situation we are now facing. My purpose today is simply to share with you some thoughts about what YOU can do to make a difference as you seek to live out your faith through living simply, justly and faithfully.

First of all, if you haven't already done so, check out the Live It Out challenge at It all starts with a decision to change your lifestyle! Then, get informed. There are LOTS of websites with really good information on the global food crisis. Here are a few you could start with:

If you're a reader, there are also many great books. Here's a sampling - some of them are about food specifically and some are about simplicity more generally:

The End of Food (Paul Roberts)

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (Barbara Kingsolver)

In Defense of Food (Michael Pollan)

The 100 Mile Diet (Alisa Smith & J.B. MacKinnon)

Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger (Ron Sider)

Simpler Living Compassionate Life (Michael Schut, ed)

30 Days to a Simpler Life (Connie Cox & Chris Evatt

Serve God, Save the Planet (J. Matthew Sleeth, MD)

Freedom of Simplicity (Richard Foster)

Now - it's not just about reading and thinking and understanding. All of that is well and good, but what really counts is what you do with what you know. So, here's a few suggestions that might prime the pump as you settle on some things you can begin to DO today!

Eat local – support local farmers, reduce travel costs (shop at Farmer’s Markets, etc.)

Know your food producers

Eat fair trade when possible

Use cloth bags

Avoid excess packaging (shop cooperatively…)

Eat food (not reasonable fascimiles!)

Reduce food waste and compost

Avoid use of stryofoam (byod - that is, bring your own dishes!)

My guess is that as you start doing some of these things, you'll have an impact not only on yourself but on those closest to you - your friends, families, co-workers. How can you make sure that influence is a good one? Keep these things in mind:

Set an example – change starts with you Encourage others to eat responsibly and live simply and justly Influence food decisions made at home, work, church…

Finally, how can you get more involved in working for food justice?

Support The Sharing Way ( and Canadian Foodgrains Bank (

Support food security policies and sustainable agriculture, locally and globally

Encourage politicians to live up to Canada’s international commitments (MDGs, international development, etc.)

Pray – for wisdom, for our leaders, for God’s kingdom, for the poor, for organizations like CBM/TSW, CFGB, etc.

So - why not observe World Food Day by getting started. Start wherever you want. These are just suggestions - start somewhere and see where it goes! We live in a world of plenty, but not everyone has enough...

Monday, October 06, 2008

Election Reflections

When the Canadian election was called (September 7/08) I confess that I was momentarily relieved that the campaign itself would be relatively short (if not sweet!). I got a bit weary of the long and winding campaign trail in the States months ago, and felt a certain Canadian smugness that we could call and hold an election in a fraction of the time (and I presume cost!) of the American system. But, with only 8 days left until the votes will be cast and counted (on October 14), I'm beginning to wish that we had a bit more time.

The pollsters and the media have quickly risen to the challenge of a short campaign. Each of the parties has hastily formulated platforms and signs are ornamenting private lawns and public spaces. The leaders have had their televised debates. All of the necessary bits and pieces are falling into place. But who to vote for? Beyond all the rhetoric and innuendo, the party politics and the smoke and mirrors, who is worthy of understanding these times we live in and providing the kind of leadership that is required? Can I trust one party over another? Which leader would make the best prime minister? Which of the local candidates in my riding is most likely to serve his or her constituency with integrity

I'm on the email lists of a number of organizations that have sent out election guides to help people like me talk to the candidates about a variety of issues. Most of them are tastefully and tactfully done - giving suggestions concerning the kinds of questions we might ask candidates - about poverty, the Millennium Development Goals (specifically Canada's obligation to honor our commitment to give 0.7% of our GNP for development), the right to water, homelessness at home, services for seniors and single parents - and so on. Some of the emails I've received though, have been intensely partisan - one organization was fund raising for an anti-Harper ad campaign. In fact, come to think of it, there has been a lot of anti-Harper sentiment (even a facebook movement to engage young adults in vote swapping in order to wrest key ridings from Conservative candidates!). It all makes we wonder if any ONE political leader can really be an authentic hero or villain - is Harper to be "blamed" for the policies that I find problematic? Could another leader "solve" some of those problems?

I find it interesting that we can so quickly "blame" our political leaders for all of our woes and - it would follow - that we presume that our political system can somehow be counted on to "fix" the problems it has caused. It seems to me that elections often bring out our true colors - that is, we want to support candidates that can do it all: make life easier and better for us and also do something about the really big issues like climate change, the global food crisis, the impending global economic recession, the war in Afghanistan, terrorism, poverty, etc. But do we REALLY expect them to do anything about those global issues? That might be asking too much, so we settle for what they can do closer to home - our home. What will they actually do in my community, in my province, in Canada? Let's not kid ourselves - politics is about power and the way to have power is to get elected and re-elected. The way to get elected is to give people what they want.

The way I see it, global issues won't be priorities for our political leaders until they are truly our own priorities. Until we can say - with total sincerity - that we want our government to put the needs of the global poor AHEAD of our own comforts. Until we release our governments from the expectation that the measure of their success is improving our economy and our standard of living. Until the MAJORITY of Canadians will actually VOTE for a candidate who promises to REDUCE our standard of living and invest instead in the economies and infrastructure of low income countries.

I know - I'm naive. Who's going to vote for that kind of candidate? In fact, how would that kind of candidate even get into the race? But seriously - we are living WAY beyond our means (currently spending $1.25 for every $1.00 we earn and with a national consumer debt load of $1.17 Trillion dollars!). [For a comprehensive look at debt in Canada, see]. Doesn't anyone else feel like we're on a massive roller coaster and nearing the peak - we don't know exactly what's on the other side of the peak but we know it's going to be a wild ride. We can only hope that the structural supports can keep the cars on the track!

So, having said all this, despite wishing we had more time, I'm off to the advance polls to cast my vote (since I'll be on the road next week). The option I really want isn't one of my choices but I will vote nonetheless because, the way I see it, living out my faith means participating in the political process, flawed though it may be. And then, after I vote, I'll continue to work at transforming my own attitudes and encouraging others to keep examining our lives in light of global realities. It's all part of living simply, living justly, living faithfully!