Light One Candle (on living Sustainably) (June 2011)
Is there any point in my struggling to live sustainably when so many – including emerging nations – are indifferent to the earth’s worth and restraints? Nearly 10% of precious European soil is covered and sealed. And the bulldozers continue to roar. I care, but what good does it do?
Are not my actions, like myself and my thoughts, dismissed like seeds in a gale?
What good are my frail efforts at personal and community sustainability? Mother Teresa agreed that one’s efforts were only a drop in the ocean, but added that the ocean would be smaller without that drop. The anthropologist Margaret Mead, when asked if the actions of a few committed persons could change the world replied, ‘It’s the only thing that ever has’. Robert F. Kennedy said that ‘each of us can work to change a small portion of events, in the least of these actions will be written the history of this generation’. When we live sustainably locally, in community with others who share our ideals and efforts, we are part of a holistic countercultural movement offering hope and light.
When families who have lived on ancestral land for centuries leave their hereditary fields, as they do in parts of Africa , Asia , South America , and even in the west today, the world and its future grow darker. As Indian farm woman Chandramma said sadly, ‘A farm without seeds is like a home without light’. But each of us can be a candle. And we all know the saying: ‘It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness’.
People of all religions, and of none, wonder if they make a difference. Do my little acts matter? The biblical scholar C.F.D Moule said he was asked this question more than any other. He replied, ‘Nothing is wasted, all good acts contribute to the approaching kingdom’. In the words of the Colossians hymn so loved by the Jesuit paleontologist Teilhard de Chardin, ‘In Him all things cohere’ (Col. 1.17). Even in dark times all good actions, no matter how slight, burn brightly.
We may be a drop in the ocean, a candle lit in the dark, but, in Christ and together, we can win.
(Author of Climate and Christ, A Prophetic Alternative , Columba, 2010.)