How would your life be different if systems failed?
What’s the big deal about sustainability these days?
Survivors in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone no doubt understand what it’s all about, following the horrific Ebola plague in West Africa.
Survivors of ISIS rampages through the cities and countrysides of Iraq and Syria likely know the significance of sustainability.
Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, and the Joplin, MO tornado made believers of many.
And more recently, evacuees from the flooding Oroville Valley Dam have experienced a crash course on the import of stability and sustainability.
Quite frankly, I’m not sure I really know much about sustainability myself.
Serving in West Africa 12 years, however, has at least given me a greater respect for the foundational factors necessary for sustainable living. And now returning to the States, I’ve been impacted by how disconnected we can become from what matters most for our very existence day-to-day.
Mom goes to the grocery store to buy meat, milk, and eggs that are trucked hundreds of miles in colossal refrigerators from commercial farm factories, where animals are confined in squalor and sickness – but that’s a whole other story of its own. Dad pays the water, gas and electricity bills to keep the home functioning another month. We drive up to fuel pumps, fill up our vehicles, and drive on our merry way. Computers zing emails through cyberspace. IPhones chirp another tweet. MindCraft consumes screen time.
We love our conveniences that smooth out life’s ruffles, and we assume we’ll enjoy them forever. Yes! I love them too! And I wish they were always available for everyone everywhere all the time.
Unfortunately, the reality of our world systems is that they are just that – systems – vulnerable systems that can all too easily breakdown and leave chaos and catastrophe in their wake. Especially now, since we have become so dependent on them for practically every aspect of our lives.
Just stop for a few moments and imagine with me.
What would life be like if your electrical systems went down for a day? What if they were down for two or three days? Or maybe even a week or two?
Don’t panic! I’m not saying that WILL happen any time soon! It could happen, because we understand from officials that our electrical grid systems are that vulnerable, to a number of possible scenarios. But I certainly pray that it DOESN’T happen!
Because I’ve been there. I know what it’s like to live without electricity for days at a time, even weeks at a time. I understand the frustration that sets in about the second day, when everything in the freezer begins to get squishy. It’s helpful to have a small generator to fill in the gaps during extended power outages, but that gets expensive really fast, so you can’t run it all the time. Eventually after 3-4 days, everything in the freezer is hopefully used up, or else it will spoil. After that, the freezer becomes your refrigerator!
That little scenario may help you begin to understand that when systems fail, all your regular routines have to change, and you have to begin operating according to new systems. That is, if you have other systems in place in order to be able to switch gears for operating in a different mode.
Connection to the land
Thus, the significance of keeping closely connected to the foundational factors of our very life and existence – that’s what sustainability is all about.
At its most basic levels, sustainability involves learning to live intimately and practically with the land. It grows everything we need to provide REAL food nourishment and vibrant vitality for us, and for the creatures that feed us. Connection to the land also helps with other basics that sustain life, like water, shelter, and energy.
Besides the basics, sustainability also involves:
- learning basic life skills, some of which have largely been lost in modern times – like growing a garden, preserving food for storage, animal husbandry, making necessities like cheese, soap and candles.
- developing perseverance and resilience, needed for the tough times that life throws our way.
- designing a lifestyle that is independent of the systems of infrastructure in our communities – or at least that could quickly become independent of the systems if necessary.
- learning to appreciate what we do have, not taking things for granted or wasting them, but rather learning to live frugally and gratefully as good stewards of God’s gracious provisions to us.
- pursuing a simplicity of lifestyle that unclutters our necessity for frivolous niceties.
- buying local as much as possible, which also helps to contribute to the stability of the local economy.
In a world where many societies are experiencing the eroding stability and sustainability of basic infrastructure systems, it seems that God’s people will do well to seek Him for answers and search out ways to build alternative options within our families, congregations and communities.
As the people of God in particular . . .
We not only care about our own family’s wellbeing, but we also care about the needs of others around us, and how we can help them when some kind of calamity strikes our community. It’s not possible, of course, for one family alone to do all that needs to be done, so teamwork facilitates more assistance to everyone in surmounting the obstacles in a time of disaster. There is strength in united communities as we work together for the welfare of all – as instruments of God’s shalom to those in our little corner of the world.
Most important of all, the quest for sustainability carves out space for silence and solitude with our Creator. He is the true Sustainer of our very life and breath. We must keep connected to Him as we seek earthly wellbeing, balance, and wholeness – shalom – in all aspects of life.
Let’s seek His leadership, and follow His direction!
Let’s work together with the power of Messiah on His Kingdom mission of shalom in our times.
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