Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Be the change you want to see

There is a little village in India that I can’t get out of my head. Listen to the story here if you have the time…it was very interesting and there are some pictures there worth looking at. But in case you don’t have time here is the short story. In the 60’s and 70’s the world was afraid India was going to fall apart, because it was ravaged by poverty and discontent. So a group of scientist and other people got together and said they had an answer for the poor rural areas; “The Green Revolution” they called it. They gave them high yield modern seeds, chemical fertilizers and farming equipment. And it worked. Today the people don’t live in mud huts anymore. They are not just feeding themselves, but are making some profit. But there was a catch. They had to irrigate these modern corps. It was no problem the first year. The villagers could put pumps right on the ground the water table was so high, then they had to dig ten foot wells, then 30 feet, and every year the water table continued to drop. Today they are digging wells far below 200 feet. What are they going to do now with a village full of farmers running out of water and a whole generation who doesn’t know how to farm and feed themselves in a sustainable way? What will they do? If any of the people who supported and implemented this Green Revolution are still alive, how do they feel about all this? They may not have had completely altruistic motives, but certainly they didn’t wish this to happen.
The more I thought over this story the more I realized that this situation has implications for my life. We need to be careful what we support. So many things sound good on the surface, and yet with study, thought, and pray and found to be unprofitable paths. My Irish great grandfather sent money back to the ‘ld country supporting the Irish Republican Army, deceived by their title and not realizing what they were doing with his money. We need to understand what defines the things we support, and then try to think as critically as we can about where these things lead. To say this is difficult is an understatement. An understanding of history and current events really helps. We can avoid so many pitfalls if we are willing to learn from history. Issues need to be studied for every possible vantage point. Read and listen to people you completely disagree with, listen to people outside your culture, and critical thinkers who have lived longer than you, engage in debate with informed individuals. Even if something is a good cause that leads to long healthy paths doesn't mean it's a cause you need to take up. You need to seek God's face and see what He is calling you to.
These principles don’t just apply to large international projects. I think they are more practically applied to our everyday lives. What do you see as a cultural problem present in your life? Are they small or big changes you can make to help fix those problems? Over the years I’ve decided that I no longer want to support Wal-Mart, McDonalds, or television and their commercial advertising. I do want to support lower energy costs, local farmers, food products made without preservatives, hormones, and generally words I can’t pronounce, fair trade coffee, and paper towels and toilet paper made from recycled paper. These are things I feel like I can do in my day to day that help support better long term paths. I don’t go crazy about these positions though. There have been a few times in the past year that I needed to go to Wal-Mart. I don’t ask other people to turn off the their tv if I am visiting. I eat out where the foods are full of hormones and preservatives and the coffee is not fair trade. And I know there are so many other causes I could take up in my day to day, so many other stores or products I could justifiably boycott. I need to maintain a personal life that is sustainable, just as those farmers in India needed a sustainable system. But what good what it do anyone if I get so overwhelmed by all the good things I could do that I do nothing?

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