Sunday, November 11, 2007

It's OUR story!




November 11, 2007

It’s not just coffee!

It’s ­our story; not my story.

What’s on your plate?

We all have AIDS.

I decided to begin today with a series of maxims that recent events have conspired to plant firmly in my brain. The first two are from a sermon delivered this morning by Nadine Ens on the occasion of Remembrance Day. The third is from Duane Guina of earth care, an agricultural conservancy here in Saskatchewan and the last from Race Against Time, the CBC Massey Lectures of 2005 by Stephen Lewis.

Nadine talked about a recent trip to Guatemala with Rosthern Junior College students and some of the things she learned from that trip regarding coffee growing, land clearing, mudslides and poverty. Her central point arose from the idea that we wealthy North Americans love and demand lots of good coffee, that this demand drives the clearing of more and more land for coffee growing, that the clearing of land often results in mudslides that destroy villages and kill people. Hence our coffee habit ends up killing people. Or does it?

She suggested that the stories we hear on the radio and television about the tragedies suffered by the most vulnerable people on earth are our stories, not their stories as opposed to my stories. She was saying the same thing that the final quote is saying: the whole world has AIDS. We are all interconnected in too many ways to be able to say that we don’t share the responsibility for tragedy, or for that matter, that we don’t share the credit for the relief of people’s agony when it comes.

“What’s on your plate?” could also read, “What’s on your back, on your feet, in your home, in your garage or in your backyard?” As consumers, we decide on the parameters that will circumscribe the economic lives of the producers. It makes a difference if our cars are manufactured in the USA, Canada, Japan or Korea. Do we know what the difference is? It makes a difference if we choose to get our Vitamin C from imported grapefruit or from domestically-grown blueberries. Do we know what the difference is? Many corporations have been challenged on the use of cheap labour in order to produce everything from toys to gadgets to clothes. Do we know what effect our demand for NIKE running shoes is doing at the production end? Current estimates are that the average distance our food travels is something like 1500 Km. Transportation consumes non-renewable energy. So it matters “what’s on my plate.” We need to begin schooling ourselves in the intricacies of consumer wisdom. Do we know how to do that, where to go? Send me titles or links that you are aware of and I’ll publish them here.

Race Against Time is subtitled, “Searching for hope in AIDS-ravaged Africa.” I personally am HIV negative, so how is this “our story?” For most of you, the answer will be obvious, as it was to Nadine as she told us to remember that it’s all “our story” because we are all so inextricably linked that the echoes of each event reach all of us in one way or another.

Since hearing Stephen Lewis a week ago, I’m contemplating a poor-person’s dinner at $30.00 a plate to raise some money for “Generations at Risk”, an MCC program to alleviate the suffering caused by AIDS in Africa. I might serve lentil and chickpea soup and South African bread and pass the proceeds on to MCC.

Who wants to join my project?

I’m easily reached at g.epp@sasktel.net.

It’s not just coffee!

It’s ­our story; not my story (or their story).

What’s on your plate?

We all have AIDS.

Winning a war may get all the celebratory attention, but foreseeing and preventing war is a far greater challenge and a far nobler undertaking than the commanding of a victorious army.

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