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Unsustainable Living: A High Price for Cheap Choices

I’ve failed, I’ve been challenged and I’ve been encouraged by the amazing changes happening around me during my internship at Tearfund.
I have to admit, before Tearfund I didn’t realize that we are living outside our limits, exploiting our planet through systems that put profits before people.

We champion cheap energy before thinking about climate change or investing in sustainable alternatives.

And although there’s enough food for everyone, we continue to accept economic systems that distribute the world’s resources unfairly and cause poor people to stay poor. This isn’t how Jesus intended it to be.

At the root of poverty is a breakdown of relationships. Genesis teaches us that God created us as stewards of the earth. “God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15).

Later in the chapter, humanity thought it knew best and decided to go our own way.

But God didn’t give up. He still had a plan to make his creation flourish again.

The prophet Jeremiah has called us to “defend the cause of the poor and needy” (Jeremiah 22:16) while Jesus has shown us that we can unlock people’s potential because injustice is not God’s way.

Although I’ve always cared about the environment, I have come to understand that living and acting justly cannot be separated from living and acting sustainably.

As a result, I’ve been on a personal journey to make the way I shop, eat and live more sustainable.

I haven’t always found it easy. It’s expensive to buy local food, it’s miserable to walk to church in the rain instead of riding in a car, and I don’t always find what I want from charity shops.

I’m also trying to use less water, but I find it challenging to take a quick shower on cold mornings.

But my attitude is shifting as I continue to remember I am part of a larger system.

Although fair trade food might be more expensive, knowing who grows my food and how they are treated helps me decide where I spend my money.

While it may be miserable to walk to church in the rain instead of driving, at least I’m not pumping more carbon dioxide into the world.

And maybe I need to stop thinking about what I want and just be happy with all the blessings I already have when my local charity shops don’t have the thing I’m looking for at that particular time.

It is important to remember how our lifestyles are contributing to global systems. Although many of us know and understand global inequality and we are aware that humans are contributing to climate change, our behaviors aren’t changing.

It is vital that we remember that when we choose the cheap or easy option, someone somewhere in the world may be paying too high a price for our actions and choices.

In addition to choosing sustainable and just lifestyles, we are called to speak out for the poor and vulnerable who have no voice.

Jesus challenged cultural practices, confronted the powerful and was an advocate for the oppressed. As Christ is intercessor on our behalf, so we should speak up with and for others.

We must push world leaders to make ambitious decisions and act on injustice and climate change.

Being an advocate for justice and sustainability not only prevents us from contributing to the problem, but also provides an opportunity to work to create a better world.

The work I have been involved in at Tearfund gives me hope that there is a shift happening.

Meeting passionate people who are living justly and sustainably has been inspirational, and I am excited that there is a movement of people who are working to challenge the current consumer-centered patterns we seem to be stuck in.

I am keen to continue contributing to that movement by continuing the journey of adapting everyday choices to enable me to live more justly and sustainability.

What could you change today to live a more just and sustainable life?

Hannah Cribb is a campaign intern in the advocacy department of Tearfund. A version of this article first appeared on the website of David Westlake, integral mission director at Tearfund. You can follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahCribb.