On June 26, 2017, Huffpost published an article by Kayla Chadwick titled I Don't Know How to Explain to You That You Should Care About Other People.  In it, she writes:

"I don’t know how to explain to someone why they should care about other people.

"Personally, I’m happy to pay an extra 4.3 percent for my fast food burger if it means the person making it for me can afford to feed their own family. If you aren’t willing to fork over an extra 17 cents for a Big Mac, you’re a fundamentally different person than I am.

"I’m perfectly content to pay taxes that go toward public schools, even though I’m childless and intend to stay that way, because all children deserve a quality, free education. If this seems unfair or unreasonable to you, we are never going to see eye to eye.

"If I have to pay a little more with each paycheck to ensure my fellow Americans can access health care? SIGN ME UP. Poverty should not be a death sentence in the richest country in the world. If you’re okay with thousands of people dying of treatable diseases just so the wealthiest among us can hoard still more wealth, there is a divide between our worldviews that can never be bridged.

"I don’t know how to convince someone how to experience the basic human emotion of empathy. I cannot have one more conversation with someone who is content to see millions of people suffer needlessly in exchange for a tax cut that statistically they’ll never see (do you make anywhere close to the median American salary? Less? Congrats, this tax break is not for you)."

If you claim to be a Christian, I do know how to explain it to you:

John 15:12--My command is this: Love one another as I have loved you.

Proverbs 29:7--The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.

Jeremiah 22:3--I, the Lord, command you to do what is just and right. Protect the person who is being cheated from the one who is cheating him. Do not ill-treat or oppress foreigners, orphans, or widows.

Micah 6:8--He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

1 John 3: 17--If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?

1 Corinthians 10:24--None of you should be looking out for your own interests, but for the interests of others.

Provers 22:22-23--Do not exploit the poor because they are poor and do not crush the needy in court, for the Lord will take up their case and will exact life for life.

In short: Love others as God has loved you.  If you love God, you will take care of the poor and the oppressed.  The Lord requires His followers to take care of the poor and the oppressed, to bring justice to the world and be merciful to others.  Look out for the interests of others instead of your own interests.  And if we don't do these things?  The Lord will protect the needy and punish us.

As Christians, we should be helping people.  We should fight for a living wage for all people because the Lord requires us to take care of the poor, and people who aren't making a living wage are poor.  You can gripe all you want about not wanting to pay a few cents more for your fast food and how people should get real jobs if they want to be paid a living wage, but this argument is rooted in greed, not the betterment of others.

You can gripe all you want about not wanting to pay for another person's health insurance, but that's not loving God because you aren't loving your neighbor.  This isn't an argument about how the free market will help make health insurance more affordable: what you're really saying is that you aren't going to take pity on someone who has less than you.

And that's not right, and that's not just.

So if you claim to follow Jesus, but you've made arguments against raising the minimum wage, health insurance for everyone, paying taxes, or anything else you might call liberal economics, know this: Jesus commands us to take care of those who are poor and oppressed.  If you aren't doing the right thing, the just thing, maybe you're not following Jesus.

 

 

 

By now, you know that Trump withdrew the United States from its commitment to the Paris Climate Accord.  I don't want to go into details about what the United States actually agreed to do in the accord or what our withdrawal from the accord means for the environment.  I have deliberately avoided reading any other articles encouraging you to keep doing your part for the environment.  I wanted what I had to say be my own words, even if I'm sharing the same brain with other people.  So please be patient with me, especially if you've read articles like that since June 1.

Now then.

The thing about international climate agreements like Kyoto and Paris is that it's the countries working together to lower fossil fuel emissions and greenhouse gases.  The key is that we're working together.  One country can work towards those goals, sure, but it's more effective if other countries are working towards the same goals.

In the words of the Wonderpets, "What's gonna work?  Team work!"

Yes, the United States has withdrawn from the agreement.  That's not a good thing.  But Americans can still make a difference.  Are you recycling?  Great!  Please keep doing it.  Do you run a small (or large) business that is consciously using green practices to reduce your carbon footprint?  Excellent!  Please keep doing it.  Do you walk or bike to work several times a week?  Fantastic!  Please keep doing it.  Are you eating less meat? I mean, I know, think of all that yummy pulled pork you're missing out on, but it's still a sustainable move.  Please keep doing it.

There are so many things that we, as individuals, can do to live healthier, more eco-friendly, and sustainable lives.  While it would be better for the United States to be in this agreement instead of withdrawing from it, that doesn't mean change can't happen.  It means that I, and you, and our families and friends here in the US need to keep doing all those small things that help the environment--because all of us individually doing lots of small things will make a difference.

I'm frustrated by the lack of forward-thinking in the current Federal Administration, but instead of letting my frustration consume me, I'm going to continue to incorporate an increasing number of environmentally-friendly practices in all areas of my life.  You keep up the good work too.

 

For the past six weeks, I've been writing product reviews of eco-friendly bath, body, skin, and hair care items.  Just by looking at that, it might not seem like a super serious writing project, but let me tell you about why I think it's so important.

About ten years ago, a series of events led me to become a better environmental steward.  I'm not talking about just recycling; I'm talking about a complete overhaul of the way we live and the things we buy.  It sounds daunting, but I made changes over time, which helped the process be not quite so overwhelming.

I'm not much of a makeup wearer, but if it smells good and bubbles and makes my skin pretty, I like it.  Obviously I'm not the only person who likes those sorts of things, because companies like Bath and Body Works, Bliss, Redken, Matrix, Mac, etc. are making money off of people like me.  When women have less money to spend, they'll give up a lot of things, but cosmetics and toiletries aren't one of those things.

This is a big industry, and there are so many toiletry items that contain ingredients that are bad for the environment and our health.  Question: would you ever slather gasoline on your skin as a lotion?  No?  How about to wash your face or hair?  Still no?

Here's the thing: most conventionally made toiletry items have petroleum products in them.  Some of the ingredients are cleverly disguised, like paraffin.  Some of them, like petroleum jelly, are not.  The important thing is that petroleum products aren't good for our health or the environment.  And manufacturers of beauty products are using petroleum-based ingredients in the stuff you use on your body every day.

That should absolutely make you twitchy.

Petroleum-based ingredients aren't the only bad ingredients in toiletry items and aren't the only ones we need to watch out for.  I don't want to cover everything now, because it's a huge topic, but that's part of what I'm writing about as I do these reviews.  Until then, you can visit the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep database to look up the ingredients in products you're using.

I've told you about the problems with conventional toiletries, and I don't want to leave you without a solution to those problems.  There are other companies out there like Aubrey Organics, John Masters Organics, Mill Creek Botanicals, Jason, Dr. Bronner's, etc. that are making cosmetic and toiletry items that are safe for the environment and your health.  Some of them are really good, and some of them need some work.

Over the past ten years, I've used a lot of eco-friendly beauty products.  Sometimes when I purchase shampoo or shower gel, the clerks will ask me if that particular item works.  In the past they've tried an eco-friendly item that didn't work as well as they'd hoped, which discourages them from trying other eco-friendly products in the future.  It can be difficult to find good reviews of eco-friendly products online too, which further discourages people from buying good products.

Since using eco-friendly beauty products is something I completely believe in and want to encourage other people to do, I feel strongly that writing good reviews of these products is important.  So I'm doing that right now.  I hope to have the first draft of this project done by the end of the summer, and the final e-book ready for download by the end of the year.

Would you like to read some of my reviews here?  Do you have any particular products you're interested in trying, but won't spend the money until you have a review?  Let me know in the comments if you have questions I can answer.  Thanks!

He who dies with the most toys still dies.  And you can't take the toys with you to wherever it is you might go when you die, so what's the point of getting attached to things?

Our dining room table.  This used to be my grandparents' table.
Our dining room table. This used to be my grandparents' table.

I'm guessing this table is at least as old as I am, and probably older than that.  It was gifted to us after both of my grandparents passed away, and we've been using it every day ever since then.

Sometimes accidents happen and our things get damaged:

Oops. Now I know why mom and dad always told me to wipe up my spills.
Oops. Now I know why mom and dad always told me to wipe up my spills.

This just happened a few days ago.  I didn't notice it until yesterday.  Somehow, water leaked on it and sat for long enough to warp the wood.  It was an accident.  It was just an accident.

I was upset for a couple of minutes about it, because the table was my grandparents' and has sentimental value for that reason alone.  But you know what?  The table is still functional, still beautiful, and still has sentimental value.  It will always be the same table I ate at at my grandpa and grandma Tredway's house when I was a little girl.  It will always be the same table my little boy ate at for meals as he grew up.

If one of us had done this while my grandma Frances was still alive and her table had gotten warped, you know what she would have said?   "Oh, that's alright.  It was just an accident.  I love you, pumpkin (or buddy).  Why don't you go get a cookie?"

So this morning, when Jeff discovered this accident and was upset about it, I put my arms around him and said, "It's OK.  It was just an accident.  It's just a table.  I'm not upset about it, so you don't need to be either."

Because at the end of our lives, it doesn't matter what we bought or sold.  We can't take the stuff with us, and truthfully, it's not really that important while we're alive.  Things make our lives easier and more comfortable.

But the important thing about stuff is the memories we attach to it.  Like sharing birthdays with my brother and cousins around this table.  Like sharing birthdays with our son, parents,  nieces and nephews around this table.  Those memories are about the people and relationships we had with them.  This table isn't just a table; it's a sign of all the love my family has shared and continues to share as we eat meals together around this table.

That's what we take with us when we die.  That's what we really pass on to our families.  Not the stuff.  The memories.

I'm not saying that it's ok to trash your things.  We should take care of the gifts we are given out of respect for the giver and because it's the right thing to do.  Just don't get attached to your possessions, because you can't take them with you.

 

Happy Earth Day/Care of Creation Day!

Do you want to be a better environmentalist and steward, but you're not really sure how to start?  Today is the perfect day for you to make some changes, and here's a list of some things you can do that are easy.

Getting coffee or tea on the way to work?  Take your own coffee mug to your local cafe.  Better still: make coffee at home.  You'll save about $5 and won't use a disposable coffee cup.

When you stop to get gasoline, check your tire pressure.  If it's low, fill up your tires.  Tires that aren't completely filled make your car less fuel-efficient.

Take public transportation for the day, if possible.  If not, carpool.  Better still: skip the car or bus to bike or walk to work.  It's Spring!  Get out there for some fresh air, sunshine, exercise, and reduce fuel emissions.

Need water when you're at the gym?  Get that reusable water bottle out and actually use it instead of buying a bottle of water.  Plastic bottles are one of the largest sources of disposables in landfills and the bottled water industry is contributing to the loss of fresh water.

If you haven't started using reusable grocery bags yet, go get some.  You can buy cloth bags at most stores now, and they usually cost about $2, depending on their quality.  They're far better for the environment than plastic bags, which are finding their way into landfills and oceans.  Think paper bags are a good choice?  They're better than plastic, but not as good as cloth because they still use trees.  Cloth bags are reusable, washable, and strong, so you can pack a lot of groceries in one bag and not worry about busting a bag or breaking a handle.  Pro tip:  Keep your bags by the front door or in the car so that you never forget them when you need them. 

Adjust your thermostat.  If you still have the heat on, first of all, I'm sorry.  I hope Spring shows up for you soon.  Now turn the thermostat down to at least 68F.  Go lower if you can stand it.  If you're cold, put on a sweater or snuggle in some blankets and grab a hot beverage.  Already have the air conditioning on?  I'm sorry to you too.  Unless you live near a beach, then I take my sorry back.  Turn the air up to at least 72F, and 74F is better.  If you're still hot, turn on some fans and drink a couple of glasses of ice water.  Keeping your heat lower and your air higher will save you money because you're using less electricity.

Need some new clothes? Shop at a consignment or resale shop.  Not only will you spend less on new-to-you clothing, you'll be reusing items.  Reusing clothing helps the environment and reduces the use of modern-day slavery in sweatshops.  Better still: repair damaged items you already own so you can continue to wear them.

Turn off the lights.  When you leave the a room, turn off the lights.  Before you leave the house for the day turn off the lights.  It's silly, and a waste of electricity, to light a room no one will be in.

Take a shorter shower and don't use the hottest water.  You don't need to soak in the shower.  Long showers waste water.  Using steaming hot water wastes the electricity needed to heat the water.  Save some of the warm water for the next person who has to take a shower.  (If you hear the sound of laughter right now, it's my parents and husband laughing at me as they read this suggestion.  Try as I might, I can't take a short shower.)

Shop at your local farmer's market.  Chances are, you're not going to save money shopping at the farmer's market, because prices are usually comparable to the grocery store (this varies by area and which grocery store you normally shop).  On the other hand, you'll be buying food that was grown or raised locally, usually within a 200 mile radius, which uses less fuel than grocery store food that is shipped from other states and hundreds of miles away.  Farmer's market products might not be certified organic, but in many cases they will have been grown or raised without herbicides, antibiotics, chemical fertilizers, etc., and farmers take pride in letting you know this.  You'll also be getting food that is in season and tastes better than its grocery store counterpart.

Repeat.  Don't just do these things today.  Use your reusable water bottles every time you're traveling and your cloth grocery bags every time you go shopping.  Shop your local farmer's market as often as possible.  Make your own coffee every day.  Make a habit of keeping the thermostat at a more energy-efficient temperature and turn off the lights when you leave the room.  Take public transportation as often as possible.  Keep your car tires filled up.  Take a shorter shower every day.  These are all little things, but little things add up.

You don't have to aim for perfection.  Make one change today if that's all you can manage.  Master that change, and when it becomes a habit, make another change.  It might take you a while, but once you've made all of these little changes habits, you'll have reduced the amount of the earth's resources you use.  Some of these things, like making your own coffee or using a reusable water bottle, take a little more planning ahead, but the few extra minutes will save you money and make you a better steward.

If you are a Christian, you are called to be a good steward of the King's property.  This earth is His creation and His property.  Not ours.  If we love Him, he asks us to obey Him, and to obey Him is take care of His property and the people He loves.  By taking care of the King's earth, we  also take care of His people.

What are some easy ways for people to be better stewards and environmentalists if they're just starting out?  Leave your suggestions in the comments!

 

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Just when I thought I'd seen it all, I came across boxed water in the grocery store.  And it says it's better.  I can only assume it means it's better than water in plastic bottles.

Does anyone else see a problem with this?  I hope so.

Here's what the other side of the box says:

How do these things make boxed water better?
How do these things make boxed water better?
  1. Only 75% of the box is made of paper (trees).  So what's the other 25% made of?  Probably plastic.  From the texture of the box, I could tell for sure that the outside has a plastic coating it, and the inside may too.  If the point of boxed water is to eliminate the need for plastic bottles, then coating the paper box with plastic defeats that purpose.
  2. The trees used to make the boxes are from certified, well-managed forests.  That sounds great.  However, there is still a lot of paper going to landfills each year, which defeats the purpose of well-managed forests.  And why use virgin resources (trees) when we have recycled paper that could be used to make these boxes?
  3. They ship their boxes flat to the filler.  Yes, it makes it more efficient because they can ship more boxes to the filler with fewer trips, and that reduces their use of fossil fuels in shipping (compared to shipping empty plastic or glass bottles).  However, those boxes will then be filled with water and shipped out from that company, which still uses fossil fuels during the shipping process.
  4. The boxes are recyclable where facilities exist.  I live in a town of 100,000 people, and we don't have the recycling facilities that allow us to recycle plastic-coated paper boxes.  If you live in a smaller town, or even a city that also won't allow recycling of these types of containers, your water boxes probably have to go into the landfill.  And then what's the point?

So really, boxed water is only marginally better than water in plastic bottles.  By marginally, I mean don't bother.  If you're won't buy bottled water, then avoid this too.

What's better than bottles water and boxed water?  Reusable water bottles.  In a few days, I'll post a review of several types of reusable water bottles which really are better for the environment (and you wallet).

Most of the blogs I read center on religion.  I have always been fascinated by religion and myths.  I was reading Greek and Roman mythology seriously by the time I was seven or eight, but had no idea that there was mythology beyond that.  In junior high, I was introduced to Celtic and Norse mythology, and in high school, I had friends who were (are) Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Bahai, agnostic, and atheist.  We read the myths of these religions in our lit classes, and I had conversations with my agnostic and atheist friends about their lack of beliefs.

Religion still fascinates me, but now I also want to find out how others make their beliefs practical.  I don’t know if that’s a function of becoming an adult, having a higher education, just being a pessimist, or something else.  But I really enjoy reading about what other people believe and how they put those beliefs into practice.

And so the blogs I read are about what others believe and how they put their beliefs into practice.  One of the blogs I read regularly is Drew Jacob’s Rogue Priest.  Drew is a Celtic polytheist following what he calls The Hero’s Path.  (I would explain it, but out of respect for Drew, it’s probably better if you read his blog and allow him to tell you his story; I’m just bound to get it all wrong, and it’s an amazing story that shouldn’t be told wrong.)  In a post a few weeks ago, he writes about how he gave up a belief in the soul.  The blog post links to an article he wrote for another site that tells the complete story.

The comments on this post are what spurred what I write to you now.  As I said, Drew no longer believes in this thing call the soul.  One of his regular readers, who is also a polytheist but has differing beliefs, believes that everything on the planet is ensouled; not just people, but animals, plants, and if I understand what she said correctly, soil, rocks, and other inanimate objects too. (I would ask you to please not make fun of her beliefs, and I will make sure that any comments that do are removed).  Here is the part of her comments that jumped out at me:

The particular dangerous belief hidden in insistence that only brains create consciousness is one Christianity and materialism already embrace, that of a de-souled world, which leaves deserts and polluted wastelands in its wake. People who believe in ensouled nature usually take better care of the environment, because they believe in sustainability and regeneration, not exploitation. Truth? At this point, I think environmental degradation is an issue so desperate I don’t even care if it’s provably true or not, I want people to embrace any belief necessary to save our collective life support systems, because they are so horribly damaged and fragile. So yes, I actually do believe in nature spirits and reincarnation, but I want other people to believe in them too because I don’t see much else that will get people off their butts to protect the wilds which give our planet its lungs and recycling capabilities.

While I believe in the soul and that every human (at least) has one, I don’t believe in a completely ensouled world.  The idea of an ensouled world  is an old one that many modern Pagans/polytheists hold true, and it is the reason why many Pagans/polytheists are better at taking care of the environment than those of us who don’t believe in a wholly ensouled creation.  Think about it: if  you believe that every tree, blade of grass, bit of soil, and drop of water has a soul, you’ll be more likely to take good care of those parts of creation.  Those things aren’t just resources for you to use, they are living things with spirits that can feel pain or joy, and their worth is inherent — they are valuable in and of themselves, and because they were created by Deity. But if you believe that only humans (or humans and animals, at the most) have souls, you are more likely to see trees, soil, and water as resources to be used for our pleasure and gain, with no worth other than what we assign to them.  Even if you believe that God created all, you might think that He created all for our pleasure, purpose, and gain.

And this is why so many Christians think that taking care of the earth and being a good environmental steward makes a person a Pagan.  Because obviously, if you are taking care of the earth, you must believe that it’s because everything on earth has a soul and consciousness, which means that you don’t really believe in the Christian God, and therefor, you must be Pagan.  And good Christians stay away from anything Pagan.

Right?

Fortunately, the number of Christians who believe in taking care of creation is growing.  You don’t have to be a Pagan or a polytheist or an atheist to be an environmentalist, and being an environmentalist does not make someone a Pagan, polytheist, or atheist.  We believe in taking care of the earth because God created it.  While we realize that everything on earth is a resource, we dislike the word “resource” because it makes everything it touches a tool for our use with no worth beyond what we give it.  We recognize that we can’t live without the soil, air, water, and all the many things that are produced therein, but we also know that God created all things.  And because God created those things, they all have worth beyond what we humans could ever assign to them.  They are valuable because God created them, and they have value simply because they exist.  So while we must use those things to grow food, make clothes and houses, and all the other things we need to live, we also understand that using those things God created makes us responsible for taking care of those things God created.

Unlike this commenter, I do not think that every single part of God’s creation has a soul; but like this commenter, I believe that environmental degradation is a desperate issue and that our life support systems are damaged and fragile.  We go the way of the earth, and if we damage or kill it, we do the same to ourselves.  In our desire to use and consume our “resources,” we are slowly killing life on earth — including ours.

If you believe that God created the earth, it is time (if you haven’t already) to start taking care of the earth.  Do you believe this world is a gift?  Put that into practice.  Begin taking care of like it’s the best gift you’ve ever been given.  Take better care of it than you would your grandmother’s bone china or your great Uncle’s hunting rifle:  handle it with gentleness, keep it clean, treat it with respect.  If you wouldn’t feed something to your child, don’t dump it in the soil, water, or air.

God created the earth, and he left it in our hands to be good stewards.  If we believe that God loves us and created us, then it is time for us to be the environmental stewards He has told us to be.

Written by Stephanie Moulton and originally posted January 10, 2013 at Flood.