Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Ethical Eating

Why does food figure so prominently in many of the world's religions? To what degree does our choice of food encourage farming practices that wear out the soil and contribute to environmental degradation? How does the unavailability of healthy food contribute to poverty and ill health? What moral guidelines, if any, should govern food production?

I hope you hear a lot more about this topic over the next few years. Chosen as a Congregational Study/Action Issue, our congregations will be exploring this topic over the next few years, culminating in a written position in 2011. It combines concerns about social inequality and environmental destruction, and uses our Fifth Principle around the right of conscience and the democratic process to determine the stand we take as a faith on this issue.

Two study topics were put forth at this year's General Assembly, the other Nuclear Disarmament. Though Nuclear Disarmament is clearly an important issue fundamental to the survival of humankind, Ethical Eating won hands down - as well it should.

Why? Those of you who have heard me speak publicly know I am a Stephen Covey fan, particularly around his "Circle of Concern" (everything we are concerned about) and smaller concentric "Circle of Influence" (what we can impact directly). Rev. Marlin Lavanhar must also be a fan, as he used the concepts in his Sunday morning sermon, though he did not credit Covey. These two study topic choices are a great example of the difference between the two Circles. Nuclear disarmament fits my perception of what stereotypical UUs are capable of having: a wonderfully articulate discussion that will likely not have any impact on anything.

Which topic has the highest probability of transforming the life of the person who delves into it, as well as transform the community around them? How can our congregations work together to share "best practices" in how we address this? Does your congregation have someone who will help explore this?

Or might that person be you?

Next topic: Youth Empowerment


Bill Baar said...

I hope you have some professionals give you advice on this food business.

After experiencing a loved one go through an eating disorder and discovering many others going through the same agony I hope you exercise some caution before getting into an issue that can trigger some bad reactions among young people.

You really ought to check in with people skilled with this before going off on a bit way with it...


moreover said...

Linda, my wife and I have been inspired to join a CSA, community supported agriculture, and we got on that path because our Ethical Eating task force at Jefferson Unitarian Church in Golden (Peter Morales' parish) had given us the impulse.
I understand Bill's concern and food lends itself to dogmatism. However, there are very convincing arguments for consuming local foods that have nothing to do with ideology, they just make sense. I hope this things spreads like a virus. Our five year old also has noticably more appetite for farm fresh veggies, and we're starting to grow some stuff ourselves.

Anonymous said...

I was very impressed - and grateful - for the Berkeley view on "Eathical Eating: Food and Environmental Justice." Unitarian Universalists have been known to have long and complicated discussions about all sorts of important issues... Sometimes we're told "listen to the experts" - although there are lots and lots of different experts, with different views - and, then, we get exhausted and we feel frustrated and ineffective.... However, with food issues, "everybody is an expert." Everybody, without exception, has something to contribute to the conversation... Equally important, there are lots of things that congregations can actually DO with food issues.... Work for meals-on-wheels programs, march in support of farm workers, organize a Fair Trade coffeehouse, etc. Even if you're involved with a very small, very isolated fellowship, in a very conservative region, there's something that you can do to help feed the hungry.