Every now and then I get a wonderful opportunity to share ideas with other mums – I get invited to speak at the local (and only existing French) group of MOPS. MOPS means Mothers of Preschoolers, and it’s a great idea which allows a local church to run a group which supports mums themselves, providing childcare and a chance for mothers to take time out to explore what being a good mum means in the very widest context. I’ve been asked to speak at MOPS three times and you’re going to recognise the themes – Celebrating Advent with Children and Celebrating Easter with Children were the first two. You can see how much the preparation and then our discussions influenced me, as I went on to explore those themes here on my blog.So it’s not surprising that last Thursday’s topic has influenced my Pause in Lent this week, and that last week’s Pause in Lent on Compartmentalising things was the starting point for my MOPS talk!The title I’d been given this time was Going Green in a Godly Way. I liked this, as it helped to overcome the ‘compartments’ I break my life into: yes, I am a Christian, yes, I am a mum, yes, I care about the environment. So here’s the big question – are those facts separate, or are they in fact, related? Do they, in fact, become stronger and more influential if I allow them to connect?I’m only going to tell you a tiny bit about what I said, because the really good things I want to tell you about came from the other mums. What I said was that, yes, those things I’ve listed above connect, because God has made a beautiful world and given us responsibility for it, that we have quite spectacularly failed to look after it properly, and that the responsibility now needs to be taken up by adults and by children, and particularly looking to the children as it’s their future we will be creating as we endeavour to look after the world better. There, that’s my bit. Now over to what I LEARNED! We focused mainly on the ideas of Reducing and Reusing, rather than recycling, as recycling is the least useful, most costly little brother to the two other Rs of green living.Two of the mums there were using washable nappies, and neither had tumble dryers. (Oops, a laundry reference!) One mum could get her nappies dry in a day and a half, and got by through having a lot of nappies. That’s how we used to manage it too, although, being in Newcastle upon Tyne, I have to admit that we did have a dryer for those rainy nappy days…. But the other mum has MICROFIBRE NAPPIES that dry naturally in 4 hours! Excuse me shouting, but this seems like the holy grail of washable nappies. You can see one, above. Too cute.She also told us about websites which sell second hand nappies – this is a great idea, as after both our boys, our nappies were mostly still in great condition.On our list we ended up with: sorting toys with your children to donate them to charity, appreciating gifts that didn’t cost money, buying or exchanging second hand clothes and toys, buying organic, local seasonal food and starting up water recycling and a compost bin in the garden. All of these things are activities that the mums were doing along with their children, so that the children could pick up the idea of living an environmentally friendly lifestyle without effort.
A lot of the conversation the mums shared was about simplicity of life, and tied in so much with things I’ve been exploring through my Simple Abundance book. It seems that we recognise that a lot of the pressures on us to consume and to lead less environmentally friendly lifestyles are driven by the same kind of advertising I was talking about on Friday – we must have more, we must have newer, we must have better! One mum told us how they’d contacted Philips to have a chip repaired in a widescreen TV and had been told to bin the TV and a newer replacement would be sent, rather than the old one repaired.
Another told of how they’d moved to Japan and had been advised that they’d be able to furnish their new flat by collecting from the objects thrown away (like our Ramassage des Encombrants here in France) BUT that they’d have to go at midnight, as these relatively new and completely functioning items were destined for landfill only, and were guarded so that no one would take them away for re-use.Several mums discussed the pressure that people are facing at work to own and use BlackBerries at all times of the day and night, and how this erodes family and social time. One mum pointed out that anyone who turns off their BlackBerry at the weekend turns up at work on Monday morning to find themselves sidelined from their own projects, as decisions have been made over the weekend without them. We didn’t come to any hard and fast decisions on that one – the pressures of modern life are very hard and it’s not for us to tell other people how to respond to them. But it is a matter of concern, surely. You see we moved from ‘green’ issues as such to the wider issue of simple living – but the link seemed so natural to us all, and was a good example of connecting things rather than compartmentalising them, I think.To sum up, I gave the mums a sheet of possible internet links. I’ll give you a few of them here. In the USA, the ‘Going Green in a Godly Way’ issue is really well addressed by the Evangelical Environmental Network, amongst others. This is important to me, as American Evangelicals have sometimes had a reputation for ignoring climate problems and environmental concerns, and I am really glad to see that, in fact, that’s not the real picture. In the UK, there’s a coalition called Stop Climate Chaos, which many big Christian charities have joined, along with other non-religious organisations – they have one goal, so they have united to make their voice heard.
The reason that the Christian charities are so active in calling for environmental action is that they realise that the poorest people in the world are the ones who are getting hit first and hardest by the climate change that our richer countries have exacerbated. They are following Jesus’ ‘Golden Rule’:
“Do to others as you would have them do to you”.
Chief amongst them is Tearfund, running a Carbon Fast for Lent like the one that Elizabeth has told us about. I’ll end with a prayer from the daily Carbon Fast emails:
"Father, show me where I need to change, where my life is burdening others and hurting you. Release me to worship you more fully and help me to strive for justice for the oppressed and marginalised."