Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Too much emphasis on "Green"? Part I: Food

In the first of a multi-part series, I will discuss whether we place the wrong emphasis on moral issues and whether our Catholic leadership may be somewhat to blame.

I think a lot of Catholics are confused by rhetoric we hear from our leaders recently. There is a key element to the confusion and that is order of importance. As you know, our current pope has made many comments regarding climate change, food shortages, capitalism, being more inclusive, etc. But what he usually fails to emphasize is context. Take food for instance. He says we shouldn’t waste food. I don’t think this is a forgone conclusion by any means. Obviously people shouldn’t purposely try to waste food but no one does that on purpose anyway. People at least intend to eat whatever they buy. So is it a sin to throw out rotten or expired food? In my opinion it’s not.

For whatever reason, people seem obsessed about food more so than other goods. This makes sense since food directly feeds us, so it seems bad when someone else is starving but we throw out food, in some cases things starving people would be willing to eat. Yet we have no problem with people throwing out clothing, furniture, electronics, or any other goods for the most part. No one says “Hey! Someone in Africa doesn’t have furniture, how can you just throw it out!” We can see this is not even logical. Whether or not you keep a couch will not determine whether the person in Africa will get one. Likewise with food. Whether or not I consume a rotten banana will not feed an African or Indian or anyone else. But the visceral reaction to food waste remains.

In reality, we can only help people eat by increasing economic prosperity for those people. The reason people cannot eat is because they have no money. Obviously the first thing you’ll spend money on is food. Our consumption or non-consumption is irrelevant. The Earth can easily produce more than enough food for everyone. So it’s not as if us wasting food leaves less for everyone else. In fact, according to basic supply and demand theory in economics, if we buy MORE food, the price will go down. Ironically, wasting food is therefore probably beneficial to people who don’t have enough.

Another option we have for providing food to the needy is simply giving them food or money to pay for food. I feel this is a short term solution, because ultimately we all know the saying about teaching a man to fish versus just giving him a fish.

My main point is I have never heard of anyone who purposely throws out good food for no reason except to destroy the planet or for lack of concern for the poor. It’s usually done because the food is gone bad. I do not see any moral issues here with this situation. Plus, if you make the argument that throwing out food means you could have given it to the poor, you could equally make the argument that spending money on too much house or too much clothing or too many movies could have instead been spent on buying food for the poor. I don’t see throwing out food as an important moral issue of our time. Maybe once we are morally perfect, this issue could be addressed. I don’t think the pope should be spending valuable time discussing this topic. There are far more important and immediate sins that must be addressed. Another reason to not discuss this so much is the ongoing confusion people have with real spirituality and a sort of pagan worship of mother earth. If you pay attention, you’ll notice that often people openly involved in manifest sin will emphasize saving the planet or saving animals and will pay little attention to moral sins such as lust, anger, pride, etc. They say as long as you are saving mother earth, all is good, because the “higher power” doesn’t really care about your personal life. With the pope talking about saving the planet all the time, this only lends credence to this pagan view.

I can’t blame the pope entirely for this state of affairs. He has spoken definitively on issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage, etc. but the media doesn’t like reporting this. They have branded him this new avant-garde hip pope who is “with it” and therefore doesn’t talk about those things as much. He’s the cool green pope. Or so they want to believe. Look, I, like a lot of devout Catholics, have an issue with how Pope Francis gives off-the-cuff remarks on a variety of topics, usually in an airplane which leaves the faithful confused. So I think he has to be extremely careful about the messages he purveys. People will always take the path of least resistance. If they believe they can be good people by recycling and posting pro-environmental messages on Facebook rather than actually being a morally good people, they will, and they will use any excuse they can to avoid the actually challenging stuff. That’s why I think it’s so important to have moral clarity in a time of confusion.

Tune in soon for the next installment of this series.

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