This phrase keeps circling back into my consciousness weeks, even months after I read it on my friend’s blog. Poor people don’t care about the environment.
I don’t know who should care more about it than poor people, because as our climate changes they will be the most deeply affected.
Last fall I participated, rather tangentially, in a campaign called the Real Food Challenge, which aimed to get college students across the country involved in eating and promoting healthy, sustainable food on campuses. On my campus, a group of students set up a table for a few hours during the mid-day rush hour between the library and the student union and gave away local apples and organic, fair trade chocolate.
I was in charge of giving out chocolate, not a difficult job by any means. But, as I urged one passing student to head over to the apple table for some free samples, we got into a conversation about eating organic. She was a mom, as am I, and she told me she just couldn’t afford to buy organic. I started telling her about the many benefits of organic food, and how, in the long run, it is actually cost effective to eat organic, when you think of long-term health and environmental benefits—especially if the food is also locally grown.
In this society that does little to create a safety net for the less privileged, organic and real food provides a little bit of string to help bind this net. The healthier one eats, technically speaking, the healthier one will be. You are what you eat, as it goes. And, what we eat as a whole contributes to the health of our planet, which we all share.
As climate change accellerates, and we start to feel its effects, those of us who have less will be more compromised. Those of us in relatively wealthy situations will be able to continue to afford shelter, food, medical attention, and whatever else any impending crisis will force us to face.
I recall one of the most simple ways to reduce energy use, and therefore help out the environment, is to unplug your cell phone charger when it is not in use. It doesn’t matter what your socio-economic status is to be able to complete this simple task.
I realize that there are more pressing issues than the environment on many people’s minds—especially when they are working several jobs and concerned about how to pay their bills. But it is important to remember that there could be no bills to pay at all if climate change has as devastating an effect as many scientists are warning it will. Keeping the big picture in mind while continuing to think about the smaller things in life can help ease the effects of climate change.