Live responsibly

If you hadn’t yet known the theme of Concordia’s core curriculum, BREW week ought to have fixed that. Becoming responsibly engaged in the world. The phrase is in almost every course syllabus. Professors extol the concept. It is hard to go a week without being told to BREW, and yet it can be hard to understand what that really means. What is responsible engagement in the world and how do we get there? Hopefully Campus Service Commission’s BREW week helped to answer some of those questions, but it is important to understand that our duty to be responsibly engaged in the world extends beyond just one week. BREW week focused on service which is an important component of responsible engagement in the world, but I’d like to highlight another aspect of BREW: living responsibly.

The Global Footprint Network estimates that it would take five planets to sustain life if everyone lived the way the average American does. Five planets! This means that it is impossible to bring everyone in the world to the same excessive standard of living that we have, meaning that in order for global equality to be achieved, we in the United States and other wealthy countries need to live less excessively. There are a lot of ways that we can do that. Here are just a few.

Reduce meat consumption. The production of a pound of meat requires between three and 10 times more resources than the production of a pound of grain, yet the average American continues to consume heaping portions of meat in almost every meal even as millions worldwide starve to death. UNICEF estimates that 24 thousand children die as a result of poverty each day.

Research your purchases. Seventy percent of the world’s 218 million child laborers work in agriculture, many of them picking cotton that goes into the t-shirts that we buy for two dollars at Wal-mart. Research which companies employ responsible business practices and support those companies. Chances are that you will have to pay a little bit more for your purchases, but it is worth it. Cheap goods are cheap because somewhere along the line people or the environment were exploited in their production.

Drive less. The environment is quickly deteriorating. The truly negative effects of climate change are hitting the world’s poor much harder than they are the world’s wealthy who are causing the problem. As a student of Concordia’s Social Justice, Peace and Development program in India last fall, I had the opportunity to meet with several rural Indian farmers. In the village of Putsil, farmers expressed to us their frustration that the rainy season no longer comes at the same time each year as it used to, wreaking havoc on their crop yields, and with it, their livelihoods.

Conserve water. An estimated one in five people in the developing world do not have access to sufficient clean water, defined as a minimum of 20 liters a day.
Meanwhile, the average American uses somewhere around 600 liters of water a day. You can decrease your water use in a lot of ways. For starters, stop drinking bottled water. In most of the United States, and certainly in the Fargo-Moorhead area, tap water is safe to drink. The bottle water industry is not energy efficient for a lot of reasons; among them is that it takes up to seven times as much water as is in the container to produce one bottle of water. Other ways you can reduce water consumption include taking shorter showers, flushing less often and running the washer only when it is completely full.

Every choice we make has implications for the people we share this planet with. Part of becoming responsibly engaged in the world is making responsible lifestyle choices. As you contemplate what it means to BREW this week and beyond, don’t forget to include day-to-day choices in the conversation.


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