Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Serve God, Save the Planet

After writing a series of posts on facing the energy crisis late this summer and some other reflections on environmentalism, I decided to pick up and read Serve God, Save the Planet by Matthew Sleeth, M.D.

I'd highly recommend it. Even if you don't care about serving God and think saving the planet is stupid, he makes a pretty convincing case for reconsidering some everyday lifestyle choices...a case made especially powerful in light of our ongoing economic collapse. If current events are any indication, our materialistic American lifestyle is entirely unsustainable.

I found an article in Advertising Age yesterday that touched on the same issue. The author writes:
Above all else, we'd do well to acknowledge that conspicuous consumption — which has fueled economic growth since World War II — is simply not a sustainable answer in a world in which we already have so many possessions...Here's 40-year ecologist and biologist David Suzuki in a recent interview with New Scientist on the subject: "The industrialized world has only 20% of Earth's population but uses more than 80% of the resources and produces more than 80% of the toxic waste. I asked a top ecologist at Harvard University how many humans Earth could sustainably support, and he said 200 million if you want to live like North Americans. When I say this, people get angry. They say the stores are filled with food, we're living longer than ever, we're better off. Well, the reason we have the illusion that everything is OK is because we're using up what our children and grandchildren should expect to inherit."

Even if you are among those who still want to write off experts such as Mr. Suzuki as melodramatic tree-huggers, you must surely look around and wonder whether the profligate ways that we go about clothing, feeding, sheltering and transporting this ever-growing population of ours can truly be sustained for much longer.

We Americans are conspicuous consumers, indeed. One way or another, it's clear something's gotta give. Dr. Sleeth, writing as both a successful medical professional and a concerned Christian citizen, cuts right to the heart of the matter and exposes our materialism for what it is: ugly, selfish, and ultimately harmful (physically and spiritually) to ourselves, our family, and our neighbors all around the world. But rather than leave you there feeling condemned and hopeless, he shows you a way forward — a way he's proven by example. He and his family have cut their monthly electrical bill to just $20.

You have to admit, simplicity has a certain appeal these days — even if only to save a buck. Whatever your motives, pick up a copy and read this book. You just might end up saving the world.