Everyday Justice: The Global Impact of Our Daily Choices
Where does your chocolate come from? Does it matter if your coffee is fair trade or not? It matters--more than you might think. Julie Clawson takes us on a tour of everyday life and shows how our ordinary lifestyle choices have big implications for justice around the world. She unpacks how we get our food and clothing and shows us the surprising costs of consumer waste. How we live can make a difference not only for our own health but also for the well-being of people across the globe. The more sustainable our lifestyle, the more just our world will be. Everyday justice is one way of loving God and our neighbors. We can live more ethically, through the little and big decisions we make every day. Here's how.
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Everyday Justice challenged me to become a more ethical consumer, based on biblical mandates for justice. If you've been running in social justice circles for a while then some of the topics in this book might be familiar (child slavery in the manufacture of chocolate, or fair wages for coffee farmers). However, Julie does cover some new ground that is both important and significant (more on that later...).
However, one other thing that sets this book apart is its strong reliance on the Bible for supporting why it's important to think before you buy. In that respect, I would highly recommend this book for people who don't see why it's important to consider where the things they buy come from, or who choose what to buy based purely on finding the lowest price. The book explains that everything we buy is made from something and by someone, and it's manufacture, distribution, and disposal have consequences on the environment which in turn directly impacts someone, somewhere. It challenges us to look both ways along that stream to see the face of those who are impacted and make choices that honor them as beloved children of God. Then, as much as we are able, it challenges us not to be complicit with injustice, whether that be through paying unfair wages, misusing resources, or otherwise exploiting other people. It's not easy, but often it's possible to find alternatives to the current mainstream options, or to advocate for changes to the existing system.
The book discusses both real solutions and real dilemmas that are confronted when trying to make changes. Through personal examples, Julie gives us a framework of examples for choosing among the "lesser of two evils". Like Julie, I would have been torn on whether to buy gas from the station who was causing pollution locally, or the one who was contributing to violence and injustice in another country.
Everyone will be talking about the one thing that no one is talking about - disposable diapers/feminine products. It's kind of icky, but kudos to Julie for bringing it up. This is another one where we are encouraged to make the best choice given your situation. For instance, sometimes you are required to use disposable products (such as in daycares or nurseries), but you can still try to reduce consumption in other areas. A friend reminded me that in the film "Little Women", in pretty much every scene you could see the girls folding white cloths. In a house full of women...well, let's just say they weren't dish towels. If you aren't sure what to do without disposables, ask your mother, grandmother, or I'm guessing the majority of women in the world today. Thanks to the discussion of this topic in Everyday Justice, I went looking for what women in the developing world use for "sustainable" pads - and unfortunately, the options aren't good. The "homespun" options include rags, bark, and mud...and if rags are an option, many women don't have access to water to clean them. Without access to appropriate sanitary protection, women may miss up to 50 days a year of work or school, which leads to inequity in income and education. Perhaps my take-away from this discussion will be to attempt to reduce consumption and to find a more ethical option than what I use now, but to also advocate for women who don't have the options that I do as a woman in the US.
Some of the suggestions offered in the book seem radical, but nothing seems to be suggested without good reason. Living sustainably in a way that cares for other people (our neighbor) and God's creation isn't necessarily as convenient as living as a blissfully unaware consumer. However, if the Bible can be believed as true (and I think that most of the audience for this book would agree that it can), then "everyday justice" becomes an avenue for "everyday worship".