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Daily Connect: Thinking About Responsible Consumption

by Kimberly Brown



Human beings have arrived at a time when we really need to think deeply. We have all kinds of ease and assets in our environment, creating the right kind of conditions to practice dharma. And these conditions not only facilitate dharma practice, but also enable us to engage in positive actions. Thus we need to use our great capacity for intelligence to understand how to act in ways that are the most beneficial for ourselves and for others. If we can do that, then this precious human life will become useful and fruitful.  The 17th Karmapa, speaking in Bodghaya, India on March 12, 2012 

For the month of April, The Interdependence Project is sponsoring Responsible Consumption Month.   When we notice what we consume, we immediately apprehend the interdependent and interconnected nature of ourselves with all other beings.  With this in mind, a simple action such as drinking a cup of coffee reveals a complex web of relationships between the earth, the coffee growers, the buyers, the distributors, the transporters, the resellers, and the consumers.    It's mind-boggling to consider all the questions of ethics and sustainability:  Were the growers paid fairly?  Did they treat their employees with respect & dignity?  Where did the water for the coffee plants come from?  How many creatures died during the cultivation of the plants?  Did the distributors roast the coffee with chemicals?  Did roasting cause pollution?  How much fossil fuel did it take to ship the coffee from a tropical country to New York City?  How are the profits from my purchase being used?  Does human excretion of coffee or the disposal of the grounds effect the water supply and ecosystem?

If we apply such questions and concerns to everything that we consume, we can become overwhelmed with impotence and confusion or we can feel empowered about the control we have over our decisions.    Practicing meditation and working with our minds every day helps us see through conditioned responses and gain the clarity necessary to make the most beneficial choices for ourselves and our world.  It also creates space for difficult feelings like guilt and shame which often arise when we perceive the negative effects our lifestyle can have on the earth.    Ethan Nichtern says, “We live in a vivid and precise field of causality with infinite other beings" -- and although we may not be able to immediately transform the world into a utopia, our intentions can bring about the bliss or contribute to the despair of many living creatures. 

During the month of April, I hope you'll consider your everyday activities and decide to take the IDP Responsible Consumption Pledge.  Each of us has the power to change something in our lives as a way to help influence a positive outcome.   I've decided to only drink Fair Trade Certified Coffee, as a way to support coffee growers and their land.  You may decide to limit your television consumption, or perhaps to stop using plastic bags.  Or simply to monitor and reduce your water and electric use.    Whatever you choose, remember that your actions, thoughts, and words have tremendous power and that each of us can truly be an agent for change for ourselves, our families, our communities, and our world.    


Peace to Everyone Everywhere!




Image: Copyright 2012 iStockphoto LP

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