“Taking stock”, 27.6.11

“Pause for thought” on BBC Radio 2’s “Vanessa Feltz Show”

Good Morning, Vanessa.

This week’s theme on ‘Pause for Thought’ is ‘Taking Stock’ – the vital exercise of assessing, every now and then, what we have and how we live.

A couple of weeks ago I had a few days holiday and I used part of the time to do a bit of a sort out and general stock take at home.  It resulted in a number of trips to the local refuse station and to charity shops to off-load unwanted stuff which had accumulated over the years.  It made me ask some deeper questions about how I live my life and the resources I consume, about what’s essential, and how sustainable it all is.

Our refuse station is a very efficient and well-organised place with lots of recycling options – it’s a constant reminder of the need to value what we use, and not to just chuck things away regardless.

Nearly seven billion people live on planet earth all using up its resources.  By the year 2050 there will be over nine billion of us – all needing space, shelter, food and water.  At present we use the earth’s resources in very unequal ways.  On a trip to Zimbabwe a year ago the zip on my travel bag broke and I asked my host to throw it away.  I was put to shame by the response.  It was clearly unthinkable in the much less well off situation of Zimbabwe simply to chuck out the broken bag.  It would be mended and used my host told me.

As countries with huge populations, such as India and China, continue to develop, taking arguably a fairer share of the planet’s resources, the pressure will grow inexorably.  We need an urgent consideration of what is sustainable long-term.  We have a responsibility not only to our fellow human being with whom we share the earth today, but to future generations.

We need a global ‘taking stock’ of how we live – of water, food and energy supplies and of other essential materials.  Some put their faith in global capitalism to operate as a self-regulating machine, but I think we need a much deeper moral and spiritual framework within which to do our thinking and our living.  In Christian thought and many other religions we see ourselves as stewards of God’s creation – its resources are to be used thoughtfully and justly for the good of all.

Trying to think on a planetary scale is overwhelming for most people – so the mantra, ‘Think globally, act locally’ is a very useful one.  We can all adjust our own lives and what we use – and cumulatively that can make a real difference.  So why not start your own stock-take today?