WHO REALLY PAYS FOR OUR SUMMER HOLIDAYS?
How we holiday is just the latest entitlement to be taken to task for its cost to others. What arresting phrase can we find to do for human welfare what the carbon footprint has done for the environment?
‘What does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?’ (Micah 6:8)
It’s a wonderful verse, isn’t it? Yet how exactly do we live justly, kindly and with humility today?
Some people might think they fulfil this calling by giving to charity from time to time, but surely something much deeper is expected of us than the occasional nod to those in need. I was challenged to think about this verse recently when finishing a book about the impact the tourist industry has on both the environment and those who work to service our leisure. The Final Call (Leo Hickman, Eden Project Books 2008) challenges us to think about the choices we make in pursuit of well-being. Article 13 of the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights enshrines tourism as a fundamental human right and as wealth increases, more of us are asserting this right. In 2005 Britons made 66.4 million visits abroad – three times the amount in 1984 – and four out of five of those journeys were made by air. This is a burgeoning industry which the credit crunch could slow down in the short term but not stop in the long run.
The scientific consensus is that there is a strong anthropogenic component to global warming (i.e. we are contributing to it in the way we live). We know this, but it still doe
Individualism is such a powerful factor in how we live that we take it for granted that we do not need to consult with others or think about the outcome of our actions on them because it’s not their business. This deeply flawed philosophy is being challenged in new ways today, of which The Final Call is just one. How we form relationships, learn, shop, consume, eat, dress and care for older people are just some subjects where people are being compelled to think through the ways in which they choose to live impacts for better or for worse on others.
There is a delicate balance to be struck in the tourist industry because it is a major force in development, helping to lift regions out of poverty. Yet at the same time, rapid over-development and atrocious pay for those who staff the industry ruins the places and the people that God in his generous creativity has gifted the world. When it comes to holidaying, we tend to be quite selfish in our outlook because we have toiled all year long for a well-earned break, but perhaps there is a Christian duty to observe more closely the effect our leisure has on the world around us. If you tend to agree with me, then The Final Call might be worth a look.
It is not sufficient for us to interpret Micah’s words in a narrow, self-regarding way. Walking humbly with God requires a light footprint when it comes to looking after his creation. How we consume has consequences for people too. I can’t help feeling that if we can find the snappy relational equivalent of the carbon footprint (‘relational palm print? relational fingerprint?’) then we could champion Micah’s vision of a flourishing human society with renewed imagination in a world which is aching for social transformation.
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