Overabundance

As autumn settles into the trees, changing bright green to the yellow, orange, and red rainbow of fall, I always get a little sad. Summer is by far my favorite season, all heat and sun, with air so heavy that it settles on you like an embrace. However, my one consolation when summer ends is that autumn is the season of the harvest.   I love everything about food – growing it, cooking it, and certainly eating it. Harvest season means that vegetables are plentiful and crisp, bursting with the nutrients that bring health and vitality. I come from a long line of farmers, and very little makes me happier than being ankle deep in dirt, working hard to provide meals for the future.

This year, my garden was almost shamefully bountiful. My plot is small, no more than ten by ten, and I have never really learned the art of proper spacing. As a result, I had squash and cucumber vines wrapping around my fence, tomatoes exploding in every direction, and several zucchini plants that may have eaten small neighborhood animals alive. When picking time came around, I filled baskets and bags untold, overwhelmed by the ridiculous amount of food provided to me. I understood, in that moment, why the ancient Israelites were instructed in Exodus 23:16 to, “observe the festival of harvest, of the first fruits of your labor, of what you sow in the field. You shall observe the festival of ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in from the field the fruit of your labor” (NRSV). Autumn, therefore, is a dichotomous season, where plants die and animals prepare for sleep, but also a time when we are reminded to give thanks to God for the life gifted to us.

However, when looking over my decided overabundance, I couldn’t help but wonder why God gives so abundantly to some…and not at all to others. I live in a food desert, where access to fresh produce and healthier food options is extremely difficult to come by.  What’s more concerning is the 1 in 9 people in the world that do not have access to enough healthy food to live a normal, vital life. It is entirely too easy, when you are drowning in an overabundance, to forget the reality that hunger still kills. In fact, according to the World Food Programme, it kills more people in one year than AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined.[1]

The horrible and painful truth of this is only magnified when one realizes that this is a solvable a problem. As Mark Bittman with the New York Times wrote, “The world has long produced enough calories, around 2,700 per day per human, more than enough to meet the United Nations projection of a population of nine billion in 2050, up from the current seven billion.”[2] We have the capability to produce enough food, but our current habits of living and methods of agriculture make it impossible. I hardly claim to be an expert on environmental issues, agriculture, or the dispersal of food, but I can’t help but wonder: as people of faith, can’t we all agree that people still starving to death in an age when we have the ability to produce more than enough food is wrong?

I know that a lot of people of faith consider environmental concerns to be an entirely separate area of concern than their religious beliefs. For me, they are central to my faith. God has given us a bright, abundant world. It is teeming with life and created as the ideal and, to our current knowledge, only habitat for the human race. What we do with that gift directly reflects on who we are, collectively. While I have little hope of solving these issues on my own, collectively, there is some hope. Faith is an animating force, rousing people to passions that they will embrace more fervently than they might otherwise act out. If we can start to accept that environmental situations and concerns are central to all faiths because we all share one planet, then we might be able to begin to make change happen. If environmentalism needs a human face to spurn your action, I challenge you to think of the 1 in 9 people who suffer from hunger and then to think about how much of your own food goes to waste.

[1] “Hunger Statistics,” World Food Programme, last modified 2014, accessed September 3, 2014, http://www.wfp.org/hunger/stats.

[2] “How to Feed the World,” The New York Times, last modified 2013, accessed September 3, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/15/opinion/how-to-feed-the-world.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0.

Image courtesy of the author.

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