Themes / Home economy

Responsibility starts at home

Jonathan Cornford

Manna Matters April 2009

In September last year we harvested our first major crop of garlic.  Our aim is to try to be self-sufficient in garlic after realising that this (for us) cooking essential has one of the highest application of chemicals for a vegetable (before and after harvest) and has usually travelled a few thousand kilometres to get to our door – neither good for us or the planet.

Because of our passion for garlic, the harvest of sixty good-sized bulbs from our garden was an exciting moment! We dried them for a couple of weeks, and then, using instructions off the internet, plaited and hung them. Our next challenge is to see if they last all year. We'll see ...

It is now clear that the way we live is not sustainable, for the planet or ourselves. Climate change is by far the most serious issue endangering the future of our children, but it is certainly not the only one. The declining ecological productivity of our soils, rivers, forests and oceans is global and long established. Nearly all of these issues of unsustainable exploitation – which by the way are a major and direct cause of poverty in the developing world – relate in some way to what happens in our homes.

While it is clear that we need rapid and decisive action from governments on issues like climate change, it is also clear that that is not enough. We live in what amounts to a consumer democracy; our governments will not act until they feel they have the bulk of public opinion behind them, and the bulk of the public is still holding stubbornly to the idea that 'more' is better and 'more' is my right.

What we need is a visible community of people whose everyday economic life of work, production, consumption and finances demonstrates that: (i) another more just, more compassionate and more sustainable way of living is practically possible; and (ii) it is actually a better way of living. Funnily enough, this was precisely God's intention for the nation of Israel and the Christian Church. And did you know that the word 'economics' comes from the Greek word oikonomia which simply means 'the affairs of the house'? So it all comes back to what happens in our homes – home economics.

Home Economics. Who would have thought that that boring and dubious compulsory Year 8 subject, could provide the basis for God's plan to transform human history? I wish I had paid more attention ...

Over the course of this column in Manna Matters we will discuss practices of everyday economics that are ethical, sustainable and responsible. However this will also be as much about a way of living that is good for our families, faith and communities, which is fun and even healing. These things go together. Some of the issues that will be touched on are:

  • food and food production
  • consumer responsibility
  • energy and water use
  • work and work habits
  • debt, savings and investments
  • housing and housing markets
  • kids
  • recreation
  • and more!

This month is tomato harvest and bottling time – our other major crop. We're hoping to have enough to replace supermarket tinned tomatoes for the year, but the heat and dry have taken their toll, and we probably chose the wrong variety of tomato and planted too late. So much to learn ...