April 25, 2011

The Lent 4.5 Program at St. Theresa's Parish in Edmonton has challenged parishioners to take personal action to protect God's creation and embrace Gospel justice.

Weekly presentations during Lent drew 35 to 50 people each Tuesday for interactive presentations on topics such as Christian simplicity, food, consumption, water, energy and transportation.

The Lent 4.5 Program, put on by St. Theresa's social justice ministry, is based on the reality that if all the earth's usable land were divided equally, each person would be entitled to 4.5 acres.

From that 4.5 acres each of us would have to find the wherewithal to cultivate our food, the space and materials to construct our home, the energy to heat and cool it, water for our lawn and toilets, a place to dispose of our wastes, the timber or plastic to put together our furniture, the fibres to produce our clothes, the metals to manufacture our appliances and cars, the petroleum for transportation, and anything else needed for our gadgets and "stuff."


Using the global footprint accounting tool, one can see how many acres it takes to support the lifestyle of an individual, an industry or a country.

According to 2009 data, the amount of acreage it takes to support the average lifestyle varies greatly from country to country. In Tanzania it is 2.6 acres; in Iraq, 3.3 acres; in India, 1.9 acres; in Japan, 10.2 acres; in Canada, 14.2 acres; in the United States, 22.3 acres.

Regardless of our personal habits of consumption, anyone who lives in North America benefits from the infrastructures, food choices, travel options, medical advantages and conveniences of a standard of living that demands a lot more than 4.5 acres.


However, if 4.5 acres is our fair share of the planet's resources, it means others must do with less so we can maintain our level of affluence.

For a long time, many people thought that a just world would be achieved by lifting others up to our standard of living. We now know that is impossible, given the limited resources of the earth. It would take four or five planets to accomplish that elevation in lifestyles.

Over the last 50 years, people have been consuming God's creation faster and more extensively than in any period in history. According to the 2010 United Nations Global Biodiversity Outlook report, the natural systems of the earth are under severe stress caused by over-consumption.

Thirty per cent of the world's arable land has been lost through soil erosion over the last 40 years. The forests are being cut at an increasing rate. The waters of our rivers, streams and oceans are turning toxic because of harmful industrial chemicals.


The number of large fish in the oceans has declined by two-thirds in the last 50 years due to intensive fishing. The purity of our air is becoming polluted with dangerous emissions.

We have huge global problems. We Christians in affluent countries have a faith problem. Anyone who follows in the footsteps of Jesus Christ cannot remain indifferent to our consumption habits.

How can we share our planet with 6.5 billion people in a way that enables all of us to live with dignity? How can we live in a way that protects God's creation? These concerns are the heart of Lent 4.5.

Our observance of prayer, fasting and almsgiving during Lent can be a direct response to global poverty and the need to restore the integrity of God's creation.

Through the Lent 4.5 presentations and materials distributed in the weekly Parish Bulletin we are challenged to live simply to reduce our Global Footprint so that others may simply live.

For more about the Lent 4.5 Christian Simplicity Program, go to Lent45.org.

(Stephen Dufresne is Lent 4.5 Program coordinator at St. Theresa's Parish.)