At this time of year (ie September), most of us are involved in harvest festivals of one kind or another. With our increased awareness of our dependence on the fragile balance of the world eco-system, and our concerns about climate change, pollution and other hazards, it is appropriate for us to give thanks for the food and whatever else sustains our lifestyle. However, it seems increasingly difficult to give thanks with integrity as we become aware of the great injustices which lie behind our comparatively affluent way of life. Can we praise God for our blessings when we suspect that at least some of them are gained at the expense of starvation, illness and abject poverty in other parts of the world? Surely not without some attempt to understand and change the situation. Not that this is anything new. This summer I spent some time in Ireland where there is still evidence of the Great Famine; of 150 years ago. Apparently during the time that Irish peasants were literally starving to death, Ireland was actually exporting food to countries like England. It was only potatoes, the staple food of the poorer people, that were affected by the blight; grain and other vegetables were growing well, but the landlords, agents and others in the commercial system insisted on the usual exports being maintained.
Although the particulars vary, this pattern is repeated
right across the globe now. Poor, heavily indebted countries are being
required to maintain or increase exports to raise money to service their
debts while their own people are at risk of hunger and are deprived
of education and health care. Within the United Kingdom recent research
shows great differences in health from one area to another. Although
medical provision can be adjusted to help a little, it seems that the
major cause of such differences is poverty. Lack of income seriously
damages your health. Exposure to pollution, poor housing, lack of winter
heating, stress, are all involved, but poor nutrition is a major factor.
Fresh fruit and vegetables make a big contribution to good health, and
to our harvest displays.