Monday, November 29, 2021

A Consistent Life Ethic & Environmental Stewardship

By Christina Sullivan 

Artwork by Jackie Fawn

“I’m wondering if the fact that we’re surrounded so much by disposable items makes us think too that people are disposable, unimportant. I find it so hard to find friendships where people really care about each other, value each other’s time, and not treat each other like we are interchangeable, disposable items too. I wonder if all these disposable items around us somehow found a way into our psyche and impregnated how we see everything else.”

This was a post that was made on my local Zero Waste Facebook group a while ago. As a pro- life feminist who sees a very clear link between disposable items and the notion of disposable people/friendship, it took every shred of self-discipline to not reply to the post and call out the glaring relationship between abortion and disposability. If you cannot recognize the action of literally throwing tiny humans into the biohazard waste bin with what we regularly do with our leftover bag of chips, are you really even Zero Waste?

While there is a slightly sarcastic tone in that last sentence, I do strongly believe that encompassing a Consistent Life Ethic lends itself well to the concept of Environmental Stewardship in that, what’s the point of saving all of these babies if the oceans we leave them are covered in floating islands of trash? Why bother empowering women to make life-affirming decisions if those lives born of their wombs are cut short because of air pollution? Why do we fight to keep families intact if those very families are the ones disproportionately affected by climate change? Some would answer, and rightfully so, “nothing else matters if we don’t prioritize Life.” I agree with this statement. I also think it sells ourselves and our movement short. Fighting for the Right to Life is less meaningful, especially in the eyes of “other side”, when fighting for Quality of Life is seen as mutually exclusive.

Speaking to this, I’ve been following the Maternal Feminism group called Big Ocean Women for a while now, and Tenet 7 of their Beliefs describes the concept of three environments: The Womb, The Home, and The Ecological Environment. In their view, The Womb is the first environment to which we all are exposed, and after birth we interface with The Home and The Ecological Environment. While The Womb is arguably the most important given it’s our first environment—and nothing else would matter if we weren’t first given the chance to be born—we also have a responsibility to care for our Home, and our Ecological Environments. Interestingly, there is research pointing to the effects of environmental hazards like BPA and other endocrine disruptors on fetal development—so this should give us even more cause to do what we can to minimize our impact on the Ecological Environment.

One of the criticisms the pro-choice side makes of us, which we must admit has some merit, is that our movement largely neglects the opportunity to vocalize support for environmentally- conscious causes. Simply put, pro-choicers think pro-lifers don’t care at all about the environment. Consider however how the pro-choice logic is critically flawed: it places the burden of environmental decline on our present and future offspring. How many times have we heard children referred to as “carbon-spewers” or that “overpopulation” is responsible for our climate crisis? Those who think critically understand that the concern over the environment should be credited to us adults and our penchant toward overconsumption. As such, it is my—the grownup’s— duty to minimize the ongoing environmental impact.
Children are not the problem. The collective brain power of current and future generations has the greatest potential to concretely mitigate the environmental woes. Those who participated in

COP26 can stress the need for immediate intervention, which I absolutely think is needed to some extent, though there is much debate on the “how to” go about effecting change. I also believe that future invention—perhaps developed by those yet to be born—holds the key to addressing and dare I say resolving the damage previous generations have done to our Common Home. Anecdotally, I have seen the addition of more children to a family be the exact impetus needed for the parents to reconsider their consumer habits— not in spite of having a third or fourth child, but precisely because of it. In other words, having more children propelled them to think more critically about the world that generation will inherit.

I am by no means an expert on Environmental Stewardship, but I have learned quite a lot over the past year and we as a family have made significant strides in rethinking our family’s approach to consumerism and waste. This naturally effects what we bring into our Home Environment and how much leaves our Home and enters the Ecological Environment. We will always prioritize fighting for the lives and health of the preborn in the Womb, and we compliment that by altering our purchasing and disposal habits so as to simultaneously benefit the Home and Ecological Environments. 

The big question remains: how do we do this? We have found the process to be surprisingly simple—I’ll share the changes we’ve made in Part 2 of this post.

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