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Luke Stocking: Radical times call for a radical family

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  • April 1, 2019

“Too bad the global climate strike happened while you guys were on March break,” I teased my son.

While hundreds of thousands of children and youth around the world were walking out of school to challenge adults on climate change, our son was challenging us in Costco. Pretty much every prospective purchase was unacceptable to him.

“But literally everything here is two to three times cheaper than buying it someplace where it doesn’t come wrapped in plastic,” we complained to him. “What you want is just not affordable.”

“Once we destroy the planet, there won’t be anything left to afford,” our son answered calmly.

He is nearly 16. In 2019 he has pushed us daily to become radicals through his own radical vision for our family. In January he put a hand-lettered sign on our fridge — “Zero Waste 2020.”

It is carefully drawn with green and blue letters outlined in black pencil crayon. The immense challenge this little sign represents comes from the fact our family has chosen to take his vision seriously.

At his request, I pick through apples at the grocery store to find ones without a sticker. When I forget the re-usable bag, I awkwardly carry the fruits and vegetables home like a juggler.

When he suggests we make our own granola, so we don’t have to buy it packaged, we go to Bulk Barn. I bring our reusable containers and ask the cashier to tare them before we fill up on ingredients. (The granola was delicious).

Fast food, with its disposable everything, is a challenge.Ordering out is an ethical negotiation every single time. Does it come wrapped? Does it have unrecyclable black plastic? Even our used pizza boxes must have the grease stains cut out of them so they can be recycled — something most people do not know.

My wife and I don’t do it simply to please him. We do it because we know he is right. It’s our own fault.

We were the ones who showed him the immensity of the ecological crisis we face. We were the ones who introduced him to things like the zero-waste movement. We were the ones who taught him that everything we do makes a difference.

We were the ones who told him that God cares. We were the ones who said, “we are caretakers of creation.”

The reason we are trying our best to walk with our son in his radical ways is this: we live in radical times. When the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report came out last October, concluding we have 12 years to act in order to limit the global temperature rise to within 1.5 degrees (C) above pre-industrial levels, I kept asking myself, “Am I living my life like this is really true?”

When conversations at work turned towards selecting a theme for future education and advocacy campaigns, I found myself saying, “If this report is for real, why would we focus on anything else but caring for our common home?

Laudato Si’ (the Pope’s encyclical on the environment) needs to be the backbone of our program for at least the next 12 years.” We can’t just cross our fingers and hope the scientists are wrong.

I was taught that the word radical means “to go to the roots.”

This is what we need to do — go to the roots. If I believe that is true when it comes to keeping fossil fuels in the ground and resisting pipelines in this country, why shouldn’t I believe it is true when it comes to the day-to-day economics of our family home that are predicated on that very same system?

It would be easy to say that Zero Waste 2020 is a pipe dream.

But the fact is, I can’t say it. I can’t say it because I really don’t know if it is a pipe dream. I really don’t know exactly what 2020 will look like if we keep working together as a family towards my son’s vision.

Nor do I know what will happen in 2030 (when we hit the 12-year mark) if we keep working towards keeping fossil fuels in the ground. What I do know is this. To keep working towards the vision is the right thing to do.

We live in radical times. I am proud to have a radical son.

(Stocking is Development and Peace Deputy Director of Public Awareness & Engagement, Ontario and Atlantic Regions.)


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Support The Catholic Register

Unlike many other news websites, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our site. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.