Warning: Do not read this book if you would ever like to claim ignorance for your part in human slavery, environmental degradation, or oppression.
In Everyday Justice: The Global Impact of our Daily Choices, author Julie Clawson takes readers through a whirlwind tour of seven consumer decisions we make in our culture that have long-term, inhumane, and unjust consequences.
My personal journey exploring the issues surrounding modern human slavery has forced me to confront my purchasing decisions on a daily basis. Much like Clawson, I started to make small changes to everyday decisions….and I felt pretty good about my progress.
Until I read this book. My own focus on justice issues has been largely on the specifically human side. For example, fair trade practices, child labor, forced servitude, working conditions and much more. I’ve only hit the tip of the proverbial iceberg on this one. Clawson demonstrates in her chapters on waste and oil and food that quite often everything is tangled together–environmental issues are human justice issues. Her intentional inclusion of these areas and her blending of their impact is thoughtful and provocative.
What Clawson covers: Coffee, Chocolate, Cars (oil), Food, Clothes, Waste, and Debt
How she covers it: Clawson pulls from history, economics, current events, and Scriptural mandate to present an overview of these seven areas. They are not meant to be comprehensive, but they give enough information to establish the problem and the connection. As with any non-fiction reading, we, the readers, are responsible for reading more and not assuming one book makes us experts.
What she recommends: Start small, and don’t be a jerk about it. From my own experience the start small advice rings true. As you address areas where you can make immediate changes you’ll be able to incorporate them as part of your lifestyle and not trendy flings. You’ll build momentum. And the second part seems equally true. Don’t make a showy display by refusing someone’s gift of a Snickers bar just because you now only eat fair trade chocolate. Don’t ostracize someone from the importance of these decisions by how you discuss your choices. If you absolutely must be making incisive remarks and raising awareness, advocacy may be the place for you.
For more information: in one of my favorite features in any book, Clawson provides additional resources at the end of each chapter, in addition to whatever rabbit trails you want to follow through her footnotes. Her chapter resources include movies, books, and organizations.
Start by reading the book. Build from there. Things have been changing (evidenced by the growing number of options in these areas), but more people need to understand the implications and make conscious steps to change.
The good news to these areas (and others) being inextricably linked is that solutions often create change in more than one area. Maybe you are naturally interested in eco-friendly living. Great! Your decisions may also be affecting areas of unethical employment practices. Maybe you’re more a consignment-shopper for purposes related to frugality and thriftiness. Good. You may also be having an impact on human slavery and waste reduction.
So it’s not so overwhelming after all. I mean, it is, but it’s not impossible. People are motivated by many reasons, and motivation does matter in God’s economy, but those motivations can overlap other areas. If you can do one, consider another. And another. Because just as it can be encouraging that there are multiple contact points to influence, it is also humbling to realize that there are so many areas where our entitled consumerist behavior drastically detracts from someone else’s quality of life.