The other night I watched a really interesting show on BBC. The Great British Waste Menu was designed to reveal two things, 1) just how much food gets thrown out everyday and 2) just how good the food is that usually gets thrown out. They did this by having four top flight english chefs compete to create dishes to for a banquet dinner for 60 VIP guests, most of whom were food critics, broadcasters and TV show presenters.

If you want to see the show you watch it on the BBC iPlayer, it’s 90 minutes and it’s pretty fascinating and depressing at the same time. If you can’t watch it because you live in the wrong region or can’t be bothered to watch the whole thing, check out this clip on youtube.

I had already read somewhere that about 20% of all food produced, sold and bought in the UK goes to waste and gets thrown out, but this show put some hard numbers and images to it to help understand what 20% actually looks like. 3,500 potatoes a minutes get thrown out in the UK…every minute! The show also tried to make the point that a significant amount of fruit and vegetables gets thrown out because it doesn’t match a very specific set of requirements in regards of size, color and texutre that the supermarkets set, in part because the ‘consumer’ only wants perfect looking food. A tomato must be a certain size, be perfectly round and the perfect color, for example a courgette (zuchinni in America) can be no longer than 30cm, so farmers are screwed if they actually have a better than usual growing season and their vegetables are too big!!! If it doesn’t match it is thrown out. None of these factors affect the taste, but it is deemed un-sellable and therefore un-eatable. The additional point of the show was to not throw out any food because it is not only still eatable, but can be used to make a very delicious dish.

An even greater point the show could have and should have made was that as ‘consumers’ we need to begin buying less food to begin with. A significant portion of the food that gets thrown away is food that sits for too long in the backs of our fridges and ‘expires’ before we remember that we even have it. If we bought less food, we would actually be able to eat all the food that we actually buy. In addition to throwing out less food, as families, we’d save quite a bit of money as well.

In addition, the show points out ‘best before’ dates, ‘sell by’ dates and ‘eat before’ dates actually have little to do with freshness, quality and taste. They are marketing techniques used by supermarkets to get us to buy more food, to increase their sales…so if something is a day or two passed the prescribed date, then give it a sniff and use it if still smells good.

The bottom line is we could stand to have a bit less of everything, decrease our footprint, decrease our usage, decrease our waste.

I’ll admit I enjoy watching the commercials. The Iranian comedian, Omid Djalili, has great presence, a great delivery and makes an otherwise dry insurance/banking script pretty amusing.

The interesting thing is how well these commercials work at making a very unfriendly industry appear caring and interested in the individual. Historically, the insurance/banking/investment industry is viewed as being helpful until it is time for them to fulfill the purpose that they serve. They are more than helpful when it comes to signing you up, taking your payment and keeping your protected from the things that you need protecting from, but the moment something goes wrong and you actually need to rely on your insurance, they are known for feeling distant, uncaring and uncompassionate. Omid Djalili and his ability to make you laugh during these commercials helps restore faith in these industries, in this case Money Supermarket. This faith is increased when you realize just how many other things they can do for you.

Watching this last Money Supermarket commercial on TV the other night, made me laugh again, particularly when the woman gets swamped by the broken acquariam. I know, I laugh at pretty juvenille things that 13 year olds find amusing…oh well. But I wasn’t laughing much by the end of the video.

Click here to watch the video.

Maybe I’m being oversensitive, but I struggle with the end message of this commercial. Saving a fortune is better than having your life saved? The embedded message in this commercial is that money is of primary importance in our life, reflected by the fact that they have everyone in the resturant applaud following the closing statement and reflected by the fact that most viewers probably won’t even flinch when they hear that statement.

Saving money is good, but is it better than health, community, close loving relationships, an understanding of God working in your life, better than life?

The irony of this commercial is that it doesn’t actually promote saving money. The commercial is for discount vouchers so that you can spend less money than you would have spent otherwise. So you’re not actually saving money…So the commerical is actually promoting spending money so that you can save money. But if you really wanted to save money, wouldn’t you just not spend it anyways? This spending in order to save has actually spawned a new word in our language, it’s called ‘spaving’.

Instead of being focused on ‘spaving’, we need to be more focused on living simply, decreasing our footprint/impact, living within our means, being satisfied with what we have and taking joy from the blessing we’ve already received.

I think the following poem from Wendell Berry summarizes some of my thoughts, feeling, concerns better than anything I can say and gives me a vision of how I would love to live more ‘simply’:

“Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.

And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.

When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.

Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.

Listen to carrion — put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.

Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.

As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go.

Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.”
— Wendell Berry

To make the packaging that contains the cereal you and I both ate for breakfast this morning, requires 7X more energy than the whole box of cereal provides to the ‘eater’ (and given the amount of sugar in todays cereals, it’s even more depressing). I ate Fruitful Shredded Wheat this morning.

The irony is the primary purpose of the packaging for cereal has very little to do with ‘packaging’, it has everything to do with marketing. If freshness was the issue, the packaging would be alot simplier and require much less energy to produce.

Are we happy or comfortable with the kind of eating and culture that requires that kind of energy input to energy output ratio?

Does anyone think that kind of ratio is sustainable?

Doesn’t need much comment does it?

But it does beg the question of what constitutes ‘a better world’?

Back in March when they announced the dates for U2’s European 360U2360-Tourlogo-white for their ‘No Line On The Horizon’ album, I wanted to do anything I could to go…and to take my whole family. At that point, only the cost deturred me from buying tickets.

There is no doubt, by reading the reviews of the concerts, Dublin in particular, that I will miss a great show. But judging by the reviews…I’m more than glad I’m not going. It seems to me that U2 are returning to their PopMart tour ways and enjoying too much of a good thing.

Their stage show involves 4 ‘lobster claw’ like contraptions which each cost and stands over 10 stories tall. Each one of the 4 lobster claws holds a stadium size sound system…so 4 sounds system for each stadium. The tour has 3 claw systems that each cost $140 million…each!!! The stage takes an entire week to set up at each venue and takes about 100 semi-trucks to transport.

bonoAP_450x250The financial commitment to such a production is astounding and I’m sure will generate immense profit…but is hard to swallow when out of the other side of Bono’s mouth we constantly hear the message of ‘ending poverty forever’. Not to mention the immense carbon footprint that 100 semi-trucks…3 teams of 100 semi-trucks…must leave. Their three dates in Dublin in the last few weeks also marked the first ever ‘non-sellout crowds’ there since 1980 due to high ticket prices and double-digit unemployment rates in Ireland. Does the world’s most socially conscious band suddenly become socially unconscious when they go on tour?

Below you will find the lyrics of a song, by Lily Allen from her album ‘It’s not you it’s me’ that is currently at number 12 on the UK single charts and was at number 1 for quite awhile.lily-allen-its-not-you-its-me-cd-cover-album-art

I want to be rich and I want lots of money
I don’t care about clever I don’t care about funny
I want loads of clothes and fuckloads of diamonds
I heard people die while they are trying to find them

I’ll take my clothes off and it will be shameless
‘Cuz everyone knows that’s how you get famous
I’ll look at the sun and I’ll look in the mirror
I’m on the right track yeah I’m on to a winner

I don’t know what’s right and what’s real anymore
I don’t know how I’m meant to feel anymore
When do you think it will all become clear?
‘Cuz I’m being taken over by The Fear

Life’s about film stars and less about mothers
It’s all about fast cars concussing each other
But it doesn’t matter cause I’m packing plastic
and that’s what makes my life so fucking fantastic

And I am a weapon of massive consumption
and its not my fault it’s how I’m programmed to function
I’ll look at the sun and I’ll look in the mirror
I’m on the right track yeah we’re on to a winner

I don’t know what’s right and what’s real anymore
I don’t know how I’m meant to feel anymore
When do you think it will all become clear?
‘Cuz I’m being taken over by The Fear

Forget about guns and forget ammunition
Cause I’m killing them all on my own little mission
Now I’m not a saint but I’m not a sinner
Now everything’s cool as long as I’m getting thinner

I don’t know what’s right and what’s real anymore
I don’t know how I’m meant to feel anymore
When do you think it will all become clear?
‘Cause I’m being taken over by fear

Click here to hear the song and see the video.

I hear this song (not by choice) and read the lyrics and can’t figure out if Lily Allen is being honest and forthright about how she views the world and her right to a certain ‘lifestyle’, or if she is making a very clever statement about the world she sees.

I can very easily see that she is using very clever wit and song writing to level a very serious indictment against our culture. Who would say they want ‘f*%kloads of diamonds’ ones that people die to harvest, would say they will shamelessly get naked because that is how you get famous, and that everything is cool as ‘long as i’m getting thinner’? She is very correct in her assessment that we are each programmed to be ‘weapons of mass consumption’ (my favorite line in the song). The chorus mostly convinces that she is being clever with this song. Even people committed to Kingdom living and being ‘strangers in the world’ (I Peter 1) sometimes have difficulty deciphering what is right and what is real in this world.

Sadly though, I hear this song and the way she sings it, and I’m not sure it’s all clever and might be just her gluttonous honesty…after all she is a pop-star who now thanks to a top 10 single has loads of money, clothes, cars, has been photographed topless and had the photos published (no I haven’t seen them, but I’m sure we’re all two clicks away from finding them on the web), she admits she isn’t a saint, but also says she isn’t a sinner (no amount of ‘cleverness’ helps me understand this one). Couldn’t this song be less Lily being clever and really just be the confessional of just another young, rich, popstar who shamelessly wants all this (most of us do, just have trouble admitting it publicly) but still has the insight that all this isn’t enough to make her really happy, but has never been shown another way to find happiness?

This song is emblematic of the way that even Christians are living with a foot in both worlds. We want it all, while knowing ‘all of it’ isn’t the cure. And too often the church isn’t doing enough significant de-programming of people who are convinced their primary purpose is to consume. Because consuming is good for the church also, for the church coffee bar, the pastor’s new book, the new church polo shirt, golf tournament, newest Jesus fad bracelet from the Christian bookstore, newest Christian cds from itunes, or the new 7 steps book from Joel Osteen (he has two sets of 7 steps to improve your life, both lists I’m sure include massive teeth whitening and lots of hair gel).

How are we supposed to counter the inherent message that undiscerning adolescents will take from Lily Allen’s song (whether they think she’s being cleverly critical or honest) when in most ways aren’t actually offering anything different than the world?