In Moray College this week, I’ve been discussing with students Britain’s commitment to overseas development. I was struck by their loss of perspective. The UK government set aside 0.7% (£8.5 billion) of their 2013 budget to helping the poorest people in the world, such as the 90% of Malawi’s population who live on less than $2 per day. Now a little cash out there can make a massive difference. Oxfam offer you a locally-sourced and vaccinated goat – cost £25 (about half the price of a new computer game) – that will produce milk to drink and sell, fertiliser for crops, and offspring to sell at market in order to buy AIDS medicine. What a bargain!
Do we honestly believe that the UK’s problem is lack of cash? In that same budget, the UK will spend an astronomical £126.2 billion on health care. In particular, our population’s excess weight costs the NHS at least £4 billion every year. Meanwhile, a 2009 study estimated the price tag for treating smoking-related illnesses at £5 billion p/a.
Then, take a look at what is thrown away. I find some very interesting stuff on my litter pick-ups and, according to historians, we can learn a lot about a civilization by examining their detritus. Maybe there’s even opportunities for detective work? Well, I’m certainly stumped. I can’t understand why I keep finding unopened Muller corners and Kellogg’s brunch bars in a bush just off Reiket Lane. They have been tossed away (and cleared-up) for about the past four months during school term. I would estimate easily £50 wasted. And what about the two full beer bottles found in a bush near Elgin bus station? I ask again, is Scotland really financially impoverished?
Are you sure we need more money in the UK? What about actually being grateful and looking after what we have…
You see, the truth is our me-first, consumer-centered, throw-away culture needs to be challenged. Yes, enjoy the fruits of God’s good earth, but please look after all that we’ve been given, especially people. Don’t just put money in pockets, but make Moray a place where human beings can work hard at worthwhile jobs that develop their skills, make new friends who broaden their horizons and (therefore) want to look after themselves and our planet. I believe at the core of that vision is Christ Jesus who values each and every person enough to die for their wrong-doing, and teaches us all the best Way to live – from turning the other cheek to not worshiping money or what can be bought.
Whatever you conclude about Him, I hope we can all agree that Moray (and our world) needs more than just the sticking-plaster of charity hand-outs. Maybe the place to start – if you can – is this weekend’s community litter pick-up?