The year we got married I started cultivating an interest in gardening. We planted a square foot garden a-la Mel Bartholomew. We tried salad greens, radishes, carrots and peas in a winter garden. Some of the veggies grew well but it was almost immediately apparent neither of us had any idea how to grow and harvest vegetables. So the radishes were hollow and bland, the lettuce bolted and got bitter, the peas never really produced more than a couple pods, the carrots were tiny and stunted, and the only plants that seemed to do really well were Swiss chard (which we decided we didn’t care for) and nasturtiums.

I’ve learned a lot since that first garden, but haven’t kept up with the interest. Partly because we learned we really didn’t eat much from it; it just didn’t produce much. It’s just so much easier to go to the store and buy produce there, and we aren’t saving money by growing anything ourselves.

In my previous post I shared my discovery that food production and transportation accounts for an enormous resource cost to the environment that isn’t reflected in the price of the food itself. Of all my family’s habits that have a negative environmental impact, our eating habits are by far the worst. Some possible solutions: buy locally, buy organic, or grow it ourselves. Eat less meat, drink less coffee, avoid packaged and processed foods, and avoid eating out.

Our lifestyle is in direct conflict with every one of these solutions. Most of the time organic or locally-grown foods are not available, markedly inconvenient, or just plain expensive. Given my present skill set and available time, I cannot effectively grow our own vegetables and fruits in sufficient quantity to offset our purchases at the store. As for eating less meat and drinking less coffee, well, that’s just plain hard because meat and coffee are my two favorite food groups. (Beer is up there, too, especially if it’s from Oregon or other exotic, faraway places.) Packaged foods from Trader Joe’s are a godsend on busy days. And for us, eating out is almost like a mini-vacation, and sometimes it just feels necessary because there is too much running around during a day.

When I think about implementing these solutions, it feels like that caring for the environment requires us to 1) spend more money and time locating and purchasing organic produce, leaving less money and time for other things, when we already feel stretched; 2) spend time and resources on a garden in a very difficult gardening climate – the Sonoran desert – when it feels like most of the effort is wasted; 3) give up our favorite food and drink; and 4) spend even more time planning, preparing, and budgeting home-cooked meals to avoid eating out, when eating out is actually a highly enjoyable and stress-relieving experience for us. We would have to give up a lot of things, and for what? An abstract concept that somehow our choices are more environmentally responsible, somehow demonstrating that we care for the world God has made… but are we really?

I have no doubt that what I just said is loaded with misconceptions and fear about what being responsible to God and his creation really means. It also exposes another American cultural phenomenon: the hurried sense of insufficient time and money to accomplish our desires. What is it about our culture that we feel so hurried, stressed, and stretched? I know that for myself, the sense of hurry and of being stretched, the fear of being stretched too thin, guides many of my decisions in my day-to-day life. Consider Jesus, chastising his disciples for worrying so much about what might happen to them. If I didn’t feel so haggard and stretched, would I be eating a frozen rice bowl that is far from satisfying, wrapped in packaging destined for the landfill?

So what does time mean to us, and how do our attitudes about time impact our choices? Specifically, how do they impact our choices relative to our relationship to God and his creation?