Ten Commandments for Sustainable and Just Lifestyles

prepared for the 2003 Creighton Center for Service and Justice mission trip to Oklahoma City by Robert Waldrop, Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House

Together with The Works of Justice and Peace , this is a practical program to cultivate a civilization of life and resist the culture of death

1. Nurture blessings and hope in your own life and in the life of your community. Promote solidarity and cooperation. Don't leave the poor behind for the wolves to devour.

2. Learn how to grow your own food. Plant fruit and nut trees, berry bushes, and other perennial food crops. Preserve heirloom varieties of plants and animals. Buy as much food as possible from local farmers and local processors. Encourage schools and churches to start gardens. Don't buy any meats, eggs, or poultry from the Confined Animal Feeding Operation system. If you can't find local animal products produced with sustainable and humane practices, become a vegetarians. Do your part to help develop a local food system.

3. Use energy frugally. Know how much energy you are personally using and which way your energy usage trend is going. Walk, take public transportation, or ride a bicycle, wherever possible. Super insulate your dwelling and avoid air conditioning as much as possible. Remember that "stuff" has energy embodied in its manufacture and distribution.

4. Practice personal detachment from material goods. Remember that you are NOT your stuff. Reduce, reuse, recycle, repair, make do, do without, use less stuff. Patronize the aftermarket in places like swap meets, thrift stores, and flea markets. Avoid new stuff as much as possible, don't buy clothing made in sweatshops, limit your consumption of resources, including water.

5. The borrower is the slave of the lender. Flee the bondage of debt. If you must borrow money for education or housing, pay it off as quickly as you can, always make extra principle payments on loans. Never finance frivolous consumption with borrowed money on credit cards.

6. Don't let the perfect become the enemy of the good. Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. As you change your lifestyle to be more just and sustainable, don't attempt too much at first. Set incremental goals and meet them. Be willing to start small, or it is likely you will never start at all. But beware of procrastination.

7. Learn many things. Practice many skills. Teach others. Be ready to adapt to major changes that may come your way.

8. Accept responsibility for your own life, but understand your interdependence with others and the importance of community. Be aware of your environment and how your lifestyle impacts the community and world you live in and other people. "What I do doesn't matter" is a lie we tell ourselves to make ourselves feel better about doing wrong. Watch out for dangers and disasters that may be ahead, and act in advance to mitigate the impact of such events. The Bible says, "Remember the time of hunger in the day of plenty." The time to build the cellar is before the tornado hits.

9. Avoid big box corporation stores and franchise chains. Buy from local businesses and if possible try to earn a living and spend your money outside of the corporation dominated globalized economy. Organize cooperatives and start small businesses to replace unsustainable globalized business structures. Keep your money in a credit union.

10. Support political and voluntary initiatives that promote sustainability and resilience, such as public transportation, energy efficiency, renewable energy resources, small farms, decentralized economics, balanced government budgets, and local markets.

The Friday of the second week of Lent, AD 2003