The story of stuff resource

sosThe Story of Stuff started as a 20-minute on-line film that explores the often hidden environmental and social consequences of our love affair with ‘stuff’. Since then the project has developed new films looking at The Story of Bottled Water, and The Story of Cap & Trade. They are all accesible introductions to complex problems, which may be helpful resources for group discussions.

In addition the project has also produced Let There Be… Stuff? – a faith-based resource designed for a groups of young people between 13-18 years old. It is divided into six sections and provides opportunities for young people to:

  • Think – gain new information about stuff and think about its impact on their lives
  • Reflect on God’s teachings related to the topic
  • Engage the theme more deeply
  • Get Inspired by actions others have taken
  • Enact what they’ve learned with an Action Plan

The resources are US in style and content, but should work for a UK audience, and may just help group leaders tackle complex issues in new ways.

Find out more at: www.storyofstuff.com

Conspiracy of Freedom – Oxford

Guest post by Mark Powley I never planned to get passionate about simple lifestyle. I’ve basically stumbled into the role of lifestyle-guru (I’m not really a guru at all, of course, just a bumbling amateur who just won’t let the issue drop). But after five years of co-running The Breathe Network I find myself launching a conspiracy to transform our way of living. Breathe is a Christian network for simpler living, and the Conspiracy of Freedom is our collaborative effort (with Tearfund, Stewardship and A Rocha) to kickstart a nationwide discussion about lifestyle based around regional events and small group videos. The Oxford event takes place at St Aldate’s Parish Centre on 10th June at 7:30pm. No booking is required, admission is free. Behind the Conspiracy of Freedom is a question: how does genuine lifestyle change take place? A quick glance around the environmental / ethical world all too often reveals something like the following:

  • Stark warnings from experts
  • Detailed rules
  • A passionate group upbraiding the mainstream public
  • Costly lifestyle ‘statements’ only some can afford

You may have already noticed the parallels with the Pharisees in the time of Jesus. The Pharisaic party of Judaism appears to have been terrified by the prospect of another return to exile. They also detested their Roman overlords and dreamed of ‘saving the land’ by bringing God’s blessing through their sheer obedience to the Law. But not everyone could afford the Pharisee’s particular lifestyle, and the more the Palestinian public got on with grinding out a living in compromised circumstances, the more radical the Pharisees became.

What strikes me as truly revolutionary, and a great contrast to the Pharisees, is the attitude of Jesus. He didn’t endorse any compromise in God’s standards when it came to what really mattered. But he had little time for ‘expert teachers’, exclusive rules, or a holier than thou attitude (greener than thou?).

For Jesus, lifestyle change flowed from an experience of grace – the father’s welcome, a taste of the kingdom. After that it rippled out differently in different lives. There was a sense of humble realism about the ethical ambitions of some of his followers. And yet there was also an unquenchable hope.

More than anything, he expected lifestyle change to happen in community. Mutual acceptance, mutual challenge, mutual support. No one was expected to sell everything they had without the promise that a radical community of sharing would welcome them with open arms.

The Conspiracy of Freedom hopes to follow this approach. We know that our present turbo-consumerism is ecologically damaging and shallow soil for faith. We know that change is needed. But it must be in an environment of grace, and doing it together will be crucial. That is why we’re following the regional events with four videos, to be made available online, that any small group can watch and discuss. Group members can hold each other accountable over time. Breathe’s role will be to help point people to ways they can take things further. Already this has started to bear fruit with our London event, where participants made their own commitments to live more simply, more sustainably and more generously.

If you’re interested in this, join us in Oxford on 10th June for inspiring teaching and discussion of the first video. Or email in@breathenetwork.org to stay in touch with what we’re doing.

Mark Powley is Associate Rector of St George’s Church in Leeds and a founder of Breathe, a Christian network for simpler living. He will be at each of the Conspiracy of Freedom events and later this year will be releasing a book on consumerism. The Conspiracy of Freedom event in Oxford will take place at St Aldate’s Parish Centre on 10th June at 7:30pm. No booking is required, admission is free. For more information visit www.conspiracyoffreedom.org

Get support to start a Climate Change Action Group

Get help and support from Oxfordshire Rural Community Council and Climate-X-change to develop a climate action group with your church, youth group or community group and help fight climate change in your community.

Thanks to a grant from Oxfordshire County Council, this new project will help local residents meet the challenges of climate change, by supporting and encouraging community-led initiatives to reduce carbon emissions and promote more sustainable behaviour.

An impressive amount of climate action is taking place in Oxfordshire, including swap shops, the production of ‘buy local’ guides, home energy reduction clinics, community composting schemes, community orchards, eco-weeks, talks, film screenings… Could your community do something similar? Each additional group helps spread the carbon reduction message.

ORCC and Climate-X-change can offer guidance and ongoing support on setting up an action group, offering a toolkit to showcase the variety of approaches to helping stop climate change, providing facts and figures, and signposting to useful organisations and information sources- saving time in getting new groups off the ground.

As part of the new project, a Carbon Challenge shall be launched later in 2010. This competition shall measure carbon reductions in home energy and transport usage, and ask entrants to devise a climate action plan for their community. Watch this space for more information!

If you are interested in setting up a group we’d like to hear from you! You might be a church group, a youth club, or simply a group of concerned individuals. The main thing is that you want to help fight climate change in your community.

For more information on how we can help you get your group started, contact Tom McCulloch at ORCC (tom.mcculloch@oxonrcc.org.uk) or call 01865 883 488.

Tom McCulloch is a Community Development Worker with Oxfordshire Rural Community Council. He works with communities to help deliver rural affordable housing and undertake climate action strategies.