"If we didn't aspire to live a better life than our parents, then the rest of the world might live"
As I posted a few days ago, a few of my friends and I went down to the Episcopal Church at Princeton to hear Bishop Robinson preach. I said that I would write a reflection later, clearly that didn't happen. He was a great an evangelical preacher as always (its was the third time I heard him preach) and I felt blessed to be there, but it was really the above quote that struck me - struck me enough to bring it up yesterday during the Episcopal Ministry at Rutgers' weekly dinner.
We were talking about water quality, global warming, and the basic care of the environment and the world in general - about our environmental footprint and what we can and can't do to lower it.
Some of the foreign students in my classes often comment on how strange it is that you need a car to get around, similarly, our Californian seminarian said that when he was younger he would drive everywhere. Our communities have developed with the assumption of a car. Even in areas like New Brunswick where one doesn't NEED a car, the few walktoable grocery stores are vastly overpriced. Communities that are structured around the assumption of a car (and electricity...) leave little possibility to lower the ecological footprint that we leave. A member of the organization mentioned that the wealthy are now moving back into cities in part for environmental reasons.
The "American Dream" of my parents generation was to live better than their parents -- this seems to move to the suburbs, have two - four kids, have a free standing home and cars for each... to take a family vacation and eat out once a week. There is now another generation that similarly wants to live "better" than our parents. What we need to realise is that this simply cannot be tied to physical things. There aren't enough resources, there isn't enough capitol.
Since the turn of the last century America has decided to build an empire as its means to get the stuff we want. Bishop Robinson pointed out that Jesus fought imperialism - he fought it and died a humiliating death for it.
We need to fight the empire as well, but most of all, we need to realise that we cannot -- neither morally nor sustainably -- live "better" than our parents if others -- those who make that which we want - are to live.