Can I do one thing?

August 16, 2023
The confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers

By Rev. Cindy Gregorson

I ate crickets for lunch. I have to admit I was a bit nonplussed about the idea.

I was with a friend. We had gone to Owamni for lunch. If you know the restaurant, all the foods on the menu are indigenous to the Americas—nothing that would have been imported after 1492. My friend and I ordered some things to share, and one of them was the greens. I had not read the ingredients closely, thinking greens are greens. And then the server says, “you don’t have a shellfish allergy, do you? There are crickets on the salad.” Crickets?! I was now rethinking the order. I like trying new things, but something about eating bugs was a bit too adventurous for me. My friend, who has lived in Thailand and has eaten crickets before, said they are ok. Think of them like nuts, she said. So, we tried them. Crunchy, not bad. As the server was picking up our plates, he said that crickets are one of the more sustainable forms of protein on the planet. Who knew? Honestly, I liked the sweet potatoes better. Eating crickets pushed me outside my comfort zone. It wasn’t something I was acculturated to eat, but I could learn to, if I needed to.

Saturday morning, I went for my run in what I consider my personal slice of paradise: Crosby Farm Park in St. Paul. It is on the floodplain of the Mississippi. Tall green trees, the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers. I am blessed to live across the street from this beautiful place. And I was running, I could not help thinking about another slice of paradise that had been destroyed by fires this week—Lahaina, Maui. Climate change is having an impact, and even paradise is not immune. Hawaii was suffering from what are called flash droughts, where the land and plants dried out quickly over a very short period due to high temperatures and a lack of rain. Add strong winds, and non-native grasslands that have been introduced as pineapple and sugar cane fields have disappeared and you get a fire. On my run I am thinking, what can I do, what should I be doing, to help ensure these places are here not just for me but for generations to come? I sat on a log and began Googling. What can an individual do to impact climate change? Because really, it seems so overwhelming and beyond our control. Isn’t it up to governments and corporations to solve this one?

Large-scale conversion of tropical forests to oil palm plantations has a devastating impact on a huge number of plant and animal species in Asia, Latin America, and West Africa, according to the World Wildlife Fund.
And that brings me back to the crickets. Yes, of course, there are things we can do, like eat less red meat and choose more sustainable forms of protein, or stop using palm oil. I learned that one from a climate calculator. I never knew that palm oil was in so many things, and it is the leading cause of deforestation, which leads to what? You guess it, more fires. One article I read in the BBC said, “if we ended the use of fossil fuels tomorrow, we would still face huge challenges in climate change—in no small part because of one very common household ingredient: palm oil.”

We know the other big things we can do: drive less, fly less, use less packaging, and avoid food waste. What do they all have in common? It requires a change, and most likely, an uncomfortable change. Every change will cause a disruption, and not just to my lifestyle. Eating less red meat helps the planet, but it also affects the livelihood of farmers who raise beef. It is complicated.

But here is the thing—if nothing changes, nothing changes. We can’t just wish the planet will heal itself. Our impact and footprint have to change. Does it take government and corporations? Yes, absolutely. Use your vote, voice, and spending dollars to help shape policy. Your individual action, while it might seem to be only a drop of water, is a statement, to you, if to no one else, that the care of our planet depends on all of us. I know in my own life I can’t do all the things. I can’t sustain it, and then I tend to give up altogether. What works for me is to choose one thing. Can I consistently do one thing that will make a difference and be an intentional act that serves as reminder to me of who I want to be? Not crickets. Not gonna be that. But more sustainable protein? Yes. I can choose to eat less red meat and read ingredient lists for palm oil. It is a start.

If you would like to help the residents of Maui, you can donate to the United Methodist Committee on Relief at UMCOR: Global & US disaster relief. They are partnering with California-Pacific Annual Conference in the responding to this disaster.

Rev. Cindy Gregorson is director of ministries and clergy assistant to the bishop for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.


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