There are many challenges to participating in eco-justice. Of course, there are the small challenges that perhaps it is difficult to always engage in a practice, or difficult to do everything that one wants to do. But, what are the things that can really stop people in their tracks, or prevent people from starting to take action in the first place? How can we overcome those barriers? Below we highlight three of the many challenges to doing this work, and some of the ways to counteract these challenges:
- Not Seeing Beyond What Is
This futility comes up when we start doing something and feel that no matter what we do, we are doomed to fail, that our small actions cannot make a difference. Many of the practices that we've outlined on this site can help counteract this sense of futility:
But the key is that "even change undertaken by individuals who simply find it the right thing to do— those shorter showers, with or without egg timers— does matter. In the larger scheme of things, that undertaking may be no more than so-called symbolic action, but that action sends an important signal even if, of itself, it doesn’t produce widespread change... [P]rophetic symbols and practices, even modest ones, move people in a direction that lets them embrace bigger changes when the moment is ripe and options are forced. Small changes are often the leaven of a better order. They are like water softening-up compacted soil, allowing new seeds to grow." (quoting Larry Rasmussen, p. 120)
This is a bit of the flip side of futility - what we do is so far separated from those who are impacted by our actions that we do not see that we are participating in structural evil (to use Cynthia Moe-Lobeda's term). For example, when we drink a bottled water, we don't think about the communities who have less water because water was extracted from their own municipal water system; we don't think about where all those plastic bottles end up; we don't think about the industry built up to charge people up to 10X the cost of water just to get it in a plastic bottle. Some practices that can help with this challenge include:
- Hosting Community Organizations - this allows faith communities to connect more directly with those impacted by their actions and lives, although it doesn't allow connection with the greater world.
- Providing Education on Eco-Justice - this allows faith communities to learn more about the earth and beings around the world impacted by their actions.
- Divestment - this allows a very focused look at the impact of companies on people and the rest of nature around the world, and provides a structure by which people can examine their impact on the rest of the world.
- Living Simply - this allows people to create practices that strip down their living to the basics. They are more intentional about they way they engage the earth and the economy, which helps them connect to those impacted by their actions.
Not Seeing Beyond What Is
Often it seems that what we see in the world cannot change. We don't see it as impossible (which would be futility) - it's just that we don't even see a "possible" to push toward. We are so embedded in the system as it is that we don't see that there is any other way to do things or that there is any other way to be. In Resisting Structural Evil, Moe-Lobeda mentions a key question to ask ourselves: "What in any given circumstance is uncritically presupposed to be natural, normal, inevitable, or divinely ordained, that in fact may be none of these, but rather a social construct?" (p. 88) In order to address eco-justice, we need to continually be asking ourself this question, and pushing to work on those practices that work to address structural change, which include:
- Legislative advocacy - pushing for changes in laws to change the structure of society to favor eco-justice; both of the following practices need to be pursued in concert with legislative advocacy to achieve true structural change.
- Economic advocacy - pushing for corporate changes from the bottom up
- Living simply - pushing for a change in our economic system and the structure of society from the ground up and constantly re-examining whether the life I live is the one I have to live, or one that I could choose to live differently