Healthy people, healthy planet.

The 2023 SEASON OF CREATION theme is “Let Justice and Peace flow, like a mighty river.”  It is clearly more focused on social action than health but I do believe that health is also a justice issue.  Too many people are unhealthy because their diet is not nutritious enough, but many are affected by environmental issues – air pollution, as well as weather related issues – heat and drought.   If people are not healthy than directly or indirectly it has an impact on the health of the planet and vice versa. 

Let’s consider this from a justice perspective. Poverty is a justice issue and no doubt one of the main reasons for poor health.  It is due to lack of money to buy enough food but also the necessary healthy types, especially fresh vegetables and fruit. However, family health is not necessarily a poverty problem.   Is overeating, eating too much of the wrong foods and drinks not a personal justice issue? Take-aways, fizzy coldrinks, snacks and lunch boxes packed with sugary or highly salted foods are not conducive to good health and even energy drinks, aimed at sportmen and women do not necessarily contain what is best for growing children. 

At this most basic level, justice is so often a difficult choice and unfortunately often hardly attractive or enjoyable.  How often do we have to say, “it’s for your own good,” or enforce a “No” or “yes” to children. Teaching self-discipline, when it comes to health, is an important family responsibility and has to apply to all ages.  

We, South Africans, love our braais, and isn’t Heritage Day on 24 September also called National Braai Day?  No doubt and most likely, it will include too much meat, and too much beer,  but not likely too many salads!  But would vegetable-based sausages or burgers provide an answer?  Maybe to some extent they could, but is eating pretend steak or fake boerewors addressing the need to develop more healthy eating patterns,   or promoting a more sustainable life-style.?  All these points are part of the Laudato Si action goals which have been developed from Laudato Si, the 2015 document of Pope Francis on Care of our Common Home.    

As a matter of interest what about including traditional foods when considering one’s heritage focus?  A book called Food from the Veld notes that there are over 2000 edible plants across the world, that indigenous people would have eaten as a basic part of their diet and which have been cultivated and adapted to become the staple foods of the world, e.g. rice, maize, wheat. In our country up to 500 wild plants eaten  in different parts of the country are described in the book. Sometimes it was in their normal, natural diet, while at times there was drought or scarcity of food and water and it was their traditional knowledge that kept them alive.  Many plants were used for medicinal purposes and this can still be done as before.    The humble little spekboom,  or porkbush is a great example of what Mother Nature can still offer us.   A source of vitamin C, a thirst-quencher, medication for throats, and wounds but importantly it is also a very efficient carbon extractor from the atmosphere and so contributing to combat pollution.  It has been eaten by people and animals, but the food industry has also come on board incorporating spekboom into jams, chutney, smoothies and even ice-cream.

“Healthy planet – healthy people” can be looked at in a variety of ways, but the foody way is as good, or maybe better, and more enjoyable than many others. Justice doesn’t always have to be a hard cross to carry. And by the way, if a cross becomes too easy to carry is it really still a cross?    TR 6 SEPTEMBER 2023


September 6.  Service.  Prudence shared, “I am always fascinated by the story of Jesus healing Peter’s mother-in-law after which she stood up and served them. In many cases, elderly and poor women, even if they are not well, still get up and care for their families. One wonders where they get the energy from.”  

Reflect, share, act. Scripture:    Now Simon’s mother-in-law was ill with a high fever and they asked him about her.   He stood over her and rebuked the fever and it left her and immediately she rose and served them.  Luke 4:38-44.   Pope Francis. A sense of deep communion with the rest of nature cannot be real if our hearts lack tenderness. Love is more than just a series of benevolent actions. Our love for others for who they are moves us to seek the best for their lives. Only by cultivating this way of relating to one another will we make possible a social friendshi8p that excludes no one and a fraternity that is open to all.   FT 94., Eco-tip and prayer:  Offer help to someone who is sick, mentally or physically challenged or works with sick animals.