The Potluck

Surplus Food at the Food Donation Connection

“Imagine that you are at a potluck buffet and see that you are the first in line.  How do you know how much to take?  Imagine that this potluck spread includes not just food and water, but also the materials needed for shelter, clothing, healthcare and education.  It all looks and smells so good and you are hungry.  What will you heap on your plate?  How much is enough to leave for your neighbors behind you in the line?  Now extend this cornucopia to today’s global economy, where the necessities for life come from around the world.  Six billion people, standing shoulder to shoulder, form a line that circles around the globe to Cairo, onto Hawaii over ocean bridges, then back, and around the globe again, 180 times more.  With plates in hand, they too wait in line, hearty appetites in place.  And along with them are giraffes and klipspringers, manatees and spiders, untold millions of species, millions of billions of unique beings, all with the same lusty appetites.  And behind them, the soon-to-be-born children, cubs, and larvae. A harmonious feast just might be possible.  But it requires a bit of restraint, or shall we say, a tamed appetite, as our plate becomes a shopping cart, becomes a pickup truck –  filling our home, attic, basement, garage, and maybe even a rented storage unit with nature transformed into things.  As we sit down for a good hearty meal with new friends and creatures from around the world, what is the level of equity that we would feel good about?  At what level of inequity would we say, ‘Wait a minute, that’s not fair?'”  Jim Merkel, Radical Simplicity 

When I first read this, what I thought of first was all the times I’d been to potlucks and seen some folks heap up their plates without considering how many others were in the line behind them; I’d been at the end of the line more than once.  I think this image of a potluck feast is very apt when considering how much of the planet’s resources one ought to use.  I’m sure that in the not-too-distant past when more of us were closely linked to our communities, to the food we ate and the materials we used, we better understood what the consequences would be if the resources were squandered. It could even have been a matter of survival. Now we have the luxury of going to stores to get food, clothing, and other goods from all over the planet.  Remember, The US has 5% of the world’s population but consumes 30% of the resources.  What about all the others in the potluck line?