During Lent, 2011, I came upon a website for a program called Lent 4.5. On March 6, 2011 I write a post for this blog regarding my thoughts on the program and website - ( Lent 4.5)
The basic premise behind the program is that a formula has been developed to determine how many acres of land is used to maintain your current lifestyle. The example the group gives for those of us living in the USA, is that, on average, it takes 22.3 acres of land to maintain our standard of living. If you take the land mass of the Earth - divided by the 6.5 billion folks said to inhabit the planet - then we are only entitled to use 4.5 acres of land to support ourselves. Obviously, according to the group, we are using far more than our fair share.
In my post, I had used quotes from the Lent 4.5 website - and provided a link, I was critical of the group and I believed it would be only fair to present their argument as they themselves presented it.
Using the figures the site provided, even Mexico was nearly double their "fair share" by using 8 acres of land per person to support the Mexican lifestyle. I know that consumption in the US is, by far, in excess of what it should be, but I do not realistically see the average America living a standard below what is currently the standard of living in Mexico.
The biggest program I had with their idea was their tying their proposal to Lent. Far too often, in their zeal to protect the planet, many of these sorts of groups stray dangerously close to paganism in their love and worship of "Mother Earth". We are asked to fast during Lent in ordered to affect the well being of the planet when the true purpose of fasting during that season is to help the soul turn back to God through a conversion of the heart. At one point we're asked to give "contemporary meaning and value into fasting". It's like saying, "Hey, not only does Fasting provide spiritual benefits, but it'll help you fit into that swimsuit this summer".
The folks pushing Lent 4.5 may have good intentions, but we all know what road that can lead us down.
I would not have brought any of this up if it had not been for a comment left on that post by Mary Mattingly, the National Coordinator for Lent 4.5:
It has come to our attention that you have posted material copyrighted to Lent 4.5 and the Passionist Earth and Spirit Center on your blog. We respectfully ask that you remove the content.
When I received that comment, I felt that my use of the material from their site fell within the area of Fair Use. It is quite common for blogs to use quotes from a site being criticized in order to get ones point across. However, the law regarding Fair Use is vague; I'm not going to get into a legal battle over this. I have to wonder whether these folks would have pushed the issue had my post contained lavish words of praise for their idea? Personally, I suspect the group cannot accept even the mildest of criticism.
In an email from Ms Mattingly, she stated that they "were merely advised by our board of directors that we need to protect our copyright".
The folks running Lent 4.5 say we have huge global problems.
They also say we Christians in affluent countries have a faith problem. They believe our "observance of prayer, fasting and almsgiving during Lent can become a direct response to global poverty". I don't see how lowering my standard of living to below Third World levels can raise the standard of living of someone living in poverty. Like far too many people, the people at Lent 4.5 see inequities between the "haves and the have-nots" and rather than bring the less fortunate up to a higher level, they want us to lower our standards to theirs.