Exploring the gospel principles of earth stewardship

Sugarless Candy

I gazed contently over the field containing the fruits of my labors.  After years of having my hands in the soil and late nights experimenting in the garage, I finally developed a product that would save the world- a plant that produced sugarless candy.  Obesity would be gone.  Dental decay would be a thing of the past. My place in history would be cemented forever.

As I leisurely weeded my field one day, a fancy black car pulled up on the side of my dirt road.  Out stepped a man in a three-piece suit.  Assuming this individual to possibly be a traveler looking for directions, I greeted him warmly.  Rather than looking for directions, he immediately asked me about my field.  I politely explained the attributes of the plants, and, as I did, his facial expressions began to change.  He reached into his pocket and handed me a business card and introduced himself as a representative of the Citizens Advocating Dental Decay (CADD).  I said I had never heard of his group and asked him if he would tell me more about his organization.  He quickly answered my question with his own question. “Has the ACP been here?” he asked. Not being familiar with that group, I nodded my head tentatively.  “You know, the Americans for Cavity Prevention,” he stated sternly. “They have never met a toothbrush they didn’t like. Talk about regulation- they are even pushing people to brush three times a day.  They are bent on taking away our personal choice to have poor dental hygiene.  Why it is almost un-American.  They do not seem to care about jobs being lost when people start taking care of their teeth,” he continued without pausing. Without missing a beat, he exclaimed, “They are what we refer to as dental extremists, tooth huggers”.

At this point, I felt that the conversation may be over and began to display waning interest in continuing the conversation.  As the stranger turned toward his car, he looked back and suggested to me that if I really wanted to know the truth, I should look on the internet for the facts.  I thanked him for his time and wished him well. I returned to my weeding.

It was not more than ten minutes later than another stranger in a shiny new pick-up truck pulled up to my fence.  He said he couldn’t help but notice my crop and wondered why I had spaced my plants exactly two feet apart.  I told him that my research had shown that spacing plants any closer than two feet would reduce the quality and taste of the sugarless candy. I explained that the special nutrients in the soil that nourished the sugarless candy plants naturally replenished itself and I had found no other way to speed up the nutrient replenishment process.

“Hogwash,” he stated in no uncertain terms and continued, “When you run out of nutrients, the free market system will develop a replacement.”  I responded timidly, “I have yet to see any interest in the free market finding a nutrient replacement.”  He shot back quickly, “That’s because you have not run out of nutrients yet.  When you run out, technology will be at your doorstep.”  At this point I sensed a headache coming on.  I thanked the man for his advice and returned to weeding.

Feelings of doubt now came over me.  Could I have made a mistake? Had all my market research been in error? Could this day get any worse?  I looked up just in time to see a well-dressed women pull up to my fence. Surely, this must be a friendly face.  I introduced myself and she got right to the point.  “I heard about a field full of plants that produced sugarless candy,” she exclaimed.  I answered that she had come to the right place.  I made my usual reference that the need for better health and dental care had inspired my work. She looked disappointed. “There is no problem in this country with dental decay,” the woman exclaimed. Now I was confused. “The whole dental profession has invented the need for dental care to line their pockets.  Almost every dentist I know alters mouth x-rays by creating non-existent cavities,” she exclaimed.

I politely explained to her that leading researchers and experts in the health professions had confirmed the existence of cavities and the dental profession was held in high regard in our society.  Beginning to become somewhat agitated, I asked, “Just what proof do you have that cavities do not exist?”   She replied quickly, “There has always been doubt as to the existence of cavities.  Just ask yourself why certain people never have cavities.  Some scientists have suggested good oral hygiene may help, but years of further study is required.  If people began to seriously challenge their dentist, this whole cavity idea will collapse like a deck of cards. Scientists say that sugar causes decay, but not everyone agrees that sugar is bad.”  Here logic left me speechless.

I was now ready to bring out my tractor and plow up the field and retire. What I thought to be a great idea to improve the human condition was now un-American and part of a plot to force people against their will.

That evening as I sat in my favorite chair, I closed my eyes and replayed in my mind the conversations of the day. As I revisited each point made by these visitors, I had a nagging feeling that I had heard all of this rhetoric before. Why were these arguments so familiar?    It was then that I realized the pattern. But why, I asked myself, would the same arguments used in climate change be used on sugarless candy? It was then that I recalled a quote from Yann Arthus-Bertrand, “No one is an environmentalist by birth. It is only your path, your life, your travels that awaken you.” Perhaps my visitors had not really started their journey yet, stuck at the station so to speak.  Perhaps they relied on the travelogues of others, never experiencing for themselves what this world has to offer. Perhaps they were relying on the travel brochures put out by the media or their political party. It appeared to me now that sugarless candy was only the first leg of my journey.

  • Paul F Curtis says:

    Dave

    Your parable of the sugarless candy is thought provoking. As LDS we have so much to offer the world to help with the great Climate Change challenge. Home production and provident living would go a long way to reducing our carbon impact. Why are we so blinded by those who politicise climate change for the sake of their own interests that it is a subject impossible to raise in polite LDS company. When as a church we have so much to offer, we are silent. I am the Young Men’s President in an Australian Ward. After being refused permission to build a food garden on church land to instruct our youth in provident living, we built a garden in a trailer in our chapel car park. It has been a great youth activity and supported by ward members. We have just been instructed to remove it by our Stake Leaders without any reason. I despair. We have a long way to go when climate change cannot be raised without being labelled as a radical.

  • Dave Wallace says:

    Paul- thank you for sharing your experience. I can assure you that you are not
    alone. Many feel that by classifying an issue political, Church policy automatically precludes any discussion. We all know that just about anything can be labeled political. What I have noticed is that something only seems
    political when people disagree with you. People rarely notice a political comment in Sunday School if they agree with the comment.

    I do agree that we have an excellent opportunity to teach and provide an example of provident living rather than try and hide from the world or forget our
    problems once we enter the building. The instruction and inspiration we
    receive within the walls of the building should be taken out to the parking lot and beyond and implemented.

    Believe it or not, you are having an effect on your ward. People do notice. It
    may take a while, but you will make inroads. Lessons on provident living often
    identify wards members who also have strong feelings toward stewardship. A small core of interested individuals can grow to a movement.