No Impact Empire

by Andrew Stephens-Rennie

Following up on Brian’s post on Gratitude and Empire, I want to point to a couple of interesting thoughts from Colin Beavan (aka No Impact Man) on Gratitude and Consumption. While Beavan claims no religious affiliation, the posts throughout his No Impact experiment have often gravitated towards the spiritual.

It’s good to see the coincidence of the material and the spiritual in his thought – it seems a much more coherent way to argue for treading lightly on the planet than a more reductionist, anthropocentric view. Here are some thoughts from his recent post, Living in Gratitude instead of Desire:

This could be totally wrong, but I’m guessing that the decline of religious life in our culture has brought with it a decline in gratitude. Not that I am laying some sort of a religious trip on everyone—I am the first to cop to not maintaining an attitude of thankfulness.

But I do feel as though we (and I include me) have come to worship desire. Here in the United States, I sometimes despair that our state religion is consumption and our main prayer is for more.

And some more thoughts from his conversation with Prof. Juliet Schor from Boston College:

“It’s not that we’re too material but that we see materialism as separate from spirituality.” Our mistake is in not embracing the fact that the material is the manifestation of the divine, and that we therefore treat the material as something to be wasted and thrown away.

When you look at it that way, we need to be more rather than less material. We need to see the intrinsic value inherent in material resources. “If we treated the material as sacred,” she said, “we might become more spiritual about the way we consume and that might help us solve some of our problems.

If we were to learn to see everything in this world as gift – if we were to see all members of God’s good creation as gift, what would that do to our spending habits, our consumption of goods, our treatment of animals, water, plants, forests, or each other? If all is gift, do I respond in gratitude, or with a flippant dismissal?

And if I respond with flippant dismissal to any of God’s good gifts, what does that say about my faith, or my relationship to God? C’mon now, check your head…

Tangentially, this is how the Beastie Boys interpret gratitude. Or at least, it’s how they interpreted gratitude in 1992.


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Andrew Stephens-Rennie
Andrew is a writer, dreamer and organizer with a keen interest in developing leaders in faith, compassion and justice.

He currently serves as the Director of Missional Renewal for the Anglican Diocese of Kootenay on the unceded territories of the Sinixt, Syilx, and Ktunaxa nations. He previously served as the Director of Ministry Innovation at Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver, BC.

Andrew is cofounder and contributing editor at, and co-editor of "A Sort of Homecoming: Essays Honoring the Academic and Community Work of Brian Walsh" with Marcia Boniferro and Amanda Jagt.

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