Day 3: Bless the World


April, just around the corner, is planting month in my backyard garden—time to transplant the kale and broccoli seedlings that sprouted indoors, back when the snow outside reached almost to the top of the fence. (I live near Boston!) This is both a spiritual and an ecological practice, a time to remind myself of how deeply symbiotic I am, not only with the kale and broccoli but also with the earthworms that bring air into the soil, the bacteria that fix nitrogen in it, and the birds that will share the garden’s bounty throughout the year ahead. Gardening is also a reminder of my own power, as Rebecca Parker puts it, to bless or to curse the world.

Just as every breath I take emits carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, every plant that I nurture absorbs that carbon back into its own substance and eventually—if I compost it properly!—returns it to the soil. On a larger scale, agriculture currently accounts for one third of all greenhouse emissions, largely because of the depletion of topsoil, the use of fossil-fuel powered machinery, and the emission of methane by livestock. But agriculture can also be a place of earth healing when farmers see renewed topsoil as their primary crop, when they welcome wild plants and animals as full citizens of the farm community, when they plant windmills amid their cornfields and harvest methane as well as milk from their herds. Those of us who are not farmers can participate in this healing by purchasing local and organic food, by advocating for farm policies that support climate-friendly practices, and by blessing our own backyard or community gardens, one seed at a time.

Dan McKannan is Ralph Waldo Emerson Professor of Unitarian Universalism at Harvard Divinity School.

Today’s practice is to plant some seeds or seedlings. Start some herbs growing in your kitchen or a container garden. Rejoice in the magic of a single seed.

Today’s resource for deepening this message is the story of the UU Church of Akron, OH, and their food justice ministry combining ethical eating, community gardening, food education, and addressing hunger. Part of shifting to a low carbon future is increasing everyone’s access to healthy, local produce, particularly within low-income communities. Get inspired by stories from Akron, OH, and also groups like Shining Light Garden Foundation.

Commit2Respond's Climate Justice Month intends to take you through a transformative spiritual process leading to long-term commitments to climate justice. At the end of the month you will be asked to SHIFT to a low carbon future, ADVANCE human rights, and GROW the movement. Learn more and start thinking about how you will #commit2respond to climate change.

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  • commented 2015-03-29 21:29:50 -0400
    Dear Professor McKannan,

    What would Emerson be thinking if he lived in our times? I believe his contemplations would lead him to a call for something deeper than “harvesting methane.” Animal agriculture perpetrates horrendous crimes of violence to sentient animals on a scale that is unfathomable and deadly to our own souls. And it contributes more to global warming than all transportation emissions in the world.

    Readers and leaders, I am pleading with you to inform yourselves of the reality behind what we are eating at mealtimes. This eye-opening TED talk by Melanie Joy is one step:

    Please don’t look away from our era’s greatest violence—to animals and to our planet. It can be stopped by changing what we eat—a way to decrease global warming that doesn’t depend on getting legislation passed. Be informed, consider the facts, make the connection, for the sake of our children, the environment, the animals, and ourselves.

    The world includes animals — let’s bless them too.
  • posted about this on Facebook 2015-03-25 09:27:54 -0400
    Day 3: Bless the World

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