Urban gardening and agriculture in public spaces are becoming accepted as potent means for personal transformation, small-scale economic activity, and for larger-scale climate mitigation and adaptation. This week, Dallas Interfaith Power & Light will be touring the East Dallas Promise of Peace community garden at White Rock United Methodist Church – built, of all places, on top of an unused parking lot! Based on the early feedback, we expect this will be the first of many opportunities to tour community gardens in the ambit of sacred spaces. Likewise, this will be the first of several blog posts on the subject.
Urban Gardening and Agriculture - What Is It?
Hastening the Collapse
At a Bahá'í retreat on Conversations on the Way: Kindling Hope in a Time of Despair, the conversation following a presentation on the environmental crisis turned to the notion of hastening the collapse of the old world order. There is a thesis out there, amongst some Bahá'ís and in parts of the Christian community, that environmental destruction is a signpost on the way to a better world; it is seen as a crucial element of the retributive calamity that ushers in the promised day of God.
Then it follow, so some say, that we should not try to stem the tide of climate change, of ecosystem degradation, of the loss of biodiversity. Moreover, why should we not actively work to bring about that collapse by purposefully over consuming – so that the day of reckoning, when we must transcend our baser natures in order to survive (or achieve the rapture, in another theology), will arrive that much sooner?
The Oneness of Burial
The closing from one of the many beautiful essays in Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril is incredibly moving (as is the rest of the essay), illustrating the beauty of simplicity and oneness with the world around us:
"When I die, wash my body with a cotton cloth. Bury me in a split-wood coffin crafted from trees that died a natural death. Lay me to rest in clothes I have already worn thin. Do not seal out the water and bugs and burrowing critters. Let me be absorbed back into the Earth. Let my body turn to soil. Even when I'm dead, let me nourish the future." (p107, by Carly Lettero).
In fact, it reminds me of words from 'Abdu'l-Bahá… I cannot find the passage I am looking for, but I have found another, more succinct passage, in Star of the West, Vol 11, No. 19 (March 2, 1921):
"The body of man, which has been formed gradually, must similarly be decomposed gradually. This is according to the real and natural order and Divine Law … that after death this body shall be transferred from one stage to another different from the preceding one, so that according to the relations which exist in the world, it may gradually combine and mix with other elements, thus going through stages until it arrives in the vegetable kingdom, there turning into plants and flowers, developing into trees of the highest paradise, becoming perfumed and attaining the beauty of color."
Reflecting on a Year of Involvement in Dallas Interfaith Power and Light
A year ago I began a personal journey that I had long wished to start: a journey of integration, practice, cooperation, and learning, all in the name of playing a small part to unite the strands of science and faith on the "common ground of stewardship of life", to paraphrase E.O. Wilson . In the uncaring and inefficient sprawl of Dallas, I set out to find those who share my belief that sustainable living would only be achieved when individuals and society re-connect with the divine, with the highest potential of human nature. From many such personal journeys, Dallas Interfaith Power & Light has been organically emerging as a moral and practical social space for addressing the great challenge of our times, climate change.
Bahá'í Devotional Program on Humanity's Relationship with Nature
In a letter dated 2 March 2013, to the Bahá'ís of Iran, the Universal House of Justice wrote:
"… the principle of the oneness of humankind, as proclaimed by Bahá'u'lláh, asks not merely for cooperation among people and nations. It calls for a complete reconceptualization of the relationships that sustain society. The deepening environmental crisis, driven by a system that condones the pillage of natural resources to satisfy an insatiable thirst for more, suggests how entirely inadequate is the present conception of humanity's relationship with nature…"
This of course begs the question, what should humanity's relationship with nature be? We explored this to some extent in the devotions for the Feast of Dominion in February. Now we ask you to continue that exploration here, with the Feast of Glory, by considering how the Glory of God is revealed through, and yet extends far beyond, Nature, which is also called Creation and Existence, and how our relationship to this Creation must be one of humility and moderation.
Opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline
In December 2011, I wondered if the opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline project was truly just, given that Americans do not have the same kind of reaction to actual oil spills in places like Brazil and Nigeria, as to the potential for spills in the United States. Since then, I have learned more about the climate impact of tar sands (which admittedly is still not entirely clear),and given more consideration to the justice and ethics. Thus while I still hold to the main points of my previous blog post – we need to focus on reducing energy consumption, and Americans should be equally concerned about ecological impacts of oil production / transport outside the United States – I am now firmly opposed to the construction of this pipeline, and have signed onto Interfaith Power & Light's letter-writing campaign against the pipeline.
Connecting with the Wild in Urban America
Also see: Op-Ed: Preserve Local Parks Grants , adapted from this essay
Like many in my parents' generation, my Gen-X childhood was spent outside whenever possible, with the freedom to roam the neighborhood and explore the vestiges of "the wild" wherever they could be found. In southern Missouri, that meant playing in small valleys, not fit for home construction, that still teemed with minnows, crawdads, and the occasional alligator snapping turtle. Even the backyard offered something wild: instead of a fence separating us from our neighbors, we had an old farm tree line; some of the larger horse apple trees still had bits of barb wire encased in their bark. The trees sheltered squirrels and chipmunks, birds and bats.
And then we moved to Plano, in the middle of 7th grade. Again our home was on old farmland, but there were no vestiges other than the flatness of tilled cropland. White Rock Creek was perhaps a mile away, but there was no access without obviously trespassing – and it wasn't compelling enough to risk getting in trouble. I turned inward and focused on my studies; perhaps that was for the best. But I felt lost. A part of me was missing.
Reflecting on a "Power to Choose" Energy Workshop
Lately, I have been in such a mode of doing that being has taken a back seat. As I try to enter a more contemplative mood, particularly regarding social action in response to global climate change, I feel so saturated with facts and obvious conclusions that new inputs are no longer enriching my knowledge or perceptions, and mere contemplation feels hollow. But reflection on action... that may yet have some bearing on the course of future action. So, let's look at today's action: a workshop on choosing a power provider.
Raising Our Expectations for Climate Leadership, Institutionally and Individually
In an editorial published last weekend, Power, Privilege, and Climate Change: A Tale of Two Presidents, Vassar College professor Joseph Nevins contrasts the lifestyles of the richest and "poorest" presidents in the world, in the context of global climate change: those of the United States and Uruguay. It is a powerful reminder that we in the U.S. can't look at climate change, point the finger elsewhere, and keep going about our lives.
Baha'is of Grand Prairie Join the Preach-In
The National Preach-In on Global Warming is coming up - Feb 8 - 10 – and I am excited to say that the Bahá'ís of Grand Prairie have signed on! This event is a project of Interfaith Power & Light; its purpose is to "help clergy bring attention to this key moral issue [global climate change] of our time". We may not have clergy in the Bahá'í Faith, but that need not stop our Spiritual Assemblies from participating.