Category Archives: Links

A Conservationist Manifesto

On the Agroinnovations podcast there was an interview with the author of A Conservationist Manifesto, Scott Russell Sanders. He had some interesting ideas and thoughts. Here is a smattering of them with my own commentary, as usual.

Get On the Boat!
Sanders says that the ark in the biblical story is a profound ecological parable that “represents a vessel that carries through troubled times those things that absolutely must be preserved”. There is a profound value of biodiversity in the story, even if there was no obvious purpose or they were a nuisance. Sanders idea that the biblical narrative of Noah and the Ark is an apt metaphor for modern catastrophe certainly caught my ear. This idea has also been mentioned in the comments on this blog. The thought is that there should be lots of little communities that are living out the kinds of practices that can lead us through potential ecological catastrophe. He read this quote from his book,

Those who try to live more simply are harder to see… They go about learning the skills and mastering the tools necessary for meeting basic human needs. They grow food. They build shelters. They make clothes. They draw energy from sun and wind and wood. They get by with fewer possessions and learn to repair the ones they have. They create much of their own entertainment with homemade art, music and stories. They derive pleasure from good work, human company and the perennial show that nature puts on. So far as possible they rear their children away from television and advertising. They buy as little as they can from the global economy and instead they support local economies based on cooperation, barter and sharing. They protect and restore woods, prairies and swamps making room for wildness.

He calls these people “Ark builders”. They are the keepers of the kinds of knowledge that is “necessary for meeting basic human needs”. When asked the question, “Are we facing catastrophe?” Sanders points out that we are already in a catastrophe, a billion people going hungry every day, a billion people lacking access to clean water, the exponential rate of species extinction, the loss of topsoil, etc. The catastrophe is already here. We have just made it possible for some of our human family to ignore this reality. In other words, the wealthy have created their own arks to insulate themselves from catastrophe. The question that really faces us is not whether or not we face catastrophe, but which boat we will get on, the flashy big boat that is poorly constructed underneath that shiny veneer or the humble ark made of humble materials that requires us to row and work together.

First Church of the Consumer
Sanders quotes an advertising executive in a trade publication from the 1950s summing up the need to promote more consumption to get the economy going,

“Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption. The economy needs things consumed, burned, worn out, replaced and discarded at an ever-increasing rate.”

Wow! I have been arguing and pondering the notion of consumerism as a religion, but never heard it put so explicitly from the mouths of the high priests of advertising, the bishops of the consumer religion. Sanders then points out that in order to fulfill the evangelistic mission of this consumer religion we must trash the earth in order to serve the economy. As I’ve said before this is exactly backwards, the economy exists to serve the earth and human beings as part of it, not the other way around. I hope sometime to take on this idea of consumerism as a religion in more depth, not as a metaphor, but as a deadly serious reality.

Hope or Optimism?
Sanders’ son challenged him to not just point out how bad everything is, but recognize that we need hope to push us forward. I found Sanders’ definition of the difference between hope and optimism both profound and helpful. Optimism is the confidence that everything is going to turn out just fine, no matter how bad it looks. Hope, on the other hand, is the conviction that despite how bad things look there is good work to be done right now to build the kind of world that we want. While I might modify this definition of hope, the contrast between the simple-minded ignorance of optimism and the hard work of hope is insightful.

I often feel cornered as a pessimist because I am not particularly optimistic about the prospects for our modern civilizations and see catastrophe looming on the horizon. This duality of pessimism and optimism is once again an exercise in missing the point. It only tells us the particular mood of an individual given a particular question. Hope tells us infinitely more. Hope reveals both the dire situation we face and draws on deep wells of faith, tradition, intellect and wisdom to pursue a better future, not on a global scale, but in the smallness of our own lives. This makes change not only more possible, but more grounded in reality of both the problems we face and the practicality of what we can do now to bring about something other, something new, beautiful, hopeful and small.

Farm Update

We finally got some good rain this last week and it really freshened things up. Our CSA season ended until October so there will be more veggies available for our farm stand and for us to eat. Seven members of our community left us this week and new people will be arriving in the next couple weeks. That is one of the hardest things to get used to about the farm. People are constantly coming and going. There are a core group that are here longer term, but many of them will not be here for our entire year. Perhaps a post on farming and community is brewing.

Here’s some of the places I will be traveling in the months to come…

Sausage Leftovers: The Northern Edition

Okay so I found some links of interest to share… This was almost the Canadian edition, but the Mustard Seed House is in the USA… barely.

Spirituality of Gardening Workshop- If you live in the Seattle area the Mustard Seed House is hosting two workshops April 25 and May 30 on the Spirituality of Gardening. The revolution starts at home. Lunch and a garden manual are included. Here’s the blurb:

Do you struggle to connect to the story of God through morning devotions and Sunday worship? I believe one reason people are moving away from Christianity at time warp speed is because we have divorced our faith from the glory of God revealed through the natural world. Nothing makes me more aware of this than working in the garden. I read about the death and resurrection of Christ in the Bible, but I experience it every time I plant a seed and watch it burst into life.I read about the faithfulness of God to Israel but I experience it every time I watch the rain fall and nourish the seeds I have planted. I read about the miracle of the fish and the loaves but I experience a miracle every time I am overwhelmed by the generosity of God’s harvest.

In this workshop, we will discuss the wonderful ways that God is revealed through the rhythms of planting, growing, and harvesting in the garden. There will be spiritual insights and practical suggestions for backyard gardening in the Northwest. Come prepared to get your hands (and your clothes) dirty!  

Each participant will receive a copy of The Garden Year, a resource to help plan, cultivate, and harvest a garden throughout the year.

The New Resilient- “Canadian blog building dialogue and resources on food policy, security and safety and the path to resilient communities.”

Deconstructing Dinner- A podcast from Kootenay Co-op Radio in British Columbia.

Deep Green Conversation- Another promising new website tackling faith and creation care.

The Commodification of Susan Boyle

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I don’t own a television and I don’t live in the UK. I also don’t have an internet connection at my house. This is why it took me until Saturday night to watch a downloaded YouTube video of Susan Boyle on Britain’s Got Talent. I was completely blown away. Beneath the dramatic editing of reality TV and the sweeping music added for effect there appeared to be a real moment of grace where something genuinely surprising and beautiful happened. That kernel of something was enough for me to get swept away by the rest of the trappings and the moment.

For those, like me, who are usually out of the loop, a 47 year old Scottish woman who was unemployed and never been kissed pranced onto the UK’s American Idol (It’s actually the reverse I think, because the UK version is the original. I digress) in her frumpy Edith Bunker way and proceeded to shock everyone by belting “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables. I knew it was a real moment when the female judge (why is it always only one female judge, never two) said,

I’m so thrilled because I know that everybody was against you. I honestly think that we were all being very cynical. And I think that was the biggest wake up call ever.

The bubble had been burst and something beautiful happened. For a moment that upside kingdom was slightly visible, where the unexpected happens and the last are first. This wasn’t a rags to riches, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps story. This was a moment that made us realize who we really were. Our assumptions, prejudices and cynicism laid bare for all to see.

My wife said, “Yeah, but what happens now?” Will this genuine moment simply be subsumed by the consumer religion into another marketing strategy, a line of “I Heart Susan” paraphernalia? Consumerism demands that everything is a commodity: ideas, seeds, mortgages and bets on bets on mortgages. Advertisers already toy with our heartstrings, otherwise the jokes about crying at cotton commercials wouldn’t ring so true. I hope that a moment like this would teach us something, but I’m afraid it will be drowned out by the noise about the moment, telling us what to buy in order to capture the moment.

We still like to occasionally watch this classic video of Jesus Junk Music that made the rounds last year. We watched it again right after seeing Susan Boyle as sort of a palate cleanser before watching her again. It seemed so hollow and empty in comparison. Ironic, isn’t it? Here is the YouTube video for you to judge.

Weekly Sausage Links

180px-Sausage_making-H-1.jpgNot sure if the weekly links feature will continue around here. I don’t have anything new to put here. Meanwhile… I link to lots of interesting food news and then some on my twitter feed (on the sidebar as well). I also HIGHLY recommend ethicurean for their regular digest of food news and commentary. If I find a slew of links sometime I will happily revive this feature. Until then follow me on twitter.
…back to your regularly scheduled blogging…