This week, I’m looking at Chapter 10:
Peggy Clarke, "Eating the Earth.”
Rev. Clarke begins with the story of what rewarding fun she found when she joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) – the party with friends who came over to celebrate and partake of the bounty; and learning to can with her neighbors.
Then she got involved with a project to bring people together across generational lines. A community garden seemed just the ticket. “In light of consistent reports of isolation from every corner of American culture, participating in life-sustaining, communal, multigenerational activities that deepen our connection to Earth could become a healing balm” (110).
She co-founded InterGenerate, “a small food-justice organization” for establishing community gardens for which participant neighbors pay $50 a year and commit to “shared work and communal engagement.” A couple years in they were up to four gardens and an “experiment of communal caretaking for about 45 chickens with 25 households.”
Bananas, for instance, from a New York grocery store come to us from Latin American plantations created from deforestation and habitat destruction. They come to us from farm workers who pick them, earning less than a living wage; women who drop them into vats of a carcinogenic solution that slows ripening, at risk of illness and early death from exposure to those chemicals; workers who box them and others who truck them, driving diesel trucks that burn fossil fuels and produce pollutants.
“I am accountable,” says Clarke, “for how food gets to my plate” (112). I’d say, rather, that we are responsible, but, unfortuntately, not accountable. Our spirits want and need to be accountable. We yearn for relationships of accountability. The meaning of our lives flows from embeddedness in relationships that compel us to account for ourselves. That we aren’t accountable to the food supply-chain is a part of the problematic modern condition which engenders lives deracinated (literally, “uprooted,” appropriately enough) and alienated. We desperately need relationships that hold us accountable. In the cooperative labor and the sharing of neighborhood gardens, along with the sustaining food, participants are fed by accountings they give and receive, in word and in body -- accountings much more robust and hearty than the wan, abstracted, depersonalized accounting given by the credit card swipe with which we buy bananas.
Neighborhood gardens build relationships and build community. They reduce our carbon footprint and contribute to saving the planet. They offer an alternative to the food system in which labor is exploited and polluting effects are felt mostly by the poor and communities of color.
These gardens transform participants from isolated and disconnected lonely individuals into people connected to their neighbors and to the good earth. It’s about the food, “but it’s also about harvesting a deeper way of living. It’s about planting and watering and weeding and harvesting community. It’s about deeper life, better life, shared life. It’s about being transformed” (116)
1. “Food deserts” are places where affordable access to fresh produce and other healthy food options is limited. What food deserts are in and around Westchester?
2. How much do you know about the food supply-chain that brings food to your table? How might knowing more change what you do, and change you?
For my reflection/summary on previous chapters, click the title:
- Jennifer Nordstrom, "Intersectionality, Faith, and Environmental Justice"
- Paula Cole Jones, "The Formation of the Environmental Justice Movement"
- Sheri Prud'homme, "Ecotheology"
- Sofia Betancourt, "Ethical Implications of Environmental Justice"
- Adam Robersmith, "Cherishing Our World: Avoiding Despair in Environmental Justice Work"
- Peggy Clarke, Matthew McHale, "Becoming Resilient: Community Life for a New Age”
- Kathleen McTigue, "Drawing on the Deep Waters: Contemplative Practice in Justice-Making”
- Pamela Sparr, "Transforming Unitarian Universalist Culture: Stepping Out of Our Silos and Selves”
- Kathleen McTigue, “Learning to Change: Immersion Learning and Climate Justice”