Tag Archives: farming

28 September, Season of Creation XXIX: Respecting the rhythms; Laudato Si’ XIII.

Ploughing in Sussex

Pope Francis describes how God and Creation, creation and humanity, and humanity and God are all intimately connected, and a breakdown in one relationship jeopardises the other two. We humans, of course, also undermine what should be loving relationships with each other. Is there one good person on God’s Earth?

70. In the story of Cain and Abel, we see how envy led Cain to commit the ultimate injustice against his brother, which in turn ruptured the relationship between Cain and God, and between Cain and the earth from which he was banished. This is seen clearly in the dramatic exchange between God and Cain. God asks: “Where is Abel your brother?” Cain answers that he does not know, and God persists: “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground” (Genesis 4:9-11). Disregard for a proper relationship with my neighbour, for whose care and custody I am responsible, ruins my relationship with my own self, with others, with God and with the earth. When all these relationships are neglected, when justice no longer dwells in the land, the Bible tells us that life itself is endangered. We see this in the story of Noah, where God threatens to do away with humanity because of its constant failure to fulfil the requirements of justice and peace: “I have determined to make an end of all flesh; for the earth is filled with violence through them” (Genesis 6:13). These ancient stories, bear witness to a conviction which we today share, that everything is interconnected, and that genuine care for our own lives and our relationships with nature is inseparable from fraternity, justice and faithfulness to others.

71. Although “the wickedness of man was great in the earth” (Genesis 6:5) and the Lord “was sorry that he had made man on the earth” (Genesis 6:6), nonetheless, through Noah, who remained innocent and just, God decided to open a path of salvation. In this way he gave humanity the chance of a new beginning. All it takes is one good person to restore hope! The biblical tradition clearly shows that this renewal entails recovering and respecting the rhythms inscribed in nature by the hand of the Creator. We see this, for example, in the law of the Sabbath. On the seventh day, God rested from all his work. He commanded Israel to set aside each seventh day as a day of rest, a Sabbath, (cf. Genesis 2:2-3; Exodus 16:23; 20:10). Similarly, every seven years, a sabbatical year was set aside for Israel, a complete rest for the land (cf. Leviticus 25:1-4), when sowing was forbidden and one reaped only what was necessary to live on and to feed one’s household (cf. Leviticus 25:4-6). Finally, after seven weeks of years, which is to say forty-nine years, the Jubilee was celebrated as a year of general forgiveness and “liberty throughout the land for all its inhabitants” (cf. Leviticus 25:10). This law came about as an attempt to ensure balance and fairness in their relationships with others and with the land on which they lived and worked. “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field to its very border, neither shall you gather the gleanings after the harvest. And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner” (Leviticus 19:9-10).

72. The Psalms frequently exhort us to praise God the Creator, “who spread out the earth on the waters, for his steadfast love endures for ever” (Psalm 136:6). They also invite other creatures to join us in this praise: “Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars! Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens! Let them praise the name of the Lord, for he commanded and they were created” (Psalm 148:3-5). We do not only exist by God’s mighty power; we also live with him and beside him. This is why we adore him.

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27 September, Season of Creation XXVIII: in God’s eyes. Laudato Si’ XII.

67. Although it is true that we Christians have at times incorrectly interpreted the Scriptures, nowadays we must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures. The biblical texts are to be read in their context, recognising that they tell us to “till and keep” the garden of the world (cf. Genesis 2:15). “Tilling” refers to cultivating, ploughing or working, while “keeping” means caring, protecting, overseeing and preserving. This implies a relationship of mutual responsibility between human beings and nature. Each community can take from the bounty of the earth whatever it needs for subsistence, but it also has the duty to protect the earth and to ensure its fruitfulness for coming generations. “The earth is the Lord’s” (Psalm. 24:1); “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with me” (Leviticus 25:23).

68. The laws found in the Bible dwell on relationships, not only among individuals but also with other living beings. “You shall not see your brother’s donkey or his ox fallen down by the way and withhold your help… If you chance to come upon a bird’s nest in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs and the mother sitting upon the young or upon the eggs; you shall not take the mother with the young” (Dt 22:4, 6). Along these same lines, rest on the seventh day is meant not only for human beings, but also so “that your ox and your donkey may have rest” (Exodus 23:12). Clearly, the Bible has no place for a tyrannical anthropocentrism unconcerned for other creatures.

69. We are called to recognise that other living beings have a value of their own in God’s eyes and indeed, “the Lord rejoices in all his works” (Psalm 104:31). By virtue of our unique dignity and our gift of intelligence, we are called to respect creation and its inherent laws, for “the Lord by wisdom founded the earth” (Proverbs 3:19).The Catechism clearly and forcefully criticises a distorted anthropocentrism: “Each creature possesses its own particular goodness and perfection… Each of the various creatures, willed in its own being, reflects in its own way a ray of God’s infinite wisdom and goodness. Man must therefore respect the particular goodness of every creature, to avoid any disordered use of things”.

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22 September, Creation Season XXIII: Loss of biodiversity, Laudato Si’ VII.

Image from TJH

Biology is much more than we might have been taught at school, its remit is the whole of creation, as Pope Francis makes clear here. It may look at lab experiments but has also to get out in the field, observe what’s going on and predict what is likely to happen if humans continue to act as we have been doing. The future must not be entrusted to multinational corporations.

35. Highways, new plantations, the fencing-off of certain areas, the damming of water sources, and similar developments, crowd out natural habitats and, at times, break them up in such a way that animal populations can no longer migrate or roam freely. As a result, some species face extinction. Alternatives exist which at least lessen the impact of these projects, like the creation of biological corridors, but few countries demonstrate such concern and foresight.

36. Caring for ecosystems demands farsightedness, since no one looking for quick and easy profit is truly interested in their preservation. We can be silent witnesses to terrible injustices if we think that we can obtain significant benefits by making the rest of humanity, present and future, pay the extremely high costs of environmental deterioration.

37. Some countries have made significant progress in establishing sanctuaries on land and in the oceans. Certain places need greater protection because of their immense importance for the global ecosystem, or because they represent important water reserves and thus safeguard other forms of life.

38. Let us mention, for example, those richly biodiverse lungs of our planet which are the Amazon and the Congo basins, or the great aquifers and glaciers. We know how important these are for the entire earth and for the future of humanity. The ecosystems of tropical forests possess an enormously complex biodiversity which is almost impossible to appreciate fully, yet when these forests are burned down or levelled for purposes of cultivation, within the space of a few years countless species are lost and the areas frequently become arid wastelands. A delicate balance has to be maintained when speaking about these places, for we cannot overlook the huge global economic interests which, under the guise of protecting them, can undermine the sovereignty of individual nations. We cannot fail to praise the commitment of international agencies and civil society organisations which draw public attention to these issues and offer critical cooperation, employing legitimate means of pressure, to ensure that each government carries out its proper and inalienable responsibility to preserve its country’s environment and natural resources, without capitulating to spurious local or international interests.

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12 July: A no-nonsense name.

Sheila Billingsley has sent us a poem about the great golden cloud that descends on Southern England and elsewhere at this time of year – oilseed rape, a member of the cabbage family and the source of much of the vegetable oil on supermarket and kitchen shelves. It’s actually a staple of our diet, keeps us alive, so deserves a poem of its own.

Oilseed Rape. 

Do you then reflect the sun ? 
Out-- buttering the buttercups. 
You gild our fields and hillsides 
With your glory!

Oilseed Rape, 
An in-your-face  
                 no-nonsense name. 
Your down-to-earth mothering 
To feed yet glorify the earth. 

There must be-----somewhere---- 
In God's eternal memory, 
Another, golden name.

SB  February 2021

Ines’s foreshortened view of Canterbury crosses a patch of bright yellow oilseed rape, or colza as the French call it. I don’t know that colza is quite the golden name that Sheila was looking for; it won’t catch on!

The photograph above is by Myrabella, and shows a crop of colza – or oilseed rape – in Burgundy, France.

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29 May: A May morning

Red Sussex Cow
 
The sky is clear,
  The sun is bright;
The cows are red,
  The sheep are white;
Trees in the meadows
Make happy shadows.

 Birds in the hedge
  Are perched and sing;
Swallows and larks
  Are on the wing:
Two merry cuckoos
Are making echoes.

 Bird and the beast
  Have the dew yet;
My road shines dry,
  Theirs bright and wet:
Death gives no warning,
On this May morning.

 I see no Christ
  Nailed on a tree,
Dying for sin;
  No sin I see:
No thoughts for sadness,
All thoughts for gladness. 

(from Foliage: Various Poems by W. H. Davies.

Sometimes Davies says it all in sheer simplicity: Christ is risen, No sin I see!

Image by Charles Drake Public domain

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6 March, Lenten Reading: ordinary, decent people

Windswept Barley, Kent.

The book of Ruth is a short read, a comfort read, at least by the time you reach the happy ending. Ruth, of course, is the 30x great grandmother of Egypt, her adventures with her mother-in-law Naomi part of his family history. And she was a foreigner, not a member of the people of Israel, but still one of the people of God.

This article by Fr Richard J Clifford, is from America magazine: The Book of Ruth reminds us to take seriously the lives of ordinary people. Read them in either order, and take more seriously your own life, and those of people around you. A good Lenten exercise!

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3 February: ‘Choose the World You Want Festival’.

The Fairtrade festival is coming up this month:

Fairtrade, climate and you

Join our free virtual festival to hear why winning a fairer deal for farmers and workers is critical in tackling the climate crisis.

Throughout Fairtrade Fortnight (22 February to 7 March), the festival will feature:

  • • Farmers and workers from around the world explaining why they need to earn more to survive a climate crisis that is already hurting their communities
  • • Discussions between farmers, other experts and famous faces about what we need to do to choose a better future
  • • Music, art and entertainment, from all corner of our passionate and talented global Fairtrade community
  • • Fun interactive workshops on sustainable living here in the UK.

This Festival will be an exciting part of our Fairtrade Fortnight (22 February – 7 March) celebrations this year.

Sign-up for free today to get all the festival details

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30 October: Trees of Scotland II

See the source image
Strichen or Streichton, from Wikipedia

We are still in Scotland with Dr Johnson, who again laments the lack of trees. Deforestation is not a new sin! However it is clear that something could be done about it, since two landowners were planting. There are trees around the village of Strichen today, restful to the eye and helping restore the climate.

Next morning we continued our journey, pleased with our reception at Slanes Castle, of which we had now leisure to recount the grandeur and the elegance; for our way afforded us few topics of conversation.  The ground was neither uncultivated nor unfruitful; but it was still all arable.  Of flocks or herds there was no appearance.  I had now travelled two hundred miles in Scotland, and seen only one tree not younger than myself.

We dined this day at the house of Mr. Frazer of Streichton, who shewed us in his grounds some stones yet standing of a druidical circle, and what I began to think more worthy of notice, some forest trees of full growth …

“We had now a prelude to the Highlands.  We began to leave fertility and culture behind us, and saw for a great length of road nothing but heath; yet at Fochabars, a seat belonging to the duke of Gordon, there is an orchard, which in Scotland I had never seen before, with some timber trees, and a plantation of oaks.

from “Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland” by Samuel Johnson.

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1 September: Wesley’s thoughts upon Slavery III.

<a href="http://By Mathieu DAMMAN – <a rel="nofollow" class="external autonumber" href="http://www.world66.com/africa/senegal/capskirring/lib/gallery/showimage?pic=africa/senegal/capskirring/rsidences_les_al">%5B1%5D</a&gt;, <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/1.0&quot; title="Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 1.0">CC BY-SA 1.0</a>, <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3131825">LinkLandscape in Casamance, Senegal


Some of the Language in Wesley’s thoughts upon slavery would be considered offensive today, but it is clearly not intended to be so. After all, the pamphlet was arguing for the essential equality of humankind
and the abolition of slavery. In this section the notion that the slaves were taken from miserable poverty in West Africa is completely demolished on eyewitness testimony.

That part of Africa whence the Negroes are brought, commonly known by the name of Guinea, extends along the coast, in the whole, between three and four thousand miles. From the river Senegal to … Congo and Angola.

 Concerning the Senegal coast, Monsieur Brue, who lived there sixteen years, after describing its fruitfulness near the sea, says, “The farther you go from the sea, the more fruitful and well-improved is the country, abounding in pulse, Indian corn, and various fruits. Here are vast meadows, which feed large herds of great and small cattle; and the villages, which lie thick, show the country is well peopled.” And again: “I was surprised to see the land so well cultivated: Scarce a spot lay unimproved; the low lands, divided by small canals, were all sowed with rice; the higher grounds were planted with Indian corn, and peas of different sorts. Their beef is excellent; poultry plenty, and very cheap, as are all the necessaries of life.”

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17 August: Gilbert White IV, Nature is a great economist.

Sussex Cattle

LETTER VIII Continued.

Within the present limits of the forest are three considerable lakes, Hogmer, Cranmer, and Wolmer, all of which are stocked with carp, tench, eels, and perch: but the fish do not thrive well, because the water is hungry, and the bottoms are a naked sand.

A circumstance respecting these ponds, though by no means peculiar to them, I cannot pass over in silence; and that is, that instinct by which in summer all the kine, whether oxen, cows, calves, or heifers, retire constantly to the water during the hotter hours; where, being more exempt from flies, and inhaling the coolness of that element, some belly deep, and some only to mid-leg, they ruminate and solace themselves from about ten in the morning till four in the afternoon, and then return to their feeding.  During this great proportion of the day they drop much dung, in which insects nestle, and so supply food for the fish, which would be poorly subsisted but from this contingency.  Thus Nature, who is a great economist, converts the recreation of one animal to the support of another!  Thomson, who was a nice observer of natural occurrences, did not let this pleasing circumstance escape him. 

He says, in his “Summer,”

“A various group the herds and flocks compose;
. . . on the grassy bank
Some ruminating lie; while others stand
Half in the flood, and, often bending, sip
The circling surface.”

White is more aware than many modern people of the cycle of life! These Sussex heifers were beside the Little Stour River in July 2020.

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