Category Archives: sustainable communities

Ecopsychology: Addiction Recovery for a People (pt. 5 of 5)

So today, dear reader, I would urge you to be involved in sustainable business.  For many of this you this may mean as customers: every local farmer needs at least a couple dozen of them.  If that’s too much and overwhelming, don’t sweat it.  There really are times when you have to buckle down and just survive, ‘cause I’ll say it again—it’s an insane, addicted, codependent, abusive world we live in.  Get through this and we’ll talk again when things are better.

Or if you’re in a more secure place and mere patronage doesn’t feel “big” enough for you, there are scads of other things you can do to forward local agriculture in your area—it’s struggling and really can use some passionate non-farmers to fill in the gaps.  Maybe you could find a few friends from church and your neighborhood to form a buying co-op and bring in weekly deliveries of some local food that you can’t get in stores, but is too far away to justify actually driving to the farm to get it every. stinking. week.  Start a middleman business moving fresh produce from small local farms to local institutional buyers like schools and hospitals—a big missing link in most communities, because neither farmers nor institutions have time to devote to this.  (Farmers would love it if you did any of these things.  Really, they would.)

You, or any enterprising 16+ year old with a driver’s license, could start a diaper service.  Or a composting diaper service, if you live in a desert.

Partner with a beginning farmer.  (Joel Salatin, alternative farmer extraordinaire, discusses this at length in his books—I couldn’t have thought of this on my own.)   A lot of people have dreams of retiring early to farm.  Here’s the bad news: Farms have a life cycle, and by the time you hit early retirement, you’re already going to die too soon for your farm to be viable as anything but a hobby.  It’s our economy’s cruel little joke that once you’re financially established enough to start something, it’s too late to see it through.  I only see this getting moreso as student debt continues to climb.

How about instead, you partner up with someone whose gut-busting-labor years are still ahead of them?  You can provide them with capital and general worldly experience that they need desperately.  They can take their energy and go far with it, providing you with some side income and maybe a sweet farm to live on in your working and retired years, and be established enough to carry the cycle on when you pass.  This, to me, is one of those Spirit of Elijah things—we need to bring our generations back together in this way just for our own selves, and if we’re serious about replenishing the earth.

If your town, like mine, has a suburban expanse connected to the main workplace districts by roads that get rock-solid constipated during rush hour, another partnership of the established-and-moneyed with the young could run a jitney shuttle service.

Become a solar power baron.  States and utilities are draggin’ their fool feet, so it’s probably just up to people like us.  I would suggest teaming up with farmers or warehouse businesses; they often have big roofs so the installation cost per watt is much lower than it would be if you put little panels on individual homes.  Also, farms and businesses are often eligible for tax breaks or outright refunds that homes are not.  Should you and/or your co-op manage to install enough acreage, you may even find yourself in a good bargaining position to get a better rate from the power company.

…And so forth.  The moral of the story is we can’t just be choice takers if we want to be good stewards.  We have to create the choices we want.  We also need to ensure that the means by which those choices are provided are self-sustaining—that they can provide at least a sideline income—so that we don’t remain dependent on our abusers.

Vive l’enterprise.

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Ecopsychology: Addiction Recovery for a People (pt. 4 of 5)

I believe that non-profit environmentalism is unsustainable.  If environmentalism is charity, then it requires profitable non-environmentalism to fund it.  You’re eternally stuck robbing Peter to pay Paul.

We need to take our cue from nature: organisms survive by making their living from activities that actively benefit their community.  Cleaner fish, dung beetles, vultures, the wandering herds and the wolves that follow them, corals, the horse-guard wasps—these are our role models.  We must become able to actually make a living replenishing our earth.  It cannot be a hobby.

We will continue to need clothing, food, shelter, etc for the foreseeable future, and we are already becoming more able to do so locally.  That builds local economies that are much less prone to widespread, systematic abuse, because in local economies businesses have to live with their mistakes.  It also takes customers and dollars—their only source of power—from the multinationals, or what I like to think of as the “locust economy.”

And if there’s anything I learned from my genocidally deranged Anglo-American ancestors, it’s this: that it might feel good to fight your enemies, but carving apart their resource base and starving them out is so much more effective.

Ecopsychology: Addiction Recovery for a People (pt. 3 of 5)

The best part of growing up is making your own path.  The broken world of the abuser, which has only two roles (abuser or victim), would have you either accept or deny its paradigm wholesale.  Either you acquiesce to some degree or another, doing the best you can with CFLs and Priuses and accepting the overall will of the abusers (thus becoming one of them yourself).  Or you run.  You live the happy life with the birds (which will soon be extinct)—in which case, you’re just a victim.  It’s like the frickin’ Hotel California. You can check out any time you want, but you can’t ever leave.

I think of Jesus, who came to a place and a time of lots of Either/Or thinking.  Should we have Greek-centered or Judaism-centered culture?  Sadducees or Pharisees?  Capitulation to Rome or armed revolt?

Confronted with all these ridiculous nonsense choices, the Son of God called them all ridiculous nonsense.  He struck out in His own way and lived and taught a better life than anyone could have thought of before He came along.

How good it is to follow Him.

*********

It turns out that recovering from abuse is a lot like repentance.  It’s the flip-side version of repentance, of course, because you didn’t do anything wrong yourself.  (Actually, many abusers enjoy forcing their victims to do things they find morally repugnant.  Think Abu Ghraib.  For many people whose abuse included these domination-submission games, it can be an entire process in itself just to remember what the difference is between the two.  Those of us trying to make do with CFLs and cloth shopping bags know a tiny taste of that insanity.)

But so many things are the same.

In order to repent, an abuser has to change their view of the world to one where other peoples’ agency matters.

In order to heal, recipients of abuse have to change their view of the world to one where other peoples’ agency matters.

For victims, this means coming to terms with the fact that someone really did force them to do something.  This is difficult because, while it allows one kind of healing to begin—the acquittal of guilt—it also requires the realization of exactly how vulnerable we are.  This is a large part of what makes recovery from rape so difficult—to realize how easy it was for someone to just make you their bitch because they felt like it.

That realization is terrifying.  It’s why so many of us cling to illusions of control.  It’s why we like to blame victims (“She was asking for it,” “Look what she was wearing,” “She’s exaggerating how bad it was,” etc).  It’s why we’d rather self-loathe for being wishy-washy environmentalists than admit that we’re being coerced into doing things we don’t want to do.

Ecopsychology: Addiction Recovery for a People (pt. 2 of 5)

I feel very strongly that our biggest environmental problem right now is that few persons, families, or institutions actually have real choices.  Food’s a great example.  I have been so happy to see the burgeoning growth in local, organic, etc food.  At the same time, the field is very young and green and in no way prepared to provide sustainable resources for all or even most of us at this time.  Our options for, say yogurt in this area are: normal year-round agrobiz yogurt at the grocery store; greenwashed year-round industrial-organic yogurt at the grocery store; driving miles into the sticks every week to buy the local seasonal “for pet food only” brew; or make it myself… using milk sourced from any of the three above sources.  And as much as I’m on the right track to fulfill my dream of running a water buffalo dairy etc when I grow up, we’ve got a boatload of student debt and it ain’t happening any time soon.

In the end, most of us are just stuck choosing from the options “allowed” by the businessmen and lawmakers businessmen around us.  In a very real sense, we are children living with an addicted, abusive extended family, and it is doing everything it can to keep us in its web of codependency.

It might feel good to move out (or in this case, drop out of society).  But if you haven’t formed new patterns of behavior other than the ones they taught you—if you haven’t created new options for yourself—moving out won’t change a thing.  Even the most whole, healthy person can’t have healthy relationships if everyone around them is abusive and/or insane.  And you can’t live lightly on the earth with the options we presently have.

If we want to heal, we can’t just do our best to cope in the bad house or move out—we have to build a new house.

Ecopsychology: Addiction Recovery for a People (pt. 1 of 5)

What if we stopped talking about the “oil addiction” as a metaphor and actually started treating it like an addiction?

Addiction has many characteristics: I will leave it to better social-service specialists than I to lay it all out.

What I want to talk about today is recovery.

The way I see it, the principal problem we face in our dependency on oil (and factory slaves, and industrial agriculture, and so on) is there really aren’t alternatives.

Our civilization is kinda like a wino stranded in a city where the only choices for calories are beer, whiskey, or wine.  He may be able to supplement with the odd free-range pigeon; but no matter how desperately the alcoholic wants out, or how deep his self-disgust every time he drinks, his odds of quitting aren’t good.

It offends, I think, many peoples’ sensibilities to genuinely see themselves as coerced by outside forces into choosing from a few poor or mediocre choices.  We’re a-MARE-kins, dadgummit, and we’re the captains of our souls.  We know that if we’re not living 100% (or at least 90%) in accord with our environmentalist convictions, it’s just because we lack the blistering zeal that we should have.  You know, the blistering zeal that would enable us to finally admit out loud that Yes, we’ve known all along that CFLs and cloth shopping bags doesn’t really do that much in the big picture, and push us over that final hump to drop out of society and go live lightly on the land where we’ll turn our kids’ education over to the birds and the trees.

Hold it right there!  Shouldn’t it be clear that if your best option for an environmentally sound life is to drop out of society, then the real problem is a lot bigger than you?  This is not a problem of you being a faulty individual with insufficient chutzpah to live your convictions.  It is a very real lack of choices.  We don’t dare train our kids up to be like the birds and the trees, because we’ve seen what happens to the birds and the trees.

Should we aspire to gentrification?

By Common Consent has a post up right now about LDS architecture – a side interest of mine.  Someone made a comment about how an LDS chapel, generic though it may be, ‘gentrifies the neighborhood’…. as if that is a good thing.  And I immediately cringed, commented a couple of times, and then realized I should take my thoughts to my own space rather than hijacking the BCC thread.

Now, I’m not sure it is categorically a bad thing.  Nor, as a comment later in the thread points out, am I convinced a single meetinghouse actually carries that much weight in a housing market.  But I immediately bristled at the idea that we should be rallying around plunking chapels down as a gentrification tool.

I think the commenter makes a common mistake in thinking of gentrification as a turning over in housing/building stock/quality instead of a turnover of communities/people.  In one of the courses I teach, we spend a great deal of time discussing gentrification.  I do it because it is a central community and housing theme in urban planning circles; I also do it because invariably the communities that half of the students want to choose as their term projects are quickly gentrifying ones. But it is a tricky topic linked to a much larger housing debate about poverty concentration and its social implications.

Anyhow, I show a film called Flag Wars, a Point of View film, which is set down the street from where I once lived. It is a fascinating film, apparently now available to stream on Amazon and sometimes shown on PBS.  The extras on the website are also, if a bit dated, really good.   For those of our more conservative LDS readers, I will warn that on occasion the language is a bit rough (although not awful) and the central theme relates to the gay-lesbian community; you may want to preview before watching it in front of your kids.

The film allows me to make a couple of points:

(1) Gentrification is about displacement of people in terms of class NOT race, ethnicity, or (in this case) gender preference. But, because class and race are so intertwined in the US, certain racial communities suffer the brunt of gentrification.

(2) Gentrification does not always make the area feel safer.  There are several comments in the film about how the neighborhood began gentrifying, the crime was actually LESS prevelant.  Further, the conflict between the two different classes can often increase the stress of the neighborhood for long-tenured residents.

(3) Improving the housing stock does not necessarily improve the community.  In fact, the pressure it puts on housing prices results in displacement of the most vulnerable.  Displacement usually means dispersion of the community and thus tears it apart.

(4) Housing/code violations are a complaint driven process.  If you think that ‘cleaning up the neighborhood’ by forcing your neighbors to ‘take care of their property’ in this manner is ideal/ethical/whatever, you are wrong.  EVEN IF THE BUILDING/NEIGHBORHOOD IS HISTORIC.  It comes from a place of privilege including access to resources (specifically real estate loans and capital) that many people of color have flat out been denied for years.

I could go on.  And I could write about what little we know about how to avoid gentrification.  But I can’t because I have to go pick my son up.  Let’s just suffice it to say that run down neighborhoods are problematic but they hold real communities; gentrification is, by definition, the breaking-up of those communities.  And I’m super uncomfortable when someone suggests that placing a building that helps a tiny minority of that community is a good thing because it looks nice.  Placing a nice building in a poor neighborhood does not necessarily give the residents more access to nice (or even desperately needed) resources.  And it leaves out the part where it might eventually lead to massive displacement/disbursement of the current community.  Blah.

Where do I belong in Occupy?

At risk of losing all anonymity, I’ll out myself as a resident of Portland, Oregon.  As a family, we’ve gone down to our occupy movement several times including bringing food and attending general assemblies with my preschooler.  My turning-4-year-old and I pass it every weekday on the bus.  During the first march, 3 vehicles of riot police passed within 8 feet of us as we transferred buses – several of the officers waving to the boy who was awed at the sight. (Scary but a new kind of emergency vehicle… cool!)  We’ve had many conversations about protests as people saying to the government that ‘this bugs us, we wish you would do something different’ … the language of non-violent communication for his preschool.  It is a movement that I (and my husband) personally support even if the organizational elements of it are fluid and difficult to make heads or tails.

So, last night, I – probably prudently – snuggled my nearly 3rd-trimester pregnant self into my bed with my preschooler down the hall in a comfy house even as I literally prayed – and I left behind petitionary prayers years ago –  that I wouldn’t wake up to a blood-bath in the wake of Mayor Adam’s midnight deadline for leaving the parks.  Tears literally streamed down my face this morning when I opened my laptop and saw that all were restrained last night.  I quickly shot off a thank-you email to Mayor Adams for choosing the non-violent way.

It has escalated again.  The parks have been cleared, a couple dozen arrested – peacefully though, and hundreds if not thousands are facing down a police line in a blocked street downtown.  Again, I watch from the safety of my home.

5 years ago, when I first came to Portland, I would have been down there with them.  But now it is more difficult; life requires different choices.  So, how do I show my support?  I offer my food on occassion; I email and call local and federal officials to beg for support; I explain to my preschooler – the very reason I cannot spend large amount of time down there during volatile times – why this is such a wonderful, if scary, thing.

Long term, I – we – have to find another way.  I teach my university courses, both of  which include a module about public conflict and discourse as it applies to communities and movements.  My husband embues his college courses with real and varied critiques of the economic system.  We continue to learn and share why we live simply, why we strive at some level to live in a radical, urban homestead fashion.

It is the sensible thing to do, the sustainable thing to do, the right thing to do at this life stage.  But right now, watching those brave people on that front line trying to peacefully ask for a better way while facing a line of riot geared officers (who, frankly, are the 99% too), those actions seem so very inadequate.

Sacred Groves

6-Consecration

After my visit to Walden Pond, I felt I had more questions than answers. So a few days after my Walden adventure, when my apprentice duties were done for the day, I went for a walk alone. From camp I headed north on a small dirt logging road with no particular destination. Turning off the main path I came across the wreckage of an old mill whose stone ramparts still flanked a gurgling stream. Beyond the narrow stream was the old holding pond, where earthen dams on either side gathered the stream’s water. The water then flowed over the mill’s wheel. The pool was now a large pond filled with fish, lily pads and riparian plants. These mills are common in New England and were used to power sawmills, grind grain and corn, and even generate electricity in later years. It had been out of commission for some time, but there were still large rusty gears strewn about the stream. Second growth forest, which had recovered beautifully, grew up through the stones. I scrambled along the south side of the stream looking down at where the gears had once crossed. The stone walls were still neatly stacked. Birds chirped nearby, and a pair of bumble bees buzzed in and out of their home in the rocks. Mosquitoes bounced off the black pools of water below occasionally gulped down by the tiny bass and blue gill that populated the stream and pond. The sun was beginning to set, winking at me through wavery bows of hemlock, black birch and sugar maple.

Stone ramparts of mill

I sat cross legged on atop the large stone wall and took a deep breath. I started the summer asking a simple question: Can forests be sacred without the separation of culture and nature? I throw a pebble from my rock perch down to the dark water. To make sacred must somehow become an activity not of separation and delineation, but one of unification and integration. But to declare the forest sacred and dust off my hands doesn’t accomplish anything. There is process here. The rings from my pebbles expand outward and envelop the length and breadth of a small trickling pool. To make sacred…consecration…holy…hallowed. I return to the word consecration in my mind, and throw another pebble.

The word will be familiar to most Mormon readers. Ordinarily, to consecrate means to make something or someplace sacred, to set apart, or to dedicate oneself to something. We consecrate a temple, or our actions to God. But the prefix con- means with, jointly, together. What would it mean to interpret consecration as meaning to make sacred with? Why not? Rather than declaring certain spaces as inherently sacred in opposition to places that are not, consecration could come to represent the process of being in a special kind of religious relationship with each other and the earth. Salvation or eternal progression means moving toward perfection, wholeness; but as Mormons we do not believe that we do this alone. Mormon theology affirms that the eternities will be spent with our families, creation and the earth. Our temples are devoted to creating webs of relationship that are believed to endure throughout eternity. Our early communalist social organization was devoted to fostering a celestial economy free of competition and worthy of the angels. Even today’s Mormon congregations and other spiritual communities are places we go to learn, improve ourselves and serve one another—what Mormons call ‘perfecting the saints.’ Perfection is not an achievement it is a process.

However, consecration as an ecological relationship has not been explored by Mormon theologians. To convince ourselves that to make sacred with is an eternal process, emphasizing the immanence of God seems like an important preliminary step. While Christianity has in many of its larger strains emphasized the transcendence of God, there are many lesser known pan-theistic and pan-en-theistic strains of Christianity that focus on immanence. The distinction is subtle but important; for the pantheist, God is synonymous with the universe i.e God=everything. While critics have struggled with why this is any different from atheism, pantheists like Michael P. Levine insist that pantheism asserts a single divine reality. Panentheism on the other hand asserts that God is both transcendent and immanent; God retains a separation from creation, but also dwells within it. Sally Mcfague’s book The Body of God is an excellent example of a successful articulation of a Christian panentheist theology. The world (i.e. everything that exists) is God’s body, a body in which his spirit dwells.

Mormon theology, as usual, holds a curious middle ground in the discussion between transcendence and immanence. Starting with Joseph Smith’s assertion that God exists within the universe, most Mormon theologians would insist that references to God’s body is no metaphor. So while God is within time and space, s/he is separated by his/her corporeal form from the rest of creation. Yet in the doctrine of the ‘Light of Christ’ we get a sense of how God’s immanence might work within Mormon ecotheology.

“He that ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth; Which truth shineth. This is the light of Christ. As also he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made. As also he is in the moon, and is the light of the moon, and the power thereof by which it was made; As also the light of the stars, and the power thereof by which they were made; And the earth also, and the power thereof, even the earth upon which you stand. And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings; Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space—The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things” (D & C 88:6-13).

The light of Christ dwells in all things but is also likened unto the power by which all things were made. The emphasis on heavenly bodies gives this dwelling a deeply cosmological focus. God is thus immanent in the process of consecration not only through his/her desire for us to be like them, but through the Light of Christ whose immanence draws us toward the good. Another aspect of consecration is related to Mormonism’s unique theology of intelligence(s). “Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made neither indeed can be” (D&C 93:29). For Smith spirit is material, and all spirit-matter is imbued with intelligence, i.e. that power by which it was made. Abraham 3:22 provides a slightly different concept of intelligences—less a quality of matter than a pre-mortal characteristic: “Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones.” Intelligence in both cases clearly point to the basic units of the pre-mortal soul. Mormon theologian, philosopher and Apostle Orson Pratt took this idea a step further:

“All the organizations of worlds, of minerals, of vegetables, of animals, of men, of angels, of spirits, and of the spiritual personages of the Father, of the Son, and the Holy Ghost, must, if organized at all, have been the result of the self-combinations and unions of the preexistent, intelligent, powerful, and eternal particles of substance. These eternal Forces and Powers are the Great First Causes of all things and events that have had a beginning.”[1]

Pratt takes Smith’s intelligences in the direction of self-organizing intelligence-matter as the basic unit of cosmological creativity, out of which the myriad forms of the organized universe emerge. Brigham Young also took a radical view of matter when he said:

“There is not one particle of element, which is not filled with life. . . . There is life in all matter, throughout the vast extent of all the eternities; it is in the rock, the sand, the dust, in water, and gasses, and in short, in every description and organization of matter whether it be solid, liquid, or gaseous, particle operating within particle.”[2]

These teachings also harmonize with the creation stories found in Joseph Smith’s Moses 3 in which animals and plants are created as living souls, rather than living creatures as translated in the King James. Enoch also encounters the earth as a living breathing and lamenting living soul in Moses 7. These unique Mormon teachings, give us a glimpse of the importance of embodiment in Joseph’s theology. The idea that all matter is pervaded with active intelligence democratizes the substance of the universe and challenges traditional dualisms of spirit and body, even within God themselves. As Sally Mcfague frames embodiment, it is “[t]hrough our bodies, in their agonies and ecstasies that lie behind and beyond all linguistic expression, [that] we are bound into a network of relations with our natural environment and experience ourselves as bodies with other bodies. Whatever else experience means, it includes bodily experience as a primordial reality, uniting us in ever-widening concentric circles with the entire planet in all its diverse, rich forms of embodiment.”[3]

Existence is embodiment, embodiment is being in relationship, salvation is a process bound by relationships and the goal of that process is consecration—to make all bodies sacred. Thomas Berry believes that in order to authentically participate in this process we must get serious about “fostering mutually enhancing relationships with the earth;” relationships that are not exploitative but mutually beneficial for humans and the earth we rely on; relationships that do not treat humans and nature as separate entities but as a network of embodied creatures moving through the cosmos together. Industrial civilization has long emphasized an extractive and exploitative relationship, the Light of Christ compels us toward something entirely different.

Consecrating the Forests

Ok, so how does this apply to forestry? Stay with me! The best example of how consecration could work ecologically, besides the work I have been doing this summer, comes from a national park in Croatia—one of our stops during my trip to Europe this spring.

Fishing boats on the Sava River at sunset

Lonjsko Polje is a national park in central Croatia which encompasses much of the Sava River basin, a tributary to the Danube. The park is run by a charismatic man named Goran Gugić who spent the day with us, explaining the complex cultural and ecological landscape. Many rural and marginal places, according to Gugić, have developed what he calls “organically evolved cultural landscapes.” By this he means that throughout the almost 2,000 years that humans have occupied this dynamic ecosystem, they have slowly developed unique adaptations to the unpredictable flood cycles that characterize the region. Because the Sava River has several other tributaries that meander through different areas of Europe, there is no predictable flood season. Peasants who have lived in the area have had to come up with creative ways of making a living in such an unpredictable ecosystem. Since it was declared a national park in 1996 this unique “nature park” of 200 square miles (about twice the size of Salt Lake City) has developed a seamless unification between culture and nature that I believe to be a model for an applied theology of consecration.

Traditional wood house in Lonjsko Polje, Croatia

For the people of this region, the Sava River means life; they drink from its water, eat its fish and navigate its courses. Houses are built along the river rather than in clustered villages. Homes are built out of wood, which readily dry when wet. The houses are placed on the crest of the naturally forming levees close to the river; this high point is the safest place to be when the river floods its banks. Stairs are placed on the outside of houses so that residents can easily get to their boats regardless of the water level. If the meander of the river threatens the house, it is simply moved farther away from the river by oxen or horses.

Behind the houses are installed orchards, gardens and fields. Beyond that, flood pasture and hay fields are maintained in common. Riparian forests which are made up of oak (Quercus robur), ash (Fraxinus excelsior), hornbeam (Carpinus betulus), alder (Alnus glutinosa), willow (salix alba) and poplar (populous nigra and populous alba) are mixed throughout these areas, and are used extensively for building materials and animal grazing. These forests are some of the largest intact oak-ash woodlands in Europe and are some of the few places where traditional agroforestry systems have survived.

Croatian pigs in oak forest

Agroforestry is the incorporation of trees into areas of food production and vice versa. Croatian peasants have developed an impressive array of agroforestry systems adapted to the unpredictable flooding of the Sava River. Because crops are easily killed in floods, the pasturing of horses, cows, pigs and geese are the most common agroforestry systems. One particular site we visited was an oak forest where pigs are allowed to graze for acorns. Because pigs graze here it has an open park like feel. The pigs have become perfectly adapted to the unpredictable riparian ecosystem. For example, rather than having ears that flop down and cover their eyes like some domestic breeds, the pigs of Longsko Polje have semi-floppy ears, which allow them to see if they have to swim to higher ground during a flood. They are also adapted to the harsh winters. In the spring, pigs are led to graze in the pasture before the cattle arrive. The rooting they do creates small differences in the soil depth favoring rare plant species; in fact, Gugić claims that Mentha pulegium, Pulicaria vulgaris, Teucrium scordium, Marsilea quadrifolia and Gratiola ofi cinalis are now dependent on pig rooting. Soon after summer arrives, the pigs are led to the forests where they eat acorns and root through the soil. The pigs have learned to recognize the call of their herder, which is important during floods. Silvo-pastural systems like the pig-oak forests have allowed for a mobile harvest that can adjust to flooding much better than crops.

Because these agro-forestry systems have developed over thousands of years, local biodiversity has also adapted with them; so much so that many birds rare throughout Europe are found in abundance in Longsko Polje. The park is home to 103 species of fauna, 54 of which are endemic.  One of the few remaining habitats of the spoon bill in Europe is found in the park. The park also boasts one of the largest populations of the white stork which build their nests on rooftops.

As Gucić puts it, “the man-made habitats generated by the traditional pasturing system are of at least the same importance for biodiversity conservation as the natural flood plain habitats.”[4] This is the holy grail of the sustainability movement and a small example of what I mean when I say consecration is the process of making sacred with; sacred in this framing is embodying mutually beneficial relationships between people and the earth.

Sacred Groves

The flat stone upon which I sat overlooking the stream had been formed over the 4.5 billion years of earth’s life and then stacked neatly by human hands. I had found my sacred grove. The rusting gears and heavy metals slowly degrade but will inevitably leave a scar. This place is sacred not because it is pristine, or because the mill represents a perfectly symbiotic relationship, but because it bears the mistakes we have made along the way. Consecration will never be a place we arrive at, but a process of trial and error.

The law of survival of the fittest in its brutal beauty is responsible for the diversity of life that we find on this fecund planet. But for humans, consecration embodies a new law; a law that draws us toward empathy, cooperation and mutualism. For Christians this law is embodied in the person Jesus of Nazareth. The work of consecration is our charge to make sacred our relationships with each other and with the earth that sustains us by moving our interaction with these domains toward mutualism. The forestry and management practiced at Yale-Myers forest; in Pleterje, Slovenia and Lonjsko Polje, Croatia are for me sign posts that show us the way this new law could play out in the ecological realm. We make things sacred when we unify ourselves to them in inseparable mutually enhancing relations. This is no easy task, but it is my hope that the Light of Christ will give the rising generation the creative energy to solve the massive ecological problems we face by crafting a new relationship with each other and the earth that will unite us rather than further divide us.

Our closing prayer will be offered by Ralph Waldo Emerson:

“We live in succession, in division, in parts, in particles. Meantime within man is the soul of the whole; the wise silence; the universal beauty, to which every part and particle is equally related, the eternal ONE. And this deep power in which we exist and whose beatitude is all accessible to us, is not only self-sufficing and perfect in every hour, but the act of seeing and the thing seen, the seer and the spectacle, the subject and the object, are one. We see the world piece by piece, as the sun, the moon, the animal, the tree; but the whole, of which these are shining parts, is the soul.”[5]


[1] Orson Pratt, “Great First Cause, or the Self-Moving Forces of the Universe” first printed in Liverpool by R. James in 1851. Reprinted in The Essential Orson Pratt, foreword by David J. Whittaker (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1991), 196.

[2] Brigham Young, March 28, 1856, Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. (London and Liverpool: LDS Booksellers Depot, 1855–86), 3:279.

[3] Sally Mcfague The Body of God: an Ecological Theology (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993), 86.

[4] Gulan GUGIĆ Managing Sustainability in conditions of Change and Unpredictability – The Living Landscape and Floodplain Ecosystem of the Central Sava River Basin (Krapje, Croatia: Lonjsko Polje Nature Park Public Service, 2009).

[5] Ralph Waldo Emerson, ‘The Over-Soul’ in Ralph Waldo Emerson Nature and Selected Essays (New York: Penguin Book), 207.

It’s Time

Tomorrow, Tim DeChristopher will be sentenced by a Bush-appointed federal judge for interrupting an oil and gas auction to fight climate change.

I recently blogged about what it would take to really stop climate change and fight peak oil and the destruction of the planet. There were many answers. Mine was this: We need to follow Tim’s lead and engage in massive civil disobedience against the fossil fuel industry in all its forms. We need to break the laws that protect the plunderers and punish the innocent. And that means fighting tar sands, mountaintop removal, Rio Tinto, Massey Energy, Exxon, Chevron, and BP. It means seeing ourselves as citizens, as a political mass movement capable of creativity and courage and change.

On July 26th, we will demonstrate our outrage at the persecution of our friend and ally, and our commitment to the fight for a livable future. We will demand that the real criminals—the carbon crooks destroying our natural world and attacking our climate—be prosecuted, not peaceful activists.

You can start your fight tomorrow. If you live in Utah, come to the solidarity action in front of the courthouse (350 S. Main) from 12-4 pm. From 12-2 we will use Theater of the Oppressed techniques to get our community to decide what actions it wants to take to stop climate change. At 2, we will head to the courtroom to support Tim as he is sentenced. And then we will act.

If you don’t live in in Utah, check out our solidarity action map to see if something is happening near you.

Watch this video to learn more about Tim and why he did what he did.

Be there.

A Pastry-Maker’s Lament

This was going to be a nice post. I am new here, and so I was going to come in with something soft, positive–something everyone could agree on. But some things don’t work out the way we plan them, and today is no exception. Because today I am angry.

It all started when, in the middle of making French macarons for the farmers market, the pastry scale broke. We tried to fix it but it would not stand fixing, and so Mercedes, my gourmet-food-boss-and-friend (the best combination of realities, I assure you) decided it was time to head to the store for a replacement.

We were in Draper, and so we had the following options: Drive twenty minutes to a ginormous strip mall and purchase our scale at Bed, Bath and Beyond, or, um, drive twenty minutes to a ginormous strip mall and purchase our scale at–you guessed it–Bed, Bath and Beyond. So we did what we had to do. We got in the car, and we drove west.

Driving west in Draper means two things: It means you drive by mansion after stucco mansion squeezed between woebegone horse corrals trying to keep their dignity under the shadow of empire, and it means you are facing, dead on, three or four used-to-be-mountains. I say used to be, an adjective not normally found before the word mountains, because that’s exactly what I mean: where previously there stood several glorious peaks, there now stands several gouges in the mountainside, sand and dirt in dusty cascades down the front. Read more of this post

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