Bless our farms and gardens
Today is Rogation Sunday, the day when the Church has traditionally offered prayer for God’s blessings on the fruits of the earth and the labors of those who produce them. It reminds us of our connection to the land, to gardens and the ground, to apple blossoms and tulips. It reminds us that God loves all of creation; on the final day of creation, God pronounced everything very good. So today, we remember to love creation and love the future generations as we ask God’s blessing on our farmers and gardeners, on the seeds we plant and on the birth and tending of young animals.
Has our food lost its flavour?
But Rogation Sunday is also a time to think about how disconnected we have become from the created world. So many of us live in apartments where we have such limited, if any space to grow our own food. Others, even if they have space for this, don’t have the time. They are so busy that their gardens are of necessity low maintenance, mainly grass and shrubs, with a few annuals hastily planted each year to add colour. Our fruit and vegetables come from the supermarket, and we have lost the joy that comes from preparing and eating food we have grown ourselves.
When we had our farm, I loved to look at my dining table, and know that the beef or chicken and all the vegetables had come from our barn or garden. How much better that fresh food tasted! But it’s not only because our food comes from stores that it seems to have lost flavour. Crop varieties are being developed to give larger yields and to be more pest resistant. This applies to the seeds we buy and plant as well as to food we buy in stores. The tomatoes I buy, or even grow on my balcony, cannot compare to the flavourful ones in our stores and gardens years ago. Many plant species have become close to extinction by selective breeding. I’m not primarily talking about genetically modified foods, but about crossing seed varieties to produce hardier plants.
One million plant and animal species are facing extinction
I was very disturbed by an article a couple of weeks ago in the Globe and Mail, about the first global assessment by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, the international body tasked with pulling together the current state of knowledge on environmental degradation and the risk it poses to humanity. “One million plant and animal species are facing extinction,” said the headline. One million of the planet’s eight million species are threatened with extinction by humans. The global rate of species extinction “is already tens to hundreds of times higher than it has been, on average, over the last 10 million years”. These figures are staggering.
One study, in Argentina looked at 18 areas of forest in 2003 and 2013 and found a net decrease of 24% of species’ richness across all forest fragments. Most of the species that had disappeared were short lived, non woody species. This shouldn’t surprise us, as trees live longer and it will take longer for them to become extinct. But the loss of plants leads to the loss of the animals that feed on them, and so on up the food chain. We – the plants, insects, fish, birds, mammals’ ad humans – are all part of one ecosystem. The health of our plants eventually affects us. Shrinking habitat, exploitation of natural resources, climate change and pollution are the main drivers of species loss. And we humans are the main cause of all of these: shrinking habitat, exploitation of natural resources, climate change and pollution.
What are we doing about this?
Today is the day set aside by the Church to pray for the fruits of the Earth. Can we, in all sincerity, pray for the health of our planet, when we are contributing to the problem? Can we hear God saying to us: “You are my body, my hands and feet on earth”? What are you doing?
With those questions echoing in our ears, let’s turn to today’s Gospel. This is a sma;; fragment from the long speech that Jesus made to his disciples in the Upper Room the night before he dies. Only John records this talk. The last couple of sentences someone read to us are, I’m sure, familiar to all of you. “ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another”. Or as we sang them as our gradual hymn: “A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another as I have loved you”. Luke quote’s Jesus saying this another way: “Love your neighbour …”.
Love your unborn neighbour
Those of you who are on Facebook may have seen this post from Episcopal Church Memes I’d like to add: Thy Animal Neighbour, Thy Plant Neighbour, Thy “All Of Creation”Nneighbour and especially thy Unborn Neighbour. In other words, love creation and love the future generations. If we won’t change our ways to show our love for God’s creation, will we change for the sake of future generations? Our grandchildren, great (and great, great, .._) grandchildren, great nieces and nephews, those countless generations we’ll never know.
Going to see the rabbit , the only rabbit
I think one of the saddest poems I’ve ever read is To See the Rabbit’ by Alan Brownjohn
We are going to see the rabbit. / We are going to see the rabbit. / Which rabbit, people say? / Which rabbit , ask the children? / Which rabbit? / The only rabbit, / The only rabbit in England, / Sitting behind a barbed-wire fence / Under the floodlights, neon lights, / Sodium lights, / Nibbling grass / On the only patch of grass / In England, in England
Is this the life we want for future generations? if so we are going the right way to achieve it! But if we are serious when we pray for God’s creation week by week, we must ask ourselves what we can do. How do we play our part in reversing the devastating effects of human disregard for the Earth and it’s creatures? Coming back to that report on species extinction, can we do something to reverse or slow down the devastation of shrinking habitat, exploitation of natural resources, climate change and pollution? It’s easy to say that anything I can do is too minuscule to make a difference, but if everyone does a little, it really adds up. We can help in a couple of different ways.
We can join with others and get involved in specific activates. For example, both the Royal Botanical Gardens and Halton Conservation have opportunities for you to volunteer to help in habitat restoration. Or you may prefer to join those who are petitioning our governments and corporations to be more proactive to those issues. Those of us with gardens can join the growing numbers of people planting more tress, or growing the plants that encourage bees and butterflies.
Reduce and reuse
Another way to have an impact is by changing our lifestyles. Or rather, continuing to adapt our lifestyles. Reduce, reuse, recycle has become part of our way of life, but we can do more. Instead of reducing, where can we eliminate single use plastics? Do we really need a plastic bag for the apples from the supermarket? Reuse yogurt and similar containers for left overs and for freezing food. Wednesday’s Globe and Mail’s article on recycled waste says that only nine per cent of Canada’s 3.2 million tonnes of plastic waste is recycled.
Change your diet
What about reducing the amount of red meat we eat? Our national meat-based diet is unsustainable. Livestock production accounts for 70 per cent of all agricultural land use, occupies 30 per cent of the planet’s land surface and is responsible for 18 per cent of greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrous oxide. It is also inefficient, taking about five to seven kilograms of grain to produce one kilogram of beef. (David Suzuki Foundation.) Animal protein is just as nutritious and better for our health.
Love the future generations
So love your neighbour, plant, animal, air, water and especially your future generations of neighbours, but as God loves you. This is how everyone will know that we are Christ’s disciples. This is how we honour and praise God. Happy Rogation Day.