NJPN Blog: ‘Regenesis’ – Responding to the Cry of the Ground
Ahead of the Feast of Pentecost, our international prayer group SHCJ – the Society of the Holy Child Jesus – came together to greet those in Africa, America and Ireland with added delight as we marveled at the how the distance has disappeared thanks to this new technology. We reflected together on Pope Francis’ reflections on the Holy Spirit in “Let’s Dream”:
“The Spirit shows us new things through what the Church calls the signs of the times. Discerning the signs of the times enables us to make sense of change… thirst for justice”, a cry that goes If we discern in such an aspiration a movement of the Spirit of God, it allows us to open ourselves to this movement of thought and action, and thus to create a new future. …..allowing us to respond with the depth that only the Holy Spirit can give us.(#57)
As we reflect, we have looked at the current ‘signs of the times’: the war in Ukraine, rising poverty amid the cost of living crisis, climate change and, most fortunately, the way communities were gathered during the pandemic. But the cry of the Poor and the cry of the Earth were the dominant themes. How to respond to problems of this magnitude?
The next day, a book, ordered by our youngest son, was delivered to our house. This is George Monbiot’s latest book titled “Regenesis: Feeding the World Without Eating the Planet”. Always in search of the Holy Spirit to show me the signs of the times, I seized it and it did not fail.
It comes with great success. Greta Thunberg says Monbiot is one of the most important and fearless voices in the global climate movement today. Kate Raworth says: “Regenesis calls for nothing less than a revolution in the future of food – a revolution that will literally transform the face of the Earth. This is Monbiot’s masterpiece.” Former chief government science adviser David King said: “This is, in my opinion, one of the two or three most important books of this century.”
“Regenesis” describes Monbiot’s research journey, in a very readable way, from examining a “spit” of soil to a complete reversal of agriculture as a mode of food production. The brooch contains a microcosm of the planet’s richest ecosystem that is “attached to everything else in the universe”. He says soil may be the most complex of all living systems, but we treat it like dirt through agricultural processes like tillage. From depleted soil, he moves on to how food production destroys rivers, wildlife, ecosystems and forests. It also has adverse effects on the climate. As we eat more meat and grow grain using annual plowing and planting, we are devastating vast tracts of land. The soil is deficient, the fertilizers pollute and the chicken factories desecrate the rivers with their waste. We slaughter and kill, often brutally, to eat meat protein.
Monbiot looks at the alternatives experimented on a small scale by visionaries like Tolly, like Ian, like Tim. They become real people to us as they discuss the pros and cons of their experimental “farming” with George. Nothing provides the perfect answer – nothing ever will – but there is a growing need for the world to move away from agriculture as we know it. It means the Big Farmer, and for governments to understand that the huge financial subsidies they pump into agriculture are creating some of the very problems they need to address.
The book is funny, personal and meticulously researched. The index of references takes up almost a third of the book, but despite this Monbiot writes in an easily readable style with images of words that stick in the memory underlining the seriousness of his point. A package arrives, part of which is for her nine-year-old daughter. It contains samples of flour made from the seeds of grasses, perennials and not annuals, called Kernza. Even a nine-year-old child is excited about its potential both in food production and in protecting the earth. But will it taste as good? Again, we share in graphic detail his baking a loaf and his first tentative taste. What a relief! It also passes the taste test.
As a Christian, I found his discussion of the shepherd and lamb stories in the Bible and other classic pastoral texts interesting and thought-provoking. For Monbiot, they belong to a golden age, “root metaphors” from which we draw comfort and security. Like children’s books full of talking animals on idealized farms, they hide the harsh reality and crushing poverty of life as a farmhand or shepherd. The final chapter titled “The Ice Saints” is typically funny, personal, and forward-looking. Frost demolished George’s apple orchard. Stewart says it’s because they forgot to pray to the Ice Saints. May 11, 12 and 13 are traditionally the feast days of Saints Mamertus, Pancras and Servais and also days when winter can strike with its last heavy frost. Farmers beware!
But hope is eternal and next month George prepares again for the next harvest. There comes a time in human history when ideas come to fruition, he says, when a seismic shift can occur and we can reshape our relationship with the living planet. No prayer is required if we on Earth are sufficiently prepared. My prayer group would pray with Pope Francis: Come Holy Spirit and renew the face of the Earth and thank God for the Monbiotes for sharing their vision. An essential and enjoyable read for all of us.
Celia Capstick is co-facilitator of the Social Accountability Committee of the National Council of Catholic Women (NBCW).
CAFOD’s ‘Fix the Food System’ food campaign plus a leader’s guide to workshops