Monday, June 7, 2010

Ode to the Earth

The origin of life and its habitat is the earth. Earth is where God wanted life to begin. A pastor in Andong, the smallest diocese in Korea, reflects in the Diocesan Bulletin on life and the earth.

97 percent of the food we need to live comes from the earth or, more exactly, the soil. From the time that we began to farm there has been an effort to make the earth more fertile. The mystery of earth life is a matter for much thought: "A man scatters seed on the ground. He goes to bed and gets up day after day. Through it all the seed sprouts and grows without his knowing how it happens." (Mk. 4:26-27).

Working with the life forces of the earth, humans produce our life-giving food stuffs. In nature, there is no waste--all is used. By using, as much as possible, these same natural methods of the earth, our farming will likely lead to better health for us and for the environment. The earth is one of God's greatest gifts to us, and when we work with the guidelines given to us at creation, we can expect to live in harmony with creation. .

The writer includes a poem by the very extraordinary Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179). She was the first to coin the word green for God's life-giving world.

The earth is at the same time
Mother of all that is natural, mother of all that is human.
Mother of all, she contains in her the seeds of all,
All moistness, all verdancy, all germinating power.
In all ways fruitful, for all creation comes from her.
Yet the earth forms not only the raw materal for humankind,
But also the substance for the incarnation of God's son.

For over forty years, farmers have taken up industrial and chemical farming methods. In the beginning, this was enthusiastically accepted by farmers. It made farming easier and the harvests more abundant. However, over time it was discovered that this was against life. Use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and weed killers were killing the organisms in the earth that would fight off diseases and pests and keep the earth fertile. Dependence on chemical fertilizers and pesticides is an escalating process that increasingly harms the natural fertility of the soil, neutralizing and removing many of the minerals that were making the soil fertile.

In addition, this use of chemicals has done much to pollute our rivers and lakes, even the oceans. Although switching over to natural farming is a desire of many farmers, habits are not easily changed and the loss of produce in the change-over is for many too much of a risk to jeopardize their livelihood. In Korea, in 1983, about 10 million were working on farms; it is now about 3.5 million. The Andong diocese has made farmers their number one priority. Other dioceses will wait with much interest to see what they will accomplish in helping farmers make the transition to natural farming.

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