The long, cold Spring has been very challenging, causing failed germination and seedlings that didn’t thrive. Then there was a delivery of baby plants from Cornwall that got ‘lost in transit’, water-logging and wind-blown rubbish swirling around the Grow Box.
But finally, the Three Sisters area of the Ecozoic Garden is taking off. The season has been a salutary reminder that agricultural/horticultural food production is not straightforward. Although we are insulated to an extent from reality by our inner-city bubble, we remain radically dependent on environmental conditions, and the skill and management of people far away.
Some of that management, while producing ‘cheap’ food for large populations for several decades, has made a major contribution to the climate crisis and had a devastating impact on soils and biodiversity.
What can church offer in this arena to change lives and contribute to a just transition to a post-carbon world – an Ecozoic era?
The ‘Food for the Ecozoic’ project is inspired by indigenous people and plants who have long lived sustainably together in the places they find themselves, as an integral part of planet Earth.
They know about relationship and resilience in the face of change. We are in dialogue with prophetic and revolutionary voices wherever we find them, including home-grown radicals from our own indigenous traditions, and geologian Thomas Berry who first articulated the vision of an Ecozoic era; a planetary space and time where all living things are at home. We look to Scripture, science and history, for wisdom essential to meaningful creative action that draws on all our gifts and talents.
As the Ecozoic garden grows and produces food in the coming months, these perspectives from a broad spectrum of human and more-than-human experience will help us explore how the stories we tell ourselves make us who we are.
To many of North America’s First Nations these three plants were a sacred gift that provided physical and spiritual sustenance. In this system of companion planting, each of the sisters contributes something different. Together, they provide a balanced diet for humans while promoting biodiversity (including pollinators) and enriching the soil for the long term.
The maize/corn offers support to the others.
The beans take nitrogen from the air and make it usable in the soil, providing nutrients for all three plants.
The twining vines of the squash hold the sisters together, and its large leaves provide protection and shade, stabilising temperature and keeping the system moist.
Our title brings together two challenging ideas. First of all, it presents Genesis as a subversive text. Isn’t the story of Adam and Eve a repressive narrative, tainting us with sin before we have even been born? Hasn’t it been used for centuries to belittle and oppress women? And used to condemn acts of sexual pleasure as impure?
And then there’s that association of the English with revolution. Aren’t the English at best conservative, cringingly respectful of social hierarchies? And at worst aren’t we colonisers, empire-builders? And what has all this to do with Food for the Ecozoic?
Our project Food for the Ecozoic explores the practical and spiritual resources needed if we are o develop a changed and mutually life-giving relationship with the earth. Thomas Berry, who introduced the word ‘Ecozoic’ or ‘home for life’ had no doubt that to achieve this we must change the human mind-set. In fact, we must tell ourselves different stories. And perhaps we might also look at the stories that have shaped our thinking for centuries, and ask whether we might interpret them differently.
While presenting our English revolutionaries, we will look at Genesis through the lens of the Ecozoic. And through their radical writings, acts and art-making, we will discover their own responses to Genesis.
The first book of the Bible presents land occupation and wilderness; exclusion and acceptance; violence and nurturing love, and depicts a range of family, gender and social relationships. Its stories spoke to our English radicals as they took arms against an oppressive aristocracy; challenged land ownership; shocked the long entrenched patriarchy and spoke against the policing of sexual joys. Different as their interpretations are, our radicals do not see the Bible as an ancient text whose significance is historical. Rather its stories are being lived now, given flesh and acted out by contemporary women and men. I am reminded how Martin Luther King gave hope to his followers by drawing on the Biblical story of the Exodus from slavery to the Promised Land. He became Moses demanding “Let my people go”. Perhaps, threatened by climate catastrophe but also inspired by our vision of the Ecozoic, we might locate that sense of ‘here and nowness’ in twenty-first century London.
We will begin on 12 June 1381, where 10,000 angry and desperate men are converging on a hill outside Blackheath.
Diane Pacitti, 2023