June 29, 2011

Global Action Lived Locally: A Case Study from Ireland

The Irish Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy have been doing major work in the areas of Cosmology and Environment, one of the themes of MIA global action priority areas for this year. In the article below, Maria Hayes rsm describes the work on one such project, Pairc a’Tobair.

Another example of the Sisters of Mercy in Ireland’s work on this issue can be found by linking to:
Youtube: Tearmann Community Garden

Community Garden

Ten years on in Pairc a’ Tobair we are still moving into a sense of ourselves as members of the one community of all life – with all other animals, plants, fungi and bacteria. Working with the plants and the soil is helping us to find our place within the sub-community here with its two or three humans, thousands of trees, forget-me-nots, beetles, worms, and who knows who else!

We are also conscious, as many of you are that intensive agriculture has greatly reduced the range of species in our fields. So to support an increase in biodiversity we are planting native woodland and wildflower areas.

We also grow food. This keeps us reminded of how much our lives depend on the lives and work of other beings. The awareness of being gifted with the efforts of myriads of organisms over billions of years evokes in us a sense of wonder and respect for the life of the soil. This respect for the soil is what organic gardening is all about.

Community Garden

In 2009 Sustainable Clonakilty broadened their focus to include the question of local food. We in Pairc a’ Tobair felt that we might have something to offer here. Encouraged by Mary Kate and Assumpta (Northern Province) who were already running a Community Garden course, we decided to offer one using the same programme.

Over the past two growing seasons (March to Sept) twenty eight people have participated in a gardening course. The experience has been more satisfying than they expected, and many want to continue as an on-going group here. People enjoyed the learning aspect; they loved taking the food home, and, as time went on the companionship became very precious to them. Jane, who has been with us for 8 years as gardener, proved to be also an excellent teacher, to everyone’s delight, including her own.

Alongside the Community Garden, (which will be run by the members themselves), the regular Gardening Course will continue with the new group of participants.

We are energised by the weekly presence of nearly thirty or more enthusiastic organic gardeners here in the field. Recognising our dependence on the nonhuman members of the community of life is creating new connections within our human community also. Worms and slugs, bacteria and beetles, grasses and brassicas, nettles and legumes – we interact with them all as we, and they provide for our dinner table!

But this food -growing happens in a big field where other beings are getting on with their lives – trees, birds, flowers, insects and other soil creatures. In their own way they are aware of our presence. And we are aware of them – sometimes consciously, often just as a lift to our spirits. That is one of the blessings of Pairc a’ Tobair.

So far, this has been the most regular group of people we have had in Pairc a’ Tobair. Visits by other individuals or groups have focused on bio-diversity—“wild-life”, or on the spiritual dimension through Ritual. These dimensions are also present for the Food-Growing group, although in the background.

The recent “Grow-it-yourself” movement has had positive effects on Pairc a’Tobair, and on groups like these. It took us some time in Pairc a’ Tobair before the name came to us: Earth Learning Community.

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