Tag Archives: food

The Wild Side of Cities: Urban Nature

Yes, there are ways to experience awe of God’ in creation while living in a city. Read on! Photo by Ed Brown.

Have you ever thought that growing a native plant garden or nurturing a few container plants on the balcony of your apartment would actually be a way to love your neighbors?  Close your eyes and imagine your “happy place”–somewhere you experience peace, calm, and feel most connected to God.  For most of us, that happy place is directly connected to God’s creation, whether it be a secluded beach, a forest, a mountain vista, or underneath a big oak tree.  Plenty of studies help explain what we already intuitively know: green spaces of nature are places where people let go of their stress and slow down from the busyness of today’s hectic lifestyles.  And the more diverse the number and kinds of species (biodiversity), the more beneficial the environment is on the mental health of people utilizing that space¹.  Your landscaping or mini container garden contributes to the health and well-being of your neighbors. Continue reading

When I tend my garden, I remember Uganda

Kale growing from a sack garden in Kampala, Uganda.

Kale might be a “hipster” vegetable in the United States, but it’s as common as potatoes and rice in East Africa.  I’m glad I planted some in my garden: when I look out my kitchen window, I remember the leafy greens growing out of sack gardens in Kenya and Uganda.

I recently returned from a trip to East Africa, where I had the opportunity to connect with Kenyans in the small rural town of Kijabe and Ugandans in the sprawling slums of Kampala who are working to instill creation care practices in their respective communities.  Training women and men to grow staple foods with limited space and water while embodying the biblical wisdom of Psalm 24:1 (The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it”) is a cornerstone of both Care of Creation Kenya and A Rocha Uganda.  Both organizations teach “Farming God’s Way” and micro-gardening; both techniques allow people to grow more crops on less land and with fewer inputs such as water and inorganic fertilizers, all while contributing to the health of soils and souls.

Holes intentionally made in the side of the sack allow for multiple tiers of vegetables to grow in the same amount of space.  This lettuce is recovering well after an intense rainstorm, helped by the the fact that sack gardens encourage plants to put down deep roots.

Micro-gardening usually involves taking advantage of vertical space that is available on even the smallest of plots.   With a few common, locally available items and a couple hours of work, anyone can begin cultivating dozens of vegetable plants right next to their front door.  Food aid bags are reused as the container for the garden, and with some rocks, soil, compost or manure and seedlings, voila!  You have a sack garden.  The column of rocks in the center of the sack acts as an irrigation channel, encouraging the vegetables to put down deep roots as they follow the water.

For those of us living in a city, it’s hard to imagine having enough space to garden.  More and more of the global population resides in cities, and the percentage is expected to go up in coming years.  In Kampala, I noticed that many people make a living by selling excess produce.  However, fresh food is still hard to come by in some places, like schools.  A Rocha Uganda regularly partners with primary schools in Kampala to help them implement small, manageable gardening projects by teaching the kids how to build and take care of a sack garden.

In the United States, most of us would be too busy to handle anything but a “small, manageable gardening project” like a sack garden or a single raised bed.  We have the luxury of not growing a thing and still eating every day.  However, I appreciate the reminder of kale, lettuce, squash and spinach that grows in my backyard: my friends in East Africa are bringing the Good News and helping people meet their most basic needs through gardens.  I will savor and be thankful for everything I harvest, knowing that I am adding my voice to many across the world who thank God for their daily bread (or sukuma wiki, as the case may be).

In the coolness of the evening, I can picture God walking among the sack gardens in Kijabe, Kampala, my backyard raised bed, and the other little gardens of the world.

A Better Earth Day?

Originally posted April 23rd, 2010.  We’re coming up on another Earth Day…how will you celebrate it?

courtesy Thomas Schneider
courtesy Thomas Schneider

Pastor Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor of University Reformed Church in East Lansing MI has posted some comments on how Christians can celebrate Earth Day “better”  over at his blog. This is a response to that post.

While I appreciate Pastor DeYoung’s sincere desire to “build a Christian foundation” (his very good image) under the concept of Earth Day, the ‘bricks’ he is using to build that foundation, most of which were purchased somewhat uncritically from Jay Richard’s Environmental Stewardship in the Judeo-Christian Tradition, could have been baked a little longer.

Here are his ‘bricks’ and my thoughts in response: Continue reading

Insects: A Climate Change solution?

Too cute to eat?

One UW-Madison grad student was not just driven buggy by the climate change crisis, she was driven to bugs for a solution. My interview with Valerie Stull about her and Rachel Bergmann’s mighty MIGHTi project (Mission to Improve Global Health Through Insects)aired on WORT-FM March 17, 2015. Their unconventional idea brings a small solution – insects – to help with two big problems: hunger and climate change. As Stull explains, meal worms provide a highly efficient source of edible protein requiring 1/5th the feed per pound than beef. Additionally, meal worms produce none of the potent green house gas methane that beef cattle does.  Listen here (about 4 minutes).

By Mnolf (Photo taken in Rum, Tirol, Austria) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Larvae of the meal worm beetle (Tenebrio molitor), before (dark) and after skinning (light)
How does raising meal worms and other insects equal a “win-win-win?” In their own words,

“Insects can feed people, serve as an inexpensive feed source for poultry as well as fish, and are relatively easy to raise. Farming insects is also climate smart, as they require less energy to produce and emit fewer greenhouse gases than other livestock. They can even recycle agricultural waste products, not edible for people. In areas where food is not always available and protein sources are scarce, insect farming offers an inexpensive, environmentally friendly option. (1)

What creative problem-solving!  UW Madison’s Climate Quest competition awarded Stull and Bergmann top prize for their project’s creative potential to impact climate change in 2015. It may even have more potential than those of us acculturated  in the industrialized west may give it credit for.

In case you’re still skeptical about eating bugs, remember that John the Baptist did just fine on a diet of locusts and honey (Mark 1:6 ; Matthew 3:4 ).  For more examples of insect eating (called “entomophagy”) throughout history, check out National Geographic’s “Bugs As Food: Humans Bite Back” and“For Most People, Eating Bugs is only Natural”.

(a version of this post by Kermit Hovey originally appeared at www.climatechangehope.wordpress.com )

What’s killing the frogs? And does it matter?

originally published January 24, 2010.

I had just finished giving a talk for Blackhawk Church‘s  adult fellowship group, and had included a short video from Discovery Channel’s Planet Earth in which one expert says, “I think we’re facing the loss of half the world’s frogs.’

On the way out, one of the participants asked me:  “So, exactly what is killing the frogs?”

It happens that I had just run across an article on this very topic two or three days ago.  Richard Black, BBC Environment Correspondent, was commenting on a world-wide precipitous decline in amphibians of all kinds (think frogs, salamanders, etc) in a post he called ‘The Attack of the Killer Everything“: Continue reading

People aren’t the only ones who are hungry now

Originally published March 14, 2009.

As you can imagine, my job has me reading a lot of disturbing reports about all aspects of the environmental crisis.  Though I do my best to keep things upbeat here on Our Father’s World and in my presentations, sometimes a story will sneak  up and grab me from behind.

Great Nurse Shark – (Flickr Creative Commons License)

Like this one:

In Canada, scientists said Atlantic cod in the Gulf of St. Lawrence are becoming skinny because they are having more trouble finding reliable sources of small prey like capelin. In Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay, striped bass are turning up emaciated because of shrinking supplies of herring and anchovies. Continue reading