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Earth Etude for Elul 19: It’s All About the Soil

by Rabbi Robin Damsky

“It’s All About the Soil.” So reads the headline for a website discussing regenerative agriculture.

I’m torn between fear and possibility. Evidence of climate change worsens every place we breathe. I read several summaries of the most recent UN report on the climate crisis in which Antonio Guterres declares a “code red for humanity.”

Yikes.

I’ve always believed we have the power to heal our planet. I still do. But the window of opportunity is getting smaller and the actions we must take are more substantive.

There are a bunch of terrifying data in the news. Most of what we need to heal seems out of my/our reach unless governments take a radical look forward and make change accordingly. And then I read about methane gas. We’ve known about carbon neutrality, and it is critical. Yet emissions of methane gas are skyrocketing as well. With large-scale plant [read: traditional one crop farming using pesticides and herbicides] and animal production, methane gas is released into the atmosphere at a far higher rate than it can be captured. Methane creates more than 80 times the planet-warming power of carbon dioxide in the short term. Operative words here: short term. Why? Because addressing methane release feels more immediately within my – and our – reach. It’s all about the soil. Regenerating the soil reduces both carbon and methane emissions. And let’s us breathe.

I’ve been growing food for years, and I invest in teaching others to do the same. In May I saw Kiss the Ground, a remarkable movie about regenerative agriculture. While it has far-reaching effects for farming around the globe, not all of us have animal farms. But most of us can have a garden. In their short video, Ron Finley and Rosario Dawson teach us about food gardens, known during WWII as Victory Gardens. Today these home gardens have a place in helping us achieve victory over the warming of our planet. They share these five simple steps to heal the soil and thus, slow – and on a large enough scale, even cease – global warming:

  1. Ditch the chemicals
  2. Keep the soil covered – with plants!
  3. Encourage biodiversity
  4. Grow food
  5. Compost

What if each of us took a small space in our yard – or if we’re in the city – on our terrace or rooftop, and grew vegetables, fruits, herbs? A small bed produces lots of food. And potted plants produce well, too. I’ve been growing food in containers the last few years and the results are awesome. We can start small and still bring powerful results.

We are earth beings. Genesis teaches us that “Adam” is the human being that Havayah – the Divine – brought forth from the “adamah” – the earth; the soil. We are literally earth beings. We are the soil. Let’s make the commitment to engage in regenerating our soil, ourselves and our future.

Rabbi Robin Damsky has recently launched Limitless Judaism, a project of learning, movement, meditation, melody and practice that draws the lines of connection between our physical bodies, our spiritual expression and Gaia, our earth-cosmos. Embracing this connection, we heal and grow ourselves as we heal and grow our planet. She is also the founder of In the Gardens, a nonprofit that works to enhance health and well-being through organic edible garden design and mindfulness practice. Reach her at: limitlessjudaism@gmail.com.

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