2014 Religious Trends
Carbon Wealth and What's For Dinner: Paganism and the Land
These methods invite ponds and bogs, welcome predatory insects, and plan for wildlife. My garden hosts two tiny ponds, complete with plants and snails, and a miniature bog garden. The water gives the insects and small animals a place to drink. Damselflies rest on my squash, and lady beetles and their offspring hang out on my potatoes. In the woods below the garden, I have been tearing out invasives and re-introducing native plants: violets, bloodroot, Christmas fern, black cohosh, and trillium. Some of these are medicinal and some will attract more native insects. In the fall, I will add hostas to the lower edge of the yard: not native, but the deer love to eat them, which is much better than them eating my vegetable garden or the young trees I will also plant.
What would happen if we all grew some of our own food in this way? How much carbon could we conserve and how much more connection would we have with the land? I would characterize my relationship with my local land spirits as highly positive. They protected our house during Hurricane Sandy when no fewer than four trees came down in our back lot, all of them in the direction of our dwelling. They approve of this project and express their glee whenever I add a new plant. And clearly they approve of my lush vegetable garden, since I wouldn't have it if we still had the trees!
And what would happen if we all bought meat from producers who did not disturb the soil? Herbivores don't need to eat grain, and in fact it's very bad for them. The conversion of croplands to pasture can add 0.2 to 0.5 tons of soil carbon per acre each year. Pasture soils in the Northeast U.S. alone currently store as much as 425 million tons of carbon—that's 1500 million metrics tons of CO2. Nor is there a limit to that storage potential. All that is needed is to continue to build healthy, carbon-rich soil. When an herbivore takes one—and only one—bite of grass, that grass sheds some root, which then breaks down into loam and re-grows, thicker than before. In that loam is carbon, carbon that the plant has pulled from the atmosphere and that is now bound into the soil. Well-managed grassland can tie up as much (or more) carbon as the same amount of forest. Increased loam also absorbs and holds more water, which reduces flooding and mitigates the effects of drought, both major concerns.
There was a time in United States history where nearly everyone grew some of their own food. Pagans are uniquely suited to lead in restoring this behavior to normal.
Selina Rifkin, L.M.T., M.S. is a licensed massage therapist and writer on food and health. Her publications include articles in Massage Therapy Journal and The Referral Guide for Complementary Care, a book that describes twenty-five different healing modalities. In 2006, she completed a Master's program in nutrition with a focus on traditional foods and the work of Weston A. Price. Currently, she is the Executive Assistant to the Director of Cherry Hill Seminary, the first Pagan seminary to offer Master's degrees. She has been Pagan since her teens.