Shoresh's Spring Festival at the Kavanah Garden

Last Sunday we celebrated the season of spring at Shoresh's Kavanah Garden.  The Kavanah Garden is an organic educational garden at UJA's Joseph and Wolf Lebovic Jewish Community Campus in Vaughan.  Shoresh’s flagship programming space, the Kavanah Garden seeks to model and inspire Jewish social and environmental responsibility.

On Sunday June 10th, over 100 people of different ages and backgrounds came out to the garden to learn, laugh and play at our Spring Festival. We made pesto on our bicycle-powered blender, made necklaces that will sprout, read The Lorax under some trees, watered our plants, continued to build relationships and community and enjoyed the beauty of the garden.

Making pesto via la bicicleta!

Wild Green Petso!

This was the last spring Festival at the current site.  It has been amazing to witness the growth of the Kavanah Garden community over the past four years. After four years at our current site (18 Lebovic Campus), we are planning a big move across the Don river. In the fall of 2012, we will begin designing a permanent home for the Kavanah Garden on the Lebovic Campus. We are sad to leave our beloved garden behind and all the wonderful species that live there and look forward to building a  new home, new relationships and a new and beautiful oasis in Vaughan.
Hunting for bugs is fun!
Look what I found!
 2012 will be filled with events and celebrations at the Kavanah Garden. Check out our calendar of events for a list of festivals, workshops and other great opportunities. If you have never been to the garden before, make sure to come this year and if you have been before, come again.

From gloom to gladness: The future of environmentalism

Reposted from The Toronto Star
Sun Jun 17 2012
By Stephen Bede Scharper

There were no brilliant lightning flashes, no deafening thunder claps, and the earth did not tremble, but a seismic shift in the environmental movement was nonetheless on display last week in downtown Toronto.

David Suzuki, the dean of Canadian environmentalism, was joined last Thursday by U.S. journalist Richard Louv, author of the bestselling book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder, for a public conversation at the Art Gallery of Ontario.
David Suzuki

As these two environmental pioneers parleyed, it became clear that an environmental agenda centering chiefly on conservation, government policy and an urgent, doom-laden, sword-of-Damocles advocacy was quietly morphing into one focused on relationships, children, education, wonder, joy and the healing power of nature.

In both our private interview and the public colloquy, Suzuki and Louv reflected on the milestones and missteps of the environmental movement, which, as Suzuki notes, is this year celebrating its 50th anniversary, having been spawned by Rachel Carson’s watershed 1962 publication Silent Spring, which sounded the alarm on the pernicious proliferation of pesticides.

While Suzuki noted that the first 30 years of the movement saw many successes, with DDT banned, clean air and water legislation passed, critical wildlands preserved and a global awareness raised about eco-concerns, he also noted that certain proposed pipelines and dams, defeated decades ago, are again back on the table.

“When we started the Suzuki Foundation in 1990,” Suzuki recalled, “we thought we had only 10 years.” Influenced by data provided by the Worldwatch Institute, which publishes a much-cited annual State of the World report, Suzuki rebuffed suggestions that the foundation focus on schools, deeming there was “no time” given the grave and imminent threats to our ecosystems.

He now calls his decision quite candidly a “fundamental error.”

Louv echoed Suzuki’s sentiment, recounting a recent meeting with a group of U.S. university students, all focusing on environmental studies, but none connecting with any mainline environmental organizations. One factor was age — the average member’s age of the Nature Conservancy is 68 — but a second reason was articulated poignantly by one of the students. “I’m 20 years old. All my life I have heard we’re finished. The planet is doomed.” Such eco-nihilism is rarely an effective recruitment tool.

Happily, Louv’s work is decidedly non-apocalyptic. Last Child in the Woods helped inspire a growing movement reconnecting children with nature.

Richard Louv

Harvesting clinical research showing that children suffering from attention-deficit disorder, depression and suicidal tendencies are often greatly helped by exposure to nature, Louv co-founded the Children & Nature Network, whose vision is to foster “a world in which all children play, learn and grow with nature in their everyday lives.”

In 2010, Louv was invited to address 5,000 pediatricians at the American Academy of Pediatrics annual meeting. They not only warmly received his words, but in some cases have begun to give “nature prescriptions” to children, recommending taking in nature rather than just taking pills to get well. In Portland, Ore., Louv reports, an urban park has become a veritable wellness centre for children, with park staff seeing themselves as “para-health professionals.” Adopting a “climb two maples and call me in the morning” approach, park staff sign off on doctors’ health prescriptions after children have taken their recommended dose of nature.

His most recent book, The Nature Principle, is a cogent plea for a newly imagined future — one that eschews obsession with ecological armageddon and instead focuses on the restorative powers of the planet.

Citing Martin Luther King, Louv states, “Any cultural movement will fail if it can’t paint a picture of a world where people want to go to.” Louv is gravely concerned about the rash of popular, post-apocalyptic cultural images of the future. If, when we think of the future, we only envision some “Blade Runner-Mad Max-Hunger Games scenario,” Louv comments, “we are in real trouble.” Such a post-apocalyptic framing of the future, he fears, is almost as great a threat as climate change.

As these seasoned environmental leaders are seeing, their movement is not ultimately a protest movement against government and corporate policies, but primarily a movement that strives to embrace with joy the sanguine mystery and beauty of life.

Stephen Bede Scharper teaches at the Centre for Environment, University of Toronto, and is author of the forthcoming book, For Earth’s Sake: Toward a Compassionate Ecology (Novalis).

On the Relationship Between Flour and Torah

By guest blogger, Daniel Joseph:

אם אין קמח, אין תורה; אם אין תורה, אין קמח
Without flour there is no Torah. Without Torah, there is no flour.  (Pirkei Avot 3:17)

Flour makes yummy challah, but I'm pretty sure you don't need flour to write a Torah. However, you may have needed bread to fuel your all-night Shavuot learning session (or part-night!) this past weekend. In this passage, flour is a codeword for physical sustenance.

“Without flour there is no Torah”

We need physical sustenance so we have energy to put into our spiritual growth.  Without physical sustenance to fuel us, we cannot engage in or receive the fruits of spiritual endeavours.

But, what can you do for physical sustenance if you're gluten free?! How about chicken? Ok, but what if I am a vegetarian? Cheese! Ok, but not that type of vegetarian...if only our sages knew of our tribulations! Ancient Israel was an agrarian society, where people grew their own food. They needed to use their land to grow food that would meet all their needs – lots of energy and easy to store are two that come to mind. Bread fits the bill. Going on a long journey to Tzfat from Jerusalem? Bring some bread (perhaps find some olive oil on the way)! Bread is known as the staff of life for a good reason! For our ancestors bread was ubiquitous with physical sustenance. So much so, that our sages used it to indicate physical sustenance in this Mishnah..

Lets delve a little deeper. The twist comes in through the second section:

“Without Torah, there is no flour”

Torah represents both our spiritual endeavours and spiritual fruits. Without our spiritual endeavours/fruits, physical sustenance cannot be received or cannot exist. Perhaps more accurately, physicality is meaningless without a spiritual context. Another interpretation: without the laws of the Torah for living harmoniously with the environment, we will lose the ability to produce physical sustenance.

In summary: the first section says, without physical sustenance, we cannot engage in or receive spirituality. The second section is saying, without spirituality we cannot receive physical sustenance. So what comes first the physical or spiritual?

I believe our sages have created this contradiction to show us that neither comes first or last. Rather, they arise mutually. Physicality implies spirituality, and vice versa. Through physicality, spirituality is regulated; through spirituality, physicality is regulated. Can you think of examples for both situations?

I think the recent holiday of Shavuot encapsulates the lesson of this passage. Shavuot is known both as the 'Time of the Giving of our Torah' and also as the 'Day of First Fruits'. Both names indicate the receiving of one type of sustenance. The Torah represents our spiritual endeavours and is the source of our spiritual sustenance. Shavuot is called the 'Day of First Fruits' because it is the day of the first barley harvest. Barley flour can make bread, physical sustenance in ancient Israel and the western world. Through both of these names, we can see how Shavuot celebrates and emphasizes harmony between the physical and spiritual gifts we receive.