This Food of Seventy Two Labors, an Invitation to a Bearing Witness Retreat to Food, Land and Racism in the USA

PETERSBURG, NEW YORK STATE, USA. Rev. Ariel Pliskin​, ZPO Minister and founder of Unity Tables​ and community-based Stone Soup Café Greenfield MA​ has participated in several Bearing Witness Retreats on the streets, at Auschwitz, and the Black Hills. He now brings this rich experience to examine the interplay of food, land and race in the USA, in a new retreat he is organizing together with Sensei Francisco Lugovina​ from Hudson River Peacemaker Center-House of One People​, and Leah Penniman from Soul Fire Farm​. Read what led Ariel to co-develop this retreat, and join him in September 2017 on Soul Fire Farm.

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Climate Takuhatsu

I’m writing this as a part of my “climate takuhatsu”. Soon after we moved to Boulder last year, I started this practice. I go door to door in our neighborhood, knock, wait, if someone shows up, I offer my business card that says “PhD, climate scientist”, express my worry, and offer to speak anything about climate and how it related to the lives of people in front of me. Now, I’m knocking on the door of White Plum sangha and Zen peacemakers. As a part of a large environmental organization, I hear about and work on many potential policy and technology centered “fixes” for our climate dilemma. These “fixes” are important but can be compartmentalized. When we think about fixes to reduce atmospheric carbon pollution, we end up forgetting about water or soil quality which directly affect food security for millions even today. While we might acknowledge the need for climate justice with respect to developing countries, we forget to face racism (or caste system) in our own backyards. “Bottom up” activists work hard, lose their balance, get discouraged and burnt down. “Top down” policy-makers can get sucked into the same corporate quarterly-profit oriented mindset that might fundamentally need to be changed given the socio-economic and ecological crises we have been facing. I feel that being far ahead of many other Zen lineages wrt engaged Buddhism, Zen peacemakers can really help advance the dialogue on our ongoing eco-crisis as well. We need all the tools we can muster to face the multi-faceted crisis that calls for both tremendous sense of urgency and limitless patience, both personal and collective action, adaptation to what will happen even if we stopped all emissions today and collective action to reduce emissions so that we don’t enter run-away climate change scenarios. I feel we need to work more systematically on development of communities such that they become a meeting place for top-down and bottom-up strategies, are well equipped to honor individual and collective stories and can transform the fears, denial and anger into collective courage and even delightful energy — which are all much needed for any kind of fundamental personal or institutional change. Zen peacemakers three tenets that are rooted in our inter-connectedness, need to embrace complexity and groudlessness, importance of sangha while we grieve...

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