Worm farms

Worm farming

There’s been a lot of interest among the Sisters of Mercy in worm farming, so we decided to collect their shared experience and answer some of their (and our) questions about worm farms and share the results here for the benefit of all.

 

What is a worm farm?

A worm farm is exactly what it sounds like – a home for worms who minimise food waste by turning organic kitchen waste into rich fertiliser for your soils and plants.

 

How does it work?

Worms eat organic waste and turn it into liquid fertiliser and worm castings (the organic material that has been digested by the worms). Both of these products can be used on your garden and on your pot plants to keep them thriving.

You can use the liquid runoff from a worm farm (sometimes known as “worm juice”) to replace fertiliser. The liquid needs to be diluted until it is the colour of weak tea so it won’t burn your plants, and any excess can be bottled and given as a gift with instructions on how to use it.

 

What kinds of worm farms are available?

In ground

·       Worms can escape into the ground in hot weather

·       Minimises issues with pests

·       Once in ground, no need to do anything besides adding food scraps

·       Needs to be buried in the garden – may be an issue for people with mobility impairments

Worm tower

·       Worms can escape into the ground in hot weather

·       Minimises issues with pests

·       Once in ground, no need to do anything besides adding food scraps

·       Needs to be buried in the garden – may be an issue for people with mobility impairments

Worm cafe

  • Designed to eliminate pests such as flies and to encourage easy use (sits on legs and has a built-in tap for worm juice)
  • Doesn’t need to be buried in the ground
  • Larger than the Can O Worms, with 3 large capacity working trays
  • Worms aren’t able to escape in hot weather

Can O worms

  • Designed to eliminate pests such as flies and to encourage easy use (sits on legs and has a built-in tap for worm juice)
  • Doesn’t need to be buried in the ground
  • Smaller than the worm cafe, with 2 large capacity working trays
  • Worms aren’t able to escape in hot weather

 

Alternatively, you can build your own worm farm out of untreated wood or other suitable materials.

 

Getting started

You will need:

  • Worm farm
  • Good quality soil
  • Leaves
  • Shredded paper
  • Worms (available from commercial worm growers, hardware stores such as Bunnings, and some nurseries. Common types are Tiger, Indian Blue and Red Wriggler, and you'll need between 1,000 and 2,000 worms to start your worm farm)
  • A few sheets of damp newspaper

 

To start your worm farm:

1.     Work out where you will locate your farm. Worms don't like the heat or direct sun so choose a cool shady spot inside or outside.

2.     Build a bed for your worms at the bottom of the farm. This should be made out of good-quality soil, leaves and shredded paper, and should be around 15 centimetres deep.

3.     Add a little water to the worm bed—it needs to be kept moist but not wet.

4.     Settle your worms in by gently spreading them over the surface and watch them burrow into their new bed.

5.     Cover your worm farm with a few sheets of damp newspaper and place the lid on the farm.

6.     Keep your worm farm damp, covered and cool at all times.

 

What should I feed my worms?

Do feed

  • Vegetable and fruit peelings
  • Tea leaves
  • Crushed eggshells
  • Bread
  • Small amounts of moistened paper and cardboard such as shredded egg cartons

Don’t feed

  • Dairy (butter and cheese)
  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Fat or bones
  • Citrus peel
  • Onion or garlic

The amount of food and frequency at which you feed your worms depends on the number of worms in your farm. It may take a little time to figure this out. A good rule of thumb is to keep your eye on the scraps in the farm – if they are getting mouldy or attracting pests, reduce the amount of food you are feeding your worms.

Learn more

·       Attend May Green Drinks, featuring Jonathan Drew at Rahamim on 26 May 2017 (details here)

·       Be part of the audience for our first Green Drinks live streaming test at 6pm, 26 May 2017 (the stream will appear here, and is likely to be a bit rough and ready as this is the first time we’re giving this a try!)

 

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Ruth Wyatte rsm, Margie Abbott rsm, Regina Camilleri rsm and Elizabeth Young rsm for sharing their questions and experiences with worm farming!

Additional information was sourced from:

·       Start a worm farm – Your Energy Savings

 

Earth Hour 2017: Minimising our Footprint with Mercy

Earth Hour is a successful Australian campaign designed to care for Earth. That has come to mean drawing attention to energy use, tackling global warming and encouraging people to talk about what we can do to help. 
This year, as a Mercy community, we are invited to participate fully in Earth Hour. Collectively, our Mercy Institute has a very large energy footprint. The ISMAPNG Sustainability document, ‘An Integrated Approach to Sustainable Living’, lists ‘Energy’ as the first of 7 key areas for Mercy action. Sisters, personnel and ministry partners across ISMAPNG are invited to feel compassion for the destruction of Earth our energy demands inflict, and as an act of mercy take steps to minimise this devastation.
In Australia, Earth Hour brings communities together, with 1 in every 4 Australians taking part.
This year we celebrate 10 years of Earth Hour, which is making progress on climate change and taking action for the future generations of all species of life. Now celebrated in over 172 countries and over 7,000 cities and towns worldwide, the symbolic hour has grown into the world’s largest grassroots movement for the Earth community.

Click here for the Earth Hour Prayer

Click here for the Earth Hour Ritual

Click here for the Earth Hour for Sister of Mercy

Ash Wednesday and Mercy for our Common Home

Today, Ash Wednesday, marks the beginning of the traditional Christian period of prayer and fasting during Lent. It is traditionally a time of acknowledging our ‘sin’ – remembering those actions which harm ourselves and others (including non humans) , actions we know fall short of a moral, flourishing life.

The Ash Wednesday ritual, during which we use symbols of Earth, ashes mixed with water, remind us of the interdependence of the human with the essential elements of all life in the Earth community - that we are made of dust, that we will return to dust on this Earth and that we seek cleansing in order to restore fullness of life. For this, we are called to a time of both contemplation (prayer) and action (fasting and other acts of self-restraint).

In 2016, when Pope Francis called for an 8th Work of Mercy, “Show Mercy for our Common Home”, he described it as at the heart of a moral life, not an additional extra to the virtuous life of a Christian. He called for spiritual acts of mercy, or ‘grateful contemplation of God’s world’, which ‘allows us to discover in each thing a teaching which God wishes to hand on to us’ as well as active works of mercy: ‘simple daily gestures which break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness’ and ‘makes itself felt in every action that seeks to build a better world’.” (World Day of Prayer for Creation 1 Sept 2016). 

May this time of prayer and fasting, through our contemplation and acts of self-restraint in light of our unjust attitude of ‘use’ of the Earth community, be a true work of mercy this Lenten season.

 

Relevant resources:

Mercy Day marks New Beginnings for Rahamim Ecology Centre

Mercy day celebrations at Rahamim Ecology Centre, Bathurst NSW, were led by the recently arrived Executive Officer, Ellen Geraghty.

Ellen brings to her role as Executive Officer a wealth of experience, most recently from her positions as Business Manager and Director of the Australian Earth Laws Alliance, her membership of the Law Council of Australia’s Environment and Planning Law Group, and her positions as Vice President, Company Secretary and Editor of the Monthly Bulletin of the National Environmental Law Association.

Among other things she has run her own business, worked on the Hotspots Fire Project with the Nature Conservation Council and as manager of a community garden. She has also undertaken formal training in permaculture and seed saving for work in developing countries and has worked on a range of properties in the Netherlands, France and Mexico.

She is delighted to join the team at Rahamim and looks forward to getting to know her colleagues across the ministries of the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea. 

The gathering for Mercy Day included Sisters from the Bathurst region and staff from the ministries based at St Joseph’s mount. The ritual, prepared by Sr Patricia Powell rsm, combined the celebrations of Our Lady of Mercy with the seasonal celebrations of Spring Equinox, drawing attention to the journey of Earth and light/dark balance we are currently enjoying in the Southern Hemisphere. The day concluded with a joyful lunch in the Rahamim Conference Centre.

 

Candidates responses on climate change and Rahamim Candidates Forum Friday 5:30pm

Nearly three quarters of Australian voters see climate change as a serious threat and want greater action from the next government according to recent opinion polls.  And yet we have heard little about climate change from the major parties this federal election.

A federal candidate’s Forum at Rahamim Green Drinks will see Calare candidates address community concerns on climate, ecology, land and water, this Friday at 5:30pm, Busby St.  In advance of the forum Bathurst Community Climate Action Network has received Calare candidate responses to their questionnaire on climate change and energy policy. 

The first responder was Independent Senate Candidate Anthony Craig who says climate change is real and a threat to our way of life.  He wants the carbon tax reviewed with funding to coal mining communities like Lithgow to change to new technologies. Craig says there should be no new coal mines, a domestic gas security bill and restoration of the clean energy fund.
Labor has promised to cut emissions by 45 per cent by 2030. Labor’s Jess Jennings says a price on carbon is by far the cheapest way of reducing carbon emissions. Labor would create an emissions trading scheme, which would put a cap on maximum emissions and enable big polluters to buy permits from low polluters. The exact details of the scheme are as yet unclear, except that it would be split in two, with one scheme for big polluters and another for electricity providers. Labor has promised 50 per cent by 2030, achieved in part by greater funding for the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) and by reversing Liberal cuts to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).  Jennings proposes community power networks and believes Central NSW Renewable Energy Cooperative should be supported.
The Greens climate policies call for a complete phase out of fossil fuels with transition to 90% renewable energy generation by 2030 and doubling energy efficiency. Calare Candidate Delanie Sky says the Greens says this transition would be supported through the removal of fossil fuel subsidies for mining and levying offshore coal exports redirecting these funds to renewable energy.  They plan a new $500 million and an authority tasked with planning and driving the transition to a new clean energy system to leverage $5 billion of construction in new energy generation over the next four years.  $250 million would be directed to a Clean Energy Transition Fund to assist coal workers and communities with a just transition.  They also recommend implementing pollution intensity standards to enable the gradual, staged closure of coal fired power stations, starting with Australia’s dirtiest — Hazelwood. The Greens oppose any no new coal or gas approvals, and no expansions of existing projects.
The National Party have not provided any response to BCCAN’s questionnaire but the Coalition Government enacted the following policies.  The Coalition has committed to cut Australia’s emissions by 26 – 28% on 2005 levels by 2030 The Coalition set aside $2.55 billion between 2014 and 2017 for its direct action plan to pay polluters to reduce their emissions. The Coalition reduced the renewable energy to a target of 20 per cent by 2020.

Australia dropped 10 spots in the respected Yale Environment Performance Index in recent years, from third in 2014 to 13th in 2016. And the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions from electricity production rose between January and March 2016, according to the respected CEDEX quarterly report, continuing a trend since the carbon tax was repealed in 2014.
Members of the public are welcome to Green Drinks where all Candidates will have an opportunity to present their platform on climate change and energy at Rahamim Busby Street, Bathurst Friday from 5:30pm entry by donation $10.

World Environment Day Celebrations: Kangaroo Tea Party at Rahamim a big success!

Have you noticed, when driving on country roads, there seems to be fewer kangaroos in your headlights these days?

This is one of the reasons why World Environment Day celebrations at Rahamim were in the form of a Sunday afternoon children’s Kangaroo Tea Party this year. 

Kangaroos were the guests of honour with fun games (like the bone identification game and joey mortality rate activity), kangaroo craft, dancing, trivia, face painting and a community colouring-in competition about Kangaroos on Mt Panorama (Wahluu).

Everyone at the Kangaroo Tea Party had fun and learned some interesting (and very concerning) facts. 

Firstly, did you know that kangaroos are a slow-growing species, so the idea of a ‘population explosion’ is actually impossible? A kangaroo doe will likely raise a joey to independence at four years of age, if she lives on she will remain fertile until age 12, with one joey possible per year. But the mortality rate of the joeys is at 73% because of threats like dogs, foxes cars, fences, and disease. During drought this rate rises to 100%!

Secondly, of the eight joey survivors possible, statistically only one of those will be female, so the doe will only replace herself once during her lifetime. So even when left undisturbed in optimal natural conditions, kangaroo populations will not keep increasing, but will become equally balanced or stable.  Among other risks to populations, we can add the 85% reduction in woodland habitat Kangaroos need, as well as shooting quotas of 15-20% per year for industrial-scale slaughter. This culling remains largely unscrutinised - the largest commercial hunting of land-based wildlife on the planet!  

Rahamim’s Kangaroo Tea Party Event was jointly hosted by Charles Sturt University’s CSU Green and the Bathurst Kangaroo Project, an internationally-supported effort communicating science to raise awareness of the facts about the threats to kangaroos.

To learn more facts about kangaroos visit www.kangaroosatrisk.net.

Spirit of the River Pilgrimage by Tracy Sorensen

Last weekend a group of us piled into a couple of mini buses and a small fleet of cars to visit points of interest along the Macquarie River (in Bathurst, NSW), known for thousands of years as the Wambool. The tour was organised by the Rahamim Ecology Centre, a ministry of the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea, and led by environmentalist John Fry and Aboriginal elder Dinawan.

In her introductory remarks, Sr Patricia Powell rsm said there was a difference between "knowing" the river and "knowing about" the river. To "know" something or someone comes through repeated contact over time. I know my sister; I know how to drive a car. You can know "about" something by reading about it in a book or having someone mention it in conversation. The first kind of knowing is a soaked-in knowing; the other kind can evaporate without practice or contact.

Our tour of the river was to get to know it better by spending a little time with it, listening to the wind through the casuarinas, the sounds of crickets and frogs, noticing its different colours and flows. At each point of interest, we all fell silent for a moment just to listen. Just doing this, with others, was a very moving experience.

We began our tour at White Rock, near the confluence of the Fish and Campbell Rivers. The meeting of the rivers was also a meeting place for Aboriginal people in times gone by, a place for marriages and to work out disputes. We continued through cabbage-growing country, stopping on the opposite side of the river off Montavella Road, a place I know well because it's where I take my dog for swim.

We looked at steep, eroded gullies that once held water more gently; we heard about the stumps of the giant casuarinas that used to follow not just the main river course but the smaller tributaries; we heard about hunting parties in the 1920s that would come back with hundreds of platypus that were there for the taking. We heard about the giant cod that used to be here; an abundant supermarket that supported life for aeons.

We made out way through town and out to Raglan Creek and the old brick pit favoured by migratory birds. We looked at the reeds that filter water naturally. Instead of diverting 10 megalitres a day of treated water to a gold mine, as has been proposed, John Fry suggested the water be brought to a carefully constructed wetland here, where it could soak into the ground and restore a little of the river to something like its former glory.

Tracy Sorensen is Secretary of Bathurst Community Climate Action Network. Visit www.bccan.org.au.

 

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/squawkingala...

Our Common Home – Collaborating to Meet the Ecological Crisis

Friday 29 April 2016

“Our Common Home”, the inaugural Calare Eco-Summit (in Central-West NSW), designed to connect all organisations concerned about ecological issues in our electoral region, was recently held in Bathurst, hosted by Rahamim in conjunction with a number of other ecological organisations. This is the first in a series of summits of its kind.

Inspired by the 2015 encyclical letter on ecology and climate by Pope Francis “On care for our Common Home”, the summit sought to demonstrate how diverse organisations (such as community groups, ecologists, local government and faith/spiritual organisations) could better take up our shared responsibilities for the Earth community. 

Rather than create another ‘umbrella’ organisation, the aim was to find synergy, responding to the question “What can we do together that we cannot do alone?”

The program, facilitated by Roz Townsend and Neil Davidson, enabled 18 organisations to get to know each other, to create confluence, coherence and smarter collaboration to better face our region’s climate, energy, biodiversity, water, waste and land management challenges. 

World Café discussions generated deeper resonance, enabling conversations between diverse individuals and organisations, especially around the question “What conversation, if begun today, could ripple out in a way that creates new possibilities for the future of our region?” Some examples of topics that arose include:

  • The power of conversations to shift awareness
  • Creating a framework to create conversations of the future, spreading ideas and networks for a better outcome
  • Changing approach to issues from “Challenges” to “Opportunities”
  • Experiential education: the impact of hearing from practitioners on site in the field that can be applied in ‘real’ life
  • Galvanising individual voices, who experienced disruption, into united groups
  • Developing a regional vision for adaptation and building resilience for climate change, in spite of our political environment
  • Controlling our destiny: getting Bathurst self-sufficient for food and off the national energy grid.

The group explored issues, exemplars, barriers and possible ways of advancing these topics. Some diagrams helped explore the dynamics of coming together across difference and getting past the often incomplete and sometimes stereotypical assumptions about where an individual or organisation might be ‘coming from’.

Through introductions to Neil Davidson’s systems thinking, participants recognised the need for a greater collective ‘systems understanding’ if we are to come together around common purpose/s – at any of many scales: project, city, bioregion – to regenerate environments and codesign viable futures.

 There was a collective realisation that we each need to permit ourselves and others to ‘be complex’ – in order to bring our whole selves to be present in systems context – this needs safe spaces, trust-building toward trust-worthy relationships, and a bit of assistance to allow coherence to build in systems context.

 

The Eco-Summit was planned by a steering committee comprising members of Bathurst Climate Change Action Network, CENREC, Skillset, Bathurst Regional Council, Greening Bathurst, Bathurst Wholefood Co-operative, Bathurst Goldfields, Charles Sturt University and Rahamim Ecology Centre.

Bathurst Kangaroo Project Roundtable

On Monday 11 April 2016, a round-table discussion was held at Rahamim about Kangaroos living on Mount Panorama (Wahluu).

The information presented came from 3 researchers (from University of Western Sydney, Sydney University of Technology and Charles Sturt University), WIRES, a senior lecturer in journalism at CSU, the Green Army, as well as national award winning conservationists Helen Bergen and Ray Mjadwesch. The 32 other attendees represented at the table included residents of the Mount, CSU Green, BCCAN, Skillset, Rahamim and several other residents.

Here is a summary of some of the most compelling facts: 

  • Common perceptions that kangaroos are in ‘plague’ proportions are false. It is impossible for this scenario to occur with Eastern Grey kangaroos because of high infant mortality rates (73%) and short fertility periods of Eastern Greys.
  • Eastern Grey kangaroos need native woodland to thrive. Mt Panorama (Wahluu) is one of very few woodlands available to kangaroos in our region.
  • Understanding what causes kangaroos to stray on to the race track is essential. Indiscriminate culling of adult kangaroos can increase the risks, causing erratic behaviour in their young, straying from safe areas.
  • Culling to the point of extinction of a species from a particular area is illegal.
  • Wild kangaroos of Bathurst are famous worldwide, make for a compelling story-line for national and international journalism and hold invaluable potential for tourism.
  • Most local residents of the Mount live in harmonious relationship with the kangaroos and want them to stay.

At the round-table, the following simple actions were recommended:

  • Improved fencing around the race track and removal of hazardous redundant fencing around the mount
  • Improved safe zones for kangaroos
  • Stop indiscriminate culling 
  • Council to work closely with local experts and consult scientific findings prior to making decisions about wildlife.

For further information, visit Bathurst Kangaroo Project.

Welcome Autumn!

This year, Earth Hour celebrations coincided with two other events on our calendar: Autumn Equinox and Easter.

Autumn is a time of thanksgiving for the harvest – for its time of nourishment, and it is also a time of leave-taking and sorrow, as Life declines. 

As the dark grows, it establishes balance with the light; Autumn Equinox is that point of balance. We feel our own balance of light and dark within.

In our part of Earth, the balance has shifted into dark. We feel the shift within us, seeing the descent ahead, the darkness growing, remembering the coolness of it. 

For millennia, in Greece, this time has been the holy celebration of Persephone’s descent to the Underworld. Her descent is voluntary – she simply understands the necessity of the journey – the mystery, knowledge of life and death – for this she gives thanks. But she sets forth into the darkness.

The Christian calendar, mirroring the patterns of the seasons, marks a similar movement at this time. The Journey of Life-Death-Life played out in the person of Jesus as he enters into the suffering and death of Good Friday, and new and eternal life of the Easter resurrection.  

Autumn Equinox and Easter is a time for grieving our many losses, as individuals, as a culture, as Earth community, as Universe, but also for making space, in hope, for new life.

In the crisp air and yellowing leaves of Rahamim, those gathered marked the occasion with ritual and celebrations including poetry reading, a kids home-made lantern procession, a bon fire and woodfired pizza, drumming workshops and the screening of Leonardo Di Caprio’s series Green World Rising, powered by Rahamim’s bike-powered movie set-up.

The lines of Susan Murphy’s Minding the Earth, Mending the World was material for reflection on such an occasion:

…In this universe … life implies death, and being here now implies disappearing later. 

When we can embrace this reality more fearlessly just the way it is, we find it fits us perfectly well – always has. The way opens, the sky does not fall in, the ocean confides its songs, each drop of dew forms in exactly the right time and place in the grass…

Everything sentient together.

 Adapted from Glenys Livingstone, PaGaian Cosmology, 2005.

Water more precious than Gold: Yarning about the River at Rahamim

Rahamim Ecology Centre has become a centre of contemplative “Craftivism” since Bathurst Regional Council raised a controversial proposal to sell water from the Macquarie River to a gold mine. 

Council plans to divert 10 megalitres (4 Olympic swimming pools) of river water per day, an amount which represents a high percentage of the flows of an already diminished river. Many endangered fish, frogs, platypus, riparian vegetation as well as irrigation rights of farmers are at further risk. 

This is yet another example of the corporatisation of water, the diversion of the world’s water supply for commercial interests, which Sisters of Mercy around the world, motivated by Catherine McAuley’s words “Water is free beverage”, have worked to eradicate.

The proposal was up for public consultation during December 2015, a time when families are focused on the festive season and raising awareness is difficult. After hundreds of concerned residents had made submissions, many still felt a sense of concern, frustration and urgency. They wanted to unite to inform others of the proposal in new ways.

At Rahamim, a space was opened up for a collaborative project that would positively engage the community, celebrate the life of the river, and help to spread the word to residents downstream. A group of women quickly responded, with visions of creating a huge crochet representation of the Macquarie River, including its source, bends, marshes, towns, cities, animals, plants, dams and waste water treatment plants. The project would then be publicly displayed at strategic times and places during Council’s decision-making process.

Using social media, the group has grown quickly across the region and attracted the attention of local print and television media. Many have attended weekly ‘drop-in’ sessions in the Rahamim dining room, enabling lively sharing of concerns as well as periods of contemplative silence and simply ‘being’ together for the river. Those interested in learning more, such as one local Councillor, have had the opportunity to listen and respond to the concerns of residents. Local artists, the spinners and weavers group, school and university students, professionals and elderly people are all participating in the project which is now 60 meters in length and continues to grow.

One of the project’s coordinating team, Tracy Sorensen, a PhD candidate exploring climate change communication, presented on “The Revolutionary Potential of Crochet” at a recent Green Drinks event at Rahamim. “Any social or political change,” she said, “requires long thankless hours of activism before anything shifts. People come to a movement with whatever they’ve got, wherever they are, so if they happen to have a crochet hook and wool then that’s as good a place as any to become an activist.”

“There is a place for quiet in the movement,” she said, “and using traditional craft skills to subvert the traditional power relations in surprising, quirky or confronting ways has been happening since the 1970s.” Sorensen reminds us of the power of contemplative, creative acts to transform our world. 

Council will vote on the proposal in mid-February. 

Join the Facebook group: Don’t mine the Macquarie – No Bathurst water sale to Regis Gold Mine

Watch the River Yarning video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PWGB-ytX-xs&feature=youtu.be 

Engage with us on Twitter: #watermorepreciousthangold #imindifyoumine #don’tminethemacquarie

Sally Neaves

Sustainability Educator, Rahamim Ecology Centre

Summer Solstice Celebrations at Rahamim

On the Eve of Summer Solstice and, in the Christian calendar, the midst of Advent, a joyful community celebration took place at Rahamim in honour of the season.

Traditionally, this is a time of waiting for fulfilment, of reaching capacity, of new beginnings, of recognising our dependence upon our mother star, and our relationships with one another in the community of life.

Among the wood-fired pizza, flowing of local wines, live music and good friends, a ritual was held during which we recalled our interconnectedness with the source of all life, the sun, combined with the Christian expression of Advent. 

During the Acknowledgement of Wiradjuri Country, we recalled the work of historian Bill Gammage, who found that across Australia, the creation story is essentially the same, with all of life’s origins in light. “Change and time exist only as cycles: birth and death, the passage of stars and season, journeys, encounters” (The Biggest Estate on Earth, p123). 

In acknowledging our dependence on the sun, the work of Brian Swimme was read, teaching us that the sun is a million times larger than the earth, and that one billionth of the sun’s energy reaches the earth. Because of this, everything on earth takes place and earth is bonded with the sun, “recognising what it holds out”.

In an expression reminiscent of the themes of ‘longing’ and ‘waiting’ of Advent, Swimme writes, “The longing that gave birth to the stars, the longing that gave birth to life, who knows what this longing can give birth to now?” (Canticle of the Cosmos, p8).

Combining both the Solstice and Advent, Patricia Powell rsm reflected that “The light we wait for is the light of Christ, piercing the darkness of our blindness and opening our minds to new insights and inspirations… Our Advent stance is one of receptivity – openness to an encounter with the Divine.”

Writings of Hildegard of Bingen, reflecting on ‘Veriditas’, the greening spirit of all things, were proclaimed along with the poem ‘For a New Beginning’ by John O’Donohue. Periods of silence and drumming accompanied reflection along with children in colourful costumes, gold ribbons and sun masks, dramatising the movement, shape and seasonal direction of the sun.

Before the party continued into the night, participants took a moment to write a word on a decoration to sum-up their hopes and longings at this time and hang them on the Reflection Tree. The tree became filled with golden baubles with words befitting the season like “Community”, “New Beginnings”, “New life”, “Love”, “Heaven on Earth” and “Beach”.

COP21: Our Shared Dream for a Resilient Earth Community

In her creative, ecological articulation of Matthew 1:18, Elaine Wainwright rsm imagines the words of Jesus for our age:

“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become attentive to survival for all, as is this endangered one, then you cannot participate in the dream of an Earth Community in right relationships…”

This present time marks the beginning of the United Nations climate conference (COP 21). Right now, more than 190 leaders of nations are gathering in Paris to tackle global warming. To sum up many of those who spoke at rallies on the weekend, to see a change in status quo, we need to see many changes of heart. This means re-framing our thinking, becoming attentive to human actions, attentive to survival for all and forming right relationships in the Earth community.

COP21 has provided an encouraging opportunity for those of us seeking such a change of heart. The weekend included a number of community gatherings, at Rahamim and elsewhere. Amid our lush rural grounds, crickets and birds singing, comfortable in the orange evening light, we had much to be grateful for at this historic time. United around house-prepared seasonal food for the screening of Naomi Klein’s film, This Changes Everything, the large numbers of people who attended were mindful of those in Paris, whose decisions could trigger the change of heart necessary that experiences like these in our region may continue.  

While hundreds of pairs of shoes were left on Place de la Republique, among them a pair donated by Pope Francis, we marched locally in Orange on the Saturday and took the train to Sydney on Sunday to march in the biggest ever such demonstration Sydney has ever seen. Conversations with fellow commuters, other marchers, First Nations Peoples, were a mix of hope and lament, of dancing and stumbling in the streets, all united in contemplating the momentous events before us.

Seeing hundreds from the Pacific Islands cheered on as they processed through Sydney was a jubilant highlight for many. Some of the earliest marches in the day took place in the Marshall Islands, currently threatened by rising seas. Meanwhile in Kenya, a march took place across the equator, and in the south of Chile, another happened across a threatened glacier.

We know the urgent need for climate justice for humans and all species in the many vulnerable places on Earth. United in our hope around COP21, we are mindful that a change of heart, attentiveness to endangered ones now, is most important to enable us to participate in the dream of a resilient “Earth community in right relationships”.

Pope Francis writes for creation

 An encyclical is a letter. Encyclicals are the second highest ranking documents penned by a Pope. They are about current issues and are a call to conversion and action and as such have relevance beyond the Catholic, and religious, community. 

‘Laudato Si’, translates as ‘Praised Be’ and takes inspiration from the writings credited to St Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of environment and of Pope Francis. And ‘Laudato Si’ was perhaps the most anticipated letter on Earth; it is an encyclical written by Pope Francis and is a timely reminder that the planet our planet is a common home. It expresses that It is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us.

As indicated in the subtitle, ‘on the care of our common earth’, readers of the encyclical are being called to responsibility and relationship with Earth, creation and the universe in new ways. The theology and moral imperatives of this new responsibility and relationship is the substance of the encyclical. How the pivotal issues of today are addressed, such as climate change and lifting the burdens of the poor, will be informed by this new relationship.

Sr Mary-Ann Casanova, the Executive Director of Rahamim Ecology Centre, Bathurst, said, “We welcome the encyclical. It goes to the heart of what Rahamim Ecology Centre teaches and advocates. It adds credibility to our programs and courses. It is our mission to provide educational programs and opportunities which promote new understandings of the universe, science and theology. It is Rahamim’s vision to enable participants to integrate practices of sustainability and spirituality in everyday life.”

Aspects of the encyclical will be incorporated into Rahamim’s programs in July. After the winter break, the book study circle will take the encyclical as their book.

River Cottage was a raging success!

The team, and many volunteers, helped pull the event together. The local luncheon involved four courses cooked by Rahamim, The Wholefood Co-op and two well-known restaurants - Al Dente and 9inety 2wo. Guests dined on wood-fired pizza, pumpkin pies, a pork larb and a rice pudding with baked local quinces. Paul West, the star of the television show ‘River Cottage Australia’ and author of the cookbook of the same name, was the drawcard of the day and spent three hours chatting to guests about growing food, preparing healthy meals and his experience on his farm in Tilba, on the far South Coast of NSW.Although conditions were cold that day, guests spent time in the Community Gardens and the expansive verandah of Logan Brae House before enjoying lunch in the historic mansion. Paul also managed to fit in a visit to several local restaurants, The Wholefood Co-op and was generously accommodated by Bishop’s Court Estate. 

The Winds of Change.....

The winds of change have swept through Rahamim Ecological learning Community and their sponsor organisation, the Sisters of Mercy, in the last eighteen months. Sometimes it felt like a gentle, refreshing breeze. And sometimes it felt like a tornado sweeping all before it. But that’s the way of the wind....

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