Geez Magazine’s Winter 2014 Issue features the Caring for All Creation series. Thanks Katie Doke Sawatszky, Geez Experiements editor, for seeing this work as important to share with others and for capturing its ethos so well. Katie and Glen were participants in the Vancouver series.
Justice Work Built on Community Dialogue
Spirit of the Land, an initiative out of the University of Alberta’s Augustana Campus, is doing some of the most admirable community-building work in western Canada. Through a cross-provincial community-dialogue series called “Caring for All Creation: Land, Water, and our Communities,” the initiative seeks to build diverse community around eco-justice issues.
This past spring, Spirit hosted a series in Vancouver and Victoria. Free and open to the public, it consisted of six gatherings where activities and reps from local organizations present and lead group discussion. Every other week, participants were encouraged to gather in small groups to discuss the course content and get to know one another.
“Our external ecological crises are symptoms of a deeper spiritual and cultural need that is due to our disconnection with place – and all the lands, waters and communities place holds,” says Carmelle Javney Mohr, an activist from Alberta and one of Spirit’s founders and organizers. “Our concern is that so many of our efforts are oppositional in spirit. The hope of Spirit of the Land is to reveal the commonality that binds us within our diversities.”
The concept is definitely experimental. By opening it up to the public and welcoming voices from both “sides” of eco-justice issues, the initiative is at the mercy of the participants’ interests and agendas.
“I think the hardest part is gathering alienated folks into the same room first. Once in the room though, it never ceases to amaze me how quickly we can find common ground. Even if just two people whose lives have been inevitably placed in opposition with each other break bread together, our world has become kinder. And I believe it has a ripple effect.”
When asked about her hope for Spirit of the Land’s series, Mohr sees the gatherings as a practical way for people to be encouraged and inspired amid ecological crises.
“I hope it can help give answer to that question we so often ask despairingly today as we glimpse the magnitude: ‘Where on Earth do we begin?’ On Earth. Begin on Earth. For when we are present on Earth, we come to know it. When we come to know our place, we begin to fall in love with it. In love with it, we can take care of it. And when we care for it, we belong. Connected.” – Katie Doke Sawatsky