Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Some Reflections on the Weekend

Tanya and I just returned from Salina, KS from an event called “The Prairie Festival” put on by The Land Institute of Salina, KS. The Land Institute really is a remarkable organization, not necessarily overtly Christian, but one that cares about the world and its people. One speaker P Sainath, Indian journalist and writer, spoke of the 270,000 Indian farmers who have committed suicide in the last couple of decades because of the pressure of multinational corporations, lenders and creditors putting a squeeze on their ability to farm their 1, 2 or 3 acre farms (all farms in India are really “family farms”) for subsistence rather than for corporate interests, treating and viewing such farms and farmers primarily for export/cash crops. 

Sainath spoke of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization that places a Food Price Index that measures the relationship between hunger and world violence, that when the hunger index reaches a certain level, violence begins to spike exponentially in the hungriest nations. Here I thought a lot about the fears that folks here have of a place like Haiti, wondering why the people can’t get their act together and violence so often erupts during political and other seasons. I tell folks, “it’s because the Haitians are hungry and when a bag of rice doubles overnight because of a hurricane, earthquake or otherwise, you tell me what you would do were you in their shoes!” that the people become testy, but it’s not because they are on whole a violent people. Sanaith made the case that the Arab Spring was a result of the Food Prices Index spiking before the twitter and social media forces took off, that hunger was the behind the violence, really.

Well, I finish by quoting from an earlier publication that described one participant’s reflections back in 2010, after the Prairie Festival (it’s an annual event). These words reminded me a lot of Dr. Kelly Kapic’s words Saturday morning Sept. 15th to a few of us that “feast” and “fast” must be held together in our lives, in proper tension. Let me quote the excerpt from the PF participant:
When preparing for a Prairie Festival, college instructor Howard Stoner doesn’t tell colleagues that he’s going to a festival, but to a conference. And the meeting really is mostly talk. But Stoner said the festival name fits. "It’s that sense of celebrating when you’re in the middle of what I call doom," he said. "Face the music, but don’t forget to celebrate."  Land Report of The Land Institute, Fall 2010
My earlier estimates of number of participants this last weekend at the festival was way off. Initially, I guessed 200 people and then 500. Actually there were 1200 participants in this weekend conference. Pretty amazing seeing that the accommodations were in an open-air barn and the sleeping accommodations were in tents!

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