This morning, I received an email from Afrigadget, a blog dedicated to showcasing how Africans solve everyday problems with incredible ingenuity.
This afternoon, I read a selection from “Why I Am Not a Pacificist” by C.S. Lewis. To me, the morning’s email and the afternoon’s reading felt very connected.
The email spotlighted an initiative which transformed a dump in a Nairobi, Kenya slum, into a community farm. Beyond such obvious obstacles as clearing the trash,
there were other less obvious difficulties such as what to do about the high levels of lead, copper, zinc and boron.
Part of the solution was to plant sunflowers, which leach the toxins out of the soil, in between the ordinary vegetables. Check out this handy, made from recycled materials, planting tool:
It is made from a hollow pipe with a stick tied onto the bottom of it for digging the hole and a yogurt container attached to the top for dropping the seeds down into. No stooping, no bending, no hard work digging.
And here’s an earthworm farm/composting pile for fertilizer:
And the final product, three months after clearing the dump:
And then, this from C.S. Lewis:
It may be asked whether, faint as the hope is of abolishing war by Pacifism, there is any other hope. But the question belongs to a mode of thought which I find quite alien to me. It consists in assuming that the great permanent miseries in human life must be curable if only we can find the right cure; and it then proceeds by elimination and concludes that whatever is left, however unlikely to prove a cure, must nevertheless do so. Hence the fanaticism of Marxists, Freudians, Eugenists, Spiritualists, Douglasites, Federal Unionists, Vegetarians, and all the rest. But I have received no assurance that anything we can do will eradicate suffering.
I think the best results are obtained by people who work quietly away at limited objectives, such as the abolition of the slave trade, or prison reform, or factory acts, or tuberculosis, not by those who think they can achieve universal justice, or health, or peace.
I think the art of life consists in tackling each immediate evil as well as we can. To avert or postpone one particular war by wise policy, or to render one particular campaign shorter by strength and skill or less terrible by mercy to the conquered and the civilians is more useful than all the proposals for universal peace that have ever been made; just as the dentist who can stop one toothache has deserved better of humanity than all the men who think they have some scheme for producing a perfectly healthy race.
I have come to no great conclusions, based on either the photo essay or the writings of C.S. Lewis. Both, however, have left me with much to ponder. Both challenge me to consider and ask questions about my own life.
What do you think? Do you know people who are making a difference in these kinds of ways (feel free to add your stories here)? Where are you in your thinking and acting? How do you interact with suffering and misery in the world around you? Do you get to work? Grieve? Turn away because it seems too overwhelming? Feel guilty? Or something else?
What direction does the Lewis quote send your mind in? Do you agree? Or disagree? Or some of both?
For more information about Kibera slum in which this field was planted, BBC has a four part article about it. The link is to the last selection, because it contains links to the other three parts as well.
The C. S. Lewis quote is from A Year with C.S. Lewis, October 19]