By Justin Eisinga – Conservation Project Coordinator – A Rocha Manitoba

“Even a wounded world is feeding us. Even a wounded world holds us, giving us moments of wonder and joy. I choose joy over despair.” – Robin Wall Kimmerer

Given the extraordinary circumstances of our times, it is an act of courage to choose joy over despair. As Indigenous botanist Robin Wall Kimmerer reminds us, this courage comes from recognition that even a wounded world such as our own continues to feed us. This recognition comes also with the awareness that all the cycles of life and death that take place around us are a unique gift set in motion by the Creator.

This summer, as an employee of A Rocha Manitoba, I’ve been given the occasion to work on a special project that will help countless students, faculty, and staff at Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) do exactly this: come to know better the God who continues to feed us in the ordinary task of collecting organic waste, helping it to decompose, and using it to grow food and flowers on the campus they call home.

Earlier this year, A Rocha approached the Centre for Resilience (the co-working space where A Rocha MB has office space) with an invitation to collaborate in the wake of COVID-19 and the challenges it created for A Rocha’s summer programming. Prior to the onset of the pandemic, CMU had been working on a plan to develop outdoor spaces and integrate academic curriculum towards a land-based learning model that would encourage and inspire students to engage in activities such as gardening, farming, and scientific research. While the pandemic could have derailed these plans, A Rocha’s invitation to collaborate provided a unique opportunity to get the ball rolling through the research, design, and implementation of an on-campus student-run composting system.

This unique project aligns with all three aspect of A Rocha’s mission. The composting system at CMU will provide opportunities for students in mathematics or biology to conduct research related to conservation science.

A Rocha and CMU will be able to use compost as an educational tool to teach children and students about the importance of waste diversion and soil health. The output of the composting system will be used in sustainable agriculture on the on-campus farm and community gardens. All of this exciting activity will take place through the hard work of food scraps, microorganisms, and worms, teaching countless lessons about life, death, and resurrection to students, faculty, and staff at CMU and A Rocha Manitoba.

“The more time I spend at the compost pile,” writes pastor and theologian Jeff Chu, “the more I think we must help write a narrative of hope amid the world’s narratives of despair.” For Chu, the compost pile has become a place that soothes the wounds inflicted upon our lives and this planet, for it testifies to a story about new life that is written into the life cycles of plants and the soil they grow within. My hope is that CMU’s compost pile will do the same for those who get to dig into its messy and smelly process. Perhaps, as students, faculty, and staff get their hands dirty contributing to these life processes on our campus, we might come to know better the God who is in the process of making all things new in our very midst all of the time.

Want to know more about food waste and composting?