1. Converting to Flourishing: Eco-halal and Eco-Buddhist Farming in Conversation
Sarah Robinson-Bertoni [+]
Pacific Lutheran University
Recognizing the need for sustainability—a cyclical notion of continual replenishment of natural systems, including human communities, toward mutual flourishing—can be described as a conversion experience, renewing ethical and practical commitments. Converts to agricultural sustainability often recover the notion of inherent value in the beasts, birds, bees, flowers, and food plants, a range of beings morally sublimated in industrial systems where monetary value dominates the agricultural landscape. The author’s U.S.-based case studies display Muslim and Buddhist sustainable agricultural practices highlighting ethically integrated relationships of care, offering a social, economic, and environmental alternative to exploitative industrial agriculture. In Chicago, Taqwa Eco-food Cooperative (2002-2009) provided locally and sustainably produced halal meat, permissible for Muslims. Taqwa leaders educated on integrating ethics with food practice, emphasizing tayyib, or wholesomeness. Taqwa combined ethical reflection with practice improving the health of consumers, lives of animals, livelihoods of farmers, as well as the Muslim prayerful tradition of slaughter, not undertaken lightly. Green Gulch Farm is a part of the San Francisco Zen Center (SFZC), which was founded in 1962. Managers and apprentices cultivate several acres facing the Pacific Ocean, producing vegetables for farmer’s markets, local restaurants, and for the SFZC community. In interviews, leaders reflected on sustainable farming and the Buddhist concept of dependent co-arising, dynamic interdependence. Each case study represents a unique context in time, place, and social location, which affords both a strong critique of industrial agriculture and a local-scale alternative designed for mutual flourishing. The case studies demonstrate sustainable, local, religiously oriented projects, producing viable alternatives for food production and distribution. The religious notions of dependent co-arising and tayyib socially support sustainable conversions to concretely care for people, land, water, agricultural ecosystems, and other-than-human living beings eaten as food.