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Refugia Newsletter by Debra Rienstra - Issue #5

Debra Rienstra
Debra Rienstra
Happy new year and welcome to the Refugia Newsletter! This is a fortnightly newsletter for people of faith who care about climate and want to go deeper.
This week: end-of-year good news on climate action (really!), E.O. Wilson’s legacy, and a faith-based, regenerative farming refugium.

Refugia News
Sale alert! Right now, you can preorder Refugia Faith at 30% off. Publication date is set for Feb. 8, so you won’t have to wait long to receive your copy.
As I await the arrival of the actual physical book (always a weird and thrilling moment), I’m busy getting together my “launch team” of people who will share social media posts and in general make noise about the book. If you are willing to help out, please contact me and let me know. It’s easy and fun. Thanks!
Refugia Faith: Seeking Hidden Shelters, Ordinary Wonders, and the Healing of the Earth | Fortress Press
This Week in Climate News
I’ve been seeing quite a few end-of-year wrap-up articles in my usual round of climate newsletters, Twitter, podcasts, etc. We could talk about 2021 as a year of fearfully extreme weather events. For instance, here’s an article in the Washington Post, complete with impressively fancy graphics, that sums up the heat waves, floods, fires, tornados, and other nasty business from the year.
Without denying or diminishing all the bad news from 2021, though, I want to focus on good news, here and in the Deeper Dive below.
So let’s talk about E. O. Wilson, who died on December 26. Obviously, it’s not good news that this visionary scientist has died. But it is good news that he lived 92 years on this good earth and his influence has been profound.
Originally an entomologist, he expanded his concerns–it’s not too much to say–to the whole earth. Perhaps his most famous books (of about three dozen) are Biophilia (1984) and Half-Earth (2016). “Biophilia” of course means “love of living things,” and Wilson inspired a movement called the Half-Earth Project, urging us to conserve half the earth in order to allow all living things to thrive–people and and other creatures. As one of his close colleagues said, “His gift was a deep belief in people and our shared human resolve to save the natural world.”
E.O. Wilson, ‘Darwin’s natural heir’, has passed away at 92
Deeper Dive
If you are bummed about the dysfunctions, rancor, and short-sightedness of a US Congress that can’t seem to act decisively on climate change, well, just keep in mind that the US Congress is, as Bill McKibben says, “a lagging indicator.” And probably always will be.
Meanwhile, though, a LOT of good things are happening around the world, and the momentum is accelerating in rather astonishing ways. For the weary of heart, I highly recommend this series of 99 good news stories from Future Crunch. Not all of them are about climate, but a goodly share cover advances in conservation, prevention of species extinction, the transition to clean energy, and global finance adjustments that will continue to propel a shift away from fossil fuels. I especially recommend items numbered in the 60s, which note how the ruthless logic of money is becoming an ally to energy transition because it is now “cheaper to save the world than it is to ruin it.”
Refugia Sighting
Today I’ll feature another faith-based refugium space here in Michigan: Plainsong Farm. Plainsong was founded in 2015 after Episcopal priest Nurya Love Parish spent years in prayer, feeling called to establish a farm but searching for the right model and the right team members.
Since then, God has been providing. Nurya and farmers Michael and Bethany and loads of other lovely people have established a twelve-acre space (refugia are small!) that grows food to give away, regenerates the land, trains future farmers, and invites everyone to come for worship and meditation.
Plainsong joins an emerging faith-based regenerative farming movement that seeks to renew the deep connections between faith and the tangible, embodied practice of growing food. As staffer Emily Ulmer told me in an interview I did in 2020, the movement recognizes that people of faith are “rethinking their faith tradition through the lenses of food and ecology. And they’re rethinking food and ecology through the lens of their faith tradition.”
Home - Plainsong Farm
The Wayback Machine
Here’s an essay for the turn of the year. This one came after a year of much sorrow for me (2013) and perhaps it will speak to you today after a year of much collective sorrow–and perhaps some personal sorrow for you as well.
(Also, I really love the photo for this essay, depicting the Lake Michigan shore in winter.)
Abide with Me - Debra Rienstra
Thank you!
Thanks for reading! I keep these newsletters quickly scannable, with opportunities for deeper reading as you are able. I also tend to emphasize the connections between faith communities and climate action.
If you are so inclined, please follow me on Twitter or Facebook @debrakrienstra. You can always contact me on those platforms. Also check out my website at
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Debra Rienstra
Debra Rienstra @debrakrienstra

A fortnightly newsletter for people of faith who care about climate and want to know more and do more.

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Prof. Debra Rienstra, Calvin University, 1795 Knollcrest Dr SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49546