Planting Seeds or Stones?

by | Sep 23, 2021 | ShiftHappens

Lately I have found inspiration in the writings of the Polish-born American Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. Heschel’s own life was a testament to the power of the human spirit. His father died when he was just a child, and many more of his family members were murdered in the Holocaust. He escaped to New York in 1940, where he continued his lifelong exploration of Jewish mysticism. 

What I love about Heschel is that although he was a prolific author, scholar, and professor, he was not an armchair philosopher. His faith deeply informed his thoughts on social responsibility. Heschel was a passionate activist for civil rights, joining his friend Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lewis in the Selma to Montgomery march for equality. Of that experience he said “I felt my legs were praying,” and called on other religious leaders to show “spiritual audacity” in the face of oppression. 

Heschel was a man who thought deeply about the relative value of questions versus answers.

His work has particular resonance at this moment in history because, in my humble opinion, we seem to have far more answers than we do questions. Even in our most prescient social challenges – things like racial equity, climate change, animal rights, and more – we see that individuals tend to attach themselves to answers, catchy slogans, and foregone conclusions. The overarching values system has overpromoted the defense of answers far more than it has the passionate inquiry that should lead to them. 

This imbalance might be why we struggle to move forward meaningfully on even those issues that dominate public discourse. According to Heschel, adopting answers without questioning can never lead to meaningful forward motion. He once wrote:

“There are dead thoughts and there are living thoughts. A dead thought has been compared to a stone which one may plant in the soil. Nothing will come out. A living thought is like a seed. In the process of thinking, an answer without a question is devoid of life. It may enter the mind; it will not penetrate the soul. It may become a part of one’s knowledge; it will not come forth as a creative force.”

Heschel, like our community of changemakers at The Pollination Project, was a doer. He was a thinker who manifested action through a process of deep inquiry, just like those our community uplifts each day. I daresay he was a heartivist. 

No stones have been planted in our global garden; only living thoughts that grow and blossom into a kinder, more compassionate world. Thank you to each of our changemakers who make up this vibrant ecosystem of kindness, whose prayers are extended hands to their communities. I am eternally inspired by you.

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Academic professionals Carla Forte Maiolino Molento and Rodrigo Morais-da-Silva founded Cell Ag Brazil at the end of 2023 with support received from The Pollination Project. The objective of the newly created association is to reflect, contribute, and promote the development of cellular agriculture in Brazil through proactive promotion and unifying actions among different audiences interested in the development, production, and commercialization of food through cell cultivation processes. 
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With a seed grant, they founded the organization and designed a logo that represents their mission. They are now inviting people and organizations to participate in the association so that it gains greater relevance. 
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Their members will be distributed across three chambers: 1) academia, 2) private sector, and 3) third sector and civil society. With this, they aim for diverse representation and to create a positive movement to act in different areas to promote and accelerate alternative proteins in Brazil and Latin America.
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Billions of animals involved in food production in Brazil will be impacted in the medium to long term from this work. Data from IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics) indicates that approximately 6.1 billion chickens, 56.5 million pigs, and 30 million cattle were slaughtered in Brazil in 2022. 
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With this association, Carla and Rodrigo may help reduce the number of non-human individuals involved in food production as they help to speed up the replacement process with alternative proteins.
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In this World Day of Social Justice we celebrate the transformative impact of The Pollination Project and our dedication to seeding the essential change our world needs. Since its inception, The Pollination Project has been at the forefront of empowering grassroots initiatives, providing the crucial support needed for small-scale projects to blossom into powerful agents of social change.

Our unique model of micro-granting has enabled a diverse array of projects across the globe, touching upon various facets of social justice including environmental sustainability, poverty alleviation, gender equality, and human rights. From providing clean water solutions in remote villages to empowering women through education and entrepreneurship, we always believed in the power of individual action to create a collective impact.

Each project funded is a testament to our faith in the inherent goodness and potential of every person to contribute meaningfully to the betterment of society. These initiatives not only address immediate community needs but also foster a culture of empathy, equity, and inclusiveness - essential pillars for achieving true social justice.

On this World Day of Social Justice, let's draw inspiration from the myriad projects The Pollination Project has nurtured. Their work reminds us that each small seed of kindness and action can indeed grow into a mighty force for good, paving the way for a more just and compassionate world.