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To read and decode the signs of nature

Regeneration – Mutually healing practices in a new farming movement
SUSTAINABLE / A new movement within agriculture that draws on so-called regenerative principles works to increase the humus content, the microbiological life in the soil and cultivate the soil's ability to bind CO2.


Last summer I spent a large part of my time looking out and down at the burgeoning grounds around me and my partner's summer house. From having been a bare soil with very little vegetation, it is now filled with flowers and different types of grass, which has become a home for a multitude of insects. In short: the Earth is alive. Still, it's as if I don't quite know what to do with the signs that nature shows in attempts to create a sustainable garden. How do I know what earth need?

I Regeneration: Mutually healing practices in a new farming movement, the anthropologist Sofie Isager Ahl describes this learning to read and decode natureone's sign, as a sensitivity towards the immediate surroundings and the species with which we coexist. Very similar to the learning that my partner and I have done in the past months in trying to decipher the signs that appear on our small summer house plot so that we can coexist with nature, while it also has space to develop in a sustainable way View.

The organic agricultural school

The focal point of Ahl's book is a new movement within agriculture, which draws on so-called regenerative principles. The fact that active work is being done to increase the humus content, that microbiologicale life in the soil and cultivate the soil's ability to bind CO2. Processes that have been presented as a key response to the impending climate crisis.

Regeneration is a paraphrase of Ahl's PhD thesis from the University of Copenhagen with the same title. The book is based on a year's fieldwork at the ecological agricultural school Sogn Jord- og Hagebruksskule in Aurlandsdalen surrounded by the Norwegian mountains – which have clearly left their mark on the Danish anthropologist's thinking and language.

By following the lessons and listening to the students' multifaceted life stories of giving up well-paid jobs, following in the family's footsteps or searching for a different – ​​perhaps freer – life as small farmers, for Ahl regeneration is not only a term that describes a new form of agriculture, but also a way of living. It is thus also a term that captures people's search for a different and more sustainable life in light of today's ecological and climatic crises.

Western modern man seems to have lost all clues to what the soul of nature is.

In order to gain a full insight into the burgeoning regenerative farming movement, Ahl describes his approach as a kind of poetic anthropology, who, by dwelling on a series of stories, scenes and images, seeks to analyze an ecological sensitivity towards other species and plants. Here, in particular, the anthropologist and biosemiotician Edouard Kohn's study of the Runa people in the Amazon's interaction with nature i How Forests Think (2013) to great inspiration for Ahl. Both take their point of departure from the fact that modern Western man seems to have lost all clues as to what the soul of nature is. In other words, we have become blind to other species and plant life.

Intimacy and death

All chapters in Regeneration – in addition to an epilogue – whimsically treats each season to emphasize the shift that regenerative agricultural principles represent. It begins with Ahl 'waking up' to the crisis in the middle of the summer heat, when she experiences the intimacy that can arise between animals and humans after she milks a cow for the first time at the request of Malik, one of the school's employees. Next, how the autumn slaughter of the same animals leads to a reflection on death in the regenerative process and how this differs from the violent consequences the global meat industry has for both animals and people, all the while the student Irene offers blood pancakes according to her great-grandmother's recipe.

When the sun disappears from Aurlandsdalen in the winter period, a disturbing future haunts them. In their attempt to overcome an 'out of step' feeling, students Astrid and Thomas seek to pass on better practices for the life of plants, with a special focus on the root network, all the while re-rooting themselves – after both having given up well-paid jobs to become eco-friendlyønder And when spring welcomes and the sun appears again, we are confronted with the horticultural teacher Maria's productive confusion that the farming in the greenhouse does not stop with tasty tomatoes, but requires a showdown with her 'fertilizer addiction' to strengthen earths nutritional conditions. Or, how the students Andreas, Martin, Frederik and Astrid are annoyed by the available technology within traditional farming such as makes that they cannot cultivate their agricultural garden completely according to the regenerative principles.

Regenerative agriculture right now is an impossible economy for many.

Mens Regeneration provides a unique insight into a way of demanding new conditions for coexistence between planter, animals and humans, very little space is spent on the fact that regenerative agriculture is currently an impossibility economy too many – especially in Denmark. This seems strange since much of Ahl's theoretical thinking takes its starting point from critical social theories about the destructive structures of capitalism, which in various ways set the conditions for the book.

Nevertheless Regeneration a captivating story about being haunted by the future in the middle of the climate crisis and at the same time trying to get hold of what always seems to be so elusive: Nature.

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