Book of the Year brings hope to a wounded planet

Australia’s best Christian books of 2022 have been named: The Underground Forest: Hope for a Planet in Crisis Tony Rinaldo.

This year, over 96 books were shortlisted for the SparkLit Australian Christian Book of the Year Awards, with 10 shortlisted for the award.Among those vying for the award is John Dickson’s bullies and saints, Reporter Greg Sheridan Christian, And Sam Chan and Malcolm Gill’s Thematic Evangelism in a Complex World.

However, the presenter of last night’s awards ceremony in Melbourne said it was Rinaudo’s biography that “brought the judges to tears”, filled with images of hope and “what it’s like to be a faithful Christian”.

In this award-winning book, Rinaudo shares his journey from Myrtleford, Victoria, to the West African landlocked country of Niger. Here, he spent 17 years transforming the lives of subsistence farmers with his simple and affordable method of regreening land.

“I’m 95% of the time [spent] regreen mindScape. – Tony Rinaldo

As the title suggests, Rinaudo and his wife Liz, now a world-renowned agronomist, help farmers discover underground forests by restoring damaged trees rather than planting new ones. This sustainable land management system has revolutionized reforestation in Africa and beyond. Rinaudo’s system has not only transformed farmers’ lives, but it also offers hope for helping manage the world’s environmental crisis.

However, Rinaudo’s story is also a journey of faith. As a boy, he felt guilty about the abuse and degradation of his environment, so he dedicated himself to God to help solve the problem. As his extraordinary writings show, this prayer begins an adventure across continents and decades that Rinaudo could not have imagined.

Rinaudo said at last night’s awards ceremony that the key to his success was the relationships he developed with local Africans. These relationships, in turn, help to change the way people think about land management practices.

“If we go about business as usual and destroy the environment we depend on, where will that take us?”

“Taking the time, listening, watching and engaging with people when they’re relaxing is just as important as all the proper business things you do 9-to-5 — I think it’s more important.

“What fascinates me is that most development textbooks talk about best practices, techniques and methodologies. 95% of our success is about building relationships and building trust, being there for people when they’re vulnerable and happy,” he shared.

“I work for World Vision and the marketers have great fun at my expense. They make up the name [for me]’Tree Whisperer’, ‘Forest Maker’,” Rinaudo continued. “When I turned to them and said actually 95% of the time I was [spent] regreen mindScape. This is my working space.

“Then how did you do it? I don’t think I to do it. You have given me powers that I don’t have. The influence of the trees themselves was so great that people convinced themselves. My small role is to get people thinking, if we continue to do business as usual and destroy the environment we depend on, where will that take us? A lot of people have never really considered this before. It’s pretty scary when they do. “

Tony Rinaudo at the 2022 SparkLit Australian Christian Book of the Year Awards on September 1

“We got the most amazing response,” Rinaudo said enthusiastically. “I’ve had workshops in 27 countries and people said, ‘This is going to be hell on earth. Everything I know and love, our ancestral land, we’re going to have to leave it and go to the capital.

“I said, ‘Oh, that’s not great. Would you like to try it with me? I don’t know the full answer, but let’s try it out on a little piece of your land together and see how this takes us So it’s a journey. It’s not me teaching, which is very important. It’s us learning together. It’s really a joint experiment to see if we can make this thing better.”

Another night’s award-winning written work was like himwhose author Rachel Board won the Australian Christian Youth Writers’ Award.

Nicola Chadwick won the Australian Young Christian Writers Award for her poetry collection, Breathe into me.

Find a list of all ten books shortlisted for Australia’s Christian Book of the Year at Koorong.

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