Today Kristina writes on stewardship and how it impacts the faith community and how we eat.
Stewardship. It's the one word that resonates with me when I think about the challenges our world is facing with natural resources (food, land, water). Failing to be good stewards to the Earth has created astronomical repercussions that are not necessarily visible to the human eye on a day-to-day basis. The lack of stewardship to our Earth and it’s resources are destroying not just our vital ecosystems, but also the dignity and wellbeing of human beings.
First, let's cover the basics. What is stewardship? The Oxford University Press 2013 Dictionary says this: Steward: (verb) to manage or look after (another's property).
As a steward, we take ACTIONto look after someone or something; to attend to its’ needs, to care for it, and to respect it as if it were the property of an honorary guest.
For Christians, the idea of stewardship is presented in the first chapter of the Bible, Genesis. God created the Earth and all of the creatures that inhabit the Earth...and as the story goes, they were all good. God appointed the man and the woman to have dominion over the Earth and all of the creatures that were created; in other words, God gave the man and the woman the responsibility to care for creation.
This idea of stewardship extends beyond just Christian theology. It presents itself in other religions, as well, through the use of nature and humans (see Pyari 2011). We see stewardship even extend beyond religion and into cultural practices in the way that groups of people socialize and communicate. The golden rule: “treat others the way you would want to be treated” is one of the actions of stewardship in the context of relationships.
The idea of stewardship is present in doctrines of world religions, and it is inscribed in many cultural rituals and social interactions (see Pyari 2011).
"Whatever we do to the earth, we do to ourselves."
- Chief Seattle
So just how does this idea of stewardship fit within the context of food-systems, nutrition, and humans? Simple.
The food-system greatly impacts the many different ecosystems that inhabit the earth. The way in which we choose to use the soil and the land, as well as the way we raise animals impacts the health of all the creatures that are apart of this global ecosystem.
Look all over the internet, we are continually seeing news about factory farming and its destruction to the environment, its cruel treatment to animals, and its encouragement of monocrop systems and GMO. There are articles flooding the internet and research about over-fishing, loss of native species, and the rapid rise of global warming.... and its impact on human and non-human life.
We are destroying the planet with our food choices. We are failing to practice stewardship to the animals, the soil, to human and non-human existence. We are taking resources from the Earth faster than we are returning them and protecting them. As we continue to industrialize, we loose touch with the natural world. We disconnect with the environment and instead "buy-in" to consumerism... marketing, social-status, idols. It's about money and business, not about stewardship. We are taught to consume, not to protect.
The land and food environment has become a "Carsinogenic" stew, as Derrick Jensen describes in his book "Endgame." We are filling the Earth with chemicals, we are exploiting our bodies by filling them with chemicals.... and our bodies and the environment are responding in repulsive ways. We have failed to be good stewards.
We must acknowledge the environment when we consider our food choices-- something that is not apparent to us when we make purchases at the grocery store. "Natural" doesn't always mean "good for the Earth."... "humanly raised" does not mean "good for the animals".... these are labels, "green-washing", marketing claims to increase consumerism, to increase the profit of the rich, but not necessarily the profit of our global ecosystem. Participating in these systems (knowingly or unknowingly) is not being a good steward to the Earth, as well as to human and non-human life.
The 14th premises Jensen makes in "Endgame" is this:
"From birth on—and probably from conception, but I’m not sure how I’d make the case—we are individually and collectively enculturated to hate life, hate the natural world, hate the wild, hate wild animals, hate women, hate children, hate our bodies, hate and fear our emotions, hate ourselves. If we did not hate the world, we could not allow it to be destroyed before our eyes. If we did not hate ourselves, we could not allow our homes—and our bodies—to be poisoned."
We no longer have a healthy relationship with our food. We give thanks for the flesh and the plants that we eat, assuming that the blessings will provide us with good health and nourishment, but we do not act. Stewardship is a verb. It is an action. We have been called, as people of faith, to take action to protect these resources, to protect both human and non-human life, and to protect the bodies we have been given.
I am calling on faith communities, no matter your religious beliefs, to respond to our environmental crisis. To take action towards being and preaching the word of STEWARDSHIP. To live out stewardship in everyday life.
Things to consider:
- It's estimated that 64% of fisheries have been "overexploited", especially in communities where many poor people rely on the fish for their own nourishment.
- 70% of the Amazon has been destroyed for factory farming and animal feed
- In Comfortably Unaware, Dr. Oppenlander references an FAO report that states 30% of all landmass is used for livestock production and 33% of agricultural land is used for GMO crops for animal feed. Additionally, we are raising more food for animals (for human consumption) than we are for humans.... and we are producing animals for human consumption at rates that are higher than considered natural. How is this healthy for our bodies and our planet? How is this stewardship?
- Deforestation for industry (monocrops, factory farms, textiles) depletes the soil of vital nutrients, impacts the quality of our air, destroys the ecosystem of the creatures that rely on the trees for survival.
- Processing foods requires energy, increases pollution (e.g. byproduct wastes like the acid whey from Greek Yogurt), and stimulate material wastes (e.g. packaging).
-CO2 and methane production from livestock is increasing climate change
-Climate change increases the core temperature of the Earth, which impacts weather systems (e.g. dramatic fluctuations of droughts and floods) that in-turn impacts the global food supply.... which will further impact the livelihood of human and non-human existence.
-Climate change is expected, and already is, impacting the lives of the world's most vulnerable people. Where resources are already scarce and poverty AND malnutrition are prevalent, climate change has its' greatest impacts. In addition to increasing vulnerability to food security, bacterial related diseases will continue to rise... further increasing the rise of malnutrition and (preventable) deaths.
-"Americans die each month from toxins and other workplace hazards,and more Americans die each week from preventable cancers that are for the most part direct results of the activities of large corporations, and certainly the results of the industrial economy." - Jensen
- How are we protecting non-human life when we place animals in cages and exploit them for human consumption? How is this system by any means natural? In Christianity, humans are called to have "dominion" (meaning control or governance) over non-human life but how is our "governance" lacking "stewardship" and responsibility, compassion, and care?
In good health,