by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Stewardship in this context is the responsibility that the world owes to the Earth and to future generations.

environmental stewardshipStewardship means acknowledging that we are not the owners of this world. We do not inherit the Earth from our forefathers, we only borrow them from our children and their children.

If you are religious it may mean acknowledging G-d's ownership of the Earth. As the psalmist says: “The Earth is the Lord's and all that is in it”.

So, according to the psalmist, G-g is watching over our stewardship of the Earth and we will have to give Him account of how we have fared in this task.

Whether one is religious, Christian or otherwise, or not stewardship of the Earth is of increasing importance, not that it was not before and if we had actually cared for Her before things would not have gotten as bad as they are now, as our demands for development run up more and more debts to Nature. Land is one of the essential resources entrusted to us as stewards of Creation.

Land is not made by any man but it exists in a limited quantity and, therefore, also, land should never be owned by any man. How, as the Native Americans and the Romani-Gypsy People have always argued, can any man own part of the Earth?

Anyone who has in any way control of any piece of this land has an obligation to care for it for the benefit of all, people and other creatures that share this Planet with us. Land has just been entrusted to us to care for and not for exploitation. And the same goes for animals and anything else for that matter, including the trees of the forests. They are all entrusted to our care for future generations.

Because of the world's growing population pressure on land is increasing and is raising many questions of stewardship. Questions that cannot just be left to market forces. In fact, they must not be left to market forces at all.

One of the pressure on land is the supposed, and I say deliberately supposed housing need. The fact is that in the UK there are so many empty homes that the term “housing needs” is actually a false one. We could accommodate all of our own homeless and those of Ireland and a few other small countries combined. But those homes are empty and are not being used for homes. In addition there are other properties that could be, by the right people, turned into homes and communities. But the government won't allow this to happen.

In many instances it appears that the developers are winning the argument and we may soon be paying the cost in our failure of stewardship of the Earth because we do not realize what we have to until it is gone.

Pope Francis, in his sermon he preached in his Easter Mass shortly after being elected Pope, said “let us become agents of G-d's mercy, a channel through which G-d can water the Earth, protect all Creation and make justice and peace flourish”.

We can best insure wise stewardship of the environment by the free association of citizens. Rather than depending on governments and NGOs (non-governmental organizations).

Conservation is for future generations. In other word we of the present must hand on a heritage which is intact to those who come after us.

The parable of the talents in the New Testament also give an illustration of how we are to deal not just with our talents given to us – although talents in those days referred, if I am not mistaken, to a unit of currency – but also to the natural world that is entrusted to us for future generations.

Stewardship is often seen as an attitude towards inheritance. Something that you yourself did not create but have responsibility for maintaining. There are many things like that in our lives and sometimes we are not aware of them until the critical moment when they are under threat.

Local people need to be empowered to look after the land. It must be, however, a living landscape; maintained by the people for the people and for future generations.

This also brings us to the change as to how we live and society and how it is run. Localism is the way and empowering communities to maintain and govern themselves.

Legislation is imposed upon the people and this fact is admitted by parliamentarians after, they say, discussion in the House. That does not make it less arbitrary, however. We are told to be grateful for this system of government, we are also told, for are the members of parliament not our elected representatives. Sorry, but I am well capable of speaking and writing and of representing myself. And anyone who believes that the “representatives of the people” represent the people also believes, I am sure, that the Earth is flat. But then again there are still some who do believe that. That the Earth is flat I mean. Far too many believe that the Members of Parliament and such like represent them. Dream on. But I digressed.

Stewardship has to deal also and especially with realities. It can't just be about preserving what we think of “Merry England”, the “green and pleasant land”, with village pubs, cricket greens and all the rest of it. Nor can it be about preserving the past in aspic.

To be good stewards it is essential to reform in order to conserve. When stewards become untrustworthy they can cause widespread damage. Stewardship depends entirely on trustworthiness because a steward is entrusted with something that is owned by someone else.

No one owns the land. It belongs to all. But we also and especially belong to the land, as stewards with a duty to hand it on intact, in every sense, to future generations.

While some keep seeing Nature and land entrusted to us as a heritage, an inheritance the Native American view of us being just borrowers of of it is better still. We have only borrowed it from our children and we must give it (back) to them, or better, in this context, pass it on to them intact and ideally in a better state than when we got it.

Land is the most important resource of which we are stewards because land is under threat from the constant and inevitable demands of what is called “development” and the pressures of population growth.

We are totally dependent on land, so we all have to be trustworthy stewards of it and that surely means we can't just hand over responsibility for land and the general environment to governments and NGOs. But we also can't be effective stewards on our own, so we must act as communities.

Also Leopold warned us against of seeing ourselves as conquerors which is all too often our attitude. Conquering Nature is often the term that is being banded about but if ever we would wind thins conquering game we would ultimately lose and die.

Many Bible believers have misunderstood the text where G-d says for man to have dominion over the Earth. Dominion in that context however never meant domination but being a steward, or as it is called in some translations, a husbandman. The husbandman is a caretaker and it is that that a good steward in this case must be. A proper caretaker of the Earth and everything in it.

So far we have failed in this task because, we falsely believe that we can conquer Nature and bend Her to our will and fashion. It cannot be done and we must work with Nature not against Her.

Modern man, however, believes that he knows it all and that he has the power too modify, genetically even, everything that there is natural to make it work better. He also thinks that he can modify climate change which may be the cause of human activity such as the burning of fossil fuels, by creating artificial cloud cover to “reflect the rays of the sun” and in doing so also upsets the balance of photosynthesis and thus reduces plant growth. The ideal recipe for creating famine, if you ask me. Or is that the aim?

Earth does not need us but we need Her and Earth and Nature here must be seen as one and the same. We cannot do anything without Nature but Nature can do quite well without us. Time everyone understood that and acted accordingly, and that also and especially goes for the scientific community.

Stop fighting Nature and playing G-d! Work with Her and all will be well.

© 2013