One of the concepts of Christian theology that is often cited these days as a model for relating to the land is “stewardship.” Christians are enjoined to be good stewards of God’s creation, and this is put forth as a useful model for relating to the natural world.
Well, yes…. but while considering ourselves stewards of the earth is certainly an improvement over mindlessly exploiting and pillaging it, we need to be cautious with this idea and not glibly accept it without further exploration.
What was a steward, historically? He was someone who worked to maximize the productivity of the land—its agriculture, forestry, and animal husbandry—for the benefit of human beings. The word “steward” actually derives from the old English for “keeper of the hall.” So, from the beginning of its etymological life, the word “steward” had to do with meeting human needs for shelter, food and comfort. At some point, the land itself was included under the steward’s same human-referenced dominion.