In recent years, a deeper understanding of the meaning of creation has emerged. Part of this has been spurred by rampant destruction of Earth, opening our eyes to our failure to comprehend the words of Scripture: the Earth is the Lord’s and all its fullness….(Psalm 24).
In many places where Maryknoll missioners work, people experience irreparable devastation of their land and their lives. In many places where land had been a treasure held in common by everyone, it is now a commodity to be bought and sold, almost always by outside brokers. This has often been disastrous both to the people and to the land itself. The global extent of this phenomenon calls for a review of our perceptions of Earth and land and an immediate change in our attitudes, transactions and lifestyle.
Within Maryknoll there is an effort to create a “land ethic” whereby we will live out our commitment to Creation as it has been entrusted to us: our Earth, and more expressly, land itself and all the life that these particular lands support. Maryknoll owns property in many communities. Recognizing the call to stewardship that all people carry, Maryknoll has engaged in a long-term internal conversation which, hopefully, will lead to appropriate decisions about the current and future use of these properties.
This endeavor comes not a moment too soon and is part of a movement of a clearer vision of earth that initiates the changes necessary in our way of thinking and, more importantly, in our immediate lives.
According to Aldo Leopold, recognized as the originator of the phrase “land ethic,” the four tenets of the land ethic are:
1) “Land” (which we would now call an “ecosystem”) is a system of interdependent parts: best regarded as a “community,” not a “commodity.”
2) Homo Sapiens is a member, not the master, of the land community.
3) “The Whole informs the part” —that is, we can only understand and appreciate our place in nature, and the place of our fellow creatures, in the context of an understanding of the whole. (Thus we can appreciate that while the wolf is the enemy of the deer, it is the friend of the deer-species. The deer owes its fleet foot and sensitive ear to its predators, and the wolf owes its keen nose and stealth to its prey).
4) Our duty is to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community.
(Courtesy of The Philosophical Foundations of Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic, by Ernest Partridge.)