By Michelle Carroll
My favorite ride at Disney World is Living with the Land. It’s that other one in the building with Soarin’ at EPCOT. Most people probably enjoy this ride for its usually short line and a chance to sit down for twenty minutes in the middle of the day. But I love that it is part of that original vision of Walt Disney for a better world. The ride takes you through several different simulated biomes before entering a “living laboratory” greenhouse area, where scientists work to find new ways to grow food more sustainably.
At one point in the ride they say, “Of all the forces at work on the land, humans have had one of the most profound effects. The need to produce food for the growing world led to the enormous use—and sometimes overuse—of the land. In our search for more efficient ways to grow food, we often failed to realize the impact of our methods.”
This semester, I have learned more about creation care as an act of justice, and explored just how deep the roots of failure to properly care for the land extend. From the conglomeration of family farms into large estates with high taxes to pay for the monarchy and foreign tribute in the centuries leading up to the exile, to the lack of evidence supporting a Year of Jubilee and the right of return to all agricultural property, to the lands that are still deserts because of over farming in the ancient Near East. It’s clear that caring for the land was a problem millennia ago.
We are no better off today. The agricultural industrial complex maximizes profits over caring for the land or providing nutrition. Americans are very divorced from real, wholesome food, preferring convenience foods and having little idea where our food actually comes from. We eat tons of meat products, requiring massive amounts of water and feed resources. And of course, all of our convenient food comes wrapped in some form of plastic that will take hundreds of years to degrade.
As Christian leaders in the twenty-first century, where conversations about overpopulation and sustainability are already well underway, we could do so much to help the Church be a part of the solution to this problem. Our faith calls us to the land in a way that is unique. We need to remind our congregations that we are ’adām from ’adāmȃ—humans from fertile soil (Gen 2:7). We must strive to understand the deep connection Israel had, not to a specific homeland, but to land in general. It was a land they were to nurture. God’s relationship with Israel is not separated from the care of land. The relationship means Israel has a place to work and thus earn their living and in so doing discover the true worth of the land.
“If you walk in my ordinances and keep my commandments and do them, then I will give you your rains in their season, and the earth will give her produce, and the tree of the field will give its fruit. For you, threshing will overtake vintage, and vintage will overtake seeding… And I will turn toward you, and I will make you fruitful, and I will multiply you, and I will establish my covenant with you…” -Lev 26:3-5, 9
May we remember that the earth is part of the covenant.
May we be people who know how to live with the land.
Michelle Carroll is a CBF Leadership Scholar and Master of Divinity student at McAfee School of Theology at Mercer University in Atlanta, Ga. In her spare time she is learning how to grow vegetables in her apartment.