(Here at the Sustainable Traditions homestead we receive a good number of books to review – which we love! But often it means we are reading ten books at one time. And a strange thing begins to happen for me – it’s almost as if the varied authors, as I read each of their written words, is in conversation with one another as they mix in my head. -JF)
One of the recent books I have been digging into is Planted: A Story of Creation, Calling and Community by A Rocha leader in Canada, Leah Kostamo. A personal narrative tracing the steps of Leah and her husband Markku as they established the first Christian environmental center in Canada, it is a reflective memoir that is both inspiring and humorous – peppered throughout with Kostamo’s wit, ease of storytelling and whimsical artwork. I could almost imagine sitting down to a series of meals and listening to the journey retold in the same way I read the book.
This narrative hits all the topics close to my own heart – healing and caring for Creation, intentional Christian community, holistic discipleship to Jesus, practical theology and daring to follow the crazy dreams GOD plants in your spirit. Though the book is mostly a personal (and gracefully humorous) account, the author includes serious theological and environmental reflections throughout. Near the beginning of the book she lays a foundation for understanding the concept of ecology:
“Brian Brett, in his excellent book Trauma Farm, recounts the devastating results of Chairman Mao’s fateful Four Pests Campaign. It seems Mao, as part of his Great Leap Forward, decided his nation would be far better off without sparrows, flies, rats, and mosquitoes. The latter three seem logical pest suspects, but sweet little House Sparrows? Evidently a sparrow can eat ten pounds of grain a year, landing it on Mao’s most wanted list. Hoping to eradicate this pest from his nation, Mao instructed every citizen of China to kill sparrows on a single spring day in 1958. Over six hundred million dutiful citizens did just this – chasing sparrows from their nests and banging pots to scare them from returning, thus rendering the eggs left behind unviable. What Mao wasn’t told was that while a sparrow can eat ten pounds of grain a year they seldom do; their diet consists mainly of insects, locusts in particular. Within two years China’s crops were overrun by noxious insects, with locusts leading the assault. This, along with several other supposedly “scientific” decisions affecting farming practices. led to China’s famine, which killed over twenty million people.
Turns out it’s not so easy to say that conservation is a luxury for citizens of a wealthy nation who value hiking trails and salmon dinners, not when the survival of the world’s most vulnerable people depends almost entirely on healthy ecosystems to sustain them. Again, this is where the definition of “ecology” is helpful: eco from the Greek oikos, for household, and logia, for “the study of”. Anyone who has grown up in a household understands that it’s a complicated web of interrelated relationships. (If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy, right?) In essence, the word ecology draw attention to the relationships between living things and their environment and implies that if one tinkers with one bit of the world, the effects are felt in radiating ripples throughout the rest of the world. Tug at this thread of creation, to paraphrase John Muir, and you find it is attached to everything else. Even the smallest actions for creation care have implications for the larger web that makes up our larger home.”
Planted is a fascinating and enjoyable read from a leader at the forefront of practical Christian earthkeeping with an important message about our call as Christians to embody our discipleship to Jesus in lived community and the ecological placemaking of creation care. If GOD is paying attention to the sparrows – and to all the details of His Creation – maybe we should too.
“What is the price of two sparrows–one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it.” – Matthew 10:29
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