Wise Stewardship of Land
EPPN Creation Care Series 2021 Part 2
**After reading, don’t forget to use the link below to urge your Members of Congress to practice wise stewardship and permanently protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge!**
“Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth’.”
As a church and as a people, our calling to be stewards of God’s creation is inexorably tied to how we use our land. We work land to grow food, raise livestock, and obtain resources. We consecrate land for our churches. We protect land that is precious to us: our homes, communities, and wilderness areas. Yet we often fail to use our land sustainably.
Consider agriculture. Large farms often plant monocultures, cultivating only one crop in a certain area. This practice erodes topsoil, increases crop susceptibility to harmful organisms, depletes soil nutrients, and hurts pollinators. Monocultures also require high pesticide and fertilizer use which pollute the surrounding environment and contribute to giant ocean “dead zones.”
Many groups work to promote more sustainable agriculture, including local efforts from The Episcopal Church. The Good News Gardens build a healthy relationship with the land through gardening, farming, beekeeping, composting, gleaning, feeding, food justice advocacy, and more. Churches and congregations can participate by using their property to plant trees or free community gardens.
Climate Change and Land Use
Soils and vegetation contain 3 times more carbon than the atmosphere, so how we use land has a direct relationship to the total amount of atmospheric carbon. Deforestation, poor agricultural practices, and fossil fuel extraction all directly add carbon to the atmosphere and contribute to global warming.
Climate change itself also causes land use change. Rising global temperatures increase desertification, shift the ranges that species can inhabit driving biodiversity loss, and increase the risk of drought and famine, particularly in the tropics.
Recognizing the interconnectedness of land use and climate change, policymakers have proposed a variety of solutions to protect ecosystems and the services they provide. The following efforts represent the breadth of options available to policymakers:
- The 30×30 Campaign to protect 30% of global land and waters by 2030
- Ban fossil fuel extraction on public lands (currently in effect on a temporary basis)
- The Trillion Trees Act to promote reforestation
- The Great American Outdoors Act (passed last Congress with Episcopal advocacy!)
Indigenous Land Rights
573 sovereign tribal nations reside in the United States. Since the founding of our country, these tribes lost land, cultures, and basic human rights from treaty violations and discriminatory laws. The conquering of a whole people, justified with Christian rhetoric, continues to cause tremendous complexities and inequalities among Indigenous people. In recognition of historic and ongoing injustice, The Episcopal Church believes we have a special obligation to recognize tribal sovereignty in their stewardship of water, land, and mineral resources found within their various historic and treaty territories.
In particular, The Episcopal Church supports the Gwich’in people in their opposition to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. In 2021, a lease sale by the Trump Administration opened the Arctic Refuge to oil and gas development. Nine thousand Gwich’in, many of whom are Episcopalian, make their home along the migratory route of the Porcupine caribou herd through the Refuge, which they consider sacred land. Act now to urge Congress to permanently protect the Arctic Refuge and honor Gwich’in sacred land!
The environment deserves our protection not only to ensure the survival of humankind, but also because it is our duty to steward God’s Creation. Through supporting policies that encourage sustainable agriculture, invest in nature-based solutions to climate change, and honor indigenous land, the Office of Government Relations seeks to foster the responsible use of the rich and beautiful land we inhabit.
- The Episcopal Church and Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
- Making Peace with Nature (United Nations Environment Programme)
Episcopal Church Resolutions:
- 1991-D125 Oppose Oil Development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
- 2015-A030 Support Ecologically Responsible Stewardship of Church Property
- 2015-A170 Advocate for Safe Food Production and Farm Labor Practices
- EXC111989.26 Support for Environmental Principles
The Office of Government Relations