The earth is one of God’s gracious gifts to us, and we should not despise or abuse it.
Over the next several weeks, each Thursday, I plan to write about a Christian perspective of caring for God’s creation.
As a prelude to that, I want to share a passage from an essay by Wendell Berry that describes the difference between exploitation and nurture. For those with ears to hear, it applies not only to the care of creation, but to every aspect of sustainable Christian living—holiness, church, and relationships.
The terms exploitation and nurture . . . describe a division not only between persons but also within persons. We are all to some extent the products of an exploitive society, and it would be foolish and self-defeating to pretend that we do not bear its stamp . . .
The exploiter is a specialist, an expert; the nurturer is not.
The standard of an exploiter is efficiency; the standard of a nurturer is care.
The exploiter’s goal is money, profit; the nurturer’s goal is health—his land’s health, his own, his family’s, his community’s, his country’s.
Whereas the exploiter asks of a piece of land only how much and how quickly it can be made to produce, the nurturer asks a question that is much more complex and difficult: What is its carrying capacity? (That is: How much can be taken from it without diminishing it? What can it produce dependably for an indefinite time?)
The exploiter wishes to earn as much as possible by as little work as possible; the nurturer expects, certainly, to have a decent living from his work, but his characteristic wish is to work as well as possible.
The competence of the exploiter is in organization; that of the nurturer is in order—a human order, that is, that accommodates itself both to order and to mystery.
The exploiter typically serves an institution or organization; the nurturer serves land, household, community, place.
The exploiter thinks in terms of numbers, quantities, “hard facts”; the nurturer in terms of character, condition, quality, kind. *
To be clear, Berry’s point is not that some people are exploiters and others are nurturers, but that we all are capable of both at different times.
What do you think? Does Berry make a valid distinction between exploitation and nurture?
* From Wendell Berry, “The Unsettling of America,” in The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry (Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2002), 39.