I've been teaching, or rather leading a discussion about land, food and associated ethics and how they relate to Christian life. There are about 10 folks in the class and the discussion has been good. The first book we're reading is A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold. Specifically, we're concentrating on two essays, Good Oak and A Land Ethic. It was interesting the hear the different views on Good Oak; which I thought was a rather benign essay about cutting down an oak tree that had been hit by lightening. Leopold starts the essay by saying "There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the assuming that food comes from the grocery and heat from the furnace." The idea that one looses that connection to the land as they become urbanized. I think it is among my favorite quotes of all time and rings very true, probably moreso today than when it was written 70 years ago. There were a few folks in the discussion group that thought his writing was condescending. That still puzzles me a bit and I've reread this essay again and I'm just not seeing it.
As we moved to the esssay A Land Ethic, we started by discussing what constitutes an "ethic". It was a very good discussion and really set a good foundation for our future discussions. We talked about being part of the land community - functioning with it instead of controlling it and how that affects our personal freedoms. Leopold does tend to "stick it" to the farmers in this essay and we started to discuss whether or not that was fair. We'll pick up on that issue at our next meeting. I've also assigned an essay by Paul Gruchow, a wonderful Minnesota writer that I miss dearly. As we move from the land to food in our next book I wanted the group to think about the impact our food system has not only on the land but on the people that live in rural communities. Gruchow's essay, in my opinion, is excellent in that regard. Finally, we'll be reading "Food for Life: The Spirituality and Ethics of Eating" by Shannon Jung. I'll keep you posted on our discussions.