You are a Steward of the Land!
We’ve dug into why the soil is so vital for our livelihood and how to practice taking care of the soil, but we need to talk about shifting our mindset about the land to really bring it home. Land Stewardship is the collective responsibility to protect the building blocks of our ecosystem. It is up to each of us to carry this incredible responsibility – meaning that you are a land steward.
In this episode, we talk about what it means to be a steward of the land and how you can shift your mindset to deepen your relationship with it.
Read below or hit one of the links above to listen!
shifting our mindset
Take a deep breath and get in a welcoming and thoughtful headspace to talk about stewardship of the land.
Our goal this month has been about valuing the earth’s soil. We’ve dug into why the soil is so vital for our livelihood and how to practice taking care of the soil, but I think we really need to talk about shifting our mindset about the land to hit it home.
Here is our current mindset. Over time, we’ve started to think of land as a product, something we can control, manipulate, and fashion into whatever landscape pleases our wants, needs, or desires. We got disconnected and started to harm our soil for temporary gains, and now it’s time to rebuild that connection, starting with mindset.
I love this quote from Aldo Leopold, author, and conservationist,
“We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”
Think about it – when you are attached to something, you take care of it. Most people can relate to this with our phones. We often think of our phones as an extension of ourselves; let’s be honest, it’s most likely in your hand right now or within a foot of you. It’s a beautiful piece of technology. We need the benefits it gives us. So we buy a phone case and phone screen, take care to keep it away from water and put it away somewhere safe when we aren’t using it.
This same principle applies to the land.
When we are attached to the land, we will take care of it. We know the soil provides us with so many crucial benefits to our lives. We should value it like anything else we are attached to.
What is land stewardship?
At its core, stewardship is the job of supervising or taking care of something.
Taking that one step further, Land Stewardship is the collective responsibility to carefully and responsibly manage the land to ensure the quality and abundance of our land, air, water, and biodiversity. To protect the building blocks of our ecosystem.
When I say collective responsibility, I don’t just mean farmers or National Park workers, or landowners – I mean it is up to each of us to carefully take care of something entrusted to us to care for. You are a land steward.
It is a community we all belong to. Granted, there is a spectrum of land stewards from bad to good. I’m not sure where you fall on that spectrum, but the land is your responsibility regardless.
Just as we are all neighbors on this earth, we are also connected by the land under our feet.
Let’s try this exercise – close your eyes and imagine yourself standing on the ground. If you can actually walk outside – even better. So you’re standing on the ground, the earth, the soil – start to trace the land forward in your mind as an unbroken line. You feel the earth from the soles of your feet extend past your toes into the space in front of you. Keep going forward. If there is rock or cement, imagine that unbreaking line your following dip down under the rock, the road, maybe you slow down and trace the soil around a tree or two, keep going.
Through your town, through your state, under the smooth stone of streams, maybe up the side of a mountain and back down. This line you’ve created in your mind, still extending from your feet, travels under the feet of others standing outside in your path, wildlife – maybe the hooves of cows or the feet of a tiny mouse.
Keep going until you hit the ocean. You follow the shore and slowly dip down along the sand until you’ve reached the ocean floor. Above your line on this oceanic crust, there are fish and whales – maybe your line travels under the arm of an octopus. However, it keeps going, still tethered to the soles of your feet until you start to elevate and reach another shoreline, another continent. Under the soles of more humans, forests, land, wildlife, and for the sake of time, it eventually makes its way around the globe back to you – coming in through the backs of your heels and connecting with the starting point of your line—an unbroken circle.
We are all connected to the land and by the land. Hopefully, you felt a bit of that connection in your mental journey. You can use that imagery exercise whenever you want to practice building your relationship with the land and others.
Land Stewardship is a relationship
So while we are all stewards of the land, land stewardship is the relationship, and it should be harmonious. The earth’s landscape provides us with many benefits – to name a few, nutritious plants and mushrooms, fresh water and resources, even a sense of awe with a beautiful view. But to keep that harmony, we also have to be good neighbors and good members of our land community. One that respects and takes care of the land they own, but also of the land they don’t. Someone who is a voice for protecting the soil. Someone who recognizes that valuing the earth’s land has a ripple effect on our society, economy, and culture.
Land stewardship is also about allowing future generations to see the wonders of the earth. This involves only taking what we need and giving back – creating a reciprocal relationship.
An Aleut of the Alaskan Pribilof Islands and advisor to the National Resources Conservation Service, Illarion (Larry) Merculieff, explained this well – “Traditionally, indigenous cultures express and reinforce our relationship with the World through ceremonies and prayer. For example, we do not pick a blueberry (our sister) without ceremony and showing respect and reciprocity through prayer or giving before taking only what we need. This is to respect the blueberry and to assure the continued existence of blueberries for future generations. We live and work with these living things; we do not manage them. We see “natural resources conservation” as implying “use,” which could, in turn, imply exploitation. In indigenous views, “natural resources” connotes something inanimate, as opposed to something with which we have a relationship.”
Become a good land steward
So there’s a theme here. The way we frame our thoughts, connections, and language about the land to ourselves shapes the values we hold and, ultimately, our habits as a result of that.
Becoming a good land steward is built day by day. For indigenous cultures, who are expert stewards of the land, their knowledge was constructed over time from connection to the land and continued through generations of passing on knowledge.
That is what we need to decide to do right here – today. To take responsibility as the land stewards we are and choose to be good ones. To tune into our local communities and continue to value the land for what it is – the source of life so that our habits follow.
Good steward habits such as:
- Speaking up for the land when it needs it and sharing your knowledge with others
- Amplifying indigenous voices who are the leaders of land conservation
- Caring for the system as a whole, which includes understanding the roles of our land practices to planetary health
- Conserving resources (only taking what we need and giving back)
- And doing what you can to enhance and protect biodiversity and soil health through sustainable, regenerative practices.
Something to grow on
For this week’s something to grow on, I’ll leave you with an excerpt of a World Environment Day message by Former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan:
“All of us have to share the Earth’s fragile ecosystems and precious resources, and each of us has a role to play in preserving them. If we are to go on living together on this earth, we must all be responsible for it. Making the right choices will be hard, but not impossible. One in every two jobs in the world depends directly on the sustainability of ecosystems. And no one is immune from the consequences of climate change, the destruction of biodiversity, or other grave threats to the environment.
As we embark on a new century, let us resolve to adopt a way of life that can be sustained right through it. Let us be good stewards of the Earth we inherited from our parents. And let us preserve it for our children, and their children after them.”
Until next time neighbor, thanks for joining me.
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