Cosmologies of stewardship


Scott Carrier’s article “Chainsaw Diplomacy” (HCN, 2/16/15) missed an excellent opportunity to educate his readers on important restoration efforts currently underway in the Escalante River Basin of Utah. Instead of focusing on what these efforts are accomplishing in restoring native habitat to a critical region, he seemed intent on pushing an agenda –– creating a controversy between what he calls “entirely different cosmologies,” an issue that even the individuals highlighted in the article insist does not lie at the heart of their region’s struggles.

Carrier would have us believe that the cosmology that attributes the Earth to the special creation of a divine being leads to a particularly abusive use of the land and its resources. This approach is particularly reductionist. There are many believers, such as Wendell Berry, who affirm that the special act of creation actually impels humans to be more careful stewards of land and resources. Because the land is not ours and never will be, we are responsible for caring for it as temporary inhabitants. It is just such a “cosmology” that has informed Native care for the land for centuries, predating the cosmology of the “outsiders” in the Escalante region, which Carrier insists is based on reason and science.

As one surveys similar controversies around the West, it is apparent that “outsider/insider” issues surface in many other communities not tied to the particular cultural and religious expressions of life in the Escalante region. Writing about the Sagebrush Rebellion of the 1950s, Bernard DeVoto attributes these ongoing debates to a particular development of Western thought that is steeped in an economy based on extraction from a debtor region. As “insiders” struggle to make ends meet, they have been historically resistant to “outsiders” with an agenda that seems to flow from Easterners with money.

W. Vance Grace
Grand Junction, Colorado

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