Ecological Sustainability in the Dominion of Canada

by Andrew Stephens-Rennie

The nuttiness continues (perhaps unsurprisingly), this time from Colby Cosh via the National Post. I know that the NP isn’t completely full of the ignorant, but, well, Cosh’s Comment piece from May 19th is a bit of a doozy.

I’m just thankful that the Post also has saner, more informed writers like Vanessa Farquharson. Vanessa writes regularly both on her blog and in her Sense and Sustainability column on all issues green, and recently published the book Sleeping Naked is Green. I haven’t yet seen her directly take on the oil sands, but I’d suspect she’d have a word or two to share on the subject that might counter Cosh’s flagrant ignorance.

Back to the matter at hand. In the comments to my earlier Dirty Oil, Messy Faith post, Michael pointed me to Cosh’s piece. As I read the article, I just rolled my eyes. Perhaps it’s just that I hope folks aren’t really so ignorant.

Perhaps I just hope that people could see the ways in which the Biblical narrative calls us to care for creation. The ways in which Genesis calls all of creation good. The ways in which God makes covenant with not just people, but also the whole of creation. The ways in which we are to seek the holistic shalom of the world with which we have been gifted.

But then again, it’s not just the role of “non-believers” like Cosh to discount such claims. It also plays out in some of the more fundie portions of the Christian church itself. And, deeply embedded in the world of Albertan conservatism – religious, political, etc. – it’s perhaps not surprising that Cosh’s comments are shaded by a particularly oily branch of the Christian family tree. Cosh writes:

The Bible tells us that Man is given “dominion … over all the earth” and “every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth” before he is even created. Whatever “dominion” may mean specifically, it cannot be reconciled with Kairos’s vision of “human societies … as not distinct and superior to the rest of nature, but part of it.

The only problem I have with this bit is that, well, dominion has nothing to do with oppression, or superiority. Furthermore, contextually it has everything to do with the role of humanity within all of Creation.

I would push back and suggest that perhaps there is some truth to the “distinct” role of humanity within nature – as it seems that the whole role of naming, as explored in the first chapters of Genesis provides humanity with a distinct role.

But that role is about care (or stewardship) and not exploitation. Again, the legacy of Lynn White Jr. and those who would finger Christianity for all of our environmental ills does not adequately attest to those like Wendell Berry, Steve Bouma-Prediger, Bill McKibben, Paul Santmire, Norman Wirzba, and others who, from the perspective of Christian faith, lead us towards the importance of ecological sustainability. Not to mention, of course, this movement’s strong theological underpinnings.

I suppose I could get into it further, but at some level I don’t know that it matters what this particular Post writer thinks. It’s just that, well, I find Cosh’s argument both obnoxious, and ill-informed. To go further to dismantle it would simply just take more time than I think it may be worth. At least for this evening. I’m just going to bed. It’s nice there.

So if you’re still interested in reading, I leave you with a link to Julie Clawson’s excellent post on Organic Food, which includes a hilarious clip from the Daily Show.

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Andrew Stephens-Rennie
Andrew is a writer, dreamer and organizer with a keen interest in developing leaders in faith, compassion and justice.

He currently serves as the Director of Missional Renewal for the Anglican Diocese of Kootenay on the unceded territories of the Sinixt, Syilx, and Ktunaxa nations. He previously served as the Director of Ministry Innovation at Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver, BC.

Andrew is cofounder and contributing editor at, and co-editor of "A Sort of Homecoming: Essays Honoring the Academic and Community Work of Brian Walsh" with Marcia Boniferro and Amanda Jagt.

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