The So-called “Green” Revolution | Jesus Creed

The So-called “Green” Revolution | Jesus Creed

Sometimes using our scientific knowledge to explain the Bible actually proves our skill at re-interpretation rather than actual reading of the Bible. Other times the Bible’s wisdom on something can become a guide for life today.

Take, for instance, farming and stewardship of the land. What the Bible advocated for Israel’s care of the land given it by God, when read wisely, pushes back against modern-day exploitation of the land.

We are reading Sandra Richter’s fine new book Stewards of Eden.

I begin with the so-called Green Revolution of 1968. Here are her words:

Better known as “industrialized agriculture,” this revolution was birthed in post-World War II America in response to global food shortages. The commitment was to develop and distribute high-yield cereal grains supported by synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, to modernize irrigation infrastructures, and to implement new farm-management techniques in order to increase the world’s food supply. The effort was so successful that Norman Borlaug, named the “father of the Green Revolution,” received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his profound contribution to ending human misery in Third World countries. But these gains have not come without a cost.

Before we get to the cost, we look briefly at what Israel’s covenant God taught Israel.

To begin with, Israel did not own the land. YHWH did. Israel was a tenant. The Land was a land grant to Israel. They were called to steward the land so granted to them, and the land could be reclaimed by Israel’s God if Israel did not live in the land as it was instructed.

This land grant framework for understanding the Land explains, Richter shows, the tithe and first born principles in texts like Deut 14:22-23, 15:19-20, and 18:3-5. These principles did two things: they made clear that Israel was a tenant and that Israel was to care for the poor and marginalized. Taxation reminded Israel time and time again that Israel did not own its land; God did. They were tenants for God. They were to be generous as God was generous.

More to our point: Israel’s agricultural law had a Sabbatical principle of “fallow”: land was to be farmed for six years and they fallowed. So, Lev 25:4-7.

This permits aeration and pasturage and replenishment and restoration.

Image: Cover Photo

Thus, inherent to the law is restrained consumerism and planned restoration and avoidance of exploitation of God’s land. This is long-term planning with temporary short-falls in one’s economy.

Economic exploitation and growth and security could not come at the expense of the land and the long-term.

Bingo! Back to the so-called Green Revolution of 1968:

Rather, as a result of the in the utilization of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, the implementation of hybrid cereal crops, monocultural farming (the cultivation of a single crop in a single field for extended periods of time), and systemic land overuse, the same countries that hailed Borlaug a hero are now teetering on the brink of a new agricultural a new agricultural disaster. A prime example is Punjab, India.

We need today to see that “our” land and “our” property are gifts from God, not for our own exploitation but so we might become stewards for, after all, “the land is God’s.”


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