Watershed Discipleship

“We won’t save places we don’t love, we can’t love places we don’t know, and we don’t know places we haven’t learned.”

  • Baba Dioum, Senegalese environmentalist, from “Watershed Discipleship: Re-inhabiting Bioregional Faith and Practice” by Ched Myers, Denise M. Nadeau

“… longtime environmental analyst James Speth’s terse summary will suffice: How serious is the threat to the environment? Here is one measure of the problem: all we have to do to destroy the planet’s climate and biota and leave a ruined world to our children and grandchildren is to keep doing exactly what we are doing today, with no growth in the human population or the world economy. Just continue to release greenhouse gases at the current rates, just continue to impoverish ecosystems and release toxic chemicals at current rates, and the world in the latter part of the century won’t be fit to live in (2008: x).”

  • “Watershed Discipleship: Re-inhabiting Bioregional Faith and Practice” by Ched Myers, Denise M. Nadeau

“Watershed Discipleship as an expression of both resistance and renewal. This framing discourse is an intentional “triple entendre”: 1. It recognizes that we are in a watershed historical moment of crisis, which demands that environmental and social justice and sustainability be integral to everything we do as Christians and citizen inhabitants of specific places; 2. It acknowledges the bioregional locus of an incarnational following of Jesus: our individual discipleship and the life and witness of the local church take place inescapably in a watershed context; 3. And it implies that we need to be disciples of our watersheds.”

  • “Watershed Discipleship: Re-inhabiting Bioregional Faith and Practice” by Ched Myers, Denise M. Nadeau

Three interrelated philosophical errors we must recognize:

“1. Since the time of Constantine, a functional docetism has numbed Christians to the escalating horrors of both social and ecological violence, because spiritual or doctrinal matters always trump terrestrial or somatic ones. If it is assumed that salvation occurs outside of or beyond creation, it will be pillaged accordingly.”

“2. Since the late medieval Doctrine of Discovery, a theology and/ or politics of entitlement to land and resources—both in the colonizing and extractive senses—gave carte blanche first to imperial expansion and conquest, then to capitalist production and consumption without limits. 8 Moreover, it has relieved both colonial and industrial protagonists of any responsibility to restore degraded land and biotic (including human) communities, past and present.”

“3. Since the dawn of the Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution, the anthropological presumption that humans rule over creation—shared with equal ferocity by religious traditionalists and secular modernists—has endorsed how technological development exploits and re-engineers nature to benefit human settlement alone (and increasingly only the elite).”

  • “Watershed Discipleship: Re-inhabiting Bioregional Faith and Practice” by Ched Myers, Denise M. Nadeau

“The usual focus of attention for most Americans is the human society itself with its problems and its successes, its icons and symbols . . . the land we all live on is simply taken for granted—and proper relation to it is not taken as part of “citizenship.” But . . . people are beginning to wake up and notice that the United States is located on a landscape with a severe, spectacular, spacey, wildly demanding, and ecstatic narrative to be learned. Its natural communities are each unique, and each of us, whether we like it or not—in the city or countryside—live in one of them . . . When enough people get that picture, our political life will begin to change, and it will be the beginning of the next phase of American life (1992: 65f).”

  • Gary Snyder, celebrated poet of the modern ecology movement, in a seminal essay entitled “Coming into the Watershed, from “Watershed Discipleship: Re-inhabiting Bioregional Faith and Practice” by Ched Myers, Denise M. Nadeau

Robert Bailey, US Forest Service geographer, mapped ecological regions of the USA and then the entire globe. He identifies four major large-scale ecoregions:
1. polar
2. humid-temperature
3. humid-tropical
4. dry
Within these, smaller divisions can be identified, for example: humid-temperature ecoregion includes Mediterranean, subtropical, prairie, marine, hot continental and warm continental.
Each divisions can be further divided into provinces, where the controlling factors are altitude and vegetation.
  • “LifePlace: Bioregional Thought and Practice,” by Robert L Thayer, Jr.

 “We have substituted fossil fuels for functional ecosystems as the [manufacturing] source of our food. And as these fuels and their derivatives becomes more scarce and expensive, our industrial agricultural and food system becomes increasingly vulnerable. When the oil runs out, functional ecosystems will be necessary for human survival (Hobbs and Harris 2001). In order to learn how to restore our degraded ecosystems to support human existence, it will be critical to understand how former ecosystems functioned… Perhaps the greatest lesson we can learn from these ecosystems and the people that inhabited them is not in their specific management practices, although there is certainly much to learn. Instead, I believe an important lesson is that we, too, are a keystone species, living in and off the ecosystems around us. Our Western worldview of humans as separate from nature along with the complexity of our modern society means that we mostly do not see the impacts of our behaviour on these ecosystems on these ecosystems. But those impacts are real nevertheless. We are a part of and shape the ecosystems around us, whether we acknowledge it or not.”
  • “Keystone of the Savanna: Humans and the Evolution of Midwestern Holocene Ecosystems” by Peter Allen, University of Wisconsin, Nov. 2012

 “Western science and technology, while appropriate to the present scale of degradation, is a limited conceptual and methodological tool– it is the “head and hands” of restoration implementation. Native spirituality is the “heart” that guides the head and hands… Cultural survival depends on healthy land and a healthy, responsible relationship between humans and the land. The traditional care-giving responsibilities which maintained healthy land need to be expanded to include restoration. Ecological restoration is inseparable from cultural and spiritual restoration, and is inseparable from the spiritual responsibilities of care-giving and world-renewal.”
  • Indigenous Environmental Network, on ecological restoration, 1994.