Genesis and J. Baird Callicott

The Land Ethic Revisited


  • Chris Smaje Farmer and Independent Writer



Genesis, environmental philosophy, land ethic, agriculture


The nature of the relationship between humankind and the natural world construed in the Bible’s book of Genesis has long been a matter of debate. To the well-known ‘despotic’ and ‘stewardship’ interpretations of Genesis, J. Baird Callicott has more recently formulated what he terms a ‘citizenship’ interpretation, based upon Aldo Leopold’s concept of the land ethic. Callicott’s interpretation, while compelling in many respects, pays insufficient attention to the tragic view of the relationship between people and the natural world articulated in Genesis. When addressed to the question of agriculture—a fundamental concern of Genesis—this tragic view offers grounds for a rapprochement between all three interpretations as different modalities of a ‘land ethical’ agricultural practice. This has significant implications for the development of a contemporary land ethical or ‘enlightened’ agriculture.

Author Biography

  • Chris Smaje, Farmer and Independent Writer
    Farmer and freelance writer. Former research associate at Goldsmiths College and lecturer at the University of Surrey.


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How to Cite

Smaje, C. (2009). Genesis and J. Baird Callicott: The Land Ethic Revisited. Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, 2(2), 183-198.