Genesis and J. Baird Callicott
The Land Ethic Revisited
Keywords: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.
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