Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Expedition and Stewardship

I'm slowly but surely making my way through "Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West".  It's a very thorough and descriptive book which makes for slower going but it's quite fabulous.  Can you just imagine... seeing the untainted prairies and mountains for the first time.  Seeing a land that's teeming with wildlife, some of it scarily tame because it's never seen a human before.  Seeing herds of buffalo that stretch to the horizon.  Seeing the migration of Canada geese, so many that they almost block out the sun.  Seeing a land that hasn't been touched by axes or plows.  To those men who first saw it, it must have looked like the Garden of Eden.  To be sure, there were inhabitants in the land before the Lewis and Clark expedition.  And there were trappers and traders of European descent who had done some exploring in the west.  But as far as we know, Lewis and Clark and their men were the first Americans to trek across the newly purchased American land and record the things they saw.  What they did, what they saw, what they experienced... truly unprecedented. 

But it's not without sadness as well.  The Lewis and Clark expedition opened the west to more settlers.  There were bitter and bloody wars with the Indians before they were finally driven from all their lands by the unstoppable force of progress.  Was there another way?  I don't know.  But I don't think so.  And with progress came a general disrespect and disregard for the land.  The trees, the soil, the minerals, the rivers were all used for what could be gained from them.  The land was altered and much was destroyed.  There were signs that we weren't doing it the right away, the Dust Bowl being one of them.  You can't just go in and dramatically alter the ecosystem of a place without a bad outcome.  Now we use irrigation systems, but the underground lakes that we've relied on are drying up.  American ingenuity has pulled us out of many of the messes we've gotten ourselves into but wouldn't it be better if we were just a little more respectful of the land that God has intrusted to us?  I'm not what you'd call an environmentalist but I do believe we should be respectful of the earth because we don't own it... we're merely stewards.  And good stewards take care of what's been intrusted to them.   

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