AND THE RESPONSIVENESS OF CREATION
by Brian J. Walsh, Marianne B. Karsh, and Nik Ansell
Rationalism supposes that nature is an It. The authors -- using the tree as an ikon
-- see all creation as a Thou awaiting subject-to-subject relatedness with humankind.
BRIAN J. WALSH is senior member in Worldview Studies at the Institute for Christian
Studies in Toronto. MARIANNE B. KARSH is a forester working for the Canada Forest
Service in St. John's, Newfoundland. NIK ANSELL is a doctoral candidate in
philosophical theology at the Institute for Christian Studies in Toronto.
In Crossing the Postmodern Divide, Albert Borgmann contrasts his own version
of postmodern realism with the epistemological despair of postmodernity. He claims that
the "postmodern theorists have discredited ethnocentrism and logocentrism so
zealously that they have failed to see their own anthropocentrism. Why reject a priori the
very possibility that things may speak to us in their own right?"(1) What Borgmann intends by "postmodern realism" is not the
naive and aggressive realism of modernity, but, rather, an attending to what he terms
"the eloquence of reality." Aggressive realism has silenced creation:
"Rivers are muted when they are dammed; prairies are silenced when they are stripped
for coal; mountains become torpid when they are logged."(2) Nor has the postmodern concern for hearing the voice of the other been
extended to the nonhuman other. Yet without such a hearing, there can be no response to
the other's cry and no learning from the other's wisdom.
What follows is our exploration into hearing the voices of creation. We will begin with
a short discussion of what Thomas Berry has described as our "cultural autism."(3) Why are we unable to "hear" the voices
of creation, and what is necessary for us to be able to hear again? Then we will strive to
listen to one particular kind of creature -- the tree. We choose trees from the myriad of
possibilities because one of us, Marianne Karsh, is a forester. Can we listen to trees,
and through new paradigms in forestry and tree biology facilitate such a listening?
Trees as Thou
Descartes summed up the modern spirit well when he said that the goal of its devotees
was to become nothing less than "the masters and possessors of nature."(4) Mastery and possession, however, require a
silencing of the other. If we allow the other to speak to us, if we allow ourselves to
hear the cry of the other, we can no longer continue our oppressive mastery. What is true
in human affairs is also true in the context of the broader ecosphere.
Many of us first began instinctively to realize that there was something profoundly
wrong with modernity's objectification of reality when we read Martin Buber's I and
Thou.(5) We received this enigmatic book of
poetic and relational epistemology as a wonderful liberation from the constricting
categories of the rationalistically oriented philosophy and scientistic ethos that have
dominated Western culture and scholarship. Although Buber's wise Jewish philosophy took us
beyond the limiting overemphasis on I-It relationships in both society and the academy,
there was a problem with Buber. When he suggested very early in the text that we could
enter into an I-Thou relationship with a tree, many of us waved off the statement as some
sort of weird Hasidic mysticism:
I contemplate a tree. . . I can feel it as movement: the flowing veins around
the sturdy, striving core, the sucking of the roots, the breathing of the leaves, the
infinite commerce with earth and air. . . I can assign to it a species and
observe it as an instance, with an eye to its construction and its way of
life. . . I can overcome its uniqueness and form so rigorously that I recognize
it only as an expression of the law. . . I can dissolve it into a number, into a
pure relation between numbers, and eternalize it.
Further reflecting on this process of contemplation, Buber noted that "throughout
all of this the tree remains my object and has its place and its time span, its kind and
condition." Then he wrote words that many of us could not hear, or would not
But it can also happen, if will and grace are joined, that as I contemplate the tree I
am drawn into a relation, and the tree ceases to be an It.
For Buber, if something ceased to be an It, it thereby must have become a Thou. An
I-Thou relationship with a tree! We may have been weary of much of Western rationalism but
to give up on our culture's anthropocentric bias -- its assumption that creatures such as
trees were mere biotic objects that could be observed, analyzed, and acted upon -- was
more than many of us were willing to do. To use Buber's terms, "grace and will"
have, by and large, not been "joined." We have not been drawn into such a
relationship with trees.
The problem was that even though Buber insisted that such a relation does not require
us to forgo other modes of contemplation, he nonetheless clearly said that we "should
not try to dilute the meaning of the relation: relation is reciprocity."(6) And, of course, this means that if we did enter
into I-Thou relations with trees, doing so would not be a romanticist projection of
relatedness, but a conviction that in some important way trees reciprocate the
relationship; that not only do we relate to trees, but they also relate to us. This was
not a welcome prospect for those of us raised in the context of an Enlightenment
Now, however, the worldview that presupposed an objectified nature has run its
disastrous course and we are open to a different way of relating, a different way of life,
beyond the subject/object dualism, beyond the I-It relationship. As we have come to see
the profound truth that, "in the beginning is the relation,"(7) we have realized that relation entails reciprocity. Recognizing the
dead end of an anthropology of the autonomous and imperial ego(8) and convinced that in the context of the present ecological brokenness
we must strive anew for contact, for reciprocity -- and that our striving must aim at what
Buber called "tenderness"(9) -- we find
ourselves revisiting Buber's I-Thou relationship with trees. We want to listen to
Buber again. Even more, we want to learn to listen to the trees.
Wanting to listen, however, does not mean that we can listen. By
construing nature as deaf and dumb, we have made ourselves deaf and dumb in relation to
that nature. This construal, this social construction, constricts our imagination and
closes us to precisely the reciprocal relationship that we now seek.(10) We also find our imaginations held captive by a mechanistic
worldview that makes it impossible to access profound resources of our own traditions that
may open up such relationships. We refer to the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures.
Disenchanting the Biblical Tradition
Buber's language of I-Thou relationships with trees sounds alien, perhaps even
infantile, to modernist ears. So does the aboriginal language of kinship and communication
with trees and other creatures.(11) To the degree
that we are unable to countenance this language, however, we also find ourselves alienated
from much of the biblical tradition. While not all Christians embraced Bultmann's
demythologizing project earlier in this century, almost all Western Christians have been
influenced by the demythologizing and disenchanting tendencies of post-Enlightenment
scientism in their relation to nonhuman creatures, thereby alienating themselves from the
Scriptures and engaging in a de facto act of demythologization. We can take trees
as our example.
When trees are referred to as part of God's good creation (e.g., Gen. 1 or Ps. 104), or
are spoken of symbolically as in "the tree of life" (Gen. 2:9, 3:22, 24; Prov.
3:18, 11:30, 13:12, 15:4; Rev. 22:2, 14), and "the tree of the knowledge of good and
evil" (Gen. 2:9, 3:3), Christians of various persuasions have little interpretive
difficulty. And while the way that Jesus relates to a certain fig tree might be somewhat
puzzling for us (Mk. 11:12-14, 20-25), his frequent use of trees in his parables and
teachings presents no problem. What becomes almost impossible for our modern Western minds
is language that refers to trees exercising some form of agency not unlike the kind of
agency that can be noted in aboriginal worldviews.
All of creation is portrayed as engaging in acts of groaning in Romans 8:22-23, and in
many psalms all of creation is called upon to sing praise. As Jesus tells the Pharisees
during the entry into Jerusalem that if his disciples' loud hosannas are silenced even
"the stones will cry out" (Lk. 19:40), so also does David sing during the
festivities surrounding the return of the ark of the covenant: "The trees of the
forest will sing, they will sing for joy before the Lord, for he comes to judge the
earth" (1 Chron. 16:33). This connection between the trees singing and judgment
is also found in Ps. 96:12-13:
Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy;
they will sing before the Lord, for he comes,
he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
and the peoples in his truth.
While prophetic literature speaks of forests being destroyed as part of the judgment
upon a particular nation (cf. Is. 10:18-19; Jer. 7:20; 20:45ff), an even more common theme
appears to be the place of trees in prophecies of restoration. Ezekiel's covenant of
peace envisions creational harmony and mutual responsiveness as trees of the field
joyously yield their crop (34:27; 36:30). And Isaiah's vision of the wilderness blossoming
includes the growth of cedar, acacia, myrtle, olive, pine, fir, and cypress trees (41:19):
You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
Instead of the thornbush will grow
the pine tree,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the Lord's renown,
for an everlasting sign,
which will not be destroyed. (Is. 55:12-13)
This kind of language, so creative in providing a biblical foundation for theological
reflection in our context of ecological crisis, is also somewhat problematic. That trees
have a place in God's restorative plan is not itself surprising, given the depth of
creation theology that the Scriptures display. Nor should we be surprised that language of
judgment is good news for trees since the whole created order has been, in the words of
Walter Brueggemann, "terribly skewed and scarred by injustice"; God's judgment
refers "to God's action of intervention to look after the rightful claims of the weak
ones who have no power to make their own claim or look after themselves."(12)
Trees are among the weak ones. But what are we to make of the language that attributes
agency to trees? What does this language about trees singing praise and clapping their
hands mean? We are not, of course, appealing to a naive literalism in the biblical text;
we know full well the meaning and use of metaphor. We modern readers must be careful,
however, not to use metaphor as a way of distancing ourselves, in these instances, not
only from the biblical text but also from trees themselves. If we speak of metaphor only
as a way of saying that trees don't "really" sing praise, but rather that we, in
moments of religious ecstasy, imaginatively attribute such activities to trees, we keep
trees and humans in an I-It relationship; our attitude remains hopelessly anthropocentric.
Our question here is, in what manner is it appropriate to use such metaphors in relation
to trees, or, for that matter, in relation to other nonhuman creatures? We suggest that
the metaphors are appropriate only if they are disclosing real dimensions of these
creatures' subjectivity. Of course trees don't have hands, but it does make sense to speak
of hands metaphorically in relation to trees, since trees do, in fact, in their own
fashion, respond to their Creator, both with deep groans of longing and pain and with
songs of praise. If we are to learn from our own scriptural tradition then we will need to
learn how to listen to the trees and to respond to them appropriately. We need the ears to
hear the "eloquence" of these creatures. Perhaps only then will we be able to
hear the Scriptures anew.
Trees as Responsive
As responsive creatures, trees display a high level of cooperation with other life
forms, going beyond what is necessary or expected. Take, for example, the association
between trees and fungus. It may be adequately explained as a biological evolutionary
adaptation, but it is intriguing that "although both the trees and the fungus benefit
from the association that forms, the trees can live without the fungus and the fungus
without the tree."(13) Moreover, not every
group of trees forms these associations. They appear to be optional; their sole purpose
appears to be only to better the growth of one another. "The fungus assists the green
plant in absorbing nitrogen and phosphorus and in return receives some of the plant's
surplus carbohydrates."(14) Further, the
fungi not only form associations with trees in their immediate vicinity but, like the vast
train systems in Europe, they run for hundreds of miles, interconnecting with other trees
and amassing large pockets of nutrients at various junctions. As Lewis Thomas comments:
The most inventive and novel of all schemes in nature, and perhaps the most significant
in determining the great landmark events in evolution, is symbiosis, which is simply
cooperative behavior carried to its extreme. But something vaguely resembling symbiosis,
less committed and more ephemeral, a sort of wish to join up, pervades the biosphere.(15)
Such a wish, we suggest, is indicative of a responsiveness, perhaps even of will.
Secondly, trees as responsive creatures display a remarkable ability to survive and
adapt in spite of impossible circumstances. Who can but marvel that trees in our cities
manage to survive in conditions of intense noise, vibration, pollution, and high dosages
of salt. They have also been patient of and adaptable to other ways in which we have
systematically mistreated them. We are now coming to realize that we have been wrongfully
pruning trees for about as long as arboriculturists have been in existence. The treatments
given to help trees have followed too closely the treatments given to people --
"cover the wound with a dressing, cut deep into the wood and clean the cavity,
stimulate healing by stimulating callus, prune trees by cutting branches flush to the
stem. . ."(16)
The problem is that all of these techniques cause the trees' most distinctive defense
system to break down while the tree is still alive -- the analogy to AIDS comes to mind.
Yet the trees have adapted even to this mistreatment. Their strong survival capacity
inspires wonder in us. Could it be that trees have a type of intentionality that we have
previously not discerned?
Thirdly, trees display qualities totally inexplicable if considered solely from a
mechanistic, nonresponsive viewpoint. For example, a mechanical model could lead us
reasonably to expect that tree growth could be predicted accurately and that foresters
could create an "ideotype" or model tree. The fact that foresters cannot do this
and that trees of the same species growing in the same soil, climate, and spacing
conditions seem to respond individually to the same stimuli suggests that there is
something else in trees -- a selfhood, or subjectivity, or a factor 'x' -- contributing to
their infinite variability.
Variability of tree growth is an established fact. Oddly enough, the more productive a
site, the greater the variability and the greater the error in prediction, a great
frustration to foresters who prefer conformity and standardization. The diversity of trees
is especially apparent when one formulates concepts of quality which require identifying
all the characteristics that produce a model tree. Researchers have long been struggling
to define the illusive concept of "seedling quality" because, in spite of all
our expertise in growing seedlings, we still cannot identify the factors in a young tree
that will produce a healthy surviving adult.(17)
To assess seedling quality, there is a need to incorporate, along with genetics and
background data, an 'x' factor (call it "will" or "motivation") whose
existence would be difficult to prove. Yet, since trees do exhibit different rates of
responsiveness that cannot be measured mechanistically, it seems valid to hypothesize an
Fourthly, trees as responsive creatures affirm life, an adaptation especially apparent
where acid rain is a problem. In acidic conditions trees begin to show symptoms from the
top down or from the outer extremities inward, suggesting that the tree maintains the core
and roots in order to preserve its life for as long as possible. Even in the most extreme
of acidic conditions (such as the fog-covered mountains of Germany) conifer trees will
bear a huge cone crop in the last year of life.(18)
There is no apparent biological reason for this except that a cone crop ensures that a
seed source will survive in case conditions get better. It should be noted that cone
production in trees depends on a lot of factors, including tree age and growing
conditions. Cone production may also be cyclical, with a cone crop occurring every seven
years or so. Further, it takes a special channeling of energy within the tree to grow a
reproductive structure; in these areas where concentrated acid mists and fogs cover trees
for most of the growing season, every last ounce of the tree's last bit of energy goes
into producing a cone crop. Why? In these conditions, a cone crop would seem to be a
wasteful use of the tree's energy. However, as the proponents of the nonmechanistic
worldview tell us, nature is not wasteful. Perhaps the cone crop is a sign of hope. In
symbolic terms this tree behavior says, "We believe in God's redemptive covenant to
us, do you?" Even more interestingly, a proportion of trees do not produce a cone
crop and die rather quickly. Perhaps they were under more stress than the others (no one
has done research on this), or maybe they just did not have the same "will to
live." It remains to be explained why trees under similar acidic conditions respond
differently, some not only affirming life, but seeming to do so individually, thereby
suggesting some form of individual agency.
Forestry and the Future
The conclusion that trees are "responsive agents" challenges traditional
forestry with something amounting to a paradigm change. Although forestry has moved from
an era of exploitive extraction to various types of forest management, trees are still
treated as indifferent and distant objects. Practicing foresters are governed today by
inventory philosophies which perpetuate the idea that a little data collected everywhere
will provide a sound basis for forest management. It will not. Moreover certain forestry
practices lack credibility. For example, to put data into classes and simply to move the
classes forward for the next twenty-year period so that foresters can have a normally
distributed forest "makes sense economically but not biologically."(19) Paul Hawken's general comments about
contemporary shifts in science need to be heeded in forestry:
The new scientific paradigm is a bright blossom in a world dominated by the technology
of the old, a science which treated life as mechanical, where living organisms responded
to fixed laws which man discovered and applied. Unwillingness in the plant world to
completely cooperate has always been met with new technologies, new ways to assert
dominance over a life form which we approached as one to subjugate and control.(20)
A new approach is needed -- an approach of listening and involvement.
Such involvement with plants characterized the work of Barbara McClintock, who was
awarded a Nobel prize for her discoveries in gene transposition work with corn plants. She
views the corn plant as "a unique individual," "as a mysterious
other," and "as a kindred subject." This "kindred subjectivity"
is a "special kind of attention that most of us experience only in relation to other
persons"; as J. B. McDaniel explains, corn plants to McClintock "are
distant, perhaps very distant cousins: strange but lovable kin."(21)
Similarly A. L. Shigo, states that, "the only way to get common sense about
trees is to give them your attention, touch them, and watch them grow, wane and die."(22) For John Muir, whose special gift was listening
to plants (he sat down beside an unfamiliar plant for a minute a day to hear what it had
to tell), "listening included analytical scrutiny from his botanical training, along
with sensitivity to the plant's environmental relationships. Muir's listening to a plant
also involved cultivating empathy -- that intuitive projection by which we imagine the
character of another. Together these techniques create the kind of understanding we hope
for in human relationships: recognition of another's living integrity."(23) Of trees he said, "I could distinctly hear
the varying tones of individual trees -- Spruce, and Fir, and Pine, and leafless Oak. Each
was expressing itself in its own way -- singing its own song, and making its own
particular gestures. . ."(24)
This kind of listening to the individuality and responsiveness of trees opens forestry
up to a broader data base and it provides a perspective, an orientation, a worldview,
through which to interpret that data. The responsiveness of trees to acid rain, for
example, combined with global warming, now becomes relative data for forestry and calls
forth new modes of interpretation.
Will the forestry of the future emerge as large-scale agriculture on a smaller land
base, as some foresters fear, or will it become something else? If will and grace be
joined, the new forestry will be characterized by a relationship of listening and
communion.(25) Neither a naive preservationism
nor a distanced objective management, it will be a stewardship of care that attends to
trees in all their rich and nuanced diversity, variability, and individuality. Instead of
reducing trees to economic objects that can be explained from a distance through
quantifying measurements, the new forestry, rooted in "kindred subjectivity,"
will attempt to understand trees as eloquent others who have wisdom to impart.
Trees have been telling us that monocultural planting of trees with an eye only to
profit is neither economically productive nor ecologically sound. They have been telling
us, too, that deforestation will contribute to global warming. Charles Birch and John Cobb
note that in tropical Africa, "the forest teaches diversity, the constant cover over
the soil, and sustainability," and the people who are listening have been
"achieving a natural control of pests and freedom from fertilizers."(26) Universally, trees are saying, "View us as
gift, tend us, and keep us healthy." We ignore their impassioned cries at the risk
not only of the sustainability of the ecosystem, but also at the risk of losing our own
souls in the morass of I-It relationships.
Trees as Agents
But this raises another question. What kind of claim are we making when we say, with
Buber, that we can enter into I-Thou relationships with trees? Is our claim that trees are
responsive creatures a scientific claim? We have appealed to the scientific evidence in
forestry concerning the survival capacities, adaptivity, cooperation, variability,
diversity, and individuality of trees to point to something which suggests a
responsiveness, volition, or motivation in trees; it points us as well to a position which
discerns agency in trees.
Nonetheless, our claim that trees are responsive creatures who have things to say to us
is not, at its foundation, scientific. Rather, this claim functions for us
prescientifically as part of the tacit dimension of our knowing, part of the conceptual,
or even preconceptual framework that we bring to our scientific and theological
reflection.(27) Following Michael Polanyi's
contention that tacit knowing is both profoundly personal and an indispensable foundation
of all knowing, we happily confess that we begin with a deep conviction concerning the
meaningfulness of metaphors that portray trees clapping their hands, groaning, singing, or
praising. This conviction functions in our thought, we must confess, as something which is
argued from, not argued to. Indeed, it is the nature of such convictions that they cannot
be successfully and conclusively argued to; scientific and theoretic argument meets its
limitations when it comes to such convictions.(28)
One vision of life reduces trees to a mechanistic notion of biotic functioning. Another
sees only their value as economic resources. Our foundational worldview perceives them as
creatures responding to their Creator-God.(29)
The orientation of one's limit convictions will give paradigmatic direction to one's
science. Intuition, humility, feeling, connectedness, and relatedness become key words. If
trees are responsive creatures, they will need to be respected in their responsiveness,
with all of their individuality and variability. While traditional forestry attempts to
overcome such individuality in order better to control the forest, the new forestry will
respect variability and difference. Epistemologically this kind of science functions as
"an invitation to engagement with nature,"(30)
an engagement that calls for nothing less than a love for the subject "that allows an
intimacy without the annihilation of difference." And such intimacy requires "a
lifetime of cultivated attentiveness."(31)
The limit convictions that give rise to such science are formed in multidimensional
ways. Our conviction that we need to rehear what trees are saying to us has been formed
through the grief of seeing trees mistreated, the joy of a walk in the forest, the
evocative wonder of listening to native stories, the shame of our oppression and
exploitation of trees, the scientific inadequacy of older models of forestry and biology,
the creative excitement generated by a science of connectedness, and personal momentary
hearings of the trees' voices. For the authors of this article, the biblical witness has
also been influential in our attempts to heed Buber's call to I-Thou relationships with
trees. The model that we present is formed by all of these influences. But it is to the
distinctiveness of the biblical tradition and its contrast to a more typically modern and
Western worldview that we finally turn.
Mutuality with Creation
Both the very nature of trees qua trees and the present ecological crisis
require us to relate to trees in a way which goes beyond economic or even ecological
self-interest. We need to go beyond notions of dutiful stewardship of resources to a
relationship of coresponsiveness, intimacy, communion, mutuality, fellowship, and love
with the trees themselves. A tree is not "merely an object in our world of experience
but also a subject of relations in its own right. It is acted upon and it acts."(32) Only through a subject/subject relationship
with trees can true understanding be achieved: an I-Thou relationship is both the
heuristic foundation and epistemological goal of authentic science.
If trees function as responsive subjects capable of I-Thou relationships, then we need
to find some way to talk meaningfully about trees possessing agency. To have agency is to
have will, volition, intentionality, and selfhood. This means that an agent's behavior is
not mechanistically determined but contingently directed by the agent's will. Trees do not
merely react, but act on and interact with us, other creatures, and, we would contend,
The business of agency remains the central stumbling block to being able to embrace
Buber's vision. How can trees have agency in the way in which we have been speaking of it
here? To begin to answer this question requires that we be clear about what we mean by the
exercise of agency. Does agency require that the agent be able to exercise some sort of will?
This would appear to be the case. But if we confine our understanding of "will"
to rational decision-making, it becomes ridiculous to speak of creatures that lack higher
intellectual capabilities as exercising such will. This has been perhaps the greatest
stumbling block to perceiving agency in plant life. The problem is that this is a false
stumbling block. Human agency and will cannot be understood primarily in terms of rational
decision-making. We are multidimensional creatures and our intellectual capabilities are
but one factor in the exercise of our wills: an intellectualistic conception of will
cannot adjudicate the claims of our volition, let alone those of nonhuman creation.
To say, as the Bible does, that trees praise, sing, clap, and rejoice is to say that
trees, as trees, in their whole physical, chemical, spatial, biotic functioning
can fully respond to their Creator when that functioning is uninhibited and free. To say
that trees groan is to say that trees experience and respond to conditions of human abuse
or neglect that inhibits and closes down their responsiveness. In this way, metaphors of
praising and groaning enable us to "hear" what the trees have to
But metaphors do not just disclose and identify the meaning of tree-responsiveness --
they also are, in their own way, productive of reality. Metaphors are world-formative,
they engage in world-construction. The metaphor of trees clapping their hands, for
example, functions in the world-constructing activity of people who employ it in a way
drastically different from that in which the metaphor of trees as economic resources (or
"timber") functions for other people.(33)
The metaphors we use mediate the worldviews by which we live; they function, therefore,
both as visions of the world (or interpretive frameworks) and as visions for
the world (providing an orientation for cultural and ecological praxis).(34)
"Hearing" trees through appropriate metaphors and allowing those metaphors to
have a world-constructing role in our lives calls forth a response to what the trees are
saying and what kind of world our metaphors envision. To hear the groaning of the trees is
to be called by the trees to participate in that groaning. To hear the trees praise is to
be invited to join in that creational liturgy. Such hearing also calls us to acts of
stewardly empowerment. When trees groan they ask us to take away that which inhibits their
praise. We are called to be partners with the trees in the coming shalom of God's
creation. We suggest that such a partnership is what Buber envisaged with his I-Thou
relationship with a tree -- an eloquent creature in a responsive creation.
1. [Back to text] Albert Borgmann, Crossing
the Postmodern Divide (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), 117. See also his
article, "Texts and Things," in Timothy Casey and Lester Embree, eds., Lifeworld
and Technology (Washington, D.C.: University Press of America, 1990), 93-116.
10. [Back to text] On the construal of
nature see Neil Evernden, The Social Creation of Nature (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins
University Press, 1992); and Roderick Nash, Wilderness and the American Mind, 3d
ed. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1967, 1982).
11. [Back to text] Buber knew well that
I-Thou relationships were not problematic for native peoples (see pp. 69-73). For a
sampling of aboriginal approaches to nature see David Young, Grant Ingram, and Lise
Swartz's fine study of the work of medicine man Russell Willier: Cry of the Eagle:
Encounters with a Cree Healer (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1989);
Thomas W. Overholt and J. Baird Callicott, Clothed in Fur and Other Tales:
An Introduction to an Ojibwa Worldview (Washington, D.C.: University Press of
America, 1982); James Redsky, Great Leader of the Ojibway: Mis-quona-queb
(Toronto: McLelland and Stewart, 1972); and James R. Stevens, ed., Legends of the
Forest: Told by Chief Thomas Fiddler (Moonbeam, Ont.: Penumbra Press, 1985).
12. [Back to text] Walter Brueggemann, The
Message of the Psalms: A Theological Commentary, Augsburg Old Testament Studies
(Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1984), 145.
13. [Back to text] Roger B. Swain, Earthly
Pleasures: Tales from a Biologist's Garden (Markham, Ont.: Penguin, 1981), 134.
17. [Back to text] The matter of
seedling quality is addressed at greater length in an unpublished paper by Marianne Karsh,
"How to Assess Seedling Stock Quality" (University of Toronto Faculty of
18. [Back to text] These observations
were pointed out by researchers at a Forest Decline Conference, Toronto, 1987.
19. [Back to text] Don MacIver, Jack
Pine Growth Model: A Brief Progress Report (Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources,
20. [Back to text] Paul Hawken, The
Magic of Findhorn (New York: Harper and Row, 1975), 118-19.
21. [Back to text] Jay McDaniel, Of
God and Pelicans: A Theology of Reverence for Life (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox
Press, 1989), 86-87. All the quotes in this paragraph are from this book.
22. [Back to text] Alex Shigo, A New
Tree Biology: Facts, Photos, and Philosophies on Trees and Their Problems and Proper Care
(Durham: Shigo and Trees Associates, 1986), 51.
23. [Back to text] Richard Austin, Baptized
into Wilderness: A Christian Perspective on John Muir (Atlanta: John Knox Press,
25. [Back to text] We employ the phrase,
"new forestry" in full awareness of the movement that goes by that name. The New
Forestry movement is attempting to foster a forestry practice that is rooted in a concern
for ecological wholeness. Our project attempts to do the same thing but pushes the issues
one step further to engender a "listening forestry." Indeed, only if there is
such listening, we suggest, will ecological wholeness be attainable. On the New Forestry
see, Chris Maser, The Redesigned Forest (San Pedro, Calif.: R. and E.
26. [Back to text] C. Birch and
J. B. Cobb, The Liberation of Life: From the Cell to the Community
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), 305.
27. [Back to text] See Michael Polanyi, The
Tacit Dimension (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1966).
28. [Back to text] See Langdon Gilkey, Religion
and the Scientific Future: Reflections on Science, Myth and Theology (New York:
Harper and Row, 1970), chaps. 2 and 3. An excellent discussion of contemporary
philosophies of science that corroborates the position taken here is found in Clarence
Joldersma, "Beliefs and Scientific Enterprise: A Framework Model Based Upon Kuhn's
Paradigms, Polanyi's Commitment Framework, and Radnitzky's Internal Steering Fields,"
unpublished M.Phil. thesis, Toronto: Institute for Christian Studies, 1982.
29. [Back to text] Brian Walsh (with
Richard Middleton) has discussed worldviews at greater length in The Transforming
Vision: Shaping a Christian World View (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press,
1984); and "Worldviews, Modernity and the Task of Christian College Education," Faculty
Dialogue 18 (Fall 1992): 13-35.
30. [Back to text] Evelyn Fox Keller, Reflections
on Gender and Science (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985), 163. The context of
Keller's comments is a discussion of Barbara McClintock.
31. [Back to text] Ibid., 164. Keller
goes on to make the methodological observation that "questions asked about objects
with which one feels kinship are likely to differ from questions asked about objects one
sees as unalterably alien" (167). Also instructive are Douglas John Hall's comments
about an "ontology of communion" and "being-with" in Imaging God:
Dominion as Stewardship (New York and Grand Rapids: Friendship Press and Eerdmans,
1986), chaps. 5-6.
32. [Back to text] Birch and Cobb, The
Liberation of Life: From the Cell to the Community, 123.
33. [Back to text] Indeed, Walter
Brueggemann notes that "world-creation also includes world-delegitimation of other
worlds." Israel's Praise: Doxology Against Idolatry and Ideology
(Philadelphia: Fortress, 1988), 27.
34. [Back to text] See James H. Olthuis,
"On Worldviews," Christian Scholar's Review 14, no. 2 (1985):
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