What I Learned in Big Sky Country

Eco-Steward Evelyn Meisenbacher attends Drew University, where she is majoring in environmental studies as an undergraduate student. Evelyn is co-president of the Drew Environmental Action League and a member of Students for Sustainable Food and Food Justice. Next semester, she will reside at Spirituality House, a community of religious students who promote faith-based activities on campus. In the post below, Evelyn reflects on her participation in the recent Eco-Stewards Montana Program: Sustainability and Reconciliation through Agriculture, Health and Green Building.

I distinctly remember the first emotion I had upon my arrival in Billings, Montana—awe. I was overcome by the landscape. As a New Jersey native, I wasn’t used to the breathtaking amount of space I encountered here in the Northwest—stark cliffs overlooking vast, rolling plains, bordered by snow-capped jagged mountains in the distance.

What I would come to learn over the course of a week, however, is that this land—for all its rugged and seemingly well-worn exterior— is not infinite, and it is not invulnerable. The recent floods, after years of drought, have made farmlands susceptible to ruin. The reality of intensive coal mining is looming—which, for all its economic benefits, would wreak massive environmental damage, threatening air and water quality. Unsustainable ranching practices contribute toward the continued overgrazing of the plains, the misuse of public waters, and the permanent loss of biodiversity. The water that runs through the Crow reservation is ridden with mercury and coliforms.

The forces of modernization have swept among a place and people once rich in cultural heritage. We have neglected our care for the earth. But after hearing the stories and testimonies of folks from all different walks of life, I can be sure now, more than ever, that healing and reconciliation are taking place. I think I’ve emerged from this week-long experience with not only that initial sense of amazement at the beauty of Creation—but with an inspired outlook to protect it. Environmental justice is as mandated by the Christian faith as social justice in the traditional sense. If we fail to do our part in taking care of the earth, we have ultimately failed ourselves. But the message at the end of the week was not a misanthropic, doom-and-gloom pessimism—it was a message of hope. By strengthening the ties of community, just as we did in Montana, we can restore what has been lost, and celebrate what we do have.

“The earth is the Lord’s, and every living thing. Let us take care—let us be aware!”

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6 thoughts on “What I Learned in Big Sky Country

  1. Great post! I particularly like how you captured the idea that while the land is beautiful and spacious, it is still extremely vulnerable to the effects of human activity.

  2. Well done Evie – and SO SO COOL to get to camp overnight at Genesis Farm – what an amazing place that speaks of such inspiring Spirit-led simple sustainability. Hope your work there continues to be blessed this summer.

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