By Vickie Machado
In June, I was blessed to be in the presence of a troupe of magical carnival folk, a high desert wilderness priest from Taos, a watershed pioneer from California, a food justice activist with a contemplative soul and a lion’s roar from PC(USA), and a mindful Catholic Worker from Gainesville. They are all part of the gaggle of goosers—my community of the Wild Goose Festival. This is my third year attending the Goose, and it continues to get better and better as I see familiar faces, meet new friends, and engage in thoughtful conversations about life, God, nature and society.
I made this pilgrimage as a contributor to the festival, meaning I had the upmost pleasure to be part of a workshop (Decolonize Your Mind First) and a panel discussion (Watershed Discipleship). While the issues of Food Justice embedded within Decolonize Your Mind First evoked memories of Gainesville’s Eco-Stewards Program, it was the panel on Watershed Discipleship that opened my eyes to the purpose and importance of the Eco-Stewards Program.
Created by visionary theologian Ched Myers, Watershed Discipleship is a bioregional approach to faith, which grounds our actions in our watersheds. With the reality of climate change, this movement realizes we are entering a “watershed moment that demands serious, sustained engagement from Christians.” We are called to care for creation as we recognize:
We won’t save places we don’t love
We can’t love place we don’t know
And we don’t know places we haven’t learned
Having studied bioregionalism, the notion of placing ourselves in a bioregion, watershed or ecotone, not only made sense to me but it seemed like a natural course of action. Of course, shaping our lives according to – or at least being mindful of – our natural environment is the most sustainable way to live. Not only is it more sustainable, but there is a certain fruitfulness that comes with it.
It is because of our call to care for creation that I see the importance of place-based programs such as Eco-Stewards. Our cultivation of how to learn, know and love places, not only aids our ability to save them, but it also provides ourselves with a spiritual foundation on which to connect to a place. It promotes ‘being’ and presence in a placeless society. In the past four Eco-Stewards’ trips, learning and experiencing how others care for their land has prompted me to further learn how and what I might do to care for my own region. We have been blessed with this Earth, it is up to us to care for it one watershed at a time.