I read a lot about organics, nature, and green living. I love it: soil and vegetables and food science. Most of the news in these areas is pretty depressing these days. Pesticides killing off bee populations, soil is eroding, clean drinking water is dwindling, more and more plants and animals are going extinct.
There are some good things happening in the bad. Some native animal populations are bouncing back as a result of conservation efforts, forests are being protected, more and more organic food and clothing options are becoming available. The fact that some of these issues are even being talked about, finally, is a promising place to start.
One of the things leading to some of these bad things is monoculture. It’s a new, twentieth century way of farming. The same thing is grown in the same soil over thousands of acres over and over again, harvest after harvest. Seemed comforting, everything exactly the same as far as the eye can see. It sounded great at first. Plenty to silo away, one farm does one thing and another farm does another. One each. Seemed easier.
Turned out to be not so great in many ways, though. It’s actually pretty terrible for the environment. It sucks nutrients out of the soil until eventually nothing nutritious grows. It leaves fields vulnerable to massive pest invasions, leading farmers to have to use more and more fertilizer and pesticides, that run off and leach into water systems. It also is extremely susceptible to disease, and it’s not uncommon to see entire harvests be lost in this way of farming.
It is not self-sustaining. If farmers were to all disappear, these monoculture fields wouldn’t continue growing acres and acres of soybeans. Eventually, however long it would take, wildness would take back over and the fields would be full of different plants and animals again. But it would take a very long time to un-do the damage.
An ecosystem is much different than a monoculture. It is full of different things. The air and the water and the microbes and the plants and the bugs and the birds and the bees and the amphibians and reptiles and the small mammals and the medium sized mammals and the large mammals all work together to renew their living space and keep producing things that bring life—clean air, clean water, flowers and plants, and all of the bits up and down the food chain. If one thing is affected it’s all affected, and the point is that they all need to be working together in tandem. They all need each other. It’s a delicate balance.
Genesis 11 is where we have the story of the Tower of Babel. It’s the point where people went from being united in place and language, to God confusing their language (giving birth to who knows how many tribes and tongues!) and dispersed them all over the earth. Quite a big turning point in human history.
At this point, you could say that God designated diversity among mankind. God looked at people being crazy, and concluded that things would be better if we spoke differently, not all the same, and lived in a variety of places all over the world. And, of course, by spreading out, people would fall into different patterns, approaches, lifestyles, and traditions. It was God’s choice that peoples shouldn’t all be the same.
I see some dangerous things when I look at social media and read the news these days. The world is changing pretty fast (does it ever stop?) and I think there are a lot of people getting nervous. And the only thing that feels safe and sure is people who are like us. Same religion (same denomination, some of us), or at least the same values. Same nationality, same manner of speaking, same traditions. Maybe even the same race.
When these ideas start to be planted, when we start taking actions in order to try and maintain or change the people or policies around us to ensure that we’re all more alike (and that alikeness specifically is similar to us), we’re trampling the ecosystem. We’re creating a monoculture. And monoculture is destructive.
When peoples and countries start to pursue sameness and monoculture, it may seem, and perhaps even feel, comforting for a time—everyone around like us. But it does damage unseen that eventually comes to the surface and is eventually, completely destructive. It’s what happened in the Rwandan genocide, and the Albanian one, it’s an esteemed value of terrorists, and it’s why pastors I know are in prison in Sudan. It’s what happened in Hitler’s Germany–starting with compulsory displays of nationalism—celebrating sameness and oneness. All in the name of God (not unlike what some other people in the spotlight are advocating…).
Pursuing a place where everyone is like us leads to disaster.
God calls us out of that. He calls us to differentness, to diversity, to ecosystem. As a value. Where we recognize we need each other. We need people different than us. We need to work together in tandem to do the things that bring life.
And most everything in the news about this topic seems so depressing, or infuriating, or frustrating, depending on where you sit. Issues of race, sexuality, migrants and refugees. More, even. But these issues are being talked about. And for me—that’s a promising place to start. Let’s keep talking.
But let’s do that from a place where we’re willing to listen to the people who are different from us, where we seek to recognize their equal importance and acknowledge that we need each other. As Brian McLaren says, “If we don’t become people of peace, we’ll just become another movement of people with ideas about which we’re violent.” Peace needs to be at the forefront of what week seek and hold dear. And that won’t come by way of monoculture, whatever people may lead us to think.
We’re each a unique and equal reflection of the maker. Which means we each deserve equal rights and opportunities. The more we lift others up the more we uplift the whole system. But enriching a part, everything else benefits. By stifling a part, the whole system eventually suffers.
Let’s work for the good of the ecosystem, and not just the good of ourselves. A monoculture will only lead us all to destruction.