Sunday June 04, 2017

Christian environmentalist cultivates hope on the land

A Rocha Canada offers a Christian conservation program.

A Rocha Canada offers a Christian conservation program. (A Rocha)

Listen 19:15

When Margaret Atwood wrote about 'God's Gardeners' in her MaddAddam Trilogy, she hadn't imagined that such people actually existed, until she met Leah Kostamo.

Kostamo is  a B.C.-based Christian ecologist who, with her husband Markku, has founded A Rocha Canada , a community that in many ways reminds one of God's Gardeners, the moral heroes of Atwood's science fiction trilogy Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood and MaddAddam.

Atwood and Gibson at A Rocha

From left, Leah Kostamo and Margaret Atwood, with author Graeme Gibson, and Kostamo's husband, Markku, co-founder of A Rocha. (A Rocha)

Kostamo calls herself an 'earthkeeper' and hopes to encourage others to see themselves as stewards of the land they occupy, offering her community's example as a way to rebuild the natural world.  At A Rocha, they run environmental education programs for people of all ages, including week-long day camps, field trips, or internships that last several months.  

Sometimes the experience is profound in a very basic way.  Kostamo describes the experience that one of her staff had with groups of young students. "Every field trip, one of the kids would go 'whoa, whoa I'm gonna fall off the cliff.' And this is not a cliff, this is a gentle slope. And then she thought 'well maybe he has an inner ear problem' or what's the problem here. And then the next field trip another kid would say that, and then another and she realized that these kids had never walked down a slope before. They had only walked on concrete."

Kostamo believes that her program helps people of all faiths connect to the earth in a fundamental way that brings them joy. 

"When interns who come and serve with us for three to four months, when they leave and we ask them,  'what has been the most transformational part of your time with us?' Nearly to a person, they say one of two things: they say either learning to eat and cook seasonally from a garden outside my door, or they say, learning to live in community." 

Leah Kostamo is the author of the book 'Planted: A Story of Creation, Calling, and Community.'

"I have hope because there are an estimated two billion Christians on the planet today, and imagine if those two billion Christians took seriously the call of their religion, to live as caretakers and stewards of the earth. The earth would literally look different." - Leah Kostamo

​Click LISTEN above to hear her presentation.