Norman Wirzba

Position:
Research Professor of Theology, Ecology, and Rural Life

Degrees
:
B.A., History, 1986, University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, Alberta;
M.A., Religion, 1988, Yale University Divinity School, New Haven, Conn.;
M.A., Philosophy, 1991; Ph.D., Philosophy, 1994, Loyola University, Chicago, Ill.

Born:
Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, Feb. 7, 1964

Family:
Spouse, Gretchen Ziegenhals; children, Emily, 17, Anna, 15, Benjamin, 10, and Luke, 8

Hobbies:
Gardening, woodworking, playing basketball, guitar, and mandolin

Some, including Wirzba and his family, are planting their own gardens and buying local and organic foods when possible. After moving to Hillsborough last fall, the Wirzba family planted strawberries, raspberries, and other fruits, and prepared raised beds for spring planting of tomatoes, lettuce, beans, and other vegetables.

The growth of community-supported agriculture, in which urbanites and churches partner with farmers to support sustainable agriculture, is a positive sign. There’s also a back-to-the-land movement in which young people are committed to small-scale agriculture that is supplemented by other income.

“It’s hard to argue against the good of a garden,” says Wirzba. “Once people get involved they witness the miracle and fragility of life, learning that sacrifice is at the heart of eating. Neither life nor food comes cheap. Until we see how precious life is, we’re not going to develop the kinds of affections and responsibilities we need to take care of it.”

Wirzba knows that none of these ideas is new. They have been indigenous to farm-based communities in all cultures and are central in all the great religious traditions. But worldwide growth of the ecological movement over the past 20 years has helped people realize their commonality in depending on food to survive.

“We’ve been sucked into this consumerist model and forgotten what our faith traditions have to say about eating,” says Wirzba. “Instead of focusing on the things that divide us, we can rally together to prevent millions of people from starving and millions of acres of land from being degraded.”

Wirzba’s not suggesting that everyone become a farmer. But he wants everyone to be aware of what’s at stake.

“We want not only to be able to eat, but we want to remain true to what God has called us to do — take care of
creation.”

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