Growing up in an Islamic culture, my first interaction with the concept of stewardship is through the Arabic word Khalifa, in which God implicates the purpose of humanity on this Earth. I was inspired by this purpose, yet I didn't fully understood what it meant, and how to act from it. And so my investigation of the word, and our relationship with it, started.
Historically, the "steward" concept described a person who manages and cares for the house of a master. In Abrahamic religions (here I include Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), the notion of stewardship was given to humanity as their role on Earth, in respect and under the authority of God.
From this inspiration, the environmental movement has adopted the word stewardship as an ethical, and sectarian, construct in which humans may hold in their relationship to the world and it's living systems. This came from a view of humanity bearing a somewhat elevated perception of reality and intellectual capacity, more so than other living things. This view assumes a natural endowment of "leadership," or more crudely "dominance," over the Earth.
My research examines the quality of stewardship in all beings, rather than a role entirely inherited to humanity. Gaia Theory views the Earth as a whole, self-regulating, emergent entity, compromised of whole beings that contribute to the functioning and characteristics of the Earth. Here we can explore the possibility that all living things work in consonance, consciously or unconsciously, in order to maintain and care for the health and stability of our planet.
This inquiry views stewardship as a field, a quality-space that all living beings have the potential to inhabit. In order for our planet to maintain a resilient and comfortable biosphere, it requires participation from all living organisms. Therefore, stewardship is a participatory and collective space, rather than a sole human purpose.
In this view, I assume by evidence of our current form, an incoherence, at the very least, in the participation of humans in the care of the Earth's systems. Our modern ways of living are focused more on our human comfort and ability to survive (I would argue, for the short term) than the survival of the Earth (a long-term view of our species' survival). This way of living has led to our current ecological crisis, that threaten our humanity, and indeed has already done to other species, with extinction.
This research then perceives our ecological crisis as a consequence to our sense of separation; to our lack of wisdom in how we might participate with other living beings for the care of Earth. It seeks a change in our modern cultural processes in order to facilitate our (continuous and long-term re-) entry into the field of participatory stewardship.
I further explore Process Design, as a design approach that looks at how we might address participation in specific communities, organizations, or projects.An initial exploration into participatory stewardship through dialogue. Done in collaboration with Eliane Cohen.