modern economies

Goed Rentmeesterschap

In the Dutch language there is a term for a unique thing that often seems forgotten. My father used to tell me about it. He was and still is an old Catholic at heart yet he kept digging at the roots of his beliefs. Principles or not to know more about your own assumptions and beliefs gives you insights in things you never saw before.

When I woke up I read Clive Ponting‘s book “A Green History of the World” from 1991. I have a Dutch translation and it is an interesting book. In the chapter about “ways of thinking” he describes how people saw and see themselves in relation to nature. This made me think. Through the years I could not separate humans from nature, regardless of what systems of thought taught me. It does not make sense to me. What makes more sense is the term “goed rentmeesterschap.”

The term “goed rentmeesterschap” is best explained by picking it apart.

  • “Goed” means good and indicates ethical behaviour.
  • “Rentmeester” in a biblical sense means caretaker of the property of others: financial capital, loans and other things.
  • “Rentmeesterschap” means skilfully taking care of the property of others.

In general when Dutch people talk about or mention “goed rentmeesterschap” they mean that someone responsible is sustainably taking care of “properties” or “(business) activities.” “Rentmeesterschap” assumes that there is a close relationship between the doer and his or her environment, including nature. In the biblical sense this means that resources, even when plentiful are considered finite and of value for future generations. Humans are not above nature but part of it. Humans do not own nature but have to take care of nature.

It is no surprise that ecology and environment minded people like this relationship. In the Bible humans take care of nature under God. Without a divinity that relationship with nature can still exist as nature has no owner. Cultures and civilisations who have a “mother nature, shared earth” or “pantheistic” view on nature share very similar beliefs.

Some people might call this nonsense and insist on the good what there is now. Modern economies have brought markets, trade, wealth, surpluses and innovations that can make life very comfortable. At the same time the price you pay is not only measurable in the money measure.

Everything you have and consume is made from something. The resources come from the earth…