It was called “The Great Hunger”. They were tenant farmers, already living at a subsistence level. The potato they grew was calorie dense and made the subsistence lifestyle a little less hunger.
Almost half the population of the country depending on this potato and most of that half was the rural poor.
It was also one of the first mono-culture crops in the world. A bacteria arrived from North America and thus began the potato blight that decimated this particular potato over a period of years. Over 1 million people died of starvation and diseases related to the lack of nourishment. The care of the land is intimately tied to the care of people.
The practice of mono-culture – the growing of one species of crop over and over – continues to this day. People of faith are called to care for the land, and to care about how the land is managed, whether it is in the city or on a farm. The care of the land matters because the health of all living creatures depends on it.
When we see human suffering, we want to alleviate it. It takes more time, persistence and care to follow that suffering back to its origin and mend the brokenness where it began.
When I saw this sculpture in Cambridge Commons, it stopped me. I walked on, but had to return to record it further. I thought about all the lives that might have been saved if human arrogance about the land and the “station” of people had not played such a role in setting up the carelessness for life.
Human arrogance is still active among us today. Humility is still a much needed corrective as we consider our role in both destroying and regenerating the land given to our care. Jesus told his followers to feed the hungry. It is also a good idea to cease the practices that destroy the land that feeds us all.