The Unthinkable

Humans are transforming Earth’s natural landscapes so dramatically that as many as one million plant and animal species are now at risk of extinction, posing a dire threat to ecosystems that people all over the world depend on for their survival, a sweeping new United Nations assessment has concluded.

The 1,500-page report, compiled by hundreds of international experts and based on thousands of scientific studies, is the most exhaustive look yet at the decline in biodiversity across the globe and the dangers that creates for human civilization. A summary of its findings, which was approved by representatives from the United States and 131 other countries, was released Monday in Paris. The full report is set to be published this year.

Contributing to the urgency, is Global Warming, and the resistance of the Trump Administration to accept its reality and causes.   As a result, policies in place to slow down and mitigate the impact of Global Warming, are being intentionally cut or ignored.https://youtu.be/B9K8jgUcZ00

The unthinkable has become our reality.   Short term economic advantage has trumped a responsibility for the well being of generations not yet born.

What are people of conscience to do?

First, it is important to support good science.  The overwhelming scientific community affirms that the  science is incontrovertible.   Global Warming is a reality and primarily caused by human actions.

Second, to collaborate with like minded organizations, local and global, that advocate for progressive governmental policies that limit carbon emissions and protect natural resources.  For example, on a local basis I’m a member of the Ipswich River Watershed Association, http://www.ipswichriver.org which protects the watershed I call home.  On a local and global level I support https://350.org founded by Bill McKibben to limit and ultimately begin to draw down the amount of carbon being emitted.

Third, vote for local and national politicians who will work to protect our environment.

Fourth, don’t give in to despair. Take the long view.  Advocating for the well being of our planet is a marathon, not a sprint.

Fifth, spend time in nature and with children.  Nature restores and inspires.  Spend time every week in the outdoors.  Savoring and soaking up the beauty and wonder of our natural world.  And, hang out with kids.  We are protecting the earth for the well being of children and generations of children to come.

Sixth, draw strength from a philosophical/spiritual foundation that fuels your passion.  John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club and a mystic at heart said:

“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”
John Muir

Seven, hold on to a righteous anger.  We must on behalf of creation, challenge and confront the selfish impulses of political and economic forces.   We are to offer positive, sustainable alternatives to the selfish ambitions of the few who seek to gain the most, in the short term.

Eight, draw wisdom from your spiritual tradition.  As a person who draws from the well of the Judeo-Christian tradition,  I believe that the willful destruction of the natural world is a deep and profound expression of Sin. I believe these words to be true: ‘If you love the Creator, then take care of creation.’  To turn our back on this truth, is to turn our back on the Creator.

God saw all that was made, and it was very good.  And there was evening, and there was morning, the sixth day.  ~ Genesis 1: 31

What is your conscience calling you to do?  May we choose wisely. For the sake of generations to come.

 

Sheer Silence: Part Three

This is the third installment, where we explore a key question:  In the midst of the busyness and noise of daily life, where can we turn for perspective and refreshment?

This question has been particularly relevant in the midst of the political dysfunction and rancor that takes place in Washington D.C on a daily basis.  This past week I couldn’t take any more.  I realized that I was internalizing the debate going on (particularly around the hearings for Judge Bret Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court and the heartbreaking testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford).

I realized I needed to turn  off the television news programs and head for the water.  For me the water is a place of refuge.  A place to slow down, reflect and get some perspective.

So I loaded up my kayak and put in on the Ipswich River.  It was early October, cool, cloudy.  I began to paddle.  The Ipswich is a meandering river which doesn’t allow you to hurry.  For seven miles I paddled….just me and my neighbors… egrets, herons, turtles, beaver and ducks.

 

With each dip of my paddle, I felt the tension in my shoulders begin to lessen and my breathing become easier, deeper.   I remembered the wisdom of John Muir, the Grandfather of the American conservation movement, and champion for the creation of national parks.

Muir said:

How true.  I paddled the Ipswich to lose my mind.  To let go of my worries, my anger, my sadness… for a while.  To remember to breathe deeply.  To look up and around and say ‘wow’ and ‘thank you’.   To ‘find my soul’.  To allow my soul to heal.

It has been said that working for the common good and confronting injustice and callousness is a marathon, not a sprint.  It requires an ability to persist, to endure, for the challenges never leave us.

Spending time being quiet (on a river, in your back yard, in a park) is essential for gaining perspective…for remembering to breathe and relax, if only for a while.  To open up to the wisdom of that great mystery we call ‘Spirit’.

I’m not an advocate for  permanently withdrawing from the chaos and complexity of our time.  We need good people of conscience to be informed, to speak out.  Now, as much as ever. Yet, I also know, that being quiet, resting, renewing is essential too.

I hope you find places to rest, to reflect, to be renewed.  As we know, life is a marathon and not a sprint.  Paddle well.

 

Antidote: Peace of Wild Things

Peace of Wild Things

When despair grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free. ~ Wendell Berry

photo Ipswich River

Last week feeling overwhelmed by the darkness of political discourse and the horrific images of yet another act of gun violence in our nation, I retreated  to the river.

The Ipswich is a gem just 15 minutes from my house.  With a few friends we slipped from one world into another.  Unplugged via canoe and kayak we moved with the water.

Soon we fell silent as we opened ourselves to the mystery and beauty of nature. Our companions?  The whistle of a hawk, the prehistoric screech of the Great Blue Heron and the slap of a beaver tail…letting us know that we were approaching their home.

We paddled slowly allowing the busyness and tension of life to slip away, at least for a time.   As the poet writes, ‘we came into the presence of still water, the peace of wild things’.  And indeed, for those moments, we rested in the grace of the world and were free.