There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land…
Because of this the land mourns, and all who live in it waste away;
the beasts of the field and the birds of the air and the fish of the sea are dying.”
The prophet Hosea gives us pretty grim indictment of our world from some 700 years before Jesus’ time–a reminder to the people of Israel to turn back to God. But has anything changed since then?
I recently attended the GreenFaith Emerging Leaders Convergence in New Orleans alongside 60 interfaith leaders engaged in climate justice work from around the United States and Canada. We traveled to Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana to meet some of the first climate refugees in the United States.
This is ground zero of climate change.
That’s a cypress tree.
It’s likely been rooted in that spot for generations, much like the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw people that still live on the island today.
But now it’s dead.
The salty water intruding upon the island from the Gulf of Mexico makes it impossible to survive there.
So it holds its place in a disappearing land, receding because of man and nature and time.
Who knows how much longer it will stand?
The residents want to stay.
This is their ancestral home.
They’ve existed by fishing the waters and farming the land for generations. They used native plants to heal. But the farmland is too wet and salty and they cannot graze animals. The medicinal plants are gone. The fishing waters are unsafe from oil spills and habitats are disappearing. Food, medicine, and other necessities must be accessed by a two lane road nearly at sea level, a slash of black in an open sea of blue that was solid land only 30 years ago.
So why do they stay? Why don’t they just start over?
Because they have roots here.
I live in rural Illinois and serve 3 small churches alongside my pastor husband. Many families in these churches have lived here for generations. They speak of the land they farm as if it’s a family member. If the same environmental catastrophe unfolding in Louisiana befell our little town on the prairie, I wager that the residents would resist moving as well. We’re not so different here from coastal Louisiana.
We only have this shared land, air, and water, and perhaps a common hope that as people of faith we can make a difference for the good of everyone. Don’t we all want to eat good food and gaze up at the stars and watch our babies grow strong?
Earth care is a reflection of our love for God and neighbor, and recognizing that our consumption here in the United States affects others would be a good first step in living out that faith.
So we must say with one voice that we will do better. And we can stay rooted to the words of our holy writings in the Bible and the Torah and the Qur’an and the Bhagavad Gita and The Book of Mormon that the Earth is sacred and that we are called to care for it and one another.
Insight and inspiration:
How many are your works, O Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number-living things both large and small. Psalm 104:24-25
The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made. Psalm 145:9
To what do you feel rooted? What connects you to creation, and what inspires you to act on its behalf?