Monday, September 22, 2014

God's Good Green Earth: The Humble Stumble

Photo by Brent
The produce of the earth is a gift from our gracious creator to the inhabitants, and to impoverish the earth now to support outward greatness appears to be an injury to the succeeding age.
 -- John Woolman, 1772

How I’ve become a conservation minded fellow is beyond me. It must be evidence of God’s slow but steady work in my soul – sorta like the slow steady work of the Colorado River on that which is now known as the Grand Canyon. I only hope that someday my soul is as beautiful as that natural masterpiece.

It’s not that I disregarded the earth. Indeed I was a Cub Scout, a Boy Scout, an Indian Guide, and Christian Service Brigade member. As kids, my cousins and buddies often camped out in the summer, albeit often in our city backyards. My granddad and dad and his friends went camping and fishing and dragged me along at times, often to the Hocking Hills in southern Ohio. I had appreciation for natural beauty, but was a bit disconnected from it much of the time. I lived in a city in an era before urban hiking/biking trails and intentional green spaces meant part of the blacktopped playground was painted with industrial green paint. It was also a time that we thought our biggest danger was the God-less Russians and their H-bombs and not our own over extension of natural resources and pollution of air and water.


I started waking up to the need for care of the earth as a freshman in college (I began waking up to a lot of things that year!). On April 22, 1970 (just a few weeks before the Kent State massacre) the first Earth Day was held. It seemed like a good thing. Who could be against taking care of our planet. Even our Evangelical Quaker college observed it (not by letting us out of class, however). Plus it was sorta fun to dress up and have a mock funeral for the Earth. Bill Roman donned a cassock and carried a book of prayer while a group of other students served as pall-bearers and grave-diggers. But conservation seemed a hippie-ish, radical sort of thing. Never mind that I had grown up attending John Burroughs Elementary School, named for one of the most famous naturalists and conservationists for his day. And the man who said, “I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see.” Which well reflects how I feel.

Still, for years, despite a long time involvement in caring for the earth by many of my friends who are Friends, doing so myself not much on my radar. I mean, I tried to do no real harm – which was pretty easy since I didn’t own any smoke-belching, pollution producing factories. Nor did I worry about my oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere leaking and spilling thousands of gallons of crude into the ocean. I had no oil platforms. I didn’t strip mine. I didn’t mine at all. I didn’t use massive amounts of fertilizer to increase crop production. The only crop I had was usually the grass growing on the city lot around my house.

And now I find myself living in an Energy Star rated house that’s extremely energy efficient and heated and cooled by geo-thermal system. And that’s just the outward manifestation of the gradual inward change.

What happened?

Faith happened. That’s what. The slow arc of God’s grace and teaching has brought home to me this idea that it’s not enough just for me to bemoan (and smirk a bit about) the Cuyahoga River catching on fire the summer between high school and college. Nope, I actually have to do something.

If, that is, I believe in God and want to be a Friend of Jesus.

No comments: