Meditation has brought me a greater awareness of the Earth and her healing, nurturing presence. I often go for walks in a nearby Audubon sanctuary. As the word “sanctuary” implies, the natural world shelters and restores us from the harshness and noise of the city. Also meditation has brought a greater awareness of my obligation to care for the Earth and to redress the harm done to her. Mother Earth sustains and feeds me, so I should reciprocate with loving care and respect. So I tend my own garden as much as possible organically, and try to buy organic foods, and pay attention to how conventional food is grown, so that I may make healthy choices.
Jesus tells his critics that they know how to tell the weather by looking at the sky but they cannot interpret “the signs of the times” (Matthew 16:1-4). His opponents refused to recognize that God was present in his ministry. They refused to see God at work in their midst, but rather attributed his work to the Prince of demons. In our own nation today there are plenty of powerful people who refuse to recognize “the signs of the times” in the matter of climate change and pollution of the environment. They refuse to acknowledge God’s presence in the natural world and the ways in which human behavior is polluting and destroying our home, the Earth. These polluting and destructive ways are taking their toll on ordinary lives the world over.
Some of these “signs of the times” include: the death of bees which pollinate one third of the crops in the USA; the alarming amount of pesticide residue on fruits and vegetables (see Consumer Reports 2015); the overuse of antibiotics in the meat industry (see Consumer Reports 2012); the addition of untold chemical additives into processed food; the widespread use of Glycophosphate (Round Up) in farming (a likely carcinogen according to the World Health Organization). The explosion of food allergies is not surprising in light of all the above. There are also many climate “signs of the times” to which we can relate. The number of extreme weather events is on the rise, from blizzards in New England to floods in Texas and tornadoes in the Mid West and drought in the South West. Rising sea levels caused by the melting of the polar ice caps is threatening coastal cities around the world as well as delta areas like the Mississippi and the Nile. The bad news will not go away but might be considerably reduced. What might you and I do to make a difference?
- Nurture your love for nature by hiking, canoeing, fishing. Get out in the natural world and look at the stars and be filled with wonder. Nature is healing for a stressed soul. Such a kind presence should not be abused by pollution.
- Be careful about chemicals in the home and in food. Consumer Reports offers good advice. See their articles on pesticide residues and antibiotic overuse.
- Make your voice heard by contacting politicians, joining environmental groups and using your economic power by selecting good food grown with respect for the environment.
- Grow your own food. Everyone should have a vegetable patch.
- Support the President in his endeavors to reduce carbon emissions through his agreement with China and through the Climate Change talks in Paris later this year.
- Read the Pope’s encyclical on climate change. Encourage others to read it.
- Recycle as much as you can and do not discard in the regular trash pickup things that are hazardous to health, like household and garden chemicals, auto waste, oil paints, prescription drugs, etc… There are places to responsibly recycle these. Contact your local health department for information.
- Reduce automobile use by walking, biking, taking public transport, car pooling.
There are many other ways to practice conservation. I have just given some examples.
“The signs of the times” are not encouraging because far too many political and corporate leaders have ignored the presence of God in nature. But ordinary people are powerful when they make their voice heard through the political process and through their purchases and recycling and actions to conserve energy. Where there is love there is always hope. For some inspiration check out President Obama’s interview with David Attenborough, the British naturalist, on his 89th birthday: