Conversations around the table
Fostering Ecological Hope
Today from Margaret Swedish:
Yesterday evening I had the pleasure of meeting two of our speakers for our conference this weekend here in Milwaukee: Michael Dowd, author of Thank God for Evolution, and his wife and partner, biologist Connie Barlow. The conference is entitled, And God Said It was Good: Weaving Together Science and Spirituality. Dowd and Barlow have spent recent years traveling the country speaking wherever they are offered an audience about the breakthroughs in consciousness that have come with our breaththroughs in scientific knowledge — particularly what we have learned about the evolutionary history of our planet and cosmos.
Dowd brings a Christian framework to his thought, delving into the tradition to discover that, at its roots, there is no contradiction between faith and evolution, spirituality and science. Science is God’s language, a way of speaking to us about this unfolding Creation, another mode of the Divine’s self-revelation. Barlow enriches our understanding of how the planet actually works, and places emphasis on the need to educate children all through their lives about the ecological realities of which we are all a part.
I like to think conversations like this are happening around tables and in living rooms, churches and community halls, all across the country.
It is an odd junction of insight and wisdom, both bleak and hopeful, honest about the breakdowns coming on a depleted planet, yet unable to give up the possibility that the crises will open up new possibilities to create a new way of human life on the planet, one that allows the new consciousness to continue to unfold.
–profoundly aware that at exactly this junction, right now, at this moment, we will make the decisions, the choices, that will determine which fate is ours — and that of most of the species of the planet.
While the world remains riveted by the global financial crisis, glued to their TVs watching the markets’ every move, while people worry about their kids’ college tuitions and stock portfolios, here are some other things that are going on:
A new report from a group of scientists presented last week at the quadrennial World Conservation Congress of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) indicates that one quarter to one third of wild animal species are at risk of extinction.
How solid is this science? Well, it was a great collaborative effort — a 5-year study involving 1,700 experts in 130 countries, as reported here in the Washingt Post, 25% of Wild Mammal Species Face Extinction, by Juliet Eilperin.
We are doing this. How we live, our way of life, is doing this. As Eilperin reports:
“Mammals are definitely declining, and the driving factors are habitat destruction and over-harvesting,” said Jan Schipper, the paper’s lead writer and the IUCN’s global mammals assessment coordinator. The researchers concluded that 25 percent of the mammal species for which they had sufficient data are threatened with extinction, but Schipper added that the figure could be as high as 36 percent because information on some species is so scarce.
Not good news.
Then, while financial storms have taken our minds off nature’s storms, this article from a few days ago, Ike environmental toll apparent, by three associated press reporters.
“The AP’s analysis found that, by far, the most common contaminant left in Ike’s wake was crude oil – the lifeblood and main industry of both Texas and Louisiana. In the week of reports analyzed, enough crude oil was spilled nearly to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool, and more could be released, officials said, as platforms and pipelines were turned back on.”
This, too, is about us, about how we live. How we live takes a terrible toll on the planet.
And this, an editorial from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, which I could only find on this web page:
“The United States, with 304 million people, is the world’s biggest energy glutton and is growing at nearly 3 million people annually, with immigration a major factor. In 2050, the U.S. is expected to have 420 million people, an increase of 116 million, and will retain its ranking as the world’s third-most populous nation, according to PRB projections made in 2007.
“It would be laudable if America spent far less money on ill-fated foreign adventures such as the Iraq war and instead focused overseas expenditures on family planning programs, reduction of poverty and disease, agricultural development, improving water systems and enhancement of women’s rights. In a future presidential administration, that actually might happen.”
How we are living here is not sustainable, and in terms of the human population of the planet and all its other precious at-risk species and ecosystems, it is also immoral.
So while all this goes on around us, some of us sit and reflect on our place within the planet, on the wonders of the evolutionary story, on the bleak propsects for the biodiversity of the Earth that holds and sustains us, on our trust in that story in any case, and even in the human spirit to pull us back from the brink. And I am more convinced than ever that a deep, truthful, profound Earth Spirituality is essential if we are to survive. If we can place ourselves back into the story, immerse ourselves back into the truth of the planet and its ecosystems of which we are a part, not apart, we might also find the strength, integrity and moral clarity to change the narrative of this story.
Credit: energy footprint graph from The Sustainable Scale Project