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Earth Day 2018

Earth Day Reflection

It’s no secret that Mother Earth is fighting for her life amidst attitudes and policies that misunderstand and threaten her. As we look towards Earth Day 2018, it might help to remember her 4.5-billion-year life story. It proves that our current situation is not the first major challenge Mother Earth has faced and solved. Over the billions of years of her lifetime, Earth has shown the creativity she needed for her survival.

Evolutionary examples

More than 2.3 billion years ago, Earth’s multicellular forms began producing oxygen by photosynthesis. After about 200 million years, the overproduction of oxygen in her atmosphere resulted in severe extinctions of organisms. But, lo!, Earth evolved aerobic organisms that consumed oxygen and thus created a positive equilibrium. Earth survived to face new challenges and new solutions.

By 1970, pollution in the United States was so severe that environmental activists, students and legislators initiated Earth Day. Resulting regulations, laws, awareness and organizations brought relief to the planet and life within it. Earth Day is now celebrated in over 190 countries, and concerted actions are taken to protect our Mother Earth.

Contemporary evolution

Perhaps her current threats are just what’s needed to birth what Thomas Berry called the new human — an evolutionary stage of life where we develop an awareness of our “gravitational bonding with the universe itself and within each of its components, and the intimate presence of each component of the universe with other components, a mystical attraction, you might say.” The threats of our time urgently call us “to carry out the transition from a period of human devastation of the Earth to a period when humans would be present to the planet in a mutually beneficial manner.”

No small task, that! Berry writes: “Such a transition has no historical parallel since the geobiological [and astro-biologiocal] transition that took place 67 million years ago….” Regenerations followed disaster.

Pope Francis sees signs that this is happening — what he calls “authentic humanity” dwelling “in the midst of our technological culture, almost unnoticed, like a mist seeping gently beneath a closed door.” (Laudato Si’, par. 112) There is a growing awareness that everything is interrelated and sacred.  Millions of people gather in multiple countries to support policies based on respect and concern for all life, knowing we are part of a communion of subjects rather than of a collection of isolated objects. This never happened, never could have happened, on Earth before our time.

Because of the way evolution works, it is impossible to predict how we will respond to current challenges. But, being part of the human species, we can deepen our ability to see in wholes and tap into the Love that lives and acts in us and in all creation.

Earth Day Prayer

Pause for several minutes’ quiet reflection on the wonder, earth_from_space_5_1920x1080variety, individuality and “interbeing” of Earth’s existence in our solar system and universe.

Litany: Let us join in thanking for the gift of Earth. Take turns reading the following litany.
Response:  … 
we give thanks.

–  for the creative love active from the first flaring forth, when Earth’s 13.8-billion-year story begins, … we give thanks.

–  for Mother Earth’s continuing evolution from stardust through its 4.5-billion-year story so far, … we give thanks.

–  for Earth’s ability to create, to heal, to diversify, to adapt, to be intrinsically interconnected, … we give thanks. 

–  for the gifts of water, soil, air, climate, flora and fauna, and the bioregions that developed over millennia, … we give thanks.

Unknown-1–  for the colorful and nurturing gifts that developed in our era: flowers and trees, fish and mammals, human beings who collaborated and bonded to further their species, … we give thanks.

–  for the creative ways that Earth developed to heal the challenges that Earth has encountered during her long story, … we give thanks.

–  for the people celebrating Earth Day in nearly 200 countries, … we give thanks.

–  for Pope Francis, whose commitment to care for our common home inspires people and organizations throughout the world, … we give thanks.

– for the leaders and legislators who have provided direction and laws that assist our planet to flourish, … we give thanks.

–  Add as you wish.

Share one image or experience that brought you awe or wonder this week.

Litany: Let us deepen our commitment to care for Earth. Take turns reading the following litany.
Response:  may we take action.

Water-Drought – Because stockpiles of nuclear weapons threaten all life whether or not they are ever used, may we take action.

– Because climate change already causes massive damage to all life on Earth, may we take action.

– Because multiple causes are resulting in a Sixth Major Extinction of life on Earth, may we take action.

–  Because mono-crops and farming with harmful chemicals result in inferior food and spoiled soil and water, may we take action. 

greenpeace31–  Because pollution, especially from plastics, is trashing so much of our planet including our oceans, may we take action.

– Because deforestation ruins soil, water, air, and all life, may we take action.

–  Because human greed and consumerism exploit humans and other species and resources, may we take action.

–  Because so many suffer from problems caused by environmental damage, may we take action.

Pause for a few moments’ quiet reflection. Share if you wish: What will we do, alone and/or with others, to enhance Earth’s future?

Sing: “Holy Now” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KiypaURysz4) or similar song/hymn of praise for creation

You ate WHAT?

Pick a food. Let’s say pancakes. Basic ingredients include flour, baking powder, salt, eggs, milk. You want sustainably sourced and fresh ingredients, yet each component has an ancient history.

Like human life, each of those ingredients dates to the beginning of the Cosmos 13.8 billion years ago, the star-bursts that resulted in our solar system, and the 4.5 billion years since our home planet, Mother Earth, started evolving! Like humans and all life, each has an approximate time frame woven within the story of Earth. Amazing, no? Over the centuries, humans created many religious ceremonies that require, and celebrate, food — both consecrated and not.

Here’s an overview of the stories of pancake ingredients:

Wheat is the result of several grass species that date to about 10,000 B.C.E. – 12,000 years ago. However, plant life first appeared on land between 495 and 443 million years B.C.E. Some research even dates it to about 700 million years ago. As Robin Wall Kimmerer reminds us in Braiding Sweetgrass, “Plants were here first and have had a long time to figure things out. … Not only do they feed themselves, but they make enough to sustain the lives of all the rest of us.”

Baking powder is a dry chemical leavening agent, a mixture of a carbonate or bicarbonate and a weak acid.  Use of modern baking powder began in the mid-nineteenth century, but a sodium bicarbonate and sodium chloride solution was used over a thousand years ago in Ancient Egypt.

Salt was in general use long before the beginning of recorded history. The earliest known treatise on pharmacology was published in China around 2700 B.C.E.  All life has evolved to depend on its chemical properties to survive.

Eggs commonly  come from chickens — but some dinosaurs laid eggs, as do ostriches! Whether the egg or the chicken came first will remain a puzzle, as will the certain date of which one was first consumed as food. Chickens were eaten in China about 10,000 years ago, and in Europe in the first century B.C.E. Jungle fowl were domesticated in India by 3200 B.C.E. Records from China and Egypt show that fowl were laying eggs for human consumption around 1400 B.C.E., and there is archaeological evidence for egg consumption dating back to the Neolithic age.

Milk in the U.S. usually comes from cows that trace their beginnings to about 8000 B.C.E. People began drinking milk about 7,500 years ago.

 Recent history

Each of these components is threatened in our times. Among the problems are toxic pesticides and fertilizers, genetically modified crops, factory farmed crops and animals, land and water pollution, climate damages (droughts, floods, fires), mono cropping, and damage from mining.

Yet, even a poisoned and misunderstood Mother Earth tries to feed us, and many Earth-lovers respond by lobbying for better laws to protect her, by purchasing organic and fair trade food, by composting, by trying to save the bees and the butterflies, the soil and the water.

Care might increase if everyone better understood and valued the history of our food, the fact that everything we eat was living before it unknowingly “gave its life” for us, and our complete interdependence and “inter-being” with what we eat. The following poem, by Melissa Studdard, helped me do those three things:

I Ate the Cosmos for Breakfast

—After Thich Nhat Hanh

It looked like a pancake,
but it was creation flattened out —
the fist of God on a head of wheat,
milk, the unborn child of an unsuspecting
chicken — all beaten to batter and drizzled into a pan.
I brewed my tea and closed my eyes
while I ate the sun, the air, the rain,
photosynthesis on a plate.
I ate the time it took that chicken
to bear and lay her egg
and the energy it takes a cow to lactate a cup of milk.
I thought of the farmers, the truck drivers,
the grocers, the people who made the bag that stored the wheat,
and my labor over the stove seemed short,
and the pancake tasted good,
and I was thankful.

 

I (Terri) add a grateful: Amen.

Happy New Year – but not for all

(If you are interested in Lent resources, please see note at the end.)

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. What could be worse than children’s having to anticipate a year of forced labor, forced sex, forced soldiering, lack of freedom, beatings — being totally enslaved and exploited? (Horrible for adults, too, of course.)

Some Relevant Stories

‘It is very easy to trap an indigenous woman compared to a mestizo. First of all, they do not speak Spanish and secondly, as they suffer from poverty due to loss of their land and house in [regional conflicts], they need some employment urgently. So looking at their situation, we promise the parents or husband good employment with shelter for their daughter and wife and provide them with a little money telling them that after their daughter or wife starts work they will send them some money”.  words of a trafficker   [Stop Trafficking 11/17]

After racking up an exorbitant debt [Cambodia] with a loan shark, Kieu’s mother sold her 12-year-old for sex. The desperate mom secured a “certificate of virginity” from a doctor for her daughter and sold the girl to a man who raped her in a hotel for two days. After the ordeal, Kieu was sold to brothels on three occasions and finally escaped to a safe house after learning that her mom planned to send her away for a six-month prostitution stint.  [CNN 2013]

Tessa [U.S.] was sexually abused by her dad for the first time when she was 7. Her drug-addicted mom was too consumed with her own issues to get involved. When Tessa was a sophomore in high school, she met Jared, whom she didn’t know was a pimp. He showered her with gifts and dates, and often reminded her that no one else could possibly love her because she was “damaged.” Jared soon convinced Tessa to sell her body for sex and would attack her and deprive her of food if she did not meet her quota. He kept all of the money she made and forced her to tattoo his name on her neck. Tessa eventually escaped. 

“During the time I was on the street, I went to hospitals, urgent care clinics, women’s health clinics, and private doctors. No one ever asked me anything anytime I ever went to a clinic.” Lauren, survivor

Some Relevant Facts

A $32-billion-a-year industry, human trafficking is the world’s fastest growing criminal enterprise, according to the U.S. State Department. An estimated 27 million people are victims of the crime, which involves being forced to perform labor or commercial sex acts.

In the United States, an estimated 100,000 children are in the sex trade, according to ECPAT-USA, a nonprofit that fights the sexual exploitation of children.

Experts say that in Delhi alone, there are an estimated 100,000 girls as young as 12  who are trafficked as domestic workers.

“Whether because of financial desperation, drugs addiction, mental illness, or compulsion from pimps, women often have little choice but to sell their bodies for money. These are not people who can be said to be truly ‘choosing’ a risky line of business.” Supreme Court of Canada 

Some Relevant Dates 

Month of January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention month.

January 1st is the World Day of Peace. Pope Francis’ theme is ‘Migrants and Refugees: Men and Women in search of Peace.’ Migrating people are often targets for traffickers.

January 7th is the beginning of National Migration Week. 

January 11th is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day in the U.S.

February 8th is the feast day of Saint Josephine Bakhita (patron saint of those trafficked) and the International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking 

Some Relevant Actions 

Keep handy the number 888 373 7888 – National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline – just in case you see anything suspicious. Trafficked persons can be found in the apparel industry, apple orchards, bars, beauty salons, brothels, citrus fields, construction, dairy farms, domestic help, fishing boats, food processing, food trucks, forced commercial sex, hotels, landscaping, lawn care, mines, motels, nail salons, nannies, pornographic production, restaurants, seasonal occupations, strip clubs, truck stops and…

Advocate for international agreements that offer refugee status to displaced people. 

Support agencies working with refugees and offering them legal protection. (Of many, I note one begun by the Society of the Holy Child Jesus: Casa Cornelia Law Center in San Diego (www.casacornelia.org). It offers pro bono legal services to victims of human and civil rights violations in the San Diego area. 

Purchase Fair Trade products, especially if they expand opportunities for displaced persons.

Pray and call attention in prayer and other ways to the connections between human trafficking and climate change, poverty, civil unrest, violence.

 

Note re. Lent resources: Three group resources — Laudao Si’ Reflection Resource, Creation Covenant (Species and Ecosystems), and Renewing the Face of the Earth (Air) — are available here: https://ecospiritualityresources.com/lent/