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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.

Extinction Grieving Prayer 2017

WHY NOVEMBER?

In November, religious traditions and international observances call our attention to deaths, extinctions, and thanksgiving for what remains.

For Catholics, November begins with days devoted to deceased members of our immediate and global family. We remember them all month, including the increasing numbers of men and women who have been murdered for their work preserving our common home.

It is also Native American Heritage Month, a good time to remember Native Americans’ unjust deaths, and the deaths of their cultures, languages, and religions. We strive to stop the current efforts to eliminate their sacred heritage burial grounds, plants and wildlife, and vital watersheds.

Climate negotiators representing every country (except the United States) are meeting in Bonn, Germany from Nov. 6 – 17 to craft a “rule book” for the Paris Climate deal. These efforts will contribute to preventing deaths and extinctions.

November 11th is Veterans Day in many countries. We remember the men and women who gave their lives for their countries.

In the United States, on Thanksgiving we give thanks for all of nature’s gifts. We remember those who have less.

November ends with the International Remembrance Day for Lost Species (Nov. 30). Pope Francis calls us to be people “joined … so closely to the world around us that we can feel the … extinction of a species as a painful disfigurement.” Some dismiss the loss of one species, forgetting that all life is connected because we all began with the first flaring forth and we are now interconnected by invisible atoms. As Thomas Berry said: “Nothing is itself without everything else.”

My Lent 2018 Creation Covenant resource concludes with a grieving prayer for extinct species, but it is important to grieve with others (in person or spirit) on or near November 30. The following prayer ritual can be used on any day, alone or with others. Alter it in any way that will help you (and others) grieve and be motivated to stop extinctions and the many deaths that result from the loss of species.

For a two page (four sides) pdf version of the prayer, contact terrishcj@aol.com.

~~~~

EXTINCTION GRIEVING PRAYER

Use two candles; prepare suggested (or other) music and video. 

CALL TO PRAYERsparrow-dusky_seaside_sparrow-from-wikipedia

. . .today, the dusky seaside sparrow
became extinct. It may never be as famous
as the pterodactyl [ˌterəˈdakt(ə)l] or the dodo,
but the last one died today . . . .
An excerpt from “Science” by Alison Hawthorne Deming

What you call resources, we call our relatives. Source unknown.

Light the first candle. It honors all the species that have gone extinct in our lifetimes.

Great Giver of Life, we pause to remember our place at the beginning of the Sixth Great Extinction on Planet Earth. For 13.8 billion years creation has been groaning: bringing to birth, becoming more complex, more organized, more conscious. The other great extinctions during the past 450 million years happened by forces beyond anyone’s control. For the first time, our species is ruining whole ecosystems, aborting entire interdependent species. We acknowledge that we play a part in this dying by our carelessness, ignorance, and indifference. Forgive us our part in the death of healthy ecosystems and the resulting extinction of creatures in whom we believe divinity lives and acts.

WATCH a short video showing facts about species decline: https://admin.zsl.org/science/news/landmark-report-shows-global-wildlife-populations- on-course-to-decline-by-67-per-cent

LITANY OF AFFIRMATION

imagesWe affirm the Sacred Mystery that caused and continues Creation.

We affirm the 13.8 billion years of our Universe.

We affirm the billions of galaxies, each with its billions of solar systems and stars.

We affirm the multiple transformations during the 4.5 billion years of Mother Earth’s life so far, and the potential for evolution towards ever-greater consciousness.

We affirm the millions of species that have inhabited our planet in beautifully-webbed communities: microorganisms, plants, fish, birds, mammals . . . .

We affirm that we came from Earth and exist, like all species, in a communion of subjects.

LITANY OF GRIEF

We grieve humans’ lack of awareness of, and concern about, the destruction of interdependent communities that have taken billions of years to develop.

We grieve the climate disasters that extinguish habitats and the multiple species within them.

We grieve the more than one-in-four flowering plants, the one-in-five mammals, the nearly one-in-three amphibians, and the one-in-eight birds that are vulnerable to being wiped out completely. (International Union for the Conservation of Nature)img_18-tm

We grieve the Golden Toad (pictured here), native to Costa Rica. It has not been seen since 1989, when a single male was found, the last of its species.

ibex1-tmWe grieve the Pyrenean Ibex (pictured here). The last of this species naturally born was a female, Celia, who died in 2000.

We grieve the St. Helena Olive, images-1a small spreading tree, the last of which perished in 2003 primarily due to deforestation and invasive plants.

We grieve all our extinct brother and sister species, the amphibians, fish, birds, mammals, plants and trees, and their diminished habitats.

We grieve the humans whose sustenance and livelihoods are threatened by this disruption in the food web.

We grieve the deaths of ecological martyrs: Sister Dorothy Stang, Dian Fossey, Chico Mendes, Berta Cáceres, and the over 1000 other activists slain since 2004. We grieve those who, like the Water Protectors at Standing Rock, are harassed and injured by police and the companies they oppose. (Global Witness reports that, on average, two people die every week.)

LISTEN TO or SING:

“Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” Perhaps for v. 2 and 3: species, workers.  (Joan Baez’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0LZ2R2zW2Yc. 2:44)

* Extinguish first candle. Light second candle. It honors the threatened species that remain and our desire to protect them. 

QUIET REFLECTION: 
For believers, our faith is tested by our concern and care for creation. U. S. Catholic Bishops: “Renewing the Earth” 1991

Let us not leave in our wake a swath of destruction and death which will affect our own lives and those of future generations.  Pope Francis

 WATCH: Google either one:

YouTube: How Wolves Changed Rivers (4:33)
YouTube: The Wolves That Changed Rivers (5:47)

LITANY of GRATITUDE and HOPE 

We are grateful that the ever-controversial Endangered Species Act (ESA, U.S.) has indeed saved many species under its  protection. One example among many is the bald eagle, once threatened as a direct result of the use of DDT.

We are grateful that British oil company Soco International agreed (June 2014) to suspend exploration in a national park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), home to half the world’s critically endangered mountain gorillas (pictured here). However, oil drilling continues to threaten the gorillas and other species there.

We are grateful that the Zoological Society of London released its list of birds most at risk of extinction based on evolutionary distinctness and global endangerment (EDGE). This information will help conservationists decide where efforts should focus first.

ys-wolf-releasing-sawtooth-pup_npsjimpeaco_680-612x353We are grateful that the American grey wolves, virtually extinct in the Lower 48 States by the 1930s, are now so abundant that many want their population lessened to protect cattle-raising.

We are grateful for all of the habitats that have been saved so that the interdependent species within them can escape extinction.

We are grateful for the many people throughout the world who dedicate their time and efforts to keeping habitats and species alive so they can give praise to their creator by their distinct lineages, attributes, and contributions to the web of life.

ACTION SUGGESTIONS: 

To save species, we must save ecosystems. To save ecosystems, we must reduce climate change, pollution, poaching, invasive species, and over-consumption. On the following action list, mentally check the things that you already do to protect species (which includes our own, the human species). Note anything you could add to your endeavors.

  • – Include Earth-care concerns when choosing legislators.
    – Lobby for laws to protect habitats and species.
    – Join (or cooperate with) groups working to conserve, restore and protect habitats and species.
    – Transition to renewable energy sources.
    – Encourage institutions to invest in renewable energy and to divest from fossil fuels.
    – Buy local and organic produce.
    – Carry water in a thermos (not bottled water).
    – Plant trees and support groups that do.

DISCUSS:

Einstein said: Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge points to all that is. Imagination points to all that could be.  

What kind of Earth “could be”? How can we contribute to co-creating it?

PRAYER:

Great Giver of Life, we come from, and we dwell in, the magnificent world in which you live and act. Our species is causing extinctions; our species can prevent them. Let us not be thwarted by the immensity of the challenge, for the Power working within us can do more than we could imagine. May the flame of this candle we now extinguish continue to burn in our hearts, reminding us to help our threatened relatives.

* Extinguish second candle.

Enlighten us to find you in all Creation; empower us to treat it accordingly. Through Jesus Christ, whose respect for Earth inspires us to live as he did. Amen.

SHARE

a sign of hope with one another.

SING:

“The Heavens Are Telling the Glory of God” or “Touch the Earth” (Kathy Sherman, CSJ) or another appropriate song