Susan and I like staying in touch with the earth. Our house sits on just a fifth of an acre, but we try to make the most of it.
With a few small garden beds, we raise peas, green beans, squash, okra, tomatoes and onions in the summer. In the fall, we plant cabbage, collards and Brussels sprouts, sometimes cauliflower and broccoli. We replenish the soil with compost made from mulched leaves and vegetable scraps.
Our front lawn consists of “native grasses,” meaning whatever wants to grow without any more encouragement than a little fertilizer once or twice a year. Others might prefer the term “weeds,” but maintaining a nice fescue or Bermuda lawn would require not only lots of money, but also lots of pesticides and herbicides getting into the ground and the local creeks.
We keep our side yard and backyard relatively natural with landscaping friendly to the environment, including critters like rabbits, squirrels, birds and bugs.
Susan thought it would be nice to make it a “certified wildlife habitat.” We met all the requirements, so for a $30 donation, the National Wildlife Federation sent us a little flag to put in the yard – and sent our address to all their friends.
Soon, we had mail from the North Carolina Wildlife Federation, the Sierra Club, the World Wildlife Fund, the Audubon Society, EarthJustice, the National Park Foundation, even the Ocean Conservancy.
So far, we have piled up six wall calendars and seven sheets of personalized return address labels, as if we still paid more than one or two bills by mail. All of the unrequested “gifts,” along with letters and wildlife bookmarks, have been accompanied by solicitations for additional contributions.
We’re all for keeping the post office in business, but it seems puzzling that groups devoted to the environment would choose such print-heavy ways to promote their cause. How many trees, how much ink, how many chemicals go into producing slick promotional pieces? We never asked for them, can’t possibly use them all and will consign all but a very few pieces (calendar, anyone?) to the recycling bin.
Environmental groups are indeed worthy of support, but as they jockey for donations, their message is making little headway. As conservative lawmakers hide their heads in the sand and scoffers laugh at “tree-huggers,” millions of acres are burning in the northwest. Forest lands, fields, farms and residential areas have become apocalyptic wastelands, even in places normally too wet to burn. Scores are dead or missing.
Down on the country’s opposite corner, record numbers of hurricanes and tropical storms batter the bayous and threaten coastal cities. In the plains, freak winds wreck silos and blow tractor-trailers onto their sides in advance of fierce winter storms.
Animals are suffering, ice shelves melting and oceans rising. The sky isn’t falling – yet – though countless tons of ash and pollution make even the air an unfriendly ally.
I struggle to comprehend how any thinking person can deny the reality of human-caused climate change. Scientists and progressive politicians have been sounding the alarm for more than two decades, and their predictions are clearly coming to pass.
Even so, their warnings have been to little avail, at least in our country, where what progress has been made can be dragged backward by presidential pandering.
I’m continually amazed so many people who refuse to accept clear scientific evidence for climate change are more than ready to swallow baseless conspiracy theories, such as the boatload of rubbish that floats under the banner of QAnon.
It seems as if many people have grown so distressed and angry with their place in life that they will promote any cause or support any candidate whose primary purpose is to give the middle finger to “the establishment,” even when that means upending rational thought and balanced government in favor of chaos. It’s not the “deep state” they have a problem with; it’s the state, period.
As if that weren’t bad enough, many of the middle-finger folk wave a Christian flag with the other hand, wildly politicizing pet positions with little thought to the actual teachings of Jesus.
It doesn’t take a prophet to foresee the climate is not the only thing in danger of being wrecked by people who’ve created their own alternative view of reality.
The earth is not a video game we can turn off when it’s time for bed. The good world God gave us is not a toy truck we can wreck and then buy a new one. The kingdom of God is not an advocate for white supremacy.
However small our part may be, it is time for grown-up, rational people to stand up and speak up. We need to trust science more than wishful thinking, to rely on responsible truth-tellers rather than fringe conspiracists and to encourage others to do the same.
More than anything, we need to love our neighbors, all of them, and remember that being good stewards of the world and the resources we share is one important way of doing that.
Professor of Old Testament at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina, and the Contributing Editor and Curriculum Writer at Good Faith Media.