One hundred years ago last Monday, on September 1, 1914, with the Russian revolution in full swing, World War I raging in France, and in the midst of a thousand other events of note, a single, nondescript bird in a cage in a zoo in Cincinnati Ohio died. A century later, we remember the death of that bird. Why? Martha (Marta in some documents) was the last passenger pigeon still alive, and her passing marks one of the most dismal failures of humanity’s exercise of dominion over God’s creation in all of modern history.
The story of the passenger pigeon is well documented. In the mid-19th century, flocks of birds numbering in the billions streamed across the skies of North America. Huffpost provides one description of many:
At the time of the Civil War, the passenger pigeon was the most numerous bird in all of North America, probably even the world. There were as many as 5 billion birds flying the skies. They ranged throughout the eastern United States, parts of Montana and Texas and north well into Canada. Imagine looking up into the sky today and not being able to see the sun because a flock of birds was so numerous it blocked the light for hours and hours.
It was a completely unexpected outcome. Researchers expected that patients would be more content. They thought they might sleep better. But nobody expected that redesigning a hospital room would cause people to ask for less pain medication.
Most of us have long forgotten the Carnival Splendor debacle, almost four years ago, now. I bet those passengers haven’t forgotten, though, and neither should we forget the powerful lesson from this incident. (Published Nov 12, 2010)
The word “ordeal” was what caught my attention first. It was a news story about the Carnival Splendor, one of the largest cruise ships in the world, disabled off the coast of California early this week. Ordeal? Amid all that luxury? This must be journalistic overstatement.
Little by little, the details started to emerge as the ship was towed back to San Diego, then came a flood of reports yesterday after the ship reached port. Smoky corridors. Blocked up toilets. Stench filled hallways. Interior rooms with no light or ventilation. And two hour waits to be served hot dog salad and Spam. (It is a strange footnote to this entire episode that the only thing the cruise line has disputed is that Spam was served to the passengers. What’s the big deal about Spam among all of the other hardships? But I digress…) Continue reading →
I flew into Dubai early yesterday morning from a two week stint in Kenya and Tanzania. Coming from one of the least developed areas of the world – I spent a week without electricity and running water – into one of the most developed cities on earth and home to the world’s tallest building, I was reminded of this article which I wrote for The Other Journal three years ago after a similar trip. Enjoy…
There are few air hops that will give you a greater contrast than the four-hour trip from Nairobi to Dubai.
Nairobi is the capital of one of the poorer nations in the world, the home of the infamous Kibera slum, and a textbook case of how population growth, rapid unplanned development, and massive environmental degradation result in poverty and human suffering. Flying out of Nairobi, you can see signs of distress in every direction just by looking out of the plane window.
Dubai is one of the wealthiest cities on earth. Flying into Dubai, evidence of prosperity is as obvious as the poverty of Nairobi. High-rise buildings grow out of desert sands, massive highways clog with traffic. The terminal itself is more of a shopping mall with jetways than an airport: a temple to consumerism. Every imaginable gadget, garment, and trinket is on offer at prices that may be as low as anywhere else in the world.
But there’s another way to look at these cities. Let’s rewind and put on a different set of glasses:
This post comes to you from an airport lounge in Nairobi, Kenya, where I am waiting for my flight to Tanzania to visit the new Care of Creation project in Iringa. Meanwhile, I am thinking of the many people, sights and sounds from the last week. One of the most important events is actually one that happened on April 28, a week before I arrived, when an unaturally large rainfall event caused a portion of the mountain above the community where our project is located to slide down. Such an event is a natural part of God’s creation – or is it?
The evidence of God’s grace and mercy in the aftermath of the April 28th landslide in Kijabe, Kenya, is clear. The slide happened after midnight on a Saturday night, so the path the slide took down the main street of the town (which runs straight down the slope) hit no vehicles, no houses and no people. It did wipe out several hundred meters of the boundary fence of Rift Valley Academy, and could have done serious damage to a local high school and the famous Kijabe Christian Hospital but for a strong fence and row of trees at the bottom of the street – and because of the damming effect of a railway line above the town – but we’ll come back to that in a minute. Continue reading →
“Hope springs eternal,” we say, and Earth Day certainly demonstrates that truth. Earth Day was founded in hope in 1970; as you will read below, we are still hopeful. The question is, should we be? In the face of all of our challenges, where should we look for real hope? These are my Earth Day #44 thoughts (see some earlier year’s thoughts here and here:
Madison Wisconsin, can arguably claim to be the historical center of the modern US environmental movement. This small city has direct connections to many of the movement’s pioneers: John Muir (Yellowstone National Park), Aldo Leopold (“Sand County Almanac” and many other works), Sigurd Olsen (The US/Canadian Boundary Waters), Gaylord Nelson (founder of the first Earth Day), and Cal DeWitt (Au Sable Institute). Perhaps because of these historical connections, the current voices of the environmental movement can often be heard in this city, and what these voices are saying – and not saying – is worth noting. Continue reading →
A Conversation about God, His Creation and Our Role in Creation