Our environmental problems aren’t quite as new as we sometimes think they are. Here, some lessons from an old, old poem: (Originally published Jan 7, 2009)
A good friend, who doesn’t think himself an intellectual but who in fact is one of the best-read people in my life, sent me two different pieces over the last couple of months, both of which qualify as being old, if not ancient. But which both speak volumes to our present environmental predicament:
Today, a poem that is at least 150 years old:
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge |&| shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
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 couple of months ago, the Madison WI utility folks showed up on my street, dug some holes, brought in several shiny new poles, and next thing we knew, we had a half a dozen new streetlights – including one right outside my bedroom window. These aren’t just any streetlights – they are the latest LED technology, and easily bright enough to read by, while consuming only a fraction of the energy of the older ones. It appears these brilliant additions use less electricity than one old-fashioned 100 watt bulb, but make those older sodium lights look like bathroom nightlights. Signs of progress, yes? Maybe… Continue reading →
Autism and asthma are two conditions that concern me personally; a number of close friends have children who are on the autism spectrum, and my daughter works as an autism therapist. She also suffers from asthma, as do millions of others in her generation and younger. Now it appears that there may be a deep connection between these conditions – one that we never would have suspected.
In the good old days, environmental problems were easy to spot, and relatively easy to manage. If a river was polluted or the air in a city was unbreatheable, we could identify the sources and clean them up. If an oil tanker leaked or an oil well blew up, the mess was horrendous, and remediation was expensive but it could be done. Two articles in this week’s Sunday New York Times show that this is no longer the case. No – there still plenty of these simple environmental challenges all around us. But we are learning that we are facing an entirely new class of problem: changes in our own bodies caused by unforeseen and unintended consequences. Continue reading →
A Conversation about God, His Creation and Our Role in Creation