All we are saying is give the earth a chance ~ With apologies to the John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, Give Peace a Chance, 1969.
Since the dawn of creation people, except for indigenous cultures, have believed that the earth was theirs to control, to manipulate, possess and conquer. By most accounts that process has accelerated exponentially over the past one hundred and fifty years with disastrous results. I have personally witnessed some of these for the past forty years in the western United States as winters have grown increasingly warmer allowing pine beetle infestations to spread far and wide. Since 1988 catastrophic wildfires have created a new season called smoke, and a drive through nearly any western national forest or park will display the scars.
These results are not limited to the West. Polar ice caps are melting, along with glaciers across the world. Places like Glacier National Park and Iceland may have to change their names for the lack of their namesake features. Permafrost is disappearing. Polar bears are on the decline due to the lack of icebergs on which they depend. Sea levels, not surprisingly, are rising, and likewise, storms are worsening. Ocean currents are changing. All of this and more is due largely to human activity on and to the earth. While laws are in place to protect the environment, one wonders if the earth has got a chance.
Perhaps we need to look at the earth differently. Henri Nouwen writes:
John Henry Newman views the visible world as a veil ‘so that all that exists or happens visibly, conceals and yet suggests, and above all serves, a greater system of persons, facts and events beyond itself.’ How differently we would live if we were constantly aware of this veil and sensed in our whole being that nature desires us to see the great story of God’s love to which it points.
Spiritual Formation: Following the Movements of the Spirit, Henri Nouwen 2010, Harper One. Perhaps this is why indigenous cultures had no sense of possessing the land, and a great spiritual connection to it and all around them. I had never thought of my photography as ministry, but I see now that is the concept that Nouwen invites me to embrace. To pass along to the viewer the gifts I see around me. They are fleeting in a world that is drastically changing where wildlife and forests have no voice and no defense. “When we receive in our hearts with gratitude and awe what God has created, we see nature as it truly is – a transcendent reality that asks for reverence and respect.” Id.