This week scientists confirmed that 2023 was the planet's warmest year on record and perhaps in the last 100,000 years. By far.
Bill McKibben, who wrote the sentinel work 'The End of Nature' in 1989, summarized scientific findings that unless fossil fuels were curbed (the primary source of greenhouse gasses) there would come a tipping point. A point when the rhythm of seasons as known for millennia would no longer exist. When species of plants and wildlife would go extinct. When humanity on a massive scale would be forced to migrate seeking space that was inhabitable.
That time has come. More rapidly than predicted. The choice now is to mitigate the impact. The call is to increase our pace of movement from fossil fuel, to sustainable energy sources (wind, solar, hydro, perhaps hydrogen). We know what to do. The question is, will humanity make the hard economic choices now for a future that is sustainable?
McKibben, founder of 350.org which offers practical ways average citizens can advocate for a better tomorrow, writes: "Global warming is no longer a philosophical threat, no longer a future threat at all. It's our reality."
I was thinking about this while embracing the first snowfall of the season. On Sunday I helped neighbors shovel driveways and sidewalk. On Monday I cross country skied at a nearby farm. On Tuesday I skied at Loon Mountain in New Hampshire. I wanted to pack all this in because the forecast for Tuesday night was heavy rain and temps up to an unseasonable 50 degrees.
Sure, such weather fluctuations have happened before. The only difference is now climate change brings an impact (flooding, drought, wildfire) that is dramatic, unpredictable. Profoundly unsettling for plants and wildlife who call this place home. Not to mention, those in the local ski industry, increasingly dependent on 'man made' snow to bring skiers to the slopes.
In 1989 McKibben's book, 'The End of Nature' was a clarion call to change direction. That call has largely gone unheeded. Where then is hope to be found?
Allow me to offer an alternative way forward. Rooted in an ancient way of living and being. A way of viewing our world through a lens that is spiritual which is to say, profoundly 'relational'.
Humanity since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution in the late 1700's has come to view the natural world as a commodity to harness and plunder to meet human needs. This is the point when industrial based pollution began to heat our planet. When we lost a deeper more ancient awareness that humankind and nature are interdependent.
It is a theological/spiritual/biological truth that life is circular, relational, that everyone and everything has a place. Do you believe this to be true?
In the Creation story of Genesis chapter 1 we are told that the world was created in six days. The end of each day concludes in the same way: 'And God saw that it was good'.
Whether you take this story literally or as metaphor, the point is the same, the Creator brought all that is into being and called it 'good'. Called it worthy, beautiful, and essential for the very viability of life itself. In sum 'If you love the Creator, take care of Creation.'
Or as my grandmother would say, 'Every momma bird knows, don't mess your nest'. Truth.
Robin Wall Kimmerer, indigenous elder and PHD botanist, in her wise and prophetic book, 'Braiding Sweetgrass' reminds readers that everything is interconnected, interdependent. She writes: "For all of us, belonging to a place means living as if your children's future mattered, to take care of the land as if our lives, both material and spiritual, depended on it.'
The past few days I skied with gratitude for the beauty of a first snowfall. As I skied I glimpsed a deer in the shadows. I saw coyote and rabbit tracks in the snow. I breathed in air that was crisp and clear. I dreamt that this would always be winter in New England. That tomorrow and the day after the snow would be waiting. I looked around and echoed the Creator 'this is good'.
Yet, today the snow is gone, It is 50 degrees. This is the new normal in the place I call home. It is also the place our children and their children and their children will call home. We have a responsibility to do what we can now, everything we can, to ensure that their future will be livable. That they too will experience the wonder of a first snowfall.
That's a cause worth fighting for.
With you on the journey, Kent Harrop