The lake where I paddle has dropped several feet due to drought. Along the shoreline several feet of rock strewn beach has emerged, which only a month ago was under water. Yet another indicator, that Climate Change is real and continues to take its toll both global and local.
Along that rocky shore a curious ritual has arisen. People have begun to build cairns (stone pillars) of various sizes and shapes. On one level such cairns can be seen as whimsical, creative images, eventually to be covered when the drought abates and the waters rise.
On another level, the cairns are markers of distress. Reminders that the decades long deniers of a warming planet, by profiteers of fossil fuels and their political accomplices, have resulted in an environmental crisis that is affecting human life and having a devastating effect on our neighbors in the natural world.
The stone pillars serve to warn us of where we are and what is to come. In 2022 scientists estimate that one million species of plants, insects, reptiles, mammals will go extinct as our planet heats up at an unprecedented rate. Millions of humans too are being displaced as fires rage, fresh water recedes and oceans rise.
As a person of faith I'm guided by the axiom 'If you love the Creator, then take care of Creation'. To view our planet as a commodity, for our immediate profit, is an affront to our Creator and to coin an ancient biblical word, 'an abomination'.
This is not a word I often use or we often hear. But it is theologically and in practicality true. Human greed is 'an abomination.'
Scientists who study the human brain state that our survival instinct, makes us resistant to catastrophic or longterm thinking. To this end, humans generally avoid considering the implications of Climate Change on generations to come. Our brains are focused on looking to short term benefits, concerns and solutions. Planning for the future, especially for the well being of generations not yet born, is something we humans struggle with.
Hence the deniers of Climate Change and those who profit from this denial, have a willing accomplice in how the human brain functions. Yet, there comes a time when even denial no longer works. As our planet reaches a tipping point, we can no longer see record heat, record floods, record drought as an anomaly.
The cairns along the plunging shoreline of my home water, are a warning of where we are and what is to come, unless we change our ways. Unless we as a human family, locally and globally, make a radical pivot.
Where then is hope to be found?
The cairns also remind us, that this earth upon which we stand and waters we paddle are sacred. The earth, the water and all who call this planet home, human and nonhuman are neighbors. In Genesis 1 the formation of each day, concludes with these words: 'God saw everything that God had made, and indeed, it was very good.' (v31)
If you love the Creator, take care of Creation.' Imagine, what happens, when human behavior and public policy, are guided by this truth.
Within the Iroquois Confederacy, a union of indigenous tribes in the Northeast, there is the Great Law, which affirms the Seventh Generation Principle. This principle teaches that when the community is weighing a decision, we are to take into account the impact on those seven generations ahead (about 525 years into the future, which is counted by multiplying the 75 years of an average lifespan by 7). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_generation_sustainability
The stone pillars dotting the shoreline warn us that we have lost our way. Yet, the wisdom of Genesis and the Iroquois remind us, that the path toward mitigation of what is and moving onto a path toward healing and restoration are ours as well.
The stone pillars are both a warning and an invitation.
May we be graced with wisdom, courage and hope, for the sake of generations to come.
May it be so.