A Glimpse of Grace for Earth Day 2021

I was invited to share a few thoughts for Earth Sunday at my church this year. The presentation received enthusiastic endorsements and is worth passing along. I share it below.

A year and a half ago, I headed to Nebraska for an “Elders for the Earth” retreat with the Hunters and Aurora from GUMC. I found it exhilarating to be with a roomful of folks attuned to the ballooning climate crisis, and respectful of the leadership offered by the world’s indigenous peoples.

There were seminars by experts in various fields, including a biology professor, a Catholic sister who shared how the global climate crisis affects our immigration issues, a panel of farmers who advocated for regenerative agriculture, and the Nebraska Sierra Club. Most important for me was the connection with others who share my anxiety about the future of life on Earth and who want to do something about it.

The weekend concluded with a native American smudging ceremony and we returned to our homes pledging actions to effect change that fit our own situations.

Little did I know how much that retreat would change my life. I returned home with ideas for action and a reading list. In the process of working through the books, COVID hit and our old “normal” world changed overnight.

None of us have escaped the COVID months unscathed. If we didn’t contract the virus ourselves, we certainly knew those who did. We all know people who suffered severe symptoms, and even some who succumbed to the virus. Yet in spite of the dire consequences, COVID months provided opportunities to stretch in different directions. I found myself zooming into conference calls with literally hundreds of people around the world, enrolling in online classes that focused on our climate challenges, as well as social justice, and economic systems. Through leadership of indigenous peoples around the world, I expanded my horizons and my hopes for our common future supported by an expanding awareness of our Earth community.

A couple of people and their ideas kept showing up in my varied explorations.

One was Robin Wall Kimmerer, a mother, a scientist, a writer and a member of the Citizen Potawatomie nation. Her book Braiding Sweetgrass helped change my life during COVID. The first time I ever read about Robin was in the run-up to last year’s 50th anniversary of Earth day in the Sierra magazine. She was a featured contributor and her description of a conversation with a student echoes in my mind yet today. “I’m sorry,” she said to this student, “that you have to still fight these environmental battles.” The student responded, “Don’t you see that this is the best possible time to be alive?” (What?! Climate chaos? Extinction crisis?) The student looked her in the eyes and said, “We are on the precipice. When everything hangs in the balance, it matters where I stand. How wonderful to live in a time when everything that I do matters.”

I actually had never thought of it quite like that. But that one idea opened lots of doors. The Elders Retreat helped me realize how complex the crisis we face really is.

Every part of our lives is impacted, from the food we eat to our economy, transportation, government, justice.

Everything on planet Earth is interconnected in ways we are just beginning to understand and no part of my life is immune to change.

Situations highlighting inequities in every area of our lives exploded over the last year. I could easily give in to hopelessness about our children’s future.

But I can’t allow myself that luxury. Those who can least afford to do anything about our climate are the neighbors we are to love and care for. One of my remote friends shared a gift that COVID presented her, the realization that families are made not by birth but by intention. COVID made our family grow to 7.9 billion people.

I can’t afford a moment of despair. But how do I find hope? There are hundreds of thousands of groups working toward a viable future around the world, representing millions of people. That gives me hope.

Another resource that the retreat introduced that I encountered over and over was the Drawdown project.

Through it I learned that we have at least 80 different ways to bring about a Drawdown of the warming gasses in our atmosphere. As COVID loosens its grip on our hometown, and our planet, we have a chance to return cautiously to a new “normal”—certainly not the old one—

that will put us on the path toward restoration of a healthy and viable planet for all of God’s creation. I find that exciting news, and I hope you do too. No one person can do it all, but I can do my part.

As one human family, with each of us doing our part, that will make the difference we need.

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