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BY SARA HOLLIDAY, n/OEF

July 27, 2019


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Amazon deforestation close to hitting a tipping point
From the Guardian: Amazon deforestation accelerating towards unrecoverable 'tipping point': Data confirms fears that Jair Bolsonaro’s policy encourages illegal logging in Brazil.

Also this month, though,
  • Tree planting 'has mind-blowing potential' to tackle climate crisis - Research shows a trillion trees could be planted to capture huge amount of carbon dioxide (from the Guardian as well).
  • A more cautious take on the same story from the New York Times: Restoring Forests Could Help Put a Brake on Global Warming, Study Finds.
  • And we should also keep in mind (from the Guardian): Nature-based solutions to the climate crisis must work with vulnerable communities, not leave them to pick up the bill.
“In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters....Then God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good.”
- Genesis 1:1-2, 11-12
As Rev. Steve Blackmer recently reminded me, creation was and is an act of inspiration on God's part: the Spirit (Spiritus, Latin for breath, or here the "wind from God") sweeps over the void. That starter gust happened at a point in historical time, and it still unfolds and evolves with every new living thing and every idea that God sees as good.

You don't need me to tell you how dire the interconnected crises of our climate, air, soil, water, and biodiversity are right now. Despair is so tempting in a spiritual sense and in a pratical sense. Here we sit unable to do a thing to influence the Trumplike rule of Jair Bolsonaro, so what can we do but sit and weep? And don't hear me say that weeping isn't worthwhile - working with our own guilt, and mourning for what's being lost, are vital counterweight to our First World society.

But I also thank God for the inspiration of Prof. Tom Crowther and his colleagues to map just how many trees could be planted across the planet, and the impact they would have. I also appreciate the inspiration of those who point out the human impact of such a plan, because environmental justice must incorporate both the nonhuman and the human.

Planting new trees in no way lessens the urgency of protecting surviving forests and areas of older growth. Planting trees is like binding up the wounded rather than stopping the war that's wounding them. But binding up the wounded is also a deeply Christian call. And each new beginning hearkens back to God's first breath over the face of the deep.

But most of all, planting trees is something that can be done by almost anyone, from almost anywhere, at almost any time. You don't need to lobby your Congressperson in order to plant a tree. You don't need to get a ballot initiative passed. You don't need to influence voters. You don't even need to spend a lot of money. You can plant a tree, in the most basic sense, as the Spirit moves you. And every one is a breath of hope.

Reading these news stories put me in mind of the creation narrative from C.S. Lewis' classic The Magician's Nephew, in which the breath of Aslan manifests into singing and then into plants (emphasis mine): "All this time the Lion's song, and his stately prowl, to and fro, backwards and forwards, was going on....Polly was finding the song more and more interesting because she thought she was beginning to see the connection between the music and the things that were happening. When a line of dark firs sprang up on a ridge about a hundred yards away she felt that they were connected with a series of deep, prolonged notes which the Lion had sung a second before....Thus, with an unspeakable thrill, she felt quite certain that all the things were coming (as she said) 'out of the Lion's head.' When you listened to his song you heard the things he was making up: when you looked round you, you saw them. This was so exciting that she had no time to be afraid."
Absolutely free:
For a little bit of money:
  • Eden Reforestation Projects hires local people to plant trees in areas of the world suffering from deforestation. So much win-win here. I defy you not to be inspired by their videos.
  • American Forests protects trees in the U.S. in both rural and urban areas and helps communities plant and nurture their local trees.
  • And Archangel Ancient Tree Archive saves and propagates tree species with proven resistance to extreme climate. One of their Champion Trees makes an especially meaningful and beneficent present for your next gift-giving opportunity.
May God give us the grace to accept the gracious invitation of the incarnate Word to live, in, with, and through him, a life of grace for the whole world, that thereby all the earth may be restored and humanity filled with hope. Rejoicing in your works, O Divine One, send us forth with your Spirit to renew the face of the earth, that the world may once again be filled with your good things: the trees watered abundantly, springs rushing between the hills in verdant valleys, all the earth made fruitful, your manifold creatures, birds, beasts, and humans, all quenching their thirst and receiving their nourishment from you once again in due season. Amen.

- Slightly adapted from “A Life of Grace for the Whole World
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