When my sister was finally able to email again, after four days without electricity, she said everyone south of 40th street in Manhattan lost power. Without refrigeration, food in the grocery stores spoiled. Cold drove her and her husband to move in with some uptown friends. On the web I saw vivid images of the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy: New York City streets under water, flooded tunnels, and before-and-after photos of the ravaged New Jersey shoreline.
A video showed one of our presidential candidates speaking to his party’s convention, rolling his eyes and mocking the other candidate for wanting to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet, apparently unconcerned about such things himself. The convention crowd cheered him, waving the red, white and blue. Then the video showed the U.S. flag flapping helplessly in a strong wind, foaming waves pounding the shore around it. There were scenes of flooded streets, cars engulfed by water, a house collapsing into the ocean, people being rescued in boats and sleeping in shelters, and then the words: “Climate Change is Not a Joke.”
Personally, I would love to be able to vote for a candidate who could slow the melting of the polar caps, prevent the rise of the oceans, and retain the amazingly stable, temperate weather conditions we have known for a long time. This summer farmers across the Midwest, including those near where I live in Indiana, lost crops to drought and relentless heat.
After enjoying a swim during a heat wave at the end of June, my partner, Terry, and I drove through Barnesville, Ohio as the sky turned ominously dark. Within minutes of getting into the car, a wind wildly lashed tree limbs and street lights. The electricity went out in the buildings we passed. Flying objects slammed into the car, and I feared the windshield would break. Sheets of rain obscured our view, and then came hail. Wanting some protection, we pulled up beside a building, and sat there, quaking, until the wind died down.
When we were able to drive again, we saw that a huge old tree lay across a street not far from us, and a porch roof had fallen down. In Cambridge, Ohio, the Catholic Church had almost entirely collapsed; only the front facade was left standing. Other buildings on the same street lost their roofs. Initially we imagined it was a local storm, but that evening’s news reported that we had been part of a very unusual weather event called a derecho, described on Wikipedia as “one of the most destructive and deadly fast-moving severe thunderstorm complexes in North American history.” With winds up to 91 miles per hour, it brought down big trees all the way from Indiana to Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., causing millions of power outages, many lasting for days. During the storm, as I trembled in the back seat of the car, I wondered where my faith was. It required some deep breaths before I could begin to relax and trust that God was still present.
We have already set in motion climate changes that neither presidential candidate can stop, even if this country were to unite today in a resolve to face our real situation and address it. Perhaps some of those changes can be slowed. Surely, if we find the clarity and sufficient unity–or when we finally do–we can collectively learn to live on this planet in new ways. We don’t have to wait for unity, however, and we must not depend upon outward leaders to shape a healing response. More and more people have been hearing a call to envision and work for a future in which humanity lives in sustainable harmony with the earth.
And all of us have an inner Guide who can teach us how to make the changes necessary for humanity to continue to inhabit this lovely planet. Faith that resides only in the head is of little help in a big storm. For most of us, it takes a storm or some other discomforting experience to motivate us to drop our attention into the heart. There, beyond the limits of our mind, we can find the divine presence which is already within us. If we become inwardly quiet and let go of fear, we can attend to the guidance of the Spirit–the inward teaching of Christ, the instruction of Holy Wisdom– and find the leadership we need to face the current reality of our lives on earth and make the changes required of us.
We can’t prevent storms from uprooting ancient trees
We can’t keep the sea from changing our shorelines
We can’t stop the oceans from rising
But we can elect the Leader who heals.
We can listen to the still small voice of the Creator
We can take the hand of the One
who is with us through the storm.
We can learn from the Teacher who knows
the Way to abundant life.
(c) 2012 Marcelle Martin
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Beautifully said, Marcelle! Thank you for your offering and your new blog! Bravo and please continue.
Thank you for the invitation to meet you here.
And thank you for the invitation to meet (elect / listen for / take the hand / learn) God here too.
It’s a delight to meet you here, too!
Today I saw a short video of a woman called Clare from Kiribati (a pacific island only 2 metres above sea level) talking about the impacts of climate change on her homeland. Mostly it was not an emotional video. She spoke factually about how her work involves talking to the islanders about climate change and things like the need to build higher flood defences and move their homes away from the sea (not that there is anywhere much to move to). I found myself thinking that they have so very much to be angry about in terms of the injustice of what is happening to them, but they have so very little power in the world that they just have to try and adapt to what will likely actually become an impossible situation for them. And then at the end she said “we will lose our homeland” and wiped tears from her face, and tears came to my eyes too. It reminded me of what happened to the Jews in WW2. Yes, I know that the situation is different, in that no-one is deliberately trying to annihilate the people of these very poor, small island states. But they are on their way to becoming stateless, losing everything, and – just as with the Jews in WW2 – other countries (richer countries, that are causing the problem) are already drawing up the bridges and refusing to help, or help enough. The Prime Minister of Tuvalu, another small pacific island, has already appealed to New Zealand and Australia to grant citizenship to his people in the expected event of their country simply ceasing to exist within the next 50 years. There are currently about 11,500 Tuvaluans who will need somewhere else to live. New Zealand agreed to accept 75 Tuvaluans each year for the next 30 years – that’s 2,250 people. Australia, which has one of the highest per capita emissions rates of anywhere in the world, refuses to accept any Tuvaluans as environmental refugees.
We need to pray that our hearts of stone be made flesh, and show our ‘leaders’ that we want them to take a different way.
Thank you. I think that our lives will be increasingly filled with the earthquake, wind and fire. We need to remember that God is in the still small voice. So when the wind comes, take a few breaths and listen.
Thank you, Marcelle, for these beautiful words. I’m glad your praying, writing and sharing.
Thank you for this blog, and thank you for your invitation to join.. I somehow managed to delete your e-mail, so cannot reply as fully as I would like, but will look forward to more blogs. Gerald
Thanks for this, Marcelle. I have been feeling increasingly led to speak about how climate change is affecting Africa and to move beyond individual lifestyle changes to work with others to challenge big institutions. I do feel that Spirit is moving among many people. Thank you for sharing your writing. Hope you enjoy blogging.
Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and
wished to say that I’ve really enjoyed browsing your blog posts.
After all I will be subscribing to your rss feed and I hope you write again soon!