Thursday, July 21, 2011

God's Earth: Tar Sands

Are we so complacent that we are willing to risk the economic future of our state and the land that feeds the nation and the world because we don’t want to pay more for gas? Are we so delusional that we don’t think a major spill will occur? Have we become so egocentric and short sighted that we can’t look down the road and see what we are risking for the sake cheaper fuel in the short term?

Fr. Don Huber asked these questions in a Keystone XL Pipeline post on his Agrestic Father blog yesterday. Fr. Huber laid aside some of the more typical questions about the proposed pipeline to ask some pointed questions about how we in Nebraska are responding to the possibility of having a pipeline bringing tar sands through our state. In particular, he addressed this question to people of faith:

Where are the voices of Christians, the people of God, who are entrusted to be the tillers and caretakers of the earth, the people who, according to Scripture, are the stewards of creation?

Related questions are raised in today’s meditation in Forward Day by Day. Reflecting on Psalm 50:12 – For the whole world is mine and all that is in it – this meditation asks what the world would look like today had we acted on the assertion that the earth belongs to God. What would our world be like if we really understood that God created and owns everything?

The proposed pipeline has the potential to do severe damage to Nebraska’s economy and ecosystem should it leak its contents into the Ogallala aquifer. The environmental damage where the tar sands are being mined in the Boreal Forest of Canada is already devastating. A report put together by environmental organizations, Tar Sands Invasion, describes some of its effects. First Nations people have been fighting back against the loss of fishing grounds, forest, and clean water. A rare form of cancer has appeared among these people that they suspect is connected to the pollution from the mining operation. Some of us in Nebraska were dismayed to learn that Kentucky is considering allowing hunting of sandhill cranes. Of more concern for bird lovers should be the effects of the tar sands mining operation on birds in the Boreal Forest. According to the Tar Sand Invasion report, 30% of North American songbirds and 40% of North American waterfowl rely on habitat in the Boreal Forest.

What sort of response do we give to this as people of faith? Where are our priorities? As Fr. Huber writes:

We cannot serve God and mammon, we cannot serve two masters. Doing the right thing is not always the cheapest way to solve a problem nor is it always the easiest. Which master will we serve? Our choice will have a dramatic effect on our future both here and at the judgment.

St. Stephen’s, Grand Island, is planning an evening to help us learn more about the Keystone XL pipeline on September 22. Watch the diocesan Ministry Memo or contact St. Stephen’s to find out more about this event as the date approaches. Nebraska Interfaith Power and Light is working on a response to the pipeline. In the meantime, it’s good to prayerfully read Fr. Huber’s post in its entirety and take a look at the Tar Sands Invasion report. If you are so moved, let our political leaders know that people of faith have deep concerns about this sort of project; encourage them to insist at the least on more safeguards, more research, and a route that avoids the Ogallala aquifer and the Sandhills ecosystem before allowing it to go forward.

For all the beasts of the forest are mine, the herds in their thousands upon the hills. I know every bird in the sky, and the creatures of the fields are in my sight…the whole world is mine and all that is in it. (Psalm 50)

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