Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Praying the News: May 9, 2012

Stories about environmental degradation tend to get buried in a newstream of stories that seem more urgent, but often within the space of a few days there seem to be clusters of news stories related to the environment and to one another. These collections of interrelated stories can have a greater impact than a single story on us and on the way we think about environmental degradation. Hearing about one effect of climate change, for example, followed by another effect and another helps us better see the magnitude of climate change. It’s difficult to ignore a theme that pops up repeatedly and in a variety of places.

It’s good to have this reality check provided by clusters of stories. The danger is that these clusters can overwhelm us to the extent that we turn our backs on the reality; instead of spurring us to action, we can be so overwhelmed that we are unable to act.

Prayer can help us through such times. Taking regular times for prayer can help protect us from feeling overwhelmed; offering our concerns to God relieves the burden. We can allow ourselves to see the truth when we feel close to God. Prayer gives us a way to act even when we can’t figure out where to begin. Asking God for what we need and offering ourselves to do God’s work in the world is always a good place to begin. Worshiping God and thanking God for the gifts of God’s good creation help us to grow in humility and love. Acknowledging that God is in charge helps us not feel overwhelmed; feeling love for God, one another, and all of creation gives us the deep desire to do our part of the work of restoration to which God calls us.

Almighty God, in giving us dominion over things on earth you made us fellow workers in your creation: Give us wisdom and reverence so to use the resources of nature, that no one may suffer from our abuse of them, and that generations yet to come may continue to praise you for your bounty; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Collect For the Conservation of Natural Resources (The Book of Common Prayer, p. 827)

Please pray for:

Response to the warmest 12-month period in US records.  May 2011 to April 2012 was the warmest twelve months in 117 years of record-keeping in the 48 contiguous states. (See Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang blog   for a summary, or NOAA’s State of the Climate for April 2012.) Pray for more of us to pay attention to the increasing warmth and to find the will and the wisdom to take it into account in our decision-making and our planning.

Plants leafing out and flowering earlier than predicted. Irises used to be called “flags” in the Midwest because they bloomed around Memorial Day; they began blooming in central Nebraska in April this year. NASA reports that plants are leafing and flowering earlier than results from controlled climate warming experiments had suggested. The timing of leafing and flowering is an important indicator of climate change, and also has big impacts on ecosystems that rely on the timing of flowering, animal migrations and breeding times, water use, etc. to stay in balance. There are obvious impacts for agriculture as well, which is why our prayer for agriculture includes a petition for “seasonable weather”.

Eroding beaches. Seventy per cent of the beaches on the Hawaiian islands of Maui, Oahu, and Kaua’i  are eroding from sea level rise. The beach erosion is another visible impact of climate change and might well affect the tourist economy in beach areas.

Rising CO2 levels (396.18 ppm for April). Scientists tell us that 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is the upper safe level to sustain life as we have known it; higher CO2 readings contribute to greater global warming. The reading for April 2012 was 396.18 .  In posting this reading on Twitter and Facebook, CO2 Now pointed out that we are on target to hit 400 ppm by April or May 2014.

Almighty God, we thank you for making the earth fruitful, so that it might produce what is needed for life: Bless those who work in the fields; give us seasonable weather; and grant that we may all share the fruits of the earth, rejoicing in your goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Prayer for Agriculture (The Book of Common Prayer, p. 824)

O God our heavenly Father, you have blessed us and given us dominion over all the earth: Increases our reverence before the mystery of life; and give us new insight into your purposes for the human race, and new wisdom and determination in making provision for its future in accordance with your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Prayer for the Future of the Human Race (The Book of Common Prayer, p. 828)

O heavenly Father, who has filled the world with beauty; Open our eyes to behold your gracious hand in all your works; that, rejoicing in your whole creation, we may learn to serve you with gladness; for the sake of him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Prayer for Joy in God’s Creation (The Book of Common Prayer, p. 814)