Friday, August 31, 2012

Children, Melting Ice, Fires, and More


Platte R. near Grand Island 8/9/2012
At St. Stephen’s in Grand Island, August began with a one-day Vacation Bible School with the theme “Recycling God’s Love”. With Psalm 24:1 – “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world and all who dwell therein” -- as our organizing Bible verse, we talked about the responsibility we have as God’s children to care for the earth and all the gifts God has given us. Our music director, Dan Korensky, wrote an energetic song for us based on the verse. Dan’s help was enlisted by his wife, Brittany Korensky, who took charge of VBS this year with help from other Christian education volunteers and the parish Green Team.

We talked about what happens to things we throw "away" and what happens to things we recycle, and we did “audit” of the waste from St. Stephen’s church and community center, separating out the recyclables that had found their way into the trash.

Gathering in small groups, the children wrote or drew the things in creation for which they are thankful. We gathered these together in a paper “quilt”, and Fr. Peek gathered their responses into a psalm to use in worship Sunday morning.

After lunch and games, the children used paper from discarded magazines and newspapers to make two collages. The results were stunning!

It was a good way to start a month that brought news of Hurricane Isaac, record temperatures, floods, melting Arctic sea ice, and more, and that is ending here in Nebraska with fires in the western part of the state. (See more information about the fires from the Lincoln Journal Star and KQSK radio  in Chadron.)

On August 20, the American Meteorological Association released an information statement about climate change. The concluding portion of the statement says:

There is unequivocal evidence that Earth’s lower atmosphere, ocean, and land surface are warming; sea level is rising; and snow cover, mountain glaciers, and Arctic sea ice are shrinking. The dominant cause of the warming since the 1950s is human activities… Prudence dictates extreme care in accounting for our relationship with the only planet known to be capable of sustaining human life.

On August 26 the extent of the Arctic sea ice fell below the record for minimum ice cover that was set in 2007. (See this from the NASA Earth Observatory.) Along with giving clear evidence of warming, affecting life for plants, animals, and humans in the Arctic, and opening more open water to absorb sunlight and accelerate the warming cycle, there are effects on the stability of the climate for the entire planet that are of grave concern. (See Why the Arctic Sea Ice Death Spiral Matters  by Joe Romm.)

Some parishes do a blessing of the backpacks (and of the children who carry them) at the beginning of the school year. We send children off to school hoping that they will learn and grow physically, intellectually, and spiritually, hoping they will grow to have meaningful and productive lives. We assume that they will experience many of the pleasures as adults as we do in Nebraska today: comfortable homes, access to clean water and adequate food, stable governments and institutions. So much of what we hope for our children depends on a stable climate!

Jesus taught us that children are important. Jesus loved the children, and we say we do, too. Talking about climate change, learning all we can about it, and making it an important issue in our common life is a way to truly love the children in our lives and around the world.