Environmental Activist and Oxymoron

Man holding an earth globe in his hands. Earth image provided by NASA.

Environmental activist and oxymoron

Environmental Activist and Oxymoron

There was a time, many years ago, when I was more of a radical environmental activist than most people I knew. And would not have conceived of a phrase like environmental activist and oxymoron in a single phrase.

No more.

The first part of the phrase carries the heft of religion. In some cases, political actors are the most fanatical of religious zealots when dealing with the environment. Governmental policies like the recent decisions of our federal government to lay waste to hundreds of orchards, ranches, farms in order to divert water for an endangered small bait fish, the Delta Smelt, five species of salmon and the North American Green Sturgeon.

Despite massive amounts of water diversion, now flowing into the Pacific Ocean, none of the endangered fish has been removed from the list in 35 years. Their population continues to decline while the San Joaquin Valley becomes a dust bowl. An estimated 40,000 people in California have lost jobs due to these Federal policies that boggle the mind when attempting to understand the rationale.

When we moved here to the high desert of Nevada, a friend and neighbor, a Californian,

as are most of our friends and neighbors, claimed that liberals and environmentalists were religious fanatics; I argued with him back then. I do not any longer nor do I make the large donations I once made to environmental agencies like Greenpeace, World Wildlife, Sierra Club once I investigated salaries and details about many of these agencies.

But the other morning, after finishing my Morning Office, I took an hour I really did not have to ponder  this quote from Wendell Berry.

What is good for the world will be good for us.

That requires that we make the effort to know the world and to learn what is good for it. We must learn to cooperate in its processes, and to yield to its limits. But even more important, we must learn to acknowledge that the creation is full of mystery; we will never entirely understand it. We must abandon arrogance and stand in awe. We must recover the sense of the majesty of creation, and the ability to be worshipful in its presence. For I do not doubt that it is only on the condition of humility and reverence before the world that our species will be able to remain in it.

Sit for a moment with his words:

“…we must learn to acknowledge that the creation is full of mystery; we will never entirely understand it. We must abandon arrogance and stand in awe. We must recover the sense of the majesty of creation, and the ability to be worshipful in its presence.”

I had heard the author’s name, Wendell Berry but could not recall where.

This is what I found when I went searching online: Wendell Berry on his hopes for humanity. It is 40 minutes long; here is a short poem to persuade you to take the time to ‘meet’ this man; a man I am happy to know is breathing the same air as I….right now.

“The Peace of Wild Things.”

When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the middle of the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world and am free.


It’s prayer more than environmental activism thus the word, oxymoron

and reminds me of St Francis’s Canticle of the Creatures:

Most High, all-powerful, good Lord,all praise is yours, all glory, all honor,
and all blessing.
To you, alone, Most High, do they belong.No mortal lips are worthy to pronounce your name.
All praise be yours, my Lord,through all you have made, and first my lord Brother Sun, who brings the day;and through whom you give us light.How beautiful is he, how radiant in all his splendor; Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness. All Praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars; in the heavens you have made them,bright, and precious, and fair. All praise be yours, my Lord,through Brothers wind and air, and fair and stormy,all the weather’s moods,by which you cherish all that you have made.All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Water,so useful, humble, precious and pure.All praise be yours, my Lord, through Brother Fire,through whom you brighten up the night. How beautiful is he, how cheerful! Full of power and strength. All praise be yours, my Lord, through our Sister Mother Earth, who sustains us and governs us,and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.

http://www.appleseeds.org/canticle.htm

Environmental activist and oxymoron. Perhaps ours is the age where we consider prayer as activism.

4 Comments

  1. Glenda Bixler says:

    I’m not sure I’m following this article…I think we do need to depend upon God for the world He created and maintains for us…however, in thinking about the servants who were given money to care for during his being away, I remember that all had made use of the money except the one who merely had taken care of it. Leaving groups out of it, since they are sometimes not doing what they should, I look to the individual’s role. Are we not to take care of the world provided for us? Do we not have a responsibility. No, not fanaticism, rather an ongoing concern that is displayed as well as voiced as we see the need?

    • Lin Wilder says:

      My points may well have been muddled here. Wrote it in kind of a hurry, Glenda…but yes, was trying to point out that it’s a dual effort…using Wallace Berry as an excuse to write the article!

  2. Lori F. says:

    Thank you for sharing “The Peace of Wild Things”, so good to remember that we can rest in His creation and find healing…perhaps, through prayer, we will be guided to new solutions in our quest to be better stewards of His creation.

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