Thanks to Deacon Frank, I was privileged to be the guest presenter for a Day of Prayer for Global Awareness of the Environment at a genuinely inspiring local service. In my hours of reflecting and writing, Admiration, Respect, and Care eventually summarized my message. The first letters from these words form ARC, and I believe we need to create a new ARC of protection for the environment of our typical home. Here are some excerpts from my presentation and further thoughts about this ARC.
We are living in a time when there are so many signs that we are not paying attention to the life and health of our planet. This suggests that we have lost touch with the fact that we are fully dependent upon the earth and its well-being. A partial list of our dependency includes clean air, clean water, healthy soil, microorganisms, other living creatures, rain, trees, materials for clothing and shelter. While this should invoke ongoing thanks to our Creator, I do not recall the last time my worship community offered shared gratitude for nature in prayer.
Our lifestyles now depend on extensive material and energy use – dramatic increases since the industrial revolution. This has changed the earth, its inhabitants and even the climate over the past century. Even though our lives have improved in many ways, numerous advancements have been drastic and destructive to the natural world. And the damage we impart and teach continues. Leaders in the state of Indiana continue to remove protections for wetlands, refuse to act effectively on coal ash waste that threatens fresh waters and enable untested polluting industries.
To satisfy our unrelenting need for stuff (we all know about Amazon, but not about coal ash waste), massive warehouses and numerous storage units have been, and continue to be, built around the country to store and distribute all the stuff. We produce more waste than ever before and have no solution for the toxic plastic waste that we all now ingest daily. The plastic waste plagues every part of the earth and doesn’t decompose. We expect science to create solutions that will allow for this continued, toxic rise in materialism.
Our actions teach our children the false notion that materials satisfy the human soul. Is our priority a bigger house/car/more stuff/perfect green grass OR clean air, soil, and water and fewer devastating storms that result from a warmer atmosphere? It is upon us to teach children to value nature, not stuff; to teach them to admire, respect and care (ARC) for the earth and its resources, not to exploit and destroy them further. What are our daily actions and the messages communicated to our youth and one another?
Where will we be if we choose NOT to build a new ARC together? An ARC is an encompassing shape; if you are part of the basketball world, there is an arc to a good shot; there is an electrical arc, an arc of life and my mistake in thinking of the story of Noah’s ark (not arc – thanks, Dad). A familiar saint is Joan of Arc.
My sincere hope is that together we can create an ARC of protection for the earth, by Admiring, Respecting and Caring for creation, our common home, in every possible way. Each and every individual choice matters. Through prayer and compassionate actions, we extend our love and gratitude for Creation, to younger (and future) generations and to one another.
“Lamentation prayer is when we sit and speak out to God and one another—stunned, sad, and silenced by the tragedy and absurdity of human events. It might actually be the most honest form of prayer.” —Richard Rohr (thank you, Richard P and Jeanne.)
Thank you for taking the time to read this longer than usual column. 🙂🌳
Julie Peller, Ph.D., is an environmental chemist (Professor of Chemistry at Valparaiso University ). Julie has been writing a weekly column for the past ~6 years called the Green Junction and is helping to move the call of Laudato Si to action forward. Her Research Interests are advanced oxidation for aqueous solutions, water quality analyses, emerging contaminants, air quality analyses, Lake Michigan shoreline challenges (Cladophora, water, and sediment contaminants), and student and citizen participation in environmental work.