Our Impact on Nature

While I travelled in Vancouver, I kept running into concerns about the human impact on the environment. Our trip was timed with the President’s announcement that the US would pull out of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

One of Emily Carr’s paintings at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Phil LaBelle, 2017.

I do not think that this was an accident. The Holy Spirit has a funny way of opening our eyes to things we have wanted to avert them from.

We read about the connections that First Nations have with the environment at the Museum of Anthropology, and especially those in South America surrounding the Amazon rain forest. Visitors were encouraged to see the rights of nature and the way it “aligns directly with value systems intrinsic to Indigenous South American cultures, and serves as a rallying cry to move beyond Western ideals and practices of development and progress largely measured by profit.” (See the MOA website.) Many of these countries included the need for environmental sustainability and the sacred connection between people and land into their constitutions. Of course, they had placards detailing the excessive deforestation of the Amazon River Basin directly related to greed and profit.

In addition to the Museum visit, I read about concerns at the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, and their desire to treat the environment justly. We saw the importance of the forest in Emily Carr’s painting at the Vancouver Art Gallery, in which she saw it not as “wildness” nor as “lumber” but as a place of spiritual connections.

Finally, at a baptism on Pentecost Sunday at Christ Church Cathedral we were asked as part of the baptismal covenant, “Will you strive to safeguard the integrity of God’s creation, and respect, sustain and renew the life of the Earth?” “I will, with God’s help,” I responded with the assembled congregation.

I cannot ignore the simple fact that the beauty of the wild, the lure of mountains and deserts for me as a place to experience the reality of the Living God, will not survive if we see it only as commodity, as a means to more wealth. How we live in and interact with nature should be shaped by our Christian identity. I didn’t expect to go there on my sabbatical—thinking I’d focus on the interior wilderness moments of our lives and finding healing in the outdoors—but, as I said, the Spirit sometimes leads us to places we didn’t expect.

And so I’ll think and ponder and pray and above all trust that God will show the way forward. But I already know that I cannot ignore the reality of the world around me.