ED I TOR? I N -CH I EF William Wellman D I GI TAL ED I TOR Nick Babladelis FI CTI ON ED I TOR Allison Myers POETRY ED I TOR Jason Myers VI SU AL ARTS ED I TOR Taylor O. Thomas ASSI STAN T VI SU AL ARTS ED I TOR Caitlin Gilliam W RI TI N G ED I TOR Kiara Jorgenson COPY ED I TOR Carol McCammon
CALL FORSUBMISSIONS Faith, Ecology & Art in the Age of Trump We invite you to submit your original writing, including fiction, poetry, and visual art, including photography, for consideration in the forthcoming Summer 2017 issue of the EcoTheo Review. As you prepare your submissions please consider the issue's theme: Faith, Ecology & Art in the Age of Trump. EcoTheo strives to put faith and ecology in conversation through arts and writing and we hope your work will reflect this. Please see ecotheo.org/ submit for further details.
Cover image: Kate MacDowell, Grace and self effort fighting(2015), hand built porcelain, cone 6 glaze, 16"x13"x7" Thispublication isa project of The EcoTheo Review, puttingfaith and ecology in conversation through arts and writing. The EcoTheo Review, Inc. is a 501(c)3 non?profit corporation. All contributionsare tax deductible. Lend your support at ecotheo.org/donate If you have questions, comments, or concerns(or just want to say "Hello!"), email usat firstname.lastname@example.org.
Submission Deadline: 31 May 2017
ECOTHEO.ORG 2 | ECOTHEO REVIEW | Winter 2017
FROM THEEDITOR Nick Babladelis
?ve been slowly reading through the ?back catalog? of environmental writing? those classics that everyone should make time for. I t?s an illuminating process, but usually not for its novelty. All too often, authors writing decades (let alone centuries) ago could be speaking of our present ecological moment as much as their own. Over and over again they advocate for whole, diverse, and dynamic communities.
There really is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Most recently I ?ve been reading Bill McKibben?s seminal work The End of Nature. Near the end, McKibben offers a ?radical?view of creation? he calls it ?biocentric?. This biocentrism (if it will tolerate being turned into an ?ism) doesn?t put humans at the top or in the center of our planet, but knits us into a complex web. I s that so radical? I n our earliest forms biocentrism was surely innate by virtue of survival and genetics. There are examples through history, perhaps not countless but numerous, of societies that grasped this essential truth: that we are in creation and not above it. Some of us hold this radical view. As contributor Chandra Taylor Smith from the National Audubon Society puts it, we have a ?spiritual sense of interdependence with nature.? But what was once innate we now only sense. I t's heard as a faint whisper against the winds of our 'developed' society. Reclaiming more than just a sense of our biocentric reality is something Smith and many others explore in this issue. But the more frequent strain, and the current I find myself writing against does not place itself in creation but above it. Above the rivers. Above the oil deposits. Above the fisheries and forests. Above the natives, of this land or another. And suddenly, above one another. The treasure of land
and people are to be used, which we've struggled to separate from abused. Our interdependence, one to another and to the world, is a deep truth. The evils we perpetrate flow from ignorance of this fact. But then again, there are some things new under this sun. Of late, our interactions with the land have changed in rate and kind, with ever more destructive results. Writing back in 1989 Bill McKibben noted that ?we live in a radical, unrealistic moment. We live at the end of nature, the moment when the essential character of the world we?ve known since we stopped swinging from our tails is suddenly changing.? How much more unrealistic is this moment, our moment? The world as we know it has changed, we are in a new and vital moment. The question, and the problem, is do we have eyes to see and ears to hear (Matthew 13:16)? I keep looking and listening as I read through this 'back catalog.' But, as Arthur Power notes, you can ?try to catch/ the words/ as she said them/ until you recognize/ there is no way?? no way to fully capture the beauty and terror of this world. Words are useful, important, filled with truth a beauty, but alone they offer only a partial vision of what is and what is possible. As Mary Mattingly declares, it is art that ?is integral to envisioning new worlds.? I n this ecological moment we need all the vision we can muster. So we at EcoTheo Review have collected the art and literature here as a prophetic witness, trumpeting against the kind of destructive voices Karl Helvig speaks of? the voices that threaten to cloud our vision. Do you have the vision? Come, let's look, listen, and act. Winter 2017 | ECOTHEO REVIEW | 3
VISUAL ARTS 9 26
Art & a Non-Violent Ecology Mary Mattingly I deal Cities Kim Beck Ability vs. Culpability
38 Kate MacDowell 56
I f You Would Read the Bible
17 Arthur Powers 20 22
Stewarding Sight Ty Bishop
Field Notes from the Real World
18 Nate Sell 53
The Eucharistic Cheeseburger Daniel Francis Szemple
FROM THE FOLD Voices Karl Helvig
FROM THE FI ELD The Anthropocene Age of Extinction Alex Morrison
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Tears, To Alexander Fu on His Birthday, Notices, Snowbound, A Rose Stanley Moss
12. from The Heart Pine I mprecation Brent House
Summit, Elk Hills Don Thompson
Rutabaga Laura Grace Weldon
Blessed Nicholas Steno Sean Denmark
WRITING Environmental Action is Not a Choice; I t's a Spiritual Obligation Chandra Taylor Smith
Aldo Leopold's Cabin Jeff Burt
CONTRIBUTORS Al ex M or r i son is a master's student at Montreat College studying Environmental Education. Since 2014, she has worked as both a teacher naturalist and assistant conservation photographer. She is an alum of North Carolina State University where she received her Bachelors of Science in Wildlife Biology. Her passion is for utilizing art as a vehicle for science education, with a particular interest in conservation photography. Ar t h u r Pow er s is the author of a collection of short stories set in Brazil, A Hero for the People, The Book of Jotham, and a chapbook of poetry, Edgewater. He received a Fellowship in Fiction from the Massachusetts Artists Foundation and numerous other writing awards. He serves on the board of The Raleigh Review and on the educational committee of The Justice Theater Project, and is Vice President of the Catholic Writers Guild. His poetry has appeared in many other magazines & anthologies. Br en t H ou se, an editor for The Gulf Stream: Poems of the Gulf Coast and a contributing editor for The Tusculum Review, is a native of Necaise, Mississippi, where he raised cattle and watermelons on his family?s farm. Slash Pine Press published his first collection, The Saw Year Prophecies, and his poems have appeared in journals such as Colorado Review, Cream City Review, The Journal, Third Coast and The Kenyon Review. Ch an d r a Tayl or Sm i t h is Vice President for Diversity & I nclusion with the National Audubon Society. With a background in education policy, Christian ministry, and an academic concentration in ecological theology, Chandra brings her passion, commitment to education, and life- long interest in the intersection of the cultural, spiritual, and physical health dimensions of human connections with nature to Audubon's extensive network of environmental learning opportunities. She received a BA and PhD from Vanderbilt University and an MDiv from Harvard Divinity School. D an i el Fr an ci s Szem p l e is a seminarian at Wake Forest University, where he is studying the connection between theology and ecological justice. Daniel has an affinity for knitting, farming, theology, and the martial arts. D on Th om p son has been publishing since the early sixties. He was born in Bakersfield, California, and has lived most of his life in the southern San Joaquin Valley, which provides the setting for most of his poems. Don and his wife Chris live on her family's farm near Buttonwillow in the house that has been home to four generations.
Jef f Bu r t lives in Santa Cruz County, California, with his wife and the redwoods. He has work in Agave, Wayfarer, Nature Writing, The Nervous Breakdown, and Clerestory. He won the 2011 SuRaa short fiction award. K ar l H el vi g, his wife Mikkin and their three kids live in Littleton, Colorado where he is Pastor for Youth and Young Adults at Centennial Covenant Church. He is also an associated faculty of outdoor leadership at Denver Seminary and an affiliate faculty of Outdoor Leadership at Colorado Christian University. K at e M acD ow el l is based out of Portland, Oregon. Her work has been shown throughout the world, including Scope Miami and New York, Seattle Art Fair, ArtAmsterdam, Art London, London Art Fair, Showoff Paris, Art Paris, Solo Project Basel, NEXT and Art Chicago, among other festivals. She was an artist in residence at the Kohler Arts and I ndustry Program and had work in group exhibits in the Museum of Arts and Design (New York), Banksy?s Dismaland Bemusement Park, and MOCA North Miami and Virginia. Her work has been published in books and periodicals including The New York Times Sunday Magazine, Hi-Fructose, American Craft, O.K. Periodicals, Creative Review and Rooms, and Hey! among others. K i m Beck is a multi-media artist. She currently resides in Pittsburgh where she is an Associate Professor in the School of Art at Carnegie Mellon University. Her work has earned extensive awards, fellowships, reviews, and placements in permanent collections. Beck?s exhibition history includes the Walker Art Center, Carnegie Museum of Art, Smack Mellon, Socrates Sculpture Park, Warhol Museum, I ndianapolis Museum of Art, Omi Sculpture Park, Hallwalls and on the High Line in New York City. She holds an MFA from the Rhode I sland School of Design and a BA from Brandeis University. L au r a Gr ace W el d on lives on Bit of Earth Farm where she's an editor and aspiring hermit. She's the author of a poetry collection titled Tending and a handbook of alternative education, Free Range Learning. Laura has written poetry with nursing home residents, used poetry to teach conflict resolution, and painted poems on beehives. Her work appears in such places as Christian Science Monitor, J Journal, Literary Mama, The Shine Journal, Red River Review, Shot Glass Journal, I odine Poetry Journal, and Pudding House. M ar y M at t i n gl y has created work across the United States and abroad. I n 2009 Mattingly founded New York?s
Waterpod Project, hosting 200,000 visitors to the self- sufficient barge space. I n 2012, she traveled to Manila as a participant of the Bronx Museum?s smART power project. I n 2014, she launched Wetland, an artist residency in Philadelphia. Her work has been exhibited at the I nternational Center of Photography, the Seoul Art Center, the Brooklyn Museum, the New York Public Library, deCordova Museum and Sculpture Park, MoMA Education, the Palais de Tokyocreates, the I nternational Havana Biennial, the Bronx Museum of the Arts, and public sites across the U.S. N at e Sel l is an ordained ministry in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and a chaplain at an all boys high school in Maryland, where he lives with his wife, Caroline, and dog, Burley. His interest and love of the natural world were cultivated from his experiences in Scouting, being a canoe guide in the Boundary Waters and Quetico Parks, thru?hiking the Appalachian Trail, hiking 1,000 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail, snowshoeing in the San Juans, and other wilderness ventures. Sean D en m ar k lives in New York City, where he has taught in the public schools and earned an MFA from New York University. A former Peace Corps volunteer originally from Alabama, his work has been published in Jersey Devil Press and The Quotable. St an l ey M oss was born in New York City in 1925 and enlisted in the U.S. Navy, at age seventeen. His books of poetry include The Wrong Angel, The Skull of Adam, The I ntelligence of Clouds, Asleep in the Garden, A History of Color, Songs of I mperfection, Rejoicing, God Breaketh Not All Men?s Hearts Alike, No Tear is Commonplace, I t's About Time, and most recently Almost Complete Poems. He is a private art dealer, largely in Spanish and I talian old masters, and publisher and editor of Sheep Meadow Press, a nonprofit press devoted to poetry. He was educated at Trinity College and Yale. Ty Bi sh op is an emerging artist in the Dallas-Forth Worth, TX. Ty finished a BFA in Drawing and Painting at the University of North Texas. Ty?s paintings have been shown in 500 X Gallery and Main Gallery at University of North Texas. His work has been featured in publications such as Art Nomad (Georgia) and Art Forward Magazine (Louisiana). He has received numerous awards including a grant from University of North Texas and the Gamblin Colors award.
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ENVIRONMENTAL ACTION IS NOTA CHOICE, IT'S A SPIRITUAL OBLIGATION Chandra Taylor Smith
Just asbiodiversity strengthens natural systems, the diversity of human experience strengthensour conservation effortsfor the benefit of nature and all human beings. Audubon must represent and reflect that human diversity, embracingit in all the communities where we work, in order to achieve our conservation goals. Diversity & Inclusion Statement, National Audubon Society
have always been struck by the power and beauty of biodiversity. I t anchors the National Audubon Society?s Diversity & I nclusion statement because diversity is always present when nature and the planet are thriving optimally. And ideally this is the state of nature that must be conserved and sustained. We see it in healthy native plant gardens, coral reefs, in the range of bird species and among culturally rich neighborhoods and cities. But, in my training as an ecological theologian, what inspired me even more about the excellence of diverse ecosystems is the way that every entity on the planet is intrinsically connected. Sallie McFague, a leading ecological theologian and the first to read my dissertation for my doctor of philosophy, would become almost starry-eyed and breathless when she lectured about how, ?We [humans] are, literally, bone of the bone, flesh of flesh of nature. We come from it and we will return to it; and our every waking moment is dependent on the air we breathe, the water we drink, the grain we eat. This influence can be seen in telescopic and microscopic ways? in the ashes from the stars that compose the atoms in our bodies.?
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I remember sitting in the lecture hall thinking, wow, this ancient, original connection to nature is so awesomely undeniable. I t made me wonder why, when conservationist Rachel Carlson warned that we were subjecting ourselves to slow poisoning by the misuse of chemical pesticides that polluted the environment, we didn?t realize that we were also injecting our very bone marrow with the same fatal toxins. Whatever we do to nature, we are doing to ourselves. Yet, becoming sensitive to this connection requires people to stop seeing our relationship with nature as a subject-object proposition, according to McFague. She argues that what is required is a subject-subject reclaiming of our human connection with nature. She describes this connection as a spiritual ecology, which does not diminish our human quest for more subjective or personal meaning and experience between ourselves and something larger than ourselves; God or other sacred values. Seeking our authentic relationship with nature becomes a needed value in our quest for meaning.
Whatever we do to nature, we are doingto ourselves. My commitment to spiritual ecology was nurtured very early in my life by my father, a prominent civil rights activist, artist, minster, liberation theologian and seminary professor. Reconnecting me and my siblings back to nature became a vital way that he and my mother counteracted the negative impact of racism, sexism, and other negativities in society. Camping trips with my family, three months, every summer for twelve years established my passionate sensitivity toward nature. My family began these nature excursions in 1968, when I was in third grade and the civil rights movement was in a fierce struggle to make freedom, safety, confidence, and self-acceptance an authentic reality for all black people. But, when my sister, brother, and I played in forests, dunes, meadows, beaches, deserts, and marshes we transcended the devaluing of who we were and the resulting social and physical limitations that re-
stricted us because we were black. Our play and exploration in nature was unstructured and unchecked, and I remember feeling free, confident, safe, and natural in my skin. What helped me, and my family, integrate campsites and stand against the encounters of varying levels of racism during those summers throughout the 1970s, was a vital understanding of our mutual interdependence with everything. My father often reminded us of Psalms 24:1 ?The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.? He wanted his children to not be afraid to go anywhere on the planet. And, I am not afraid and have a profound sense of being an earthling, as novelist Alice Walker proudly proclaims through The Color Purple. Walker?s character Celie, expressively captures my spiritual connection to nature when she declares, ?But one day when I was sitting quiet and feeling like a motherless child, which I was, it come to me: that feeling of being part of everything, not separate at all. I knew that if I cut a tree, my arm would bleed.?
It iseven more apparent today that whatever we do to nature, we are doing to ourselves... in many waysclimate change isthe greatest test for how we live out our faith.
The illustrationsthroughout highlight the diversity of bird speciesthreatened by human society. These 'priority' birds are identified by the Audubon Society asin need of our focusand conservation efforts. All illustrations are from John J. Audubon's"Birdsof America" provided by the Audubon at audubon.org/birds-of-america. Learn more about Audubon's'priority' birdsat audubon.org/birds/priority.
My spiritual sense of interdependence with nature drives me to raise the same question about climate change today, as I did in graduate school about the warnings from Rachel Carson. I t is even more apparent today that whatever we do to nature, we are doing to ourselves. I believe that in many ways climate change is the greatest test for how we live out our faith. I t is inspiring to see how faith communities are galvanizing action in the Green the Church movement, for example, where African-American congregations are joining together to the fight against climate change and helping churches serve as centers of resilience. For example, at Audubon, our North Carolina team is partnering with Creation Care Alliance of Western North Carolina and North Carolina I nterfaith Power and Light to integrate birds into the larger conversation of creation care, heeding the moral and spiritual call to honor the integrity of God?s creation. Creation care advocates are among the growing choir of voices pushing for bipartisan Winter 2017 | ECOTHEO REVIEW | 7
Above, top to bottom: Plate 250 Artic Tern, Plate 155 Black-throated Blue Warbler, Plate 258 Hudsonean Godwit Previous, top to bottom: Plate 307 Blue Crane, Plate 328 Long Legged Avocet, Plate 31 White Headed (Bald) Eagle
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political action on climate change. Spreading the word about Audubon?s groundbreaking Birds and Climate Change Report? that shows half of North American bird species are threatened by climate change during this century? with people of faith is a part of Audubon?s climate initiative plan. I t?s a way to reach people who might not be Audubon or conservation engaged, but who are primed to help. As the Vice President for Diversity and I nclusion, I help Audubon, a secular, conservation nonprofit, expand and create new partnerships with religious organizations. Religious groups are not just viewed as another diverse partner, but as faith traditions that also have important teachings about how to live in right balance and relationship with creation and the Earth? which is crucial to stopping the harmful impacts of global warming. They are primed to inspire and encourage people to embrace a deeper spiritual ecology that tells us about restraint, sharing our resources, loving all of God?s creation, and even loving our neighbors as ourselves which supports conservation action and the long term sustainability of the planet. Audubon?s contribution to spiritual ecology is the awakening of the sensitivity to nature through birds. Birds are a crucial link in the chain of life. The vast distances birds travel during migration and their exposure to diverse ecosystems make them unique barometers of the Earth?s health. Moreover, birds differ in color, size, behavior, geographical preference and countless other ways and represent the beauty of biodiversity as much as they require healthy biodiverse habitats to thrive. Birds also inspire us to honor and celebrate the equally remarkable diversity of the human species and connect us to the highest value of our interdependence. As we often say at Audubon, ?Where birds thrive, people prosper.? The ?godfather of biodiversity? Thomas Lovejoy says, ?I f you take care of the birds, you take care of most of the big problems in the world.? This is in part because even taking care of the smallest sparrow can become an act with monumental impact for bird conservation as well as for the flourishing of a spiritual ecology. Taking care of the birds helps bridge the subject-subject connection to nature and take it beyond just a conservation practice, to becoming a deeper spiritual obligation.
ART& A NON-VIOLENTECOLOGY Mary Mattingly
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create ecosystems from existing military and industrial materials to begin a new story. I want to change people?s perceptions about value through performative spaces, collaborative sculpture, image making, and storytelling. Art is integral to envisioning new worlds. By continuing to re-imagine the public sphere, I believe artists can work with community members to challenge the power dynamics between corporate, state, and a widening inequality that is addressed through the links between social justice and art.
ART IS INTEGRAL TO ENVISIONING NEW WORLDS A UTOPIAN TURN: MANIFESTO FOR A NONVIOLENT ART I n every way, shape, and form, we are at war. A Manifesto for Nonviolent Art proclaims that art and Utopian thought can cultivate systemic social change. Art can transform people?s perceptions about value, and collective art forms can re-frame predominant ideologies.
1. A Violent Economic Order From the supply chain to the landfill, if our systems of production, trade, and consumption use the social and ecological space of others, it is a form of violence.
(Art and) A Nonviolent Economic Order Make all works of art without participating in economies of violence. Boycott so-called Free Trade, companies that participate in slave labor, or militia-managed extraction. Demand fair wages on behalf of silenced workers and build informal, cross-border supply chains within interdependent Art World networks.
2. A Violent Political Order Since supplying social services interferes with the military industrial power structure, military spending in the U.S. will continue to dominate and define the political order, and the US will continue making war in perpetuity.
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Above: Swale (2016), food forest on a public barge, 130'x40" (photos by Mary Mattingly) Previous Page: Pull (2013), C-print, 30"x30"
(Art and) A Nonviolent Political Order I magine and realize the replacement of war economies, war propaganda, and dominant strategies that oppress. Strengthen an understanding that a military approach fuels arms races, human rights abuses, and weakens economically hallowed-out States. Use social capital to transform multinational governing bodies like the United Nations to be fair.
3. A Violent Education The business of education and compartmentalized forms of learning best serves the people we work for, and those that they work for. With steady erosion of job security, it leaves us dependent while increasing their control.
(Art and) A Nonviolent Education Share underrepresented histories. Expand school curriculums and individual classes to include mutual education around peace, and nonviolence training towards active compassion. Flip the so-called script.
4. A Violent Ecological Order As increased desertification, land degradation, and water privatization continue to fuel global wars through droughts, famine, and resulting forced migration, investors trade in weather derivatives and reinsurance, profiting from ecological disasters.
The Island IsAlso the Origin (2013), C-print, 30"x30"
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Fill (Obstruct, 2014), performance documentation
(Art and) A Nonviolent Ecological Order Work towards worlds where humans serve as caretakers and stewards rather than private owners. Help to recognize the reciprocity of commons and indigenous rights to land, while protecting it from being sold off. Help to disempower the word ?own?.
5. A Violent Social Order Collective traumas are known to change our collective sense of what is possible.
(Art and) A Nonviolent Social Order Reset the dial by working together on Utopian projects. Be a transgressor and an empathic lover. Promote difference not indifference. Remember that we have bigger battles to fight than those we may want to fight against each other.
6. WorkingTowardsa Nonviolent Art How can we dedicate ourselves to living nonviolently, today? This is not an ambitious question? it?s an essential one. I n art and life, create flexible and inclusive schemes for living that encompass respect, non-hierarchy, nonviolence, and tolerance. Art making is powerful; and a nonviolent art is a duty. Bodies such as the UN Can be useful and fair, if: It stopsfavoringrich nations. It represents Latin America and Africa, not just North America, Europe and Asia. It prohibitsthe abuse of war in self-defense. Veto power istaken away from most powerful countries. It enforceslabor and environmental laws.
Mattingly'sManifesto on a Non-violent Art isreprinted here from a 2015 excerpt.
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A Ruin in Reverse (2013), C-print, 30"x30"
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The Damned (Titian Again) (2013), C-print, 30"x30"
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Protester (2012), acrylic transfer, mixed media collage, and graphite on reclaimed fabric, 9"x13"
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Floatinga Boulder (2013), C-print, 30"x30"
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IFYOU WOULD READ THEBIBLE Arthur Powers
go to some foreign place, Juarez, say, in Mexico, and listen to a large woman, a powerful laughing mother, talk about her children crawling bare assed on the dirt floor, and about the way roses grow trellised on an adobe wall, and then try to write it down in a letter to a friend, in English? try to catch the words as she said them until you recognize there is no way ? no way at all? to do it except to take your friend by the hand, returning to Juarez, and go to the woman, the laughing woman, and yes, humbly, listen with awe.
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FIELD NOTES FROM THEREAL WORLD Nate Sell
n the eighth day of our honeymoon, I had an existential crisis. I looked at my wife and said, ?I just don?t think I can do this anymore.? Fear darted across her face. She looked worried. ?What?s wrong?? she asked. ?This just isn?t right. How we are doing this. I ?m becoming the person I can?t stand,? I replied. She sighed and sat down beside me.
The existential crisis wasn?t about marriage. Married life was and is great. My wife was and is great. But on the eighth day of our honeymoon, I was struggling. You see, my wife and I were having a wonderful time. We had rented a little car, were zooming around I celand?s iconic Ring Road, hanging out in hot springs, stuffing our face with langoustine soup, and in general, having a ball. We were also doing the types of things which I abhor. Or at least I thought I did. Which made me feel very conflicted inside. Which takes us back to our argument.
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?I can?t do it anymore,? I said. ?I can?t pull up to one more beautiful waterfall and snap a selfie and look in the gift shop and then get back in the car and drive to the next one.? ?What?s so wrong with being a tourist?? Caroline asked. ?Aren?t you having fun?? She looked at her over- thinking, Debbie- Downer husband sadly. I stammered for an answer. ?Yes! I am having fun! I love it. But I wrote about this kind of crap in the EcoTheo Review and how I resent people who drive up to beautiful scenes but don?t actually enter them or walk more than fifteen feet from their car! I feel dirty! I feel like a hypocrite! I feel like I ?m looking at mountain pornography and getting my rocks off looking at something that I have no real relationship with and I feel that this is voyeuristic and wrong or something!? Caroline looked at me and laughed. ?Why don?t you drink a beer and settle down and tomorrow we can actually go hiking?? she said.
This is why I married her. She knows what I need and I followed her advice and began to feel much better. The next day we hiked off the beaten path and forded a stream and I got us lost and dragged her through some thick bushes until we eventually found our car. Things were looking up. The honeymoon was a blast. I got over feeling like a hypocrite and enjoyed myself. This whole I celandic anecdote is representative of what I think about a lot these days. Have I sold out? Compromised on my values? Have I given up the good fight? Become another cog in the machine? I ?ve got a wife and dog and live in the burbs and work a full week and come home. Most nights we cook dinner and watch West Wing reruns and go to bed and do it again. I haven?t written much about environmental stewardship recently.I haven?t planted a garden. Sometimes I eat conventionally raised meat. I drive my car more than I should. We use the farmer?s market sometimes, but often wind up at Trader Joe?s instead. I kept the window- unit air conditioner blasting all summer long. Global warming is real, but hot Nate is miserable. The radical conservationist Ed Abbey once said that we should be a ?reluctant enthusiast, part time crusader, a half- hearted fanatic? when it comes to fighting to keep the world a beautiful place. I f I had to give myself a report card, I wouldn?t even qualify for half- hearted, part time, or reluctant these days. To be truthful, I still care and worry about the environmental crisis. I just stopped acting like it. I haven?t had the energy to be the crusader I should. Or maybe a more honest assessment is that I just haven?t done anything about it when I could. St. Paul talks about knowing what is right and good and still doing what he hates. He calls that sin. Maybe that?s what it is. Maybe there?s no excuse, other than I ?ve dropped the ball and should suck it up and do more. Or maybe I am just becoming a suburbanite who drives to sweet views on vacation and doesn?t go off on thousand mile hikes anymore and honestly doesn?t feel that
badly about it. Maybe it?s partly because it feels like even if we scream from the mountaintops, nothing is going to change anytime soon anyway. I know this sounds a bit depressing, but I wanted to be honest. I wanted to send back some field notes from a former zealot living in the real world. I write these thoughts, not because I don?t care, or that we should just naively hope that Donald?s right and climate change is a hoax by China. I mean, I ?m sold on environmentalism. I believe we need to change. Trust me. I even helped found this very review. But does being ?sold? on the environmental crisis matter? I think that it is appropriate to acknowledge that even those of us who are ?on board,? who are ?Believers,? people who really, truly, deeply care about and love Creation, still can?t seem to get it together in their own lives to make a difference in the environmental crisis, let alone change the trajectory of the big machine. I think there are a lot of us well-intentioned, poor on follow through, hypocrites out there. Where does this leave us? What then shall we do? I don?t know. I don?t know what the answers are. I don?t know if grassroots efforts to ?save the earth,? pompous as that sounds, will ever amount to anything. Or if we are better off with a few well- placed people and fingers crossed. Maybe both. Maybe I ?m wrong and technology will bail us out. Maybe none of it will be enough. I pray it will.
I think there are a lot of uswell-intentioned, poor on follow through, hypocritesout there.
I had the day off from work today, so I got up early and drove to the nearest trout stream, the Gunpowder. Crisp fall air filled my lungs. Bright orange interspersed with yellows and greens filled the canopy above. My toes got cold in my waiters and gurgling water filled my ears. I got snagged on dead leaves in the water and didn?t see any trout. I didn?t mind. Tonight I ?ll grill dinner with my dog and wife. I ?ll sit on my back porch and I ?ll look out at the sky and I ?ll listen for the geese. I ?ll be thankful. And tomorrow I ?ll get back to work. I t?s about time.
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ALDOLEOPOLD'S CABIN Jeff Burt
jacked cider, giant saw teeth, bald eagles raking the sleepy Wisconsin River for risen fish, sandbars with ribbons of chocolate like a marble cake unfrosted, water shallow on the sides, encrypted, eddied like a young girl?s heart, feet cartographic, eyes a compass rose, riverbank a commingled death and life, hollows where light speaks into a dark space and a field opens? nature left alone does not leave a person alone but left alone inhabits, a new covenant, thorn-snagged twill twirls left like crumbs to lead back to the beginning, pricking briars so thick light is periodic.
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Aldo Leopold's shack is on the National Registry of Historic Places. The images above are taken from that application. The top image offers a rendering of the shack as it stood in the 1970's. Below that is an aerial photograph of the land surrounding the shack with the Wisconsin River cutting through the top of the frame.
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TEARS Forty years ago, I wrote I would sooner disgust you than ask for your compassion. My tears are barley water. I give you my tears to wash your feet. My tears are lace on my father?s face. My tears are old rags that do not fit me. My tears are spit on my face, I know spit is sexual. My tears mean no more to me than my grocery bill. My tears are produce I stand in line for. Crying makes me a child, female, shows I am a man speechless about love. I would sooner hold a porcupine than defend tears. My dogs may pull it to pieces, get a mouthful of quills . . . it?s too lonely. I can?t take care of it. I begin to feel the wish to kill? the thing is dangerous. I don?t know what it eats. (A porcupine is the other animal that cries with tears.) I cover my eyes with my hands. I have betrayed the impossible, my porcupine? the thing?s alive, smells of urine. I look for gills, see ears, I feel the weight of thorns and flesh, Christ?s crown. I went into the woods that know me. The trees remembered my mother. Wildflowers taught me reality, like them, is just what is. The leaves set an example of representative democracy. The wind taught me chants and common prayer. The sunflower taught responsiveness, the dew punctuality. Oh my teachers, where did I ever learn my vices? Walking with you in the woods I have learnt lust. Your lips taught me to be lazy. Your eyes taught me greed. Your touch to lie. You have burned my woods . . . cut down trees, left me only with a snake, the penalty for all those who search for paradise . . .
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TOALEXANDERFU ON HIS BEGINNING AND 13TH BIRTHDAY Cut from your mother, there was a first heartache, a loneliness before your first peek at the world, your mother?s hand was a comb for your proud hair, fresh from the womb? born at night, you and moonlight tipped the scale a 6lb 8oz miracle, a sky-kicking son born to Chinese obligation but already American. You were a human flower, a pink carnation. You were not fed by sunlight and rain. You sucked the wise milk of Han. Your first stop, the Riverdale station, a stuffed lion and meditation. Out of PS 24, you will become a full Alexander moon over the trees before you?re done. I t would not please your mother to have a moon god for a son. She would prefer you had the grace to be mortal, to make the world a better place. There is a lesson in your grandmother?s face: do not forget the Way of your ancestors. Make a wise wish on your 13th birthday, seize the day from history and geography. I f you lead, you will not lose the Way, in your family?s good company where wisdom is common as a sunfish, protected from poisonous snakes by calligraphy: paintings of many as the few, the few as many. You already dine on a gluten-free dish of some dead old King?s English. I n your heart, keep Fu before Alexander and do unto others as you would have others do unto you.
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NOTICES Once an I rishman in his coffin had to be wrapped from foot to chin in English wool, not I rish linen. I saw this notice: ?Some striped scars on his back, runaway slave stole himself, calls himself Jack.?
SNOWBOUND I can?t walk far or drive away. I ?m here, deep in snow. Still, I can follow the heart better than on a sunny day. Snow, rain, and stars have a language I ?ve heard them speak, beyond understanding, a language they?ve written on earth from the start, older than Chinese, Hebrew, or Greek, indifferent to human weather or where we gather. I ?m snowbound, not sure if snow is prose? ice, poetry? or the other way around. The winds live timelessly, the weather comes and goes. I adore a snow goddess in her white drifting dress.
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How can you run about two minutes after you are born? Be a horse, then you can discover a valley, the taste of a mare?s nipple, your coat moist with her 3-year-old blood. I n a dream set partly in a horse barn, greenhouse, outdoors classroom, I thought universe after universe is not here, is out there, out there, there, there, there, still going . . . Here and a rose are within my reach, visible without wise instruments. Our earth and sun don?t matter an onion to dark matter, places without address. Justice is not done in the universe, where the only evidence admissible is invisible or with sweet deceiving countenance. I f all the world?s a stage, the players have stage fright. Ding dong, the final doorbell is ringing. (I n Middle Scottish ?ding? means worthy.) Mr. Trouble won?t take his finger off the button. I ?m here, unmetaphorical. No friend or Eurydice is like any other, lost friends sometimes come as visitations. Still I take up with string theory or the rose-by-any-other-rose theory that holds water. A bee flew into a rose, found darkness and silence there, flew into another rose and another, then bang, fires, everything.
Gravity and darkness are not dreary. Mathematicians are heroes who give meaning to numbers, a wilderness of zeroes. The thing about the cosmos is what we cannot see is beautiful. Not I , you and me is what I want to say. My calling card is the periodic table. I am thorium, the 90th element, silvery and black. Protons, the cosmos, black holes, white dwarfs are never gross. Soon after the invention of the present tense there was comparative and superlative, so off we went to war. We breathe in and out: the simple past came just like that. We believed, needed to pray, invented talk, writing to keep accounts, although greeting by smelling, whining, crying, howling, served us well. We could say please, thank you, good morning and good night, I love you, without a word. A child asked me a question: ?Back at the start, bang!, cruel, kind, or no heart??
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Landscape Futures(2011), installation detail from the exhibition: "Under Construction," charcoal, graphite, flocking, and glitter on cut paper, dimensions variable
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IDEAL CITIES Kim Beck
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Landscape Futures(2011) installation view at Mixed Greens, New York, NY
hen it comes to the work of Kim Beck, expect to be fully enveloped by the environments she creates, through the power of her imagery and the very real spaces she forms. Worlds are drawn, sculpted, printed, installed, and even scattered outdoors. This artist utilizes a variety of mediums to allow herself and viewers to encounter our seemingly mundane surroundings with a fresh perspective. ?My work surveys peripheral spaces,? Beck explains, ?bringing the banal and everyday landscapes into focus. I t is an exploration of change in natural and built environments that are full of everyday weeds, lawns, billboards and half-finished architectural structures. Such silhouettes create mutated landscapes? alien-but-familiar spaces in a continuous state of flux.? I n her exhibition entitled ?Under Development,? Beck presents this notion of environmental flux through intricately cutout and carefully placed media. Viewers are particularly welcomed into the array by way of her massive drawings. She writes: ?I n the large works on paper, lines form piles of lumber, ladders, windows, and structural beams. The scale of the drawings invites viewers to imagine entering a construction site, but one that is unstable and impossible. Spaces are
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at once exterior and interior, with infinite additions and subtractions and cutouts in the paper itself; the simultaneous building and destroying of the images suggests either an optimism underlying destruction.? Beck's interest in our material surroundings does not stop with the category of man-made structures, but also encompasses the facets of our natural environment. At times, she toys with modes of revealing humanity's impact on the environment. Other times, her pieces simply and beautifully call for a re-examination of the earth and its processes of life, growth, and decay. ?My work,? Beck reiterates, ?reflects the imposition of the human influence on the land, questioning ways land is constructed, changed, understood. My drawings are meditations on the structures and surfaces in the landscape; where a pothole in the road jolts the traveler into seeing the landscape anew, the process of drawing it is a meditation on erosion and change. By looking closely at potholes, signs or weeds, the process of drawing, print and installation allows me to contemplate and see afresh the very subjects that can irritate or jar me from experiencing the natural world even within the confines of a city or suburb. What was once a banal eyesore becomes something worthy of notice.?
Under Construction (installation shot 2011), found sawhorses, ladders, lumber, and paint, dimensions variable
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Under Development (2011) ???
30 | ECOTHEO REVIEW | Winter 2017 Under Construction (2011), graphite and charcoal on paper, 96" x 72"
A Great Piece of Turf (2011), graphite on paper, 78.25" x 109"
Under Development (2011), graphite and charcoal on paper with cutouts, 71.5" x 96"
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Potholes(2015-16), bronze, dimensions variable
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NOTICE: A Flock of Signs(detail 2013), paint on plywood and posts, dimensions variable
NOTICE: A Flock of Signs(installation 2013), 100 Acres Park at Indianapolis Museum of Art, paint on plywood and posts, dimensions variable
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Pages from A Field Guide to Weeds(2007), ink on 19th century pocket guide. Print reproductions of the artist book may be purchased at: idealcities.com/books/
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from THEHEARTPINEIMPRECATIONS Brent House
12. Passion for scavengers cease
for the sentinel perched on a high limb falls from its colloquy a black sheen sombers such collaud toward vanity as leden eaves fall among children of secrecy.
Prey arms of powder & pellet rise in barrel unity your pecanpicking heart falls as one for sorrow.
falls as a thinshelled drupe from a husk of shade Redeemer among dark kindred & beadled sky from a wheedle beak & a double heart do caw.
wings of mirth
Hunger for brokenness laid on tread asphalt & hunger for a simp wed by death to a bright & silver cast a slight shade of blue in an empty antelingual pouch a keel laid low in a sigh of need & silent as a secret never told. Dead tongues of bone will press against a pure heart shute as a banner of blood hangs above this murder beyond all seven branches of shelter. Strange fruit falls among droops of catkin & we shall keep & preserve them so from this generation our branches shall be known by wicked & vile fowl exalted. Morning shall hang as shadows of deaths own shell.
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SUMMIT, ELK HILLS Don Thompson
I n the distance, smeared by haze, thin snow from last week?s storm that seems to persist along the ridgeline will melt in a day or two. The Valley in between these low hills and the Sierras always looks abandoned in the bad air. And dry. But we live down there? busy, skittering creatures reluctant to look up and see, almost empty again this year, the storehouses of the snow we need so much.
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Elk Hills is the fifth most productive oil field in the United States. The field was discovered in 1911. During the Arab Oil Embargo of the mid-1970's the area, which had largely been held in reserve, was opened for drilling and production. The oil field is located near the California Aqueduct in the San Joaquin Valley. Left: A cutaway of the geology and fossil fuel deposits underlying the Elk Hills deposit with associated drilling. The United States Department of Energy, public domain. Top: The Elk HIlls Oil Field viewed from orbiting satellites. Notice the blue of the California Aqueduct cutting through the image from the upper left corner. Advanced Land Imager, NASA Earth Observing-I satellite team, public domain. See more from Elk Hillsat ecotheo.org
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ABILITY VS. CULPABILITY Kate MacDowell
38 | ECOTHEO REVIEW | WinterGrace 2017 and self effort fighting(2015), hand built porcelain, cone 6 glaze, 16"x13"x7"
We do not want merely to see beauty? We want somethingelse which can hardly be put into words? to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it. C.S. LEWIS t is easy to find yourself entranced by and enveloped in the work of Kate McDowell. Through intricate pieces of porcelain, humanity slips into a haunting dance with the natural world. Feet grow weeds, rabbits don gas masks, frogs hold fetuses, and lungs inflate with perched canaries. The implications of these intertwined entities are sometimes threatening and always revealing of current ecological concerns. I n MacDowell?s work, a Romantic ideal of our relationship to the natural world conflicts with the reality of our current impact on the environment. Her pieces are in part responses to environmental threats including air pollution, global warming, clear-cutting, and pesticide misuse; and their consequences to our health and the environment including rapidly diminishing plant and animal species. They also borrow from myth, art history, figures of speech and other cultural touchstones. I n some pieces aspects of the human figure stand-in for us and act out sometimes harrowing, sometimes humorous transformations which illustrate our current relationship with the natural world. I n others, animals take on anthropomorphic qualities when they are given safety equipment to attempt to protect them from man-made environmental threats. I n each case the union between man and nature is shown to be one of friction and discomfort with the implication that we too are vulnerable to being victimized by our destructive practices. She uses a variety of methods from hand sculpting each piece out of porcelain, often building a solid form and then hollowing it out, to slip casting and assembling multiples. Smaller forms are built petal by petal, branch by branch and allow her the chance to get immersed in close study of the structure of a blossom or a bee. She sees each piece as a captured and preserved specimen, a painstaking record of endangered natural forms and a commentary on our own culpability. McDowell is evoking a more complex take on the dangers we pose to the world around us? for her work is not solely a critique on the damages humans can cause, but a glimpse into a destruction to which we are also susceptible. Here, an artistic voice is raised against real-time traumas, and it has the power to both jolt awareness and beckon change.
The union between man and nature isshown to be one of friction and discomfort with the implication that we too are vulnerable to beingvictimized by our destructive practices.
Quote taken from Lewis' the sermon "The Weight of Glory." Read it in full at ecotheo.org
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42 | ECOTHEO REVIEW | Winter 17built porcelain, wooden wall pedestal, compact fluorescent lights, and wiring, 22?x22?x5? Canary (2008),20 hand
The God of Change (2011), hand built porcelain and cone 6 glaze, 12"x10.5"x2"
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44 | ECOTHEO REVIEW | Winter 20His 17Tribe (2012), assemblage of approx.150 toads, slip-cast and hand-built vitreous Last of china, stain, cone 10 glaze, and oil paint, 2"-long toads, approx. 96"x96" installed
Uprooted (2007), hand built porcelain, 15"x 13"x7"
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Clay pigeons(2010), photographs and installation, slip cast and hand carved terracotta, lead shot, fired to cone 04, dimensions variable
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David and Goliath (2010), hand built porcelain and cone 6 glaze, 9.5"x8.5"x3"
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First and Last Breath (2010), hand built porcelain, and mixed media, 11"x9"x12"
RUTABAGA Laura Grace Weldon
You darken as my knife slices blushing at what you become. I save your thick leaves and purple skin to feed the cows. A peasant guest at any meal you agree to hide in fragrant stew or gleam nakedly in butter and chives. Though your seeds are tiny you grow with fierce will grateful for poor soil and dry days, heave up from the ground under sheltering stalks to sweeten with the frost. Tonight we take you into our bodies as if we do you a favor? letting your molecules become a higher being, one that knows music and art. But you share with us what makes you a rutabaga. Through you we eat sunlight, taste the soil?s clamoring mysteries, gain your seed?s perfect might.
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THEEUCHARISTICCHEESEBURGER Daniel FrancisSzemple
or most of my life I have enjoyed a fiendish love of cheeseburgers. Whether served at summer cookouts or through the drivethrough window at McDonald?s, there are few sights more appealing to me than a slab of sizzling beef topped with melted cheese, lettuce, and tomato and sandwiched between two buns (don?t forget the ketchup). I n my family grilling burgers has always been a sacred activity. The act itself three-quarters sharing a meal of cheeseburgers, French fries and pickles three-quarters seem to bring us closer together. As I ?ve grown older I have been ordained into the guild of grilling. Like cartoon images of cavemen roasting mutton over a fire, I have spent countless afternoons gathered around a flame-pit with my friends watching the meat transform from pink (flecked with salts and spices) to a dark, crispy brown. To sink your teeth into layers of bread, meat, and vegetable was to taste communion, to embrace an identity both inherited and celebrated. And so while we confessed our Catholic faith on Sundays, on grilling days we partook in our own all-American transubstantiation. I suspect that my love for cheeseburgers is not unique among most U.S. Americans. I ndeed, it is hardly an understatement to claim that in last century hamburgers have become the iconic ?American? food. As Eric Schlosser attests in Fast Food Nation: ?A hamburger and French fries became the quintessential American Meal in the 1950s, thanks to the promotional efforts of fast food chains. The typical American now consumes approximately three hamburgers and four orders of French fries every week.?1 Beneath McDonald?s famous golden arches the logo ?Billions and Billions served? is not merely a clever marketing
tool, but a fact. According to the Wall Street Journal, while McDonald?s stopped publicizing the number of burgers sold in 1994 at 99 billion, roughly twenty years later McDonald?s boasts a significant global presence and conservative estimations of over 300 billion burgers sold (which is close to 43 burgers per person in the world!).2 McDonald?s wild success is partially owed to the increasing trends of meat consumption in American over the past century. Recent studies have shown that U.S. Americans today consume an average of half a pound of meat per day, nearly sixteen times the average in Africa and triple the average of U.S. Americans in 1970.3 To keep pace with the increasing consumer demand for cheap and convenient food (facilitated by the advent of chain grocery stores and fast food restaurants) animal agriculture has evolved into a highly industrialized system capable of raising, processing, and shipping meat at unprecedented levels. While proponents of industrial agriculture applaud the meat industry for its high levels of production such praise casts a shadow over many basic and troubling questions, such as: Where does all of this meat come from? What are the living conditions like for animals destined to be food? And what is the true cost behind a hamburger sold for a dollar? Perhaps the greatest success of modern meat industry is its success at hiding the negative costs for maintaining high production; namely, the systematic suf1 Eric Schlosser. Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meat. (New York, New York: HarperCollins, 2002) xxi. 2 Spencer Jakab. ?McDonald?s 300-Billionth Burger Delayed,? The Wall Street Journal, January 22, 2013. 3 Mark Bittman. Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating. (New York, New York: Simon & Schuster, 2009), 11.
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fering of animals. Veiled behind willful ignorance (?I don?t want to know about it?) and lofty platitudes (?we are feeding the world?) industrial agriculture is a system of mass death and waste far beyond what might even imagine. Rather than promoting practices that reflect the lives and dignity of animals, factory farming commodifies life and practices suffering in the name of profitability. As the singer and songwriter Paul McCartney famously quipped, ?I f slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian.? I n ethical theory the strand of thinking concerned with character is referred to as areteology, or virtue ethics. Rather than discerning what one must do to be moral virtue ethics asks first about who we are, followed up by what kinds of people we want to be. With regards to food justice, areteology asks: What does it mean to be a moral eater? How does one embody morality in one?s eating choices? Read through the lens of theology, virtuous eating might also be understood by asking: How does Christian identity inform my decision to eat (or not eat) a McDonald?s Big Mac? With these questions in mind this essay looks at adopting an expansive sacramental theology, grounded in the Eucharist, as a means for embodying a moral identity in our present food system.
The Industrial Cheeseburger The image of the farm is perhaps the single greatest advertising fraud in the modern food industry. I t is also that industry?s greatest success. When most of us think of farms we often imagine red-painted barns, towering silos, cows grazing across open pastures, and chickens roaming about noisily. I n short, we think of nineteenth-century agrarian images that have been passed on to us through our grandparents and appropriated by food corporations. Such images are meant to create a belief that our food is grown, prepared, and processed in thoughtful and moral ways. Believing that the majority of our food comes from traditional farming methods is a pastoral fiction, guarded by modern consumers against the knowledge of what a ?dollar-menu? cheeseburger actually costs. I n reality the vast majority of our meat is no longer raised on rural pastures, but slaughtered and processed on a massive scale via assembly lines and underpaid hands. The evolution of traditional farming into its modern industrial equivalent began during the early decades of the twentieth century. These years of modest agricultural growth were marked by a 52 | ECOTHEO REVIEW | Winter 2017
significant percentage of the population directly participating in some form of agriculture? either for livelihood or (meager) profit. As Nicolette Niman explains in Righteous Porkchop: This first part of the twentieth century has been described as ?the great era of the farm chicken,? as opposed to the era chicken farms, which would come later.? These were the days when farms actually looked a lot like the image many of us hold in our minds of where our chicken and eggs come from. One poultry industry chronicler writes that 1900 to 1940 was the ?tranquil period in American life when almost every farm has a small flock of chickens to provide those legendary breakfasts, with a goodly number of eggs left over [for market] to provide the necessary spending money (?egg money?) for the women in the family.?4
This was true not only of chickens but generally true of all farm animals. The relationship between animal and farmer was immediate and reciprocal, requiring a method of husbandry concerned with the needs and sensitivities of each animal. As farms slowly began to grow during the middle decades such care and attention would eventually be labeled obsolete. Following the events of World War Two America?s economy exploded in the wake of unprecedented industrial innovation. Virtually every American industry, from cars to food to refrigerators, became consumed with the wonders of specialization and efficiency. I n Fast Food Nation Eric Schlosser shows how the blossoming of industry aligned with Eisenhower-era glorifications of technology, characterized by slogans like ?Better living through chemistry? and ?Our Friend the Atom.?5 I n the context of animal agriculture industrialization meant a radical re-imagining of the profitability of traditional farming methods. Where previously raising farm animals for meat was confined to local economies the advent of industrialization favored a national consumer base. To sustain the demands of an expanding national market businessmen (not farmers) developed new methods for maximizing production while minimizing ?unnecessary costs? such as skilled labor and compassionate living conditions for the animals. Among the most significant of these methods was concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO). Raising the greatest number of animals in the smallest space possible became the meat industry?s emblem for industrial efficiency. 4
Nicolette Hahn Niman. Righteous Porkchop: Finding a Life and Good Food Beyond Factory Farms. (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2009.) 40?41. 5 Schlosser, Fast Food Nation, xxi.
I n the short term these changes allowed agribusinesses to feed millions throughout the country while reaping a sizable fortune. I n the long term industrialization has meant abandoning relationship-oriented farming practices in favor of a productionist ethic defined by ?cramped incarcerations; mutilations; lack of sun and light; lack of exercise; chaining and caging; drugging; force-feeding and, paradoxical in the case of calves; deliberate malnutrition; forced weaning; forced insemination; loss of individuality, general deprivation; frustration of natural instincts and the denial of freedom to express their normal behavior patterns.?6 Rather than being immoral exceptions in an industry, otherwise defined by the moralistic marvels of technological progress, these conditions constitute an abhorrent rule that has become normative in virtually all aspects of industrial farming, from production to consumption. The beef industry is among the most distasteful modern examples of industrialized farming. Unlike most farm animals who spend their lives locked within CAFO industrial cattle are born and breed on feedlots. While the term ?feedlot? conjures an image of pastoral farming, cowboys, perhaps, rustling cattle ?out on the range,? the reality of feedlot is far less spacious.7 Here hundreds of cattle are crammed together into small fenced-in fields that are often overflowing with excrement while utterly devoid of vegetation. As David Coates explains in Old McDonald?s Factory Farm: The ground in feedlots is thickly covered with excrement and often poorly drained. Cattle must stand in freezing mud and manure in the winter? with no dry places to rest and chew the cud? and in summer this mixture is churned into a fine choking dust. And for the cattle used to the protection from the elements given by trees and other natural features of the open range, there is usually neither shade nor shelter? and nary a clump of green grass to be seen.8
Rather than being fed a traditional and nutritionally appropriate diet of grass and roughage, cattle raised on factory farms are fed a high protein mixture of grain, corn and similar products laced with growth hormone and antibiotics. I nvariably both diet and conditions of feedlot life lead to premature and painful deaths. As Coates explains, ?Of the animals dying on feedlots each year 10 percent succumb to digestive tract diseases? caused by an inappropriate diet. A further ?60 percent die from pneumonia and other respiratory diseases caused by exposure, the high levels of dust, and lack of exercise." 9
From the feedlot to the slaughterhouse life is further strained for cattle by the compulsory practices of castration, branding, and dehorning. These practices, frequently done at the same time and without the use of an anesthetic, are extremely painful and disorienting for the animal. Compounding this trauma nearly 700,000 calves and cattle die every year from stress and injuries incurred during transportation.10 Once inside the walls of the slaughterhouse cattle are driven into stales before being individually incapacitated with a steel bolt driven into the head via a captive bolt gun. Though a variety of practices are used for slaughter the most common (and arguably cost-efficient) practice is exsanguination, wherein the cattle?s throat is slit and the animal is left to bleed to death. Once dead the cattle?s carcass is cleaned, processed, and prepared for consumption. Here the cattle?s subjectivity is further stripped as, in the case of ground beef, a single cattle?s body is ground together with the meat of thousands of other cattle to form millions of pink uniform patties. The system described above exists to fulfill a high consumer demand for a dollar-menu economy characterized by cheap and convenient food. Though the production rates of industrialized slaughter are undeniably vast and impressive it must recognized that such innovation costs more than a dollar. The veiled costs of industrialized farming are the loss of subjectivity, dignity, and life for millions of vulnerable beings. I n short the price of a cheeseburger has become the cost of our moral identities as consumers. I f we are to (re)claim our identity as ethically and theologically -bound consumers it is imperative that we begin the messy work of reevaluating our participation in our present food system. We must begin asking ourselves: What does it mean to be a moral eater?
Eating Our Theology Perhaps the most necessary place for Christians to begin responding to the ethicality of factory farming is by re-membering our place at the 6
David C. Coates, Old McDonald?s Factory Farm. (New York: The Continuum Publishing Company, 1989) 20?21. 7 According to Mark Bittman the ideal of grass-fed beef while morally attractive it is practically unviable: ?To raise the amount of beef on grass that is currently being produced in confinement [1.3 billion] would mean destroying nearly all the existing forests and farmlands.? Bittman, Food Matters, 27. 8 Coates, Old McDonald?s Factory Farm, 72. 9 I bid., 74-75. 10 I bid., 99.
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table. Throughout the history of the church the image of the table has been associated with the memory, mystery, and compassionate example of Christ. As Jennifer Ayres eloquently explains in her powerful work Good Food: At the center of the Christian tradition sits a table. I t was around tables that Jesus taught, loved, shared with, and challenged the disciples. At mealtimes, Jesus and the disciples shaped a beloved community, a community that understood sharing, hospitality, and attention to material needs to be at the heart of their life together. Even now, when the beloved community gathers around the table, we affirm that we receive sustenance, we build relationships, and hear a challenge to seek flourishing in the world.11
From scripture we read stories about Jesus and his followers gathered around the table performing miracles (John 2:3-9), welcoming the unwelcome (Matthew 9:9-13), and speaking truth to injustice (Luke 14:12-14). Among these holy feasts the Last Supper is perhaps the most widely celebrated meal in our collective liturgies. When we gather together for worship and communion we remember the words from John?s gospel: ?Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide [dwell] in me. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me? (John 6:56-57). Whether one regards the Eucharist as transubstantiation or real presence, bread and wine or wafer and grape juice, the liturgical meal carries the promise of immense transformative potential for one?s life and spiritual identity. As eloquently expressed in Paul?s declaration to the Corinthians, ?So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see everything has become new!? (2 Corinthians 5:17-18). To partake in the Eucharist is to embody (to take into one?s body) a theological and ethical identity indwelling in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. By eating this bread and drinking this wine we affirm our identity as Christians. This affirmation of identity is what Fred Bahnson refers to as ?embracing the sacramental life,? a life of drawing closer to God through the tangible.12 Expressed liturgically, the sacramental life finds its substance in the ritualized symbols of tradition baptismal waters and communion wafers. However, when imagined expansively the sacramental life reaches into the tangible moments of everyday life, from a rejuvenating hot shower to sharing meals amongst friends. Beyond opening us to the edges of new encounter an expansive sacramental theology weaves our Christian identity in the fabric our daily lives. Through the lens of expanse we are able to glimpse new questions for what it means to be 54 | ECOTHEO REVIEW | Winter 2017
Christian. Here questions such as ?would Jesus break bread at McDonald?s?? are not only possible, but ethically necessary, as we wrestle with our identity as Christian consumers in the modern world. I n light of our discussion on the ethicality of factory farms an expansive understanding of the Eucharist may offer Christians pause to consider whether their consumer participation reflects a moral identity centered in the compassion and justice of Christ. As noted above, the essence of the Eucharist and indeed the sacramental life on a whole is found in the recognition that we draw close to God through the deliciously tangible act of sharing a meal. We do this in remembrance of Christ?s physical life, death, and salvific work for all of creation. As Christians we celebrate the life of Christ by tasting bread and remembering how ?the word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us? (John 1:14). I n Greek the word flesh, translated in the Gospel of John as sarx, doesn?t refer specifically to a human being (anthropos), but to the material substance shared by all living things. As Elizabeth Johnson explains in Abounding in Kindness, ?the sarx which the word of God became not only connects Jesus to other human beings; it also reaches beyond them to join him to the whole biological world of living creatures.?13 Thus, whether in remembrance or ritual embodiment to taste the bread, the flesh of Christ, is to acknowledge the miracle of the incarnation and its significance for humans and animals alike. This understanding challenges the view that animals are mere commodities put forth for human use and consumption. Against the tendency to commodify life a sacramental theology requires that we eat with the recognition that the flesh in-between our teeth is inseparably linked with God who became flesh, the flesh in whom our true identity dwells. When we drink wine, the blood of Christ, we remember Christ?s death and imbuing presence with the victims of all injustice, suffering and death. This is what Johnson describes as the cruciform presence, the presence of God dwelling ?in compassionate solidarity with every living being that suffers, from the dinosaurs wiped out by an asteroid to the baby impala eaten by a lioness. Not a sparrow falls to the ground without eliciting a knowing suffering 11 Jennifer
Ayres, Good Food: Grounded Practical Theology, (Waco, Texas: Baylor University Press, 2013) 55. 12 Fred Bahnson. Soil and Sacrament: A Spiritual Memoir of Food and Faith. (New York, New York: Simon & Schuster, 2013) 10. 13 Elizabeth A. Johnson, Abounding in Kindness: Writings for the People of God, (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2015) 110-111.
in the heart of God.?14 Though it may seem distasteful to compare the bloodied body of a steer to the crucifixion, even here in the broken bones and lacerations of this poor creature Christ is immediately present. When we drink wine we align ourselves to the call of justice knowing that even the suffering of a cow does not escape God?s eyes. We drink knowing that Christ is not limited to human woundedness, but is present in the split blood of all living creatures. Together the bread and wine, body and blood, form a salvific banquet celebrating God?s indwelling life, death and saving presence in the world. To partake in this banquet is to embody and become nourished by the memory and presence of Christ. Beyond physical and spiritual nourishment the Eucharist makes a claim upon our identity that does not end after Sunday worship. As we embody the sacramental life of Christ we are called to live into a eucharistic-identity in our daily lives and ordinary banquets. Through this identity we compelled to live and eat intentionally around the compassionate and just example of Christ. When we live in this way the simple act of eating a cheeseburger carries eucharistic significance that weighs upon our identity as Christians, for better or worse.
The Sacramental Eater I don?t believe there is anything inherently wrong with enjoying the occasional cheeseburger. I certainly have enjoyed more than a few in my time. However, I do believe that such enjoyment must be prefaced with an ethical obligation to understand the cost behind our consumption. The wisdom of traditional agricultural relies upon ecology, the interconnectedness of relationship. This is the wisdom of Ecclesiastes that understands ?what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity? (Ecclesiastes 3:19). As we look to our own participation as sacramental eaters we must do so with the recognition that unrestrained gratification, convenience, and cheapness cannot be our highest ethical principles when it comes to eating. I t is likely that some people will always choose to eat meat, especially when it is packaged as the cheaper and more convenient answer to the question ?What?s for dinner?? Here it must be understood that the goal of ethical eating is not to be perfect, but rather to align our lives and eating
habits as consistently as possible with our values. For Christians those include compassion, justice, love, restraint, and gratitude. And as Christians we have a theological duty to ensure the embodiment of these values into our identity as our consumers; for our own sake as well as for the dignity of the animal. Thus, to live into the sacramental life is to celebrate our identity as Christians and God?s presence in the creatureliness of life, suffering, and death that all creatures share. As Wendell Berry reminds us, the pleasure of eating must always come from celebrating our connection with other living beings and the Creator who gives those beings life. I n his words, Eating with the fullest pleasure? pleasure, that is, that does not depend on ignorance? is perhaps the profoundest enactment of our connection with the world. I n this pleasure we experience and celebrate our dependence and our gratitude, for we are living from mystery, from creatures we did not make to powers we did not comprehend.15
Whether we choose to enact this celebration by abstaining from eating meat or becoming more aware of lives given to our nourishment, sacramental identity has the potential to transform our dinner plates and our lives.
Bibliography Ayres, Jennifer. Good Food: Grounded Practical Theology. Waco, Texas: Baylor University Press, 2013. Bittman, Mark. Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating. New York, New York: Simon & Schuster, 2009. Blanchard, Kathryn D., and Kevin J. O?Brien. An I ntroduction to Christian Environmentalism. Waco, Texas: Baylor University Press, 2014. Coates, David C. Old McDonald?s Factory Farm. New York: The Continuum Publishing Company, 1989. Jakab, Spencer. ?McDonald?s 300-Billionth Burger Delayed,? The Wall Street Journal, January 22, 2013. Johnson, Elizabeth A. Abounding in Kindness: Writings for the People of God, Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2015. Niman, Nicolette Hahn. Righteous Porkchop: Finding a Life and Good Food Beyond Factory Farms. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2009. Schlosser, Eric. Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meat. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2002.
Johnson, Abounding in Kindness, 87. Wendell Berry, ?The Pleasures of Eating,? I n Bringing it to the Table: On Farming and Food, (Berkeley, California: Counterpoint, 2009) 234. 15
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STEWARDINGSIGHT Ty Bishop 56 | ECOTHEO REVIEW | Winter 2017
AscendingSmoke (2016), acrylic and pencil on Reeves BFK 11"x7.5"
The Wild Heart of Life (2016), acrylic on paper, 11"x7.5"
t seems to me that simply the act of looking is a way of stewarding creation. Creation is filled with endless beauty and things that we can learn from by observing it. However, when distracted by our endless to-do list, long commutes, and buzz of our electronic devices, it can be difficult to observe creation despite the the pictures of it that we may have on our desktop backgrounds or see in the office and home. When we look at creation, what are we really looking at? The Genesis account of creation describes that in the beginning ?the earth was without form and void.? Everything we see today is because God spoke form into existence. Form and beauty are an essential part of creation. Echoing this, one of my favorite writers and thinkers, Jacques Maritian, wrote in Art & Scholasticism, that ?Every form is a certain irradiation proceeding from the first brightness.? Thus, everything we see in nature carries meaning and a unique truth that relates to the creation of the world. By observing nature, we can not only experience beauty, but sense something deeper that it is communicating. This can be seen in the Sermon on the Mount when Jesus says to that if we only ?consider the lilies?, we will not worry about money. I n my work, I ?m fascinated by the forms of nature. However, this may not be immediately obvious upon seeing my work. Let me explain. I believe that seeing is a poetic act in which
we approach the mystery of ourselves and the world. I make this exploration through the layering of intuitive mark marks with references to forms found in nature. By working in this way I confront the mystery that surrounds us externally and internally. I n my references from nature, I ?m not interested in replicating nature, but in drawing out forms that are invisible to the eye. This is done through a digital process that converts original photographs to black and white shapes. The digital process removes the references to objects and allows me to see individual, smaller forms that make up the image. I use the digitally manipulated image in multiple ways. One way is creating solid colored forms that are based on the image. I n the works on paper, these are solid colored shapes cut outs from hand painted paper. Another way is a responsive mark making process based on the image. With this process, I ?m responding to the feelings that the form provokes. Some of these marks are quick brush stokes, and other are drawing-like marks that may go off the border of the piece. This makes my work personal as I layer form on top of my personal responses to the image and thus creation. I explain my process only to get back at my original question: When we look at creation, what are we really look at? Ultimately, it is Transcendence which beckons us to respond in personal way. This is the aim of my work.
Seeingisa poetic act in which we approach the mystery of ourselves and the world.
Opposite: A Place to Dream (2016), oil and acrylic on canvas, 48"x36"
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The Last Thing (2016), acrylic on paper, 11"x7.5"
Dull Piety (2016), acrylic on paper, 5"x11"
What the Heart Isand What It Feels(2016), acrylic on paper, 11"x7.5"
Welcome Life (2016), acrylic on paper, 11"x7.5"
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Down the Trail (2016), acrylic, oil, latex, and pastel on canvas, 48"x36"
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Awakened Desire (2016), acrylic on Reeves BFK, 11"x7.5"
BLESSED NICHOLAS STENO Sean Denmark
Though noting with incredulity their employment in the harnessing of winds, Pliny the Elder in his treatise on Natural History could state with more certainty on the subject of Glossopetrae that those forked stones littering mountaintops drop out of heaven during lunar eclipses. So when Ferdinando the Grand Duke of Tuscany, a millennium later, charged his best anatomist with the autopsy of a shark (of such magnitude her removed liver was measured at 100 kg) caught by two men of Livorno, who strung her from a tree and clubbed her to death, the following miracle did Blessed Nicholas Steno1 unveil to Florentine crowds: via the divine, scrupulous hand, a mouthful of tongue-stones set row upon row in perfected lines.
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day: December 5th.
FROM THE FOLD
VOICES Karl Helvig
?ve been asking myself this question, ?What
role does creation ? nature, wilderness areas, the physical world, getting away from urban environments ? play in the lives of students and in the rhythms of student ministries?? My answers have come through two different, yet connected, sets of stories. Then finally land with a brief reflection on the Psalms.
?friends? are also his bullies. He then shared how, at times, his mother says things along the same lines. She tells him that if he were a better person, they wouldn?t say those things to him. She tells him that he isn?t the son she wanted. There is another student in our group whose name is Valerie. She asked if we could talk sometime. When we finally did get together, we chatted for a while before I asked, ?So, what did you want to talk about?? She was clearly hesitant. I have sat across many tables with many students sharing more burdens and question than I care at times to remember. I considered, even braced myself, for whatever it was she was about to say. Would it be bullying, cutting, depression, friends, boyfriends? She said, ?So, I ?m gay. I ?ve known it for quite a while, but I decided it is time to start telling people.? We talked about the friends she had already told, her experiences sharing, and some of the fears she was already overcoming. Then she landed on the one thing that was clearly most troubling. ?I ?m waiting to tell my dad, I ?m pretty sure he will think I am broken somehow? Do you think this means I am broken?? There is a nearly endless trail of wounds and fears that trouble American high school students day after day. These short stories capture only a glimpse of the weight teenagers carry on their shoulders and attempt to hold up along with their friends, families, and faith communities. I f I were to name a single theme, to somehow summarize the disparate and varied challenges they face, I
Studentsregularly hear destructive voices and struggle to hear any that give life.
I n the welcome center of our church, there is a pass-through window with a big counter connecting the kitchen to the lobby. I was sitting on this counter next to Jeff, a high school freshman who is in our youth group. I t was our regular snack time after the meeting ends and most of the students were playing a disorganized game of lobby volleyball just in front of us. A handful of leaders and students were chatting in groups around the room. I n the midst of these snacks and games and casual conversations, Jeff was describing to me some of the bullying he experiences at school. He shared some of the things kids say to him, like: ?You?re worthless.? ?You?re so repulsive.? ?Why don?t you just kill yourself?? ?Don?t you know everyone would be happier if you weren?t here?? I f that isn?t hard enough, he described how some of these students are actually people he calls ?friends.? He wants them to be friends because there is no one else that he can talk to between classes, or sit with at lunch. But, as might be expected, it simply breaks him down when his
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would say this: Students regularly hear destructive voices and struggle to hear any that give life. Not only are they hearing these damaging voices around them, but they also struggle to keep their own voices from repeating the same lies. Students daily listen to voices that tell them they are worthless, and over time find their own voice speaking in agreement. Crammed into crowded hallways in schools with ever increasing standards and pressures to perform, these kids live in a cacophony. And the relentless noise is killing them. As someone committed to creating communities and experiences where students can find healing amidst brokenness, find vitality in destructive environments, my central question has become: What voice will pierce this deafening roar and how can I help students hear that truer, life-giving voice? Hartenstein Lake is a three-mile hike from the Denny Creek Trailhead, just outside Buena Vista, Colorado. I t is a small lake, barely a hundred yards across, but tucked into a Colorado mountain valley it?s a treasure. I t was our second night on a three day backpacking trip when our group of twenty high school students and leaders were getting ready for evening campfire. The fire ring was set back from the lake and up on a small hill. Most of the trees in the area were coniferous and scrub oak bushes made a full undergrowth. There was a sizeable grassy patch around the fire ring with good benches fashioned from fallen trees. The fire ring itself was a circle of neatly piled rocks. Just the way a maintained backcountry campfire ring should be. Whenever silence settled over the campsite, you could hear the two or three small tributaries? seasonal during the snow melt? trickling into the lake and also Denny Creek running down toward the Arkansas river. As a pastor seeking to cultivate health and vibrancy in students lives and as someone who personally finds refreshment in the outdoors, this seemed an ideal, life giving, soul-feeding place to be.
The group was meandering from our tent sites up to the fire ring on a little trail that skirted the edge of the lake. One by one, the group began stopping, turning, and looking toward a small peninsula on the lake. A bull moose had wandered out of the reeds on the south edge of the lake and was casually munching vegetation while rambling along the shoreline. The first time I remember seeing a moose was on a trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) in Northern Minnesota. We were in the boat and only glimpsed it on a far shoreline. Years later I was back in the BWCA paddling a tributary into Sawbill Lake when a huge pair of antler emerged from the water only a couple feet from my canoe. Our party of six paddlers stopped and watched for almost thirty minutes while this bull repeatedly dove under water, resurfacing always with a mouth full of weeds. Every time his antlers broke the surface a chill ran down my arms for being so near to such a gracefully powerful creature. As the students at Hartenstein whisperingly pointed eyes to the lake, there were stifled dances and teenage squeals. A couple students failed to stifle their excitement. They had never seen a moose before. We all simply watched. There was no commentary, no need for explanation or description. 14,197 foot Mt. Yale stood in the background with the setting sun reflecting off its face. I ts trail, which we had hiked that morning, was barely visible from our vantage across the valley floor. You could hear the bull?s smacking lips as it ate the greens from the shore. I ts hooves made a gentle sucking sound as they pulled up from the mud. Given the chance, we would have watched for hours. The moose eventually decided dinner was over and more gracefully than expected galloped a hundred yards along the shoreline before turning and disappearing into the woods.
I will never stop gettingthem out of the city and into remote, pristine, and untouched space. I will never stop prioritizingthis aspect of youth ministry.
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What connects these two sets of stories? How might a student watching a moose enjoy its dinner find any resource for dealing with the burdens and weights of the destructive voices in their lives? The answer is given in a patter found
throughout the Psalms. The Psalms repeatedly tell of a song that creation endlessly sings. All of creation has its own voice that it uses to sing praise to its maker. At the end of my week long adventure trip with high school students, I asked them to answer one simple question before getting on the bus, ?What was the most impactful part of this trip?? We had done a lot of things together: white water rafting, three days of backpacking, summiting a fourteen thousand foot mountain, sharing stories & spiritual testimony, singing together under a glorious banner of stars. Yet, the most common answers from the students had a clear, unified theme: the silence, solitude, spending time alone, the quiet, the stars. At first glance, these answers suggest a desire in students to get away from the buzz of their everyday lives. With technology, crowded classrooms and endless responsibilities from school to activities and sports, they simply wanted silence. However, as I consider their answers further I realize that it?s not actually the silence or the quiet that they love. I t isn't what they do not hear, but rather what they do hear. Outside, away from it all, I believe my students were hearing the one voice that can break through the noise and speak life into their very being. Soaking in the worship song of creation, hearing the glorious refrains of wind and stars and forest and mountain, students are able to hear the voice of their Maker. This voice is always present and always speaking, but too easily drowned out by the clanging commotion all around. I will never stop taking students into ?wild? places. I will never stop getting them out of the city and into remote, pristine, and untouched space. I will never stop prioritizing this aspect of youth ministry because God?s creation, in a way far more pronounced than others, affords students the opportunity to learn? to practice? hearing the voice of the One that gives life.
The heavensdeclare the glory of God; The skiesproclaim the work of hishands. Day after day they pour forth speech; Night after night they reveal knowledge. PSALM 19:1-2
The heavensare yours, and yoursalso the earth; You founded the world and all that isin it. You created the north and the south; Tabor and Hermon singfor joy at your name. PSALM 89:11-12
Praise God, sun and moon, Praise God, all your shiningstart. Praise God, you highest heavens And you watersabove the skies. Let them praise the name of the Lord, for at God?scommand they were created, and God established them for ever and everissued a decree that will never passaway. PSALM 148:3-6
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FROM THE FIELD
THEANTHROPOCENEAGEOFEXTINCTION Alex Morrison
his past June I celebrated my twenty- fourth birthday. I n the just over two decades I have been alive, humankind has accomplished truly incredible things. I n the past twenty or so years we have seen the number of people living in extreme poverty cut in half. Human life expectancy has increased by 5.2 years. And the number of people contracting HI V/ AI DS has and continue to drop sharply. We humans have created a vast global system of interconnected computer networks, successfully cloned animals, and launched the first unmanned terrestrial rover on Mars. When viewed in light of these accomplishments, I would say the past two decades of human history look rather impressive. Rosy, even. There is, however, another twenty-year list of accomplishments accredited to humans that casts a far darker shadow. I n approximately the time it takes to read this article, an area of Brazil's rain forest larger than 200 football fields will have been destroyed. During the past few decades, close to twenty percent of the Amazon rain forest has been cut down, more than in all of the previous 450 years since European colonization began. Global temperatures have risen six- tenths of a degree in the same twenty years. Human population increased by 1.7 billion people, putting greater strain on the earth and her resources. Sea levels have risen three inches due in part to disappearing ice like that of Greenland and Antarctica, which to date have lost 4.9 trillion tons of ice. The list goes on.
The 21st Century Extinction Crisis Humans have left a great impact upon the Earth over the past century than any other time in history, leading scientists to classify the current time period the Anthropocene. This proposed epoch began (roughly in the 1950s) when human activities started to have a significant global impact on Earth's geology and ecosystems. One of the most shocking impacts of this human activity is one receiving less than front-page media attention. According to leading research, the number of extinct species throughout the last century would
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have taken (depending on the vertebrate taxon) between 800 and 10,000 years to disappear. A study published in 2008 by the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School says: Although extinction is a natural phenomenon, it occurs at a natural ?background? rate of about one to five species per year. Scientists estimate we?re now losing species at 1,000 to 10,000 times the background rate, with literally dozens going extinct every day.1
This high rate of species loss in the past century has been classified as the sixth in a previous list of five mass extinction events. Mass extinctions are defined as periods in earth's history when abnormally large numbers of species die out simultaneously or within a limited time frame. To put this in perspective, two of these previous ?Big Five? mass extinction events killed off 70 percent of all species existing on earth at the time. The current rate of species die-off is comparable to such events of magnanimous devastation.
The Biggest Culprits: Habitat Loss and Climate Change Unlike past mass extinctions, caused by events like asteroid strikes, volcanic eruptions, and natural climate shifts, the current crisis is almost entirely caused by us, humans. I n fact, 99 percent of currently threatened species are at risk from anthropogenic activities, primarily those driving habitat loss, introduction of exotic species, and global warming. I ndonesia and Malaysia, nations with large tropical forests, are the dominant producers of palm oil on the world market today. Their forests are being cleared and burned daily to make room for new palm oil plantations. The Sumatran orangutan, elephant, and tiger, all of which are critically endangered, as well the endangered Bornean orangutans and pygmy elephants, are being driven toward extinction as their habitats are converted into massive oil palm plantations. 1 Eric Chivian
and Aaron Bernstein, eds., Sustaining Life: How Human Health Depends on Biodiversity, I ll ed. (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2008).
National Geographic photographer Tim Laman traveled to Borneo in 2015 to document the raging fires consuming large parts of the country, set in-part to clear already deforested land for palm planting and exacerbated by record-breaking drought. The images he produced showcased the horrors of unsuitable land development. Thousands of acres of scorched earth, farmers beating back flames with little more than t-shirts and water buckets, and most heartbreaking of all, Bornean orangutans high in smoke-shrouded trees trying to escape the encroaching inferno. Conservationists worked tirelessly to relocate orangutans when able, but there is little to no doubt that lives of this critically endangered primate were claimed by such ?machines of progress.? Climate change has contributed significantly to the numbers of endangered or now-extinct species. Temperature in the Arctic has increased at twice the rate of the rest of the globe, and the region is expected to increase an additional 8Â° C (14Â° F) by the close of the twenty-first century. Satellite data indicates that since the late 1970s Arctic sea ice has decreased by about 12 percent per decade. What's especially alarming is the decrease in multi-year ice. As the percentage of perennial ice dwindles, the greater likelihood arctic ice obligates (such as the polar bear, walrus and harp seal) will dwindle as well. Scientists are already noting an increase in polar bear starvation deaths, most likely attributed to lack of sea ice hunting grounds. No sea ice, no seals to hunt on the ice, no polar bears. End of story. Because the rate of change in our biosphere is increasing, and because every species?extinction potentially leads to the extinction of others bound to that species in a complex ecological web, numbers of extinctions are likely to snowball in the coming decades as ecosystems unravel.
What Can Be Done? So, what do we do with all of this? How can a problem that seems so large, covers such an array of species across all continents and appears almost insurmountable be tackled? To be honest, no one really knows how many species are in danger of becoming extinct, or have become so already. The numbers are too great, and the afflicted areas too vast to canvas properly. However, in the face of so much loss, actions can still be taken to turn the tide. While much concern over extinction focuses on globally lost species, most of biodiver-
sity?s benefits take place at a local level. That means taking action for imperiled species in our own back yards is the first step toward combating the larger issue of worldwide species extinction. There are very practical ways to take actions towards protecting local species, which will, with enough participation, end up benefiting species globally. For instance, Anthony D. Barnosky, a Professor in the Department of I ntegrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, suggests ten ways everyone can help stop the sixth mass extinction. Extinction is not a problem that will be solved overnight. I t has taken decades, even centuries, to bring us to the crisis point we are now at. And so, we must prepare ourselves for the long work of restoration ahead. So that in the next twenty years we are enjoying the company of more, not less, of God?s creatures.
Bibliography Benton, Michael J. When Life Nearly Died: The Greatest Mass Extinction of All Time, Revised edition edition (London: Thames & Hudson, 2015). Chivian, Eric and Aaron Bernstein, eds. Sustaining Life: How Human Health Depends on Biodiversity, I ll ed. (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2008).
TEN IDEAS TOHELP END EXTINCTION 1. Spread the word, to your family, friends, co-workers, and social media circle: the extinction crisisisreal. 2. Reduce your carbon footprint. 3. Buy productsfrom companiescommitted to using sustainably produced palm oil in their products. 4. Eat fish from only healthy fisheries. 5. Eat lessmeat. 6. Never, ever buy anything made from ivory? or from any other product derived from threatened species. 7. Enjoy nature. 8. Adopt a speciesor become a citizen scientist. 9. Vote for and support leaderswho recognize the importance of switching from a fossil-fuel energy system to a carbon-neutral one, who see the necessity of growing cropsmore efficiently, whose economic agenda includesvaluing nature, and who promote women's rightsto education and healthcare. 10. Don't give up! Thislist from Anthony D. Barnosky wasoriginally published on the Huffington Post Blog. For the full picture we recommend reading Anthony D. Barnosky, Dodging Extinction: Power, Food, Money, and the Future of Life on Earth .
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Putting faith & ecology in conversation through arts & writing.