Jim Taylor's Columns - 'Soft Edges' and 'Sharp Edges'

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Published on Saturday, October 14, 2023

Earth Day celebrates our favourite planet

Earth Day, April 22, 2023

Where would you live, if you had unlimited choice?
Perhaps you’ve thought, “Paris. Or the Italian Riviera. Or Bali…”
Driving through picturesque small towns in rural Ontario, I used to think, “I could live here.”
And every time I drove west into the mountains, I felt myself exulting, “I want to live here…”
But the question involves something more than that: On what other planet would you want to live?
Mars is at least possible – if you’re willing to carry your own oxygen supply around with you. Mars would be a great adventure. But would you prefer to live there, rather than here?
Other planets fall somewhere between unlikely and impossible.
Temperatures on Venus would make your blood boil. Jupiter’s gravity would crush you into a pancake. Some moons of Jupiter and Saturn might – just might – offer a habitable environment. But would you seriously WANT to live there?
I wouldn’t. I’m quite happy with – I’m in love with, I’m in awe of – this planet earth. I can’t imagine living anywhere else. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.
Compared to other places where we could live, this small blue marble floating in space is paradise.
Long ago, Persian poet Omar Khayyam wrote, “A jug of wine, a loaf of bread, and thou Beside me singing in the Wilderness, Ah, Wilderness were Paradise enow [enough].”
That’s the whole point of Earth Day, this Saturday, April 22.
Paradise is here. Now. Not somewhere else.

Already come a long way
The first Earth Day was celebrated April 22, 1970. According to Google, U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson and Harvard graduate student Denis Hayes created Earth Day to force the environment onto the national agenda.
Back then, the U.S. had no EPA, no Clean Air Act, no laws or regulations to protect the environment.
The year before, the Cayahoga River in Cleveland had caught fire. On industrial pollutants drifting down to Lake Erie. It had happened at least 12 times before.
Rachel Carson’s Silent Sprung had documented the fallout of industrial chemicals on life. Nuclear fallout had put radioactive compounds into every human body – no, into every living thing.
Geologic records show that the earth has gone through five “Great Extinctions.” Recent findings put us currently in the sixth Great Extinction. Perhaps not of ourselves – not yet – but certainly of mammals and fish.
I’m not personally afraid of the effects of global warming. Because I won’t be around to see the seas rise, the deserts spread, the glaciers melt. I won’t be here to see billions dying of heat and drought in summer, floods and blizzards in winter.
I certainly won’t be one of the privileged few who can survive in air-conditioned bubbles.
The planet itself will not die. But the life that survives us will be dramatically different. Perhaps insects will become the world’s dominant species. Or galloping ivy. Or slime mould.
Earth Day is not billed as a religious event. But it is. “Take off your shoes,” a burning bush told Moses in the desert, 3500 years ago. “You’re standing on holy ground.”
This fragile blue marble, spinning in the vast emptiness of space, is indeed holy ground. Paradise enow.
Let’s keep it that way.

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Copyright © 2023 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups, and links from other blogs, welcomed; all other rights reserved.
To comment on this column, write jimt@quixotic.ca
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YOUR TURN
Last week I wrote about Geese – and Easter, and resrrectios, and the community of Hazelton. The very first letteret ha came in camefrom someone who had shard the same experience!
Christine Eide wrote from Terrace, in Northern B.C., “A couple of Sundays ago I was walking my dog as the sun was rising over the mountains. All of a sudden, I heard some loud bird noise -- crows? Ravens? No, hundreds of Canada geese in pairs or small groups low overhead. I think they were heading to a slough if the mighty Skeena or a farmer’s field. I stood in awe - -my God moment for that day!
“By the way, I grew up in Hazelton and the Gitksan call the mountain Stegyawdon. (I think that’s the correct spelling).”

Isabel Gibson: “From the Canada geese standing around (in dudgeon?) on frozen ponds every time there's a late spring (‘Where the heck did the water go?’ they seem to be thinking), to the frail weed I saw last week growing out of an all-concrete parking divider, life just keeps on coming.
“It can be hard to trust in that, sometimes. Maybe that's when we're ready to experience that new life as a resurrection -- a breaking-through.”

Andy Wightman saw flocks of eagles up north, rather than geese: “I had two similar experiences with bald eagles. Mary-Lou and I were travelling from Terrace to Prince Rupert on a rainy north coast day and about mid way on a tide flat we saw what looked like many hundreds or bald white heads. The reason….eulachon [JT: a small oily fish’].
“A few years later, in late spring, I was in Gingolx (aka Kincolith) at the mouth of the Nass River again with muddy tide flats swamped with eagles. I ‘surveyed’ (I am a civil engineer after all) the mud flat into quadrants referencing landmarks across the river so that I could count. While eagles do not cooperate by staying still, I did count but lost track after well over 2000. I relished that scene and remember it vividly.”

Don Gunning called the column “quite brilliant!” then he mentioned the subject thast makes Canada geese undesirable in some settings: “If only they would drop their offerings outside of Park and Golf Course boundaries!”

Several of you chose to write about the theme of resurrection(s) rather than birds.

Margaret Tribe: “I agree with you that there are resurrections everywhere. In fact, I believe that resurrection is a universal pattern, or as you expressed it, a daily truth. Night always turns into day. Spring always follows winter. Flowers grow, bloom, die, drop seeds that will become next spring's blooms. The sun draws droplets of water up from the lakes and oceans, which become clouds, and then fall back to nurture the earth as rain. And your very profound examples. Resurrections all.
“As the universal pattern is with all of creation, so it is with us -- we are born, we live, we die, and then on to whatever is next. Resurrection. Jesus shows us that we are all part of the universal pattern of all of creation.
“And thank you for sharing your experience with the thousands of geese. What a gift! I see that as a blessing as they flew over you, on their way north to participate in yet another resurrection as they tended their nests and the new generation of geese.”

Tom Watson: “Your ‘resurrections everywhere’ reminded me of the saying ‘with every new birth the world begins all over again’."

And Dorothy Haug: “Amen. There ARE hallelujahs everywhere!”
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