Yesterday I had the pleasure of playing Golf at the ERCA (Essex Region Conservation Authority) golf tournament I support of local conservation efforts and wilderness protection. I offer many thanks to the Charltons (Mark and Sally) for making my day yesterday. I stepped in for Mark who was unable to attend but made is offering to the cause by sending along me! It was a great day indeed and I enjoyed playing with Tony Breckhow, Gary Charlton, and Uncle Jim Evans. Thank you gentleman for a fantastic day indeed. I might note that Tony’s putting was a thing to behold!
The day itself got me thinking about the good work that ERCA does for the Windsor-Essex Area. I reflected last night on the Creation story. Reread again the words of Genesis to remind myself of the richness of the story that our ancestors passed from generation to generation to show the importance of the earth and the created order. There was a day when the cosmos was so very integral to us as human beings and I fear that has long since been forgotten. Now I realize that the environment has become the favourite topic of all political parties lately – mostly because we seem as a people to becoming aware at last of our need to be more attentive to the destruction that we ourselves have generated. Joseph Wood Krutch was an American writer and naturalist. He spent time writing and speaking in the last century to try and save what was left of natural habitats of Arizona and other places. In his day, he was a radical and probably labelled a “tree hugger” or perhaps a “cactus hugger (that would hurt). He had an interesting thought - "If people destroy something replaceable made by [hu]mankind, they are called vandals; if they destroy something irreplaceable made by God, they are called developers." I was quite taken by this idea of vandalism vs. development. We often take not a moment to realize the cost of our “developments.” Of course I am not merely speaking of financial cost but the very cost to destroying what in this part of the planted is becoming increasingly more rare natural wilderness and entire ecosystems.
I come at this having lived in a very rural Newfoundland and having lived in the Urban Sprawl of places in Ontario like London, Barrie, and now Windsor and our American suburb to the north – Detroit. Here I see very little wilderness, and spotting any real wildlife is always and exciting event that can literally stop traffic, as it did here in Tecumseh a couple of weeks ago when a deer was found travelling down Riverside Drive. This of course is very different then whet I grew up with. In Newfoundland we almost all lived in wilderness unless you were in St. John’s and even then you were not far from it. Steams and rivers and natural ponds and rivers were taken for granted. There is no doubt that the decreasing wildlife areas in this part of the world have an impact to all of us. This is especially true if our reduced forested areas as well as the pollution and destruction of our rivers and waterways. So I see conservation here very much as an “environmental” issue. I mean to say that it really is about our surroundings and the reduction of arid lands and the protection of forests and wetlands. God’s created order is no doubt being vandalized. I sometimes get the sense that we read that passage where it says “God beheld what was created and it was good,” and we say, “ well …it is good but really it could be better.” We are unrepentant to the place of being supercilious about our need to “develop” and grow.
Now in Newfoundland I see conservation needs differently. There is an abundance of clean unpolluted wilderness in Newfoundland. Indeed, most of the inland of the province is wilderness as the provinces population is primarily coastal. The need for conservation there really is directly related to protecting wildlife and forests. Now I come from a family that has always hunted, fished and heated our homes by cutting firewood, so I would not want my words to be mistaken for being opposed to a form of subsistence living that allows for that kind of lifestyle. In many ways it is much healthier than the alternatives that we all see here. This is really about being realistic and not taking everything because it is there. Yet in Newfoundland there is a need for awareness around protection of species. The collapse of the cod fishery is a good example of how desperately humans need to be convinced that there is a limit to what can be taken from nature before it all falls apart. Governments allowed fishers from Newfoundland and all over the world to rake quotas that were far too unrealistic and were bound to cause collapse. And many people still have the idea that what ever the next thing is – lets fish it till it’s gone. As children we watched as Caplin (small smelt-like fish) rolled on the beaches to spawn. Most years now, they never see the beaches. It was a lucrative fishery that has gone too far. I have watched people go to hunt seabirds called turrs and instead of bringing in 25-30 you see boatloads of 400. Guess what? Birds are not as plentiful as they used to be!
Hear the words of Genesis
“God spoke: "Swarm, Ocean, with fish and all sea life! Birds, fly through the sky over Earth!"
God created the huge whales, all the swarm of life in the waters,
And every kind and species of flying birds. God saw that it was good.
God blessed them: "Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Ocean! Birds, reproduce on Earth!"
It was evening, it was morning— Day Five.”
At times I wonder is we have the attitude that we need to conquer everything. These very creatures are such an important part of our sustenance on this plant and indeed for us Newfoundlanders, they are an important part of livelihood for a lot of people. Weather it is our inability to see the importance of forest in South-western Ontario or an inability to conserve fish in Newfoundland, the protection of God’s created order should be an important matter for all of us. The efforts of ERCA should well be appreciated by all of us as they seek to re-establish wilderness areas and to protect what we have left. Thankfully there is a changing awareness and ERCA has had a large role to play in that here. In Newfoundland and Labrador I have noticed that there are is as well an increased effort to raise awareness. Organizations like the Conservation Corps of Newfoundland and Labrador are doing good work to help a younger generation to work hard to not just maintain and protect but help restore natural resources for the generations that are too come. Let us all think about how we can participate in looking after the created order. We might all pray to take the words of scripture into our hearts; “God looked over everything he had made; it was so good, so very good!”We need not make it any better – in fact we need to get it back to good!