Open your eyes, climate change is real

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I am not remarkably skilled in deeper matters of natural sciences. Having said that, let me also insist that I probably have come to learn more about the earth and weather than most people of my time. For me, it began as a youngster growing up in a state where, if you stood on a high hill on a clear day you could see a church steeple 50 miles away. Working outside gave me an intuitive sense of the aesthetic that abounds on this planet: winters’ frigid days, summers’ intense heat, clouds, light and dark, wind, soft or gale-force in your face, thunderheads on the horizon, lightning too close, the fear of hail.

What impressed me most measurably, however, in that environment in which I grew up was the predictability of the cycles. Despite the “terrible thirties” we knew this could not last forever; good days would recycle themselves, they always had before.

A darkening contrast to all the above, however, appears so evident today: My cursory study of local weather science tells me that something is happening on our planet that probably has not happened since the “Big Bang,” that moment in evolutionary history when order was set in place by a benevolent Creator. Thus it has been for trillions of years (earth time) until this most recent age when it has become evident that something is awry. The “normal” sense of predictability seems to have lost its bearings: the planet is heating up causing concern about the loss of glacier surface, the alarming rise of the ocean levels, so stable for so long. Then, of course, there are the usual newspaper headlines: storms, excessive rain, flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes, drought in California, unending rain in the East. The interesting feature in all this is that the only people who seem alarmed are the ones who know best: the environmental/ecological scientists and theologians, that is, those who ask reasons regarding what seems evident to others. Hardly a word, of course, from those who hold a vested interest in letting things be … “until we are sure.”

For those among us who may wish to look more deeply at this issue of climate change, a glance at today’s Gospel (15th Sunday in Ordinary Time) will provide some valuable insight. Jesus, being asked by his disciples why he speaks in story-form, replies: “I use parables when I speak…because they (the people) look but they do not see, they listen but do not hear or understand…”

Quoting the prophet Isaiah, Jesus continues, “sluggish indeed is this peoples’ heart. They have scarcely heard with their ears; they have firmly closed their eyes; otherwise they might see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their hearts and turn back to me and I would heal them.”

Obviously, these quotes from Jesus and Isaiah the prophet do not directly impact our current environmental question, but with a bit of imagination many people of our age might well be compared to the “deaf” and “blind” of Jesus time. The signs of change are obvious but only the wise seem to show any genuine concern or compassion for the future of the next generation and, indeed, the very state of the planet itself. There is truly a spiritual responsibility beholden upon all of us to open our eyes and unstop our ears so that we will understand, finally, what creation is telling us before it is too late.

Scriptures for July 13

Isaiah 55: 10-11

Romans 8: 18-23

Matthew 13: 1-23

The writer formerly served the Anchorage Archdiocese as director of pastoral education. He now lives in Notre Dame, Indiana.


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