Week 3 – December 18 – Our Fragile Earth
I fell in love with the ocean when I was twelve years old and went snorkeling in the Caribbean for the first time. It felt like flying. But what I really fell in love with was the brilliance of life under the waves. The coral reef is an intertwined explosion of movement and color, from tiny shrimp to schools of bright tangs and giant purple sponges. That first day I got a sunburn on the back of my arms and legs from hours of watching this hustling, bustling, metropolis of improbable creatures.
Last year, I made a trip to Hawaii with my daughter, then twelve years old. She had recently fallen in love with snorkeling herself on a school trip to the more frigid waters of Catalina island in California where she saw transparent egg cases holding tiny, embryonic, moving sharks, and ocean waters that lit up like sparklers at night with a sweep of the hand. Hawaii, like the Caribbean, has beautiful reefs. But
now, 40 years later, reefs around the world are having a hard time. The Great Barrier Reef in Australia is estimated to be half dead, with climate change contributing to high-temperatures and coral bleaching. Hawaii has suffered several bleaching events in the past decade, in addition to degradation from overwhelming numbers of careless tourists. When we visited last year, waves of sadness at the many dead areas of reef juxtaposed with joy at seeing my daughter spot a moray eel with its dead-eye stare, or a small octopus trying to blend in among the remaining live coral.
Last summer, my aunt and a friend expressed almost a sense of despair over whether they could see grandchildren because of the impact of air travel on the planet. Similarly, I felt deeply torn about the carbon emissions released by our trip to Hawaii. We are right to ponder and consider our impact on the planet. Our fate is intertwined with that of the reef, and that of the whole Earth. Unlike the inhabitants
of the reef, we have agency and can make choices about how we make energy, food, buildings, transportation and other necessities of life. To me, giving up trips to see family as a way to save carbon emissions is a non-starter. And yet, the challenge remains–a challenge that is both within us, and broader than ourselves. To solve climate change, we must act collectively as a society to change our systems, such as creating new ways of generating and using energy that do not harm the planet. The good news is that we can do this, and already are doing this. For example, wind and solar are the fastest growing additions to our electricity grid. Facing the challenge of change requires hope, innovation, and collective action. We can each carry within us a spark of hope, and a commitment to broader societal change so that in another 40 years, reefs will still be a lively spot for future children to play and wonder.
Prayer: God of sea and sky, we confess that we have not honored the legacy given to us of seas and reefs and blue skies. They have been filled with plastics, haze, and suffering from pollution. Open our awareness that we might commit to taking one step to amend our ways to keep from doing harm to our fragile earth. Amen.