The U.S. needs to quit its crude oil habit. TransCanada needs to see the individuals whose health is directly threatened by Keystone XL. The president and legislators alike need to act for the welfare of not only this generation but for the generations to come, if we indeed want to see the flourishing of future generations. We need to admit to our addiction to oil and identify its harmful ecological impact for what it is.
As a person of faith, I want to see our landscapes, waters and skies restored to wholeness. I am compelled by the love I’ve received from God and God’s people to work alongside others for the common good of all. Having experienced the crisp June evenings of Minnesota as well as the asthma-inducing smog of Hong Kong, I know both the beauty of fresh air and green spaces and the dullness of pollution and gray skies. The chances of enjoying the former are quickly dwindling at our current rate of oil consumption, but we still have time to prevent further environmental degradation, if not for future generations then at least for those of us who still look forward to the rest of their lives, no matter our age.
Editor's Note: The following is an excerpt from Fred Bahnson's new book Soil and Sacrament: A Spirtual Memoir of Food and Faith.
The garden is our oldest metaphor. In Genesis God creates the first Adam from the adamah, and tells him to “till and keep” it, the fertile soil on which all life depends. Human from humus. That’s our first etymological clue as to the inextricable bond we share with the soil. Our ecological problems are a result of having forgotten who we are—soil people, inspired by the breath of God. “Earth’s hallowed mould,” as Milton referred to Adam in Paradise Lost. Or in Saint Augustine’s phrase, terra animata—animated earth.
The command to care for soil is our first divinely appointed vocation, yet in our zeal to produce cheap, abundant food we have shunned it; we have tilled the adamah but we have not kept it.
A pipeline that will run from Canada, through the Midwest, and down to the Gulf Coast, the purpose of Keystone is to transport tar sands oil, which is more toxic than conventional oil, to ports where it can be processed and shipped overseas. In fact, the only oil that is guaranteed to stay in the U.S. is what will be spilled in communities and on farmlands. We saw this happen recently when a similar pipeline spilled in Arkansas. And, as for the promise of jobs, independent studies say fewer than 50 permanent jobs will be created by this project. Keystone is a deal in which America gets all the risk without any reward.
It's time for our leaders to take a stand and to stop supporting projects that only perpetuate our dependence on toxic, dirty sources of energy that contribute to climate change. But in the world of politics, it's not enough for something to be a moral imperative to get people to act. It is the nature of politics, and democracy, that our leaders respond when they feel the political pressure to do so. As people of faith, we have a powerful voice in our country. Keystone would not have been an issue in the Massachusetts Senate race if local religious communities had not made it clear that it is important.
I’ve been really lucky this month to hear some of my co-workers’ reflections on the social justice implications of their favorite Christmas carols. It’s been a great opportunity to reflect back on what it is we sing and celebrate each year, the truths we profess without even knowing it.
Naturally, I wanted to get involved, as well. As I was running through the songs I love, "Joy to the World" suddenly popped up in a new light:
Joy to the World, the Lord is come!
Let Earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.