After a warm, Saint Louis-like fall, full-blown winter weather came almost on the winter solstice. What a beautiful snow it was, except from the end of a snow shovel! After the drought last summer this snow is extraordinarily important to help replenish the moisture deficit in the soil. Despite the fifteen inches of snow, the sub soil is still exceedingly dry. It is impossible to tell whether this one event or the drought of last summer constitutes evidence of climate change, however, I feel that all of these increasingly frequent and out of the ordinary weather events must certainly be because of climate change.
According to the writings of several people more learned than I about climate change, it appears that this course of change is certainly going to be a part of our future. This will be the case unless the people of the world, mostly in the developed countries, dramatically reduce their seemingly insatiable consumption of fossil fuels, which when burned release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is the main gas that creates a blanket around the earth, causing it to warm by trapping heat inside the atmosphere. I pray that the people of the world will recognize the difficult place we are putting our selves and the rest of creation into, and change behavior accordingly. Change is difficult. In my view however, we have not experienced change that has sufficient shock value to really get society’s attention.
So what in the world does this have to do with Holy Wisdom Monastery? First of all, the natural systems are stressed with more frequent, violent or intense weather events such as the drought of last summer. Some species of plants in our prairies withstand the environmental stress better than others and their populations will increase. Conversely, some species will diminish in number or disappear completely. This is also true of animals, insects, fungi and many other kinds of living things that inhabit monastery land. Additionally as we plan for future ecological restorations, such as restoring a prairie, we have to ask our selves, should we be aiming to restore a ‘Middleton, Wisconsin prairie’ or a ‘Saint Louis, Missouri prairie’? Each prairie has different species that are better suited for a specific climate, so with the climate changes on our horizon, we have the difficult task of predicting which climate we will have at Holy Wisdom Monastery. It is possible that the climate that we end up with will be different from anything that we have had before. Therefore the ecological community that will live here will be different from anything quite like what we had before. Possibly we will have to be ecumenical in regard to our biological reality.
My prayer for caring for the earth is that we have the will and courage to do our part looking after the well being of nature. Possibly the monastery can provide a model for how to live well and honorably and in an attitude of praise on the earth. Another possibility is that the monastery could become a training ground for others in eco-spirituality. I give thanks to God for providing the goodness and beauty of nature and this worthy test to see if we can suitably and gladly accept the responsibility to care for creation.
Greg Armstrong, volunteer