Earth Day 2016

This spring I’ve become aware of prairie burns. I knew they existed before; there were small burns where I lived previously in Wisconsin and Oklahoma. I had chuckled many times at the signs on Oklahoma highway: “Do not drive into smoke.” Never before, though, have I noticed such an intense smell of smoke in the spring. In childhood, I associated the smell of burning with fall, and now, my world has been turned upside down!

The burns, I learned, are necessary to benefit the livestock as well as the wild birds and to maintain the grasses, while shutting out invasive species. Fires prevent the use of chemical herbicides and help restore natural balance.

I had not realized how threatened the tall grass prairie was until I moved here. Ecosystems can be so vulnerable – so many moving parts. A tall grass prairie is much more than grass – it’s birds and bugs and bison and snakes and lizards, flowers and even the occasional tree. When one species thrives or fails, the whole system shifts a little. And when the prairie’s expanse is more and more limited, as it has been by human development, everything suffers.

Meanwhile, the world beyond the prairie has even more challenges. As temperatures increase, both storms and drought threaten. Melting ice caps, rising sea levels, mild winters and intense summers feed our insecurities. Celebrating our connection with the earth becomes almost scary. Despite our technological ways of escaping the natural world, we cannot help but be reminded that we really are affected by the Earth.

How do we celebrate Earth Day this year? There’s little one person or family or congregation can do to keep the temperature increase under 2 degrees. We try our small ways – driving less, hesitating to turn on the A/C, buying things with less packaging, exhorting our elected representatives to create real change – but it seems way too little, way too late.

Maybe this year, we need to simply find the connection again. Consider what about the Earth speaks to you and immerse yourself in it, if only for a little while. Maybe that connection will work to sustain you, to remind you of your commitments to the Earth, and spark some natural wildness within you.

Happy Earth Day,


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