The wild strawberries are ripening in my neighborhood. I would not have noticed it had I not been accompanying my dog, Lucky, on a leisurely sniff-n-stroll. Lucky, you see, like the robins and finches and cardinals who eat at my birdfeeders, like the rabbits who graze on my lawn, like the pigeon who has decided to nest atop my garage door opener, notices small things.
The argument might be made that the reason I and many other of my fellow homo sapiens in the neighborhood do not seem to notice these small, self-multiplying bits of red juiciness is that we are too busy with more important things. We have places to go, people to see, things to do.
The grass and the vegetation around fences and trees are something to be cut, mulched, weed-whacked, chemically enhanced, or impeded and forgotten. Fortunately nature has a way of making us notice it. Unfortunately, this attention getting is not often as benign as that caused by Lucky slowing me and causing me to look closely at the ground.
What has been taking place in the Gulf of Mexico since the massive failure of systems on BP's Deepwater Horizon oilrig is one of those very much less-than-benign attention getters. Oil gushing out from the gaping hole in the ocean floor at a rate of more than 210,000 gallons a day has created plumes of crude oil thousands of feet tall in the tenth largest body of water on the face of the planet.
At the time of this writing, oil has been beaching on islands and the Louisiana coast for a few days. Currents in the Gulf have caused the underwater plumes and some scattered surface oil and tar balls to drift just past 27 degrees North latitude (about halfway down the coast of Florida.) Having entered the Gulf Loop current on approximately May 20 this tendril of environmental and economic destruction may have been carried past the Keys and up Florida's Atlantic coast by the time this is published.
Heart-rending, tragic and overwhelming are some words that come to mind, but fail to capture the full effect of this largest, by far, environmental disaster in our nation's (or perhaps the world's) history. Nature has once again gotten our attention, and in the images of helpless oil covered pelicans, dead sea turtles and black, gooey tides we again see what destruction that our hubris and our shortsightedness can wreak upon God's good creation.
Even as the pictures of charismatic species laid waste fire our compassion, our addiction to foreign oil, and our governmental system based upon corporate greed and political cronyism and its results are also killing billions upon billions of less photogenic plants and creatures. Algae, krill and plankton have and will die, as will the species that eat them, and the species that eat them up the food chain.
Ultimately people will suffer. And even though the suffering of animals, the wholesale killing of plant species, and the crying out of creation itself (Rom. 8:22) ought to matter to all of us, some of us can only be bothered to care when human lives and personal well-being are at stake. So let's be reminded that people all along the Gulf Coast and up the Eastern Seaboard will suffer as fishing and tourism dry up.
Somehow our addiction to fossil fuels, our national commitment to allowing industries to run regulatory arms of the government, and our ignoring creation has led to this. When will we learn? Are we even any longer capable of learning?
Pray, won't you, that we are. Pray for the people, wildlife and plants of the Gulf and Atlantic coasts. Most of all pray for our hardness and ignorance of heart. Pray that we will start seeing the world around us, and respect it accordingly as God's good gift.
The Rev. Jeff Johnston and his family live in Morton, Ill., where he is pastor of Community United Church of Christ.