Once in a while I write about adventures out there kayaking the wilderness (really, there is no more wilderness) and last week (8/10/15) it was at a place in Central Florida called Alexander Spring, which I regularly visit.
When I set out, as often I do, I prayed to see wildlife, but instead of large gators (which I normally like to see), I prayed for anything Christ had in mind, whether birds, or fish, or a bear, or even a raccoon or -- even -- turtles. Just turtles. My prayer is often that whatever it is that I see, even if minor, it's something I have never observed before.
As I kayaked, what came to mind -- in this place of God's splendor -- was how unfortunate it is that the whole "global warming" debate has taken the focus off so many other urgent environmental problems.
Even the recent encyclical by Pope Francis, which focused on ecology, devoted just fourteen percent of the discussion to climate change and the rest to other urgent environmental topics (and also how degrading the ecology affects the poor of our world). Yet, listening to Washington, you would think the only issue is the climate.
Right there at Alexander Spring, gorgeous though it is, with water that's still clear, algae now coats almost the entire bottom and many of the aquatic plants, consuming oxygen and by doing so diminishing the number of fish that can thrive in pristine waters. There used to be all manner of exotic and colorful fish, and there are still fish, but they are drab; they have lost their colors. The culprit: fertilizers and other chemicals overused by farmers and homeowners (for lawns). The governor -- who proclaims himself as a born-again Christian -- is very intent on the economy, and that includes allowing more and more developers to do whatever. Degrading the environment for the sake of big business is not (despite what so many, including Catholics, now seem to believe) very Christian.
Is money more important than God's Creation?
Yet, we hear nothing from the White House about algae in springs like Alexander or countless similar issues.
Where is the mention on how carcinogenic chemicals are now detected in virtually all samples of human breast milk, affecting our youngest (no doubt before they are even born, for these compounds are also found in placentas)? Where is the urgency on how synthetic components pervade our food? Where is the alarm over cancer rates? Where is the jawboning when it comes to nuclear plants set right on the water (for example, one right there on the Atlantic near the Everglades)? When the President recently went to the Everglades (for Earth Day), he used that opportunity to speak -- again, as always, at the exclusion of all else -- about global warming instead of how developments and water diverted from the watershed by sugar companies are destroying large swaths of the Everglades (alligators down there are now abnormally skinny, small mammals are disappearing, and panthers can be counted in the dozens).
What about the chemicals -- including residue from birth-control pills -- that are released into our rivers and streams and are blamed for causing bizarre effects on frogs and fish, including some to have both male and female genitals? (There are those who believe that such hormonal disruption may also contribute to human gender confusion.)
Is alleged global warming the only issue? A few years ago, we had the excruciating national spectacle -- constantly on TV -- of oil pouring out of a hole in the Gulf of Mexico after an accident. For weeks many wondered if it might go on forever -- and if so, how the Gulf would ever recover. Very painful. Certainly not anything that would please God (not to mention any of our three most recent Popes, all of whom wrote about protecting God's Creation). Yet, instead of permanently banning drilling underwater, the government not only opted to allow such practices to continue, but expanded drilling survey zones in the Atlantic!
This is disorientation.
Where's the government urgency when it comes to all the plastic, which takes centuries to degrade in the environment, if it ever does? Where's all the concern about wildlife going extinct (as if God create magnificent animals only to watch us decimate them, often for pleasure)? Only twelve percent of ocean fish are not under some sort of threat. Where is the government -- so busy with global warming, with the "greenhouse effect" (which still needs final proof; which still lacks complete evidence) -- when it comes to all the Louisiana wetlands that are vanishing due to oil canals? Where's the government when it comes to the overdose of microwave radiation we are all now enduring (note the rise in brain cancer)?
There's just about nowhere in nature -- however "remote" -- where you can kayak without hearing a motor (if not from a truck, if not from a train, if not from a motorboat, or roaring-loud airboat, from a plane jet or helicopter).
Call these summer ruminations. Or the complaint department. Ah, Alexander Springs: A glorious place, despite the algae, despite the occasional floating Styrofoam cups, despite the occasional plastic bottle (there have been times, at other places, when I have filled up my kayak with litter I retrieve from the reeds).
Glorious. A great place to pray -- nature. God's first temple. It's what He fashioned.
And answered prayers?
Never did see a gator, but heard them honking, and saw some birds, and noticed "something I had never seen" in the way of a creature that could have been a huge sea turtle or an otter, sliding in from the shore. Many, many turtles ("even just turtles.") I have never seen as many there before; not remotely as many. And speaking of something I had never observed before: many times I'm glad just to catch a fleeting glimpse of how turtles swim, once they jump off a log (at my approach). This day, right after spotting what seemed to be a raccoon on the trunk of a tree ("even a raccoon"), I spotted a turtle swimming underwater and not only saw it for longer than a fleeting second but was able to follow it for more than two minutes, until, scurrying from the crystal water, above the algae, it went into the murk near the shoreline and disappeared.
--Michael H. Brown
Healing Through Rosary,
by Father Robert DeGrandis,
with Cecilia Kittley
CDs: Healing Through Rosary, by Father Robert DeGrandis, with Cecilia Kittley