Rise & Shine - September 8
Short Term Gains with Long Term Consequences
Rise & Shine, September 8th
The Rise and Shine discussion group meets Sunday mornings at 9:00 am in the Parlor. Adults from the 8:00 & 10:00 services gather for discussions that are relevant to their lives through the lens of a current topic and scriptural references. This week's discussion outline can be read or downloaded below.
- What can or should we do as a nation, and as individuals, to influence the policies and actions of other sovereign nations?
- What can or should we do about government, organizations, businesses, and even activists that institute policies that harm people, especially those who are poorer?
- What obligations do we have as people of faith to search out and bear witness to the state of the health of planet Earth?
- Where might we Christians be shortsighted at times in our personal lives and communal life, choosing short-term benefits that may have devastating long-term effects?
In the News
Forests Burn in the Amazon, Africa, and the Arctic
For weeks, fires have been burning in Brazil, mainly adjacent to the Amazon rain forest, where farmers are preparing land for next year's crops and pasture. The Amazon rain forest is home to billions of trees, millions of diverse, irreplaceable animal and plant species, and nearly a million indigenous people. Sometimes called "the lungs of the world," the Amazon absorbs vast amounts of planet-warming carbon dioxide and produces 6 percent of Earth's oxygen.
There are 84 percent more fires this year than there were last summer, according to the Brazilian government. Toxic smoke from at least 40,000 fires there has sickened children in São Paulo, the largest city in the Western Hemisphere.
Since coming to power in January, Brazil's conservative Social Liberty Party president Jair Bolsonaro, who campaigned on the promise to open up the rain forest to economic development, has de-staffed and defunded environmental protection agencies by $23 million, firing the director of a scientific agency who reported an 88 percent spike in deforestation (to the tune of three football fields a minute). Previous Brazilian administrations had successfully reduced deforestation 70 percent from 2004 to 2012.
Bolsonaro, who jokingly refers to himself as "Captain Chainsaw," rescinded or weakened regulations designed to protect nature reserves, rain forest and indigenous land from encroachment by ranchers, farmers, loggers and the mining industry. Many of the Amazon rain-forest fires have been ignited by these interests who use slash-and-burn tactics to clear land or to drive indigenous people away. While the fires may not be set in the rain forest itself, sparks can easily spread to protected land near areas under development.
Some activists are concerned that such practices, to improve profitability for a few in the short term, may have long-term, irreversible consequences for future generations and the health of the entire planet.
Not everyone is convinced that the Amazon fires this year are all that unusual or damaging. Forbes magazine recently reported that some of what's been posted about the Amazon fires on social media is misleading or inaccurate, including photos that aren't even of the Amazon or of recent vintage.
It's not unusual for there to be a lot of fires in South America, some in the Amazon. Seven of the nine years from 2002 through 2010 saw considerably more fires in the Amazon than the number reported this year, according to Forbes. A NASA spokesperson said, "As of August 16, 2019, satellite observations indicated that total fire activity in the Amazon basin was slightly below average in comparison to the past 15 years."
Farrell pointed out that wildfires are normal and essential to maintain forest health by clearing out decaying brush, restoring nutrients to the soil, and even helping plants germinate.
One factor that may contribute to increased deforestation, surprisingly, may be the trade war between the United States and China. Since the imposition of U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods, Beijing has retaliated by importing 71 million tons of soybeans from Brazil rather than from America. Increased demand for agricultural products drives higher investment in Brazilian agriculture, which in turn puts pressure on the government to clear more land for cultivation.
Other nations are also grappling with an extreme fire season this year. According to satellite data, in a two-day period in late August, Angola had 6,902 wildfires, and the Democratic Republic of Congo had 3,395, while Brazil had 2,127.
Wildfires in Russia, Alaska, Greenland and Canada have been exacerbated by record-breaking high temperatures, drought and strong winds this summer. Between 6.7 and 8.2 million acres of remote forests are currently burning in eastern Russia.
Globally, July 2019 was the hottest July on record, with the next five hottest Julys all occurring in the past five years. The average global temperature last month was 1.71 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th-century average. Unprecedented high temperatures broke records across Europe and the United States.
The Arctic is heating up faster than other parts of the world. In Siberia, the average June temperature this year is almost 10 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than the average June temperature between 1981 and 2010, according to a spokesperson from the World Meteorological Organization,
In addition, this year, Alaska reported "extreme" drought conditions for the first time. Over 2.5 million acres have burned in Alaska this year, well short of the record of 6.5 million acres lost in 2004. But experts say the 2019 fire season started sooner, in locations farther north than normal, and is lasting longer, with one out of three fires still burning. Arctic fires are becoming larger, more frequent and more devastating.
More on this story can be found at these links:
The Amazon Cannot Be Recovered Once It's Gone. The Atlantic
Amazon Rainforest Fires: Here's What's Really Happening. The New York Times
9 Numbers You Need to Know to Understand the Amazon Fires. PBS
Wildfires Are Burning Around the World. The Most Alarming Is in the Amazon Rainforest. Vox
Why Everything They Say About the Amazon, Including That It's the "Lungs of the World," Is Wrong. Forbes
Trump's Trade War Could Be Fueling Amazon Fires. Bloomberg
Matthew 6:19-20, 31-33
[Jesus said,] "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. ... Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear?' For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (For context, read 6:19-33.)
1 Corinthians 9:22-23
To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.
Prayer for the Conservation of Natural Resources (BCP p.827)
Almighty God, in giving us dominion over things on earth,
you made us fellow workers in your creation: Give us wisdom
and reverence so to use the resources of nature, that no one
may suffer from our abuse of them, and that generations yet
to come may continue to praise you for your bounty; through
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Tags: Rise & Shine