(the one where I quote the Bible, its rare but I’m going there)
This morning I opened the blog to see a featured image from wordpress of a bird coated in oil from the Korean oil spill off the coast of San Fran several years ago (see below):
I literally burst into tears. Two thoughts in my head screamed for supremacy:
- WHY?!? Why is our greed and consumption so insatiable that life itself is not a big enough deterrent to any number of atrocious acts committed in our names or desires?
- Have “I” not clothed and fed the birds of the air and the flowers of the field (a paraphrase of Matthew 6:26-30)
What I had forgotten about the latter is that the illustration in Matthew is not solely, as I remembered it to be, about how well G-d cares for the plants and animals of the Earth. (That passage is actually Psalm 104 which specifically outlines how G-d cares for all creatures and they all have worth.) Instead, Matthew talks of G-d’s love and care for them as an illustration of how much greater His love and care for human beings must be, because “we are more important.” And maybe that is the problem, while not all of us come from a Judeo-Christian tradition many concepts in capitalism are tied to a manifest destiny thoroughly tied to a mis/reading of scripture that has seeped into the global capitalist culture detached from its Divine mandates. Thus we shed ideas of stewardship (Leviticus 25: 23-24, Ezekiel 34: 2-4, Isaiah 24: 4-6, ), vegetarianism (Genesis 1: 29), and animal exploitation as a sign of our moral depravity (Ezekiel 34:17-18) while clinging to the ideas of being better than the plants and the animals of this Earth (Matthew 6:25-32) and domination over or exploitation of those things that do not produce profit (Genesis 26 & 28). In other words, greedy men found or manipulate religions to justify their greed and end the end, their justifications are so ingrained (hegemonic) that they go unquestioned as the very fabric of our societies and our “democracies.” And then this happens:
While the world cries in private because our tears and our truths are too painful or too honest for mainstream media or because the lives of so many lost pales in comparison to a contrived story about the Nation of Islam confronting the Secret Service or your local weather forecast …
But let’s be clear, the devastation in the Gulf is the direct result of over-consumption and dependence on oil in a time when we are entering our 7th year of war in the Middle East. The loss of lives there and here for something we can and should be learning to live without or at least with less rises every hour while we keep driving to nowhere.
Here’s what happens when a wild bird becomes contaminated with crude oil. The instinct to preen their feathers takes over all other needs, including feeding and evading predators. By preening, birds ingest oil which causes systemic damage to their internal organs. By not eating, they become dehydrated and malnourished. And with no ability to evade predators, they are more prone to the Darwinian cycle.
Preening is a bird’s natural way of keeping their feathers aligned, clean and in place, which ensures buoyancy and a watertight seal for proper body temperature. Much like shingles on a roof, birds’ feathers need to be aligned and positioned just right for protection from the water.
The National Wildlife Federation states, “The Gulf Coast is extremely important for hundreds of species of migrants, which variously breed, winter and rest here during migration. The population effects on birds from this spill will be felt as far north as Canada and Alaska and as far south as South America.” (Care)
Yesterday, 494 dead birds were found in the Gulf area. The majority of them had no oil on their feathers but instead likely died from consuming oil, dispersant chemicals, or other toxins related to the spill in the air, water, or through their food.
Whether you subscribe to a religious belief that we are called to care for every living thing on this planet:
But now ask the beasts and they will teach you; And the birds of the air, and they will tell you; Or speak to the Earth, and it will teach you; And the fish of the sea will explain it to you. Who among them does not know … (Job 12:7-9)
a social justice one, like the ancient Arab Agricultural League, the Socialist League, or the more modern Green Peace who were all born out of concern over existing environmental degredation and a desire to combat it; or a self-interested one:
The bottom line is that we are all impacted by the devastation in the Gulf (both the Mexican one and the Persian one).
This morning I cried not just for the loss of a single bird or ecosystem or the break in a food chain in which we are all implicated, but rather over the loss of the most sacred parts of what make us human. Little by little we have been sacrificing the best parts of ourselves to capitalist consumption and without a great sea change we won’t be alive long enough to re-learn how great and wondrous we (all of us on this planet) were meant to be.