Over the holidays, my family spent a glorious 65 degree day taking a leisurely walk through Broad Run Park on the South side of Louisville. The park is beautiful and is complete with scenic overlooks and a children’s playground that is so awesome it made both my children’s and my eyes big!
There was only one thing about this picture-perfect day that was a little unsettling: It shouldn’t have been so perfect. It was the end of December and I was in a t-shirt. I realize that Louisville Decembers are warmer than other states, but the average temperature for the last several years has been between 45-50 degrees. 65 degrees was considerably above average.
Just three or four weeks later, we experienced our share of the polar vortex and our temperatures dropped to single digits. While I’m from Iowa and am certainly used to cooler winter months, the average January temperatures in Louisville for the last several years has been 30-40 degrees. The single digit temperatures were not only way below average, within a couple of days of the polar vortex sweep the weather pendulum swung in the opposite direction and we experienced another 65 degree day in what should be one of the coldest months of winter. I had completely frozen pipes on one side of my house on Wednesday; and all pipes completely thawed (without my assistance) by Friday.
While I’m certainly not a meteorologist and am definitely not a climatologist, I have watched seasons shift over my lifetime and have watched more and more extreme weather patterns making their way across the U.S. And, it feels like something is desperately off. Not only does my body respond awkwardly to the radical changes in temperature, but it seems the wildlife and wildflowers aren’t quite sure what to do either. I had outside plants blooming in December, and had to administer doses of flea and tick prevention on my dogs in months I should not have to worry about fleas/ticks.
These little climate events in my small world coupled with major, catastrophic events like the recent string of hurricanes on the East coast, should be giving us pause. It feels like Mother Nature is shouting at the top of her lungs for us to wake up and take notice. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has certainly affirmed why Mother Nature might be so frustrated right now.
Several years ago, the Catholic bishops in the Philippines identified environmental degradation as the primary life issue of our time. These Catholic bishops were certainly not being flippant or disrespectful toward any of the other life issues. What they were implying was simply this: If we abuse our planetary home to the point where we can no longer survive as a human species, then none of the other life issues will matter.
I can certainly understand what the bishops were saying and agree that being good stewards of our planetary home isn’t just a nice idea; it’s now completely necessary for our existence. Pope John Paul II said, “The earth will not continue to offer its harvest, except with faithful stewardship. We cannot say we love the land and then take steps to destroy it for use by future generations.”
The time for embracing our scriptural call to be good stewards of this exceptional planet has long past. For the sake of our children, grandchildren and future generations, I hope and pray that all of us – especially us Christians – will hold tight and fast to God’s word in Genesis, Chapter One: “God created and it was good.” May all our actions acknowledge the sacredness and goodness of our planetary home, and may our faith compel us to be good stewards of it.