May 2020

Dear Friends,

One of the few benefits of the Covid-19 economic shut down has been vastly cleaner air in many large cities. "Los Angeles has notoriously polluted air, but right now it has some of the cleanest of any major city."[1] Of course we cannot continue very long without a functioning economy. But this break from spewing many pollutants gives us a taste. Our air can be like this all the time once we start getting a majority of our energy from renewable sources.

As you know, April 22nd was the 50th Earth Day. Two years after that first celebration, congress passed the Clean Water Act. Under its protection, and with the help of uncounted volunteers, many waterways have recovered enough to support robust fish populations one again. The Clean Air Act of 1963 has had a similarly positive impact on air quality. Our air and water can continue getting cleaner as we work on a variety of mitigations.

God gives the World and life resilience. It's a current buzzword in education, but for good reason. No one and nothing get by without challenges. But with resilience life can adapt, overcome, and spring back. It's remarkable how quickly the air has cleared considering how long and how severely it has been polluted. Many particulate emissions fall back to earth over a week or so, which doesn't mean they're totally harmless, but at least we're not breathing them.

One blessing of nature's resilience is that we don't have to rebuild what has been damaged. (A good thing since mostly we can't.) All we need to do is stop doing damage. And in some cases, restore conditions that favor growth. There are a lot of pulpwood forests in Northwest Wisconsin. The ones now nearing harvest were all planted in nice tidy rows, likely at considerable expense. But the foresters don't do that anymore. Now when they harvest an area, they leave behind a scattering of healthy mature trees. The trees take care of replanting themselves.

A number of people have said they cope with the current isolation and disruption by getting outdoors. Going for long walks or bike rides, visiting with the neighbors from a safe distance, working in the yard and garden, we find our spirits lifted. Not only is Creation resilient itself. It also blesses us by increasing our resilience. Which then finds expression in many creative ways of celebrating and connecting under current limits.

May this forced taste of dramatically cleaner air inspire our ongoing work, until we have a fully functioning economy and clean air all the time.

Cordially,

The Rev. Dr. Thomas D. Harries


[1]Kann, Drew, CNN, Tuesday April 7, 2020. Accessed 3/26/2020