February 18, 2007 – A Day of Thought & Beauty

Today was a day full of thought and beauty. This morning Claire’s high school youth group planned, led, and conducted the Sunday Service. Their theme was the benefits of the arts (music, dance, drama, visual arts) to support varied ways of learning and expression. Each person performed, spoke of what moved them meant to them and reported on research that supported different ways of learning.

The afternoon was Claire’s band concert – the highlight was a song commemorating the battle of Gettysburg, complete with muted trumpets off-stage in the distance, distant drums outside the auditorium simulating gunfire, along with a rather somber symphonic band piece.

This evening was a treat in the Memorial Union at Iowa State. This week is the symposium on wildness, wilderness and the creative imagination sponsored by the MFA program in Creative Writing and the Environment at Iowa State. We were only able to attend a couple of events today – first, a blues musician who plays piano, harmonica, and foot persussion simultaneously – Patrick Hazell.

Bill McKibben spoke about his latest book “Deep Economy” Some of his previous books are “The End of Nature,” “Hope, Human and Wild” and “The Hundred Dollar Christmas.” He speaks generally about the impact of global warming on the world. The message is, if the leaders don’t lead, the people must lead. The current administration has not reacted to the threat that is orders of magnitude greater than any group of terrorists could accomplish.

Imagine losing all the coastal cities in the US and not having any ports. NASA’s chief climate researcher has become increasingly alarmed at the lastest data. A few years ago, he thought we had 100 years to turn the trends around. Now he thinks we may have 10. The lack of polar ice formation 2 straight years, and most distubring, is the Greenland ice cap, which in all previous models, was thought to be stable and not much of a contributor to rising sea levels, is now showing signs of faster melting, and more importantly, the water is seeping down to the bottom, where it can act as a lubricant to provide a pathway for massive slippage of the ice sheet into the ocean and melt. The Greenland ice cap alone melting would raise sea level 30 feet. This research was ordered not released by the administration. Similarly, the plant hardiness maps were due to be republished 3 years ago and not released by the USDA. Over the northern sections of the US, most areas moved a zone or half zone warmer. This was not released until the Arbor Day foundation took the government data and released the new plant hardiness zone maps.

So, what to do? Political action is the first step. April 14, a nationwide rally is planned to get government officials’ attention. Already a strong coalition of environmental, liberal and conservative religious organizations (one of the strongest is the statement signed by 86 evangelical leaders including the presidents of 39 evangelical colleges, leaders of aid groups and churches, like the Salvation Army, and pastors of megachurches, including Rick Warren, author of the best seller “The Purpose-Driven Life.”) While the nation debates and spends time and treasure on a distant war, the threat of the inundation of our major cites has no priority.

McKibbin provides some other suggestions -starting with local production and control of food, energy, and even entertainment and money. Gathering food locally prevents long-distance shipping and strengthens local economies – same with energy. He points out studies that show since the mid-50’s American’s happiness has steadily dropped. That coincides to the centralization of food, energy, and entertainment. Just one small example is that there used to be 1300 opera houses in Iowa alone. There were performers enriching the community instead of today we obsess about how many CDs Britney Spears or Justin Timberlake sell.

All in all it was a thought-provoking evening and made us feel good about our own work to improve all things local!
one year ago…