Last month I visited, along with other members of the Presbyterian Hunger Program, the First Presbyterian Church of Bayou Blue, in Gray, Louisiana. We learned about the concerns and passions unique to their part of God’s creation. This hospitable, warm, and loving congregation shared much with us, including their deep grief about what is happening in the wetlands around them.
As seems to be the case in many of our “human ingenuity” endeavors, it is after channels have been carved into wetlands for oil drilling (allowing salt water intrusion) and after experiencing natural disasters like hurricanes (which push on the weakened coastline), that we realize too late the full impacts of our activities of developing natural areas. When we weaken, by our economic activities and development, the natural protective abilities of the wetlands and their essential part of the eco-system, they cannot absorb the extra water from hurricanes and the entire eco-system begins to change. Both natural and human communities in this precious landscape are also negatively impacted by the lack of on-going attention, education, advocacy, and commitment to change procedures and policies around the country.
Years after Hurricane Katrina, how many people are still attending to rebuilding wetlands? Do people understand that the affects of disappearing wetlands aren’t local, only? And, how many years after the disastrous oil spill that has severely affected local fisherfolk, are we still advocating for their well-fare and just compensation? This is an area for environmental justice– where ecological wholeness and social justice must go hand in hand.
Protecting the wetlands isn’t just some environmental slogan, and holding corporations accountable isn’t just some radical campaign. These things affect real people, real heritage, and a very real sense of place and home. These matters also connect to our sense of faith and living that faith in the world for the good of all God’s creation. The loss of the wetlands and pollution of waters from oil spills create rippling affects of climate refugees from people who have to flee from their homes on the coastland; of changed bird migration patterns that may well affect crops across the country; of fish and seafood intake that means both loss of livelihood and loss of food source for local fisherfolk. How do we find God, and how do we act as Church for one another, in this kind of reality?
The Presbytery of South Louisiana and churches like Bayou Blue are doing their part and working to create a Wetlands Theological Education Project. Presbyterian Young Adult Volunteers (YAVs) are working alongside them and welcome any Presbyterians who would like to join them. What are ways you might learn about, involve yourself if, and advocate for changes for the wetlands in our country?