Beyond the Edge of Knowledge: An Ecological Hope for Lent

The Reverend Dr. Katie Snipes Lancaster
The Hawksbill Sea Turtle
Thursday, March 21, 2024

Every single creature is full of God
and is a book about God.
Every creature is a word of God.
If I spend enough time with the tiniest creature,
even a caterpillar,
I would never have to prepare a sermon.
So full of God is every creature.
Meister Eckhart

The Hawksbill Sea Turtle

I am in awe of the world. Poet David Whyte puts it this way “I lifted my hands and then my eyes and I allowed myself to be astonished by the great everywhere calling to me like an old and unspoken invitation.” 

Across the great-everywhere that is this planet are the tropical hawksbill sea turtles. At one hundred and fifty pounds of pure ocean-gliding reptile, the hawksbill sea turtles have the most beautiful burnt umber, orange, yellow, black, and brown shell. They live in both Atlantic and Pacific oceans and while they might eat jellyfish for breakfast on any given Tuesday, have the occasional sea urchin for an afternoon snack, or dine on marine algae, corals, crustaceans, and mollusks as they please, their diet is filled with a surprising number of sea sponges. When the hawksbill sea turtles eat sea sponges, it keeps the surface of the coral reefs at bay, making room for the reef fish to access their favorite foods. Their lives are part of the peculiar and precarious ecosystem that hangs in the balance. 

Like other sea turtles, they might get entangled the mesh nylon netting used by commercial fisheries, and might get caught in the hook of a local angler, but these threats though destructive, are nothing to the work of poachers who hunt the hawksbill sea turtle for its shell used for jewelry, combs, belt buckles, and the like and for their “savory meat, and her eggs…said to be an aphrodisiac” says Gayle Boss. Naturally even before accounting for the potential of illegal hunting, only about one hawksbill sea turtle will survive to maturity out of every one-thousand hatchlings. Their survival statistics become unsurmountable without widespread conservation law enforcement and ecological conservation efforts.

The Solomon Islands and the Great Barrier Reef are the largest habitat for hawksbill sea turtles, but there, another problem arises. As Gayle Boss describes conservation efforts on even just one of many small islands that are part of the Solomon Islands, she says “this island is a pinprick on the map of [the hawksbill sea turtle’s] vast and increasingly perilous journey. And it may be gone in seven years. Climate change is causing the seas to rise in the Solomons at more than double the global average…[the hawksbill sea turtle’s] birthplace may be the next to slip under the waves.”

Thomas Merton says “here is an unspeakable secret; paradise is all around us and we do not understand. It is wide open.” The hawkbill sea turtle is but one whispered attempt to make known this unspeakable secret, to speak aloud this paradise that surrounds us. 

Listening for ways to make a difference closer to home? Try these ideas from your friends at church too:

Collect styrofoam and bring it to the Winnetka recycling drop off, Sue L.

Reuse plastic food bags to store food so you don’t have to buy bags or wrap, Greta C.

Save worms, George P.

Use less water, Cindi S.

Use less styrofoam, Carl S.

March 21, 2024

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