Beyond the Edge of Knowledge: An Ecological Hope for Lent

The Reverend Christine V. Hides
The Staghorn Coral
Thursday, February 22, 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

Staghorn Coral under the sea in white sand

Perhaps you have descended, via the Shedd Aquarium elevator, into the depths of the Wild Reef. There sharks swim overhead and the walls are decorated to help you imagine you are a creature swimming amidst the coral. After staring mesmerized at the sharks overhead you follow the mazed route past the lesser attractions, including the Coral Lab.

Here scientists are working to research and propagate this essential part of the ocean ecosystem. Their work is urgent, just 3% of the Staghorn Coral reefs off the Florida Keys remain. Since 1979 water temperature spikes have decimated the staghorn coral “forests,” turning them into bleached piles of rubble. Slight temperature changes kill the algae that feed and color the corals.

But in labs around the world, researchers are studying climate resistant species. According to the Shedd Aquarium, “Some corals however show a remarkable ability to survive stressful bleaching events, which may reflect specialized genetic adaptation, or a relationship with thermally tolerant symbiotic algae. These glimmers of hope suggest that some corals possess the ingredients for survival in warming oceans, and that harnessing this natural resilience may allow us to accelerate adaptive processes in coral populations and restore degraded reefs.”

I hope that we can reverse the damage. I am grateful for those whose life’s work is studying the microscopic workings of our blue marble home. But when I imagine a world in which my grandchildren might don a snorkel mask and hear nothing but silence because there are no more fish to sing their click click psalm, because there are no coral reefs to feed on, I am sad. Sad and angry at the harm humans have done, often out of greed fueled by overconsumption.

Pádraig Ó Tuama wrote this collect, inspired by Jesus’ anger when he found money changers and people selling cattle, sheep, and doves in the temple (John 2:13–15):

Furious Jesus,
where we have turned
places of spirit
into places of
turn our tables over.
Help us see the
we are creating.
Prairielands, oceans, space
and air and woodlands.
Turn our tables over,
so we can see the
spirit in the places
we are suffocating.

More ways to take action to help the oceans, written by Kenilworth Union children and adults:

Use less single-use plastic, Annie R.

Refuse plastic straws, Magdalena S.

February 22, 2024

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