We Get to Write the Next Chapter

People keep asking, “What is this pandemic supposed to be teaching us?” Not sure. But whatever it is, we have been given some time to stop and think about it. People insist that it’s time to go back now. We seem to be in such a hurry. I understand the practical, financial necessities. But have we learned anything through this?

 
I keep hearing “This is the new normal.” New? Normal? Alberta is making plans to expand open pit coal mining. There are still plans to construct pipelines. Investments are being made in more oil exploration and continued drilling. Sure, wonderfully, we can see that the pause in industrialization has visibly changed satellite photos of polluted skies. But that only reflects a slowdown in emissions into the atmosphere, not extractions from the atmosphere.

 
Meanwhile, poverty continues; the poor and people of color continue to suffer disproportionate consequences; fire season has started with firefighters remaining limited in numbers and training because of COVID-19; and locusts ravage farms in Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia. Neither new; nor normal.

 
Someone has said, “Never waste a crisis!” Please, let’s stop and think. Let’s turn around!

 
Umair Haque in his blog May 25
(https://eand.co/if-the-future-is-like-the-present-our-civilization-will-collapse-f05b2bce2d3e), reminds his readers that 70,000 years ago our first ancestors left Africa, expanded across Asia, moved north through Europe, across Siberia and expanded south into the Americas. Through the millennia, families became clans and tribes and, during the last fifteen thousand years, civilizations; civilized people warring over land, power, wealth, resources and slaves.

 
According to Mr. Haque, the West explored the world and discovered the “new world.” They weren’t the first, of course. Asians came east to the Americas. The Nordics came west and south into the Americas long before the Spaniards and Portuguese. Whatever the language, the behavior was the same. Discover meant colonize.

 
Humanity has always been about expansion. Haque calls this expansion mindset the “predatory-exploitative mindset.” Haque posits that human expansion will peak in 2050. Haque argues that these “turbulent” times, already marked by violence over resources peaked with the violence of two world wars, but that violence has continued with unending conflict in nation after nation.

 
Haque writes about the prevalence of fascism. The world is stagnating, and with so much “poverty in the midst of plenty,” rage and despair continue to expand. It’s the predatory-exploitative mindset at its worst when we reach the inevitable ends of a planet with limited land, limited water, limited energy but unlimited fear and despair.

 
So what’s next? Will humanity by 2050 have reached the point of maturity and transcend these destructive drives? Or will the next page turned in the story of humanity be a regressive story – the story to be read now backwards, from civilization “back to caves and spears”?

 
Haque writes, “a mature species is a wise, courageous and gentle thing, with dignity, justice, truth and plenitude for all… a species that is something more like a guardian and protector of all things noble and good and beautiful – whether democracy, dignity, truth, justice, or life itself.”

 
I’ve read this part of the story before. God placed humankind on the planet to till the earth and keep it. The First Testament prophets challenged the empires when they were pursuing the predatory -exploitative mindset (though they didn’t call it that then) and pleaded passionately to return to the ways of justice and peace.

 
Jesus invited followers to consider the lilies of the field and the birds of the air; to ask God for daily bread and then to share it generously; to find life, not by taking it from others, but by giving it away.

 
Haque describes our time as a time of fear and despair, leading to rage. Jesus said time and time again, “Do not be afraid,” rather, love and trust.

 
But that’s not the end of the story. If we turn the page – if we peek way to the end of the story and then come back to where we are – maybe this time of isolation will invite community. Maybe as we take this time to think, we will find the time to love. And a “new normal” will mean divine justice and compassionate possibilities….

 

 

Laudato Si Week Begins

Laudato Si is five years old!

 

Laudato Si is a theological letter written by Pope Francis to “all Christians and “people of good will and conscience.” It is a plea for an ecological conversion – a change of life and thought and heart, away from the destruction of this planet to embracing it and all creatures, in love and justice. Pope Francis writes about the “cry of the earth”, “the cry of earth’s creatures,” “the cry of the poor,” and “the cry of all children and the generations to come.” It is a well-reasoned, scientifically grounded, and theologically sound dissertation. It is the longest encyclical ever penned by a Pope. It speaks about the climate crisis as more than a crisis, but a matter of climate justice. It needs to be addressed scientifically, politically, socially, economically and spiritually. But it will not succeed without a conversion, a profound, organic change. Pope Francis calls this Ecological Conversion.

The document is available on-line free at https://laudatosi.com/watch. There are Catholic and Lutheran study guides available also. Look in the Resource Guide found on the MNO Synod website, http://mnosynod.org/eco-reformation-project/.

Laudato Si week is being observed globally with events all week. See https://laudatosiweek.org/. Listen to the brief video, the Pope’s invitation to participation.

The Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM) is a lay-driven movement to create Laudato Si circles, small groups for reading St. Francis, scripture, the newspaper, prayer, discussion and action. https://www.sowinghopefortheplanet.org/gccm/

 

There is GCCM Canada based in Hamilton Ontario. https://www.faithcommongood.org/global_catholic_climate_movement_canada.

 
Pastor Saude, though Lutheran, is a certified Laudato Si Animator (Small group leader). There is a Laudato Si youth movement as well; https://laudatosigeneration.org/learn/laudato-si/.

 

The theme for Laudato Si Week is “Everything Is Connected.” This theme emphasizes the interdependence of all creation. It also reflects the need for the interconnection of all wisdoms, required for any true transformation of climate change. Science alone won’t do it. Politics alone won’t do it. Industry alone won’t do it. The church, or any one faith group, won’t do it. It will take the wisdom of all these disciplines, in all countries together working for deep change, “ecological conversion.”

 

It will take all these disciplines because the problem is not just the cry of creation; it is the cry of the poor, together cries for justice.

 

In these days of social distancing, it’s interesting watching the coming together of representatives from many, many countries, talking, listening, praying, committing via technology. Saturday and Sunday initiated the week-long celebration with 400 people in retreat together, via Zoom and Youtube. Monday’s introductory session gathered 2,000 for the first panel discussion. Imagine what could be done as one people with one Spirit, caring together for Our Common Home!

Eco-Justice, The Protection of Trees and Protection of People

This blog is a reflection based on a recent webinar hosted by the United Church of Christ, entitled “Trees: Threats and Opportunities,” March 17, 2020, https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?v=519258969011627&ref=watch_permalink.

Who has not enjoyed the cool, refreshing shade of a large tree canopy on a hot summer day? Or who has not dashed under a tree during a sudden cloudburst? Or who has no memories of climbing a tree, pretending it was a castle protecting the royal princess, or maybe a spaceship to the stars? And then there are the lip smacking treats of almonds, apples, pears, peaches, cherries…

Trees, individually can provide shade, refuge from the rain, or a place to play. Collectively, a tract of trees, a forest, is a complex ecosystem, a web of many life forms. Forests absorb carbon from the atmosphere; absorb water in times of flooding; release water in times of drought; purify the air above and the water below; and serve as protection from extreme climate occurrences.

It is well-known that tropical forests are being cut and burned to free land for agriculture and large cattle farms. But forests are being lost in North America as well. Large tracts are clear-cut for industrial logging, reducing our capacity for carbon sequestering, and the industry itself releases more carbon into the air, as does the burning of logs as replacements for coal in the U. K., or the production of paperproducts for overseas export.

Recently, this blog described the pollution of land and water in the so-called Cancer Belt of the southeastern United States. A mere one hundred chemical industries provide thirty-five percent of the air and water pollution in the United States. But in the Cancer Belt, residents, mostly poor and people of color, are seven hundred times more likely to suffer cancer. Complaints are made; protests are raised. Industries are investigated. But little is done.

In the Black Belt of the southeastern United States, again, the home of people of color, the poor, and the powerless, have their communities destroyed, suffer pollution and flooding at the hands of multinational corporations who move in, remove all their natural assets, and move on.

Trees are cut down to make wood pellets for home heating and industry in Europe. The claims are that the companies only take waste wood, deadfall. But the reality is that whole forests are clear-cut, right to the water’s edge. There is no protection against soil erosion. There is no wetland buffer to retain water in times of flooding. The claims are that wood pellets reduce the reliance on coal, reducing air pollution and carbon emissions. The facts are different. Claims are that trees are a renewable resource, but at what cost, short-term or long term?

Some would argue the scales are balanced when society plants a trillion trees. The journal Science proposed that planting a half-billion trees would reduce green house gases 25%. That’s about half the carbon emitted by humans since 1960. Before you get too excited, that’s a tree canopy covering about the area of the United States. And carbon sequestering does not take the place of reducing carbon emissions in the first place. And planting any old tree anywhere won’t do it either. The world needs to take into considerations, species, topography and climate.

Returning to the southeastern United States. Environmental groups like Dogwood Alliance and Mom’s Clean Air Force address the social injustice of the logging industry as it is and seek reconciliation as well as replanting. Simply replacing logging in the United States with pine trees or logging in Africa and Asia with palm oil trees maintains monocultures instead of promoting diversity; continues resource extraction, rather than conservation; and fails to address the continuing loss of economic security and development for people of color.

Replace trees, yes. But responsibly, by considering the who, where, what and why of the effort. Environmental and eco-justice agencies prioritize protection first. Only then can society make the transition from extraction to regenerative logging.

Consider again the flooding along the riverways. Replace these trees with scrub, bushes, willows, and trees beneficial to sustain wetlands, to mitigate flooding. Then, inland, plant fruit trees and nut trees for the economic development and diversity of the locals.

Connect with the indigenous peoples locally, they suggest. Whether from the mountains, prairies or riverways, these traditional people of the land have traditional knowledge and wisdom about the management of the forests and the interdependence of biodiversity.

Only 1% of the land in the southeastern states is in the hands of people of color. “Logging creates jobs!” it is argued. But for whom? How long? Those employed are often brought in from the outside, live in camps, sometimes bringing dangerous social issues to the region, and then move on. There is little effort at creating sustainable, enduring communities.

“Logging creates job!” Ok. Can’t argue. But the logging industry in North Carolina provides 70,000 jobs. However, the recreation and tourism industry in North Carolina creates 260,000 jobs! More than three times as many.

There are many more interesting and disturbing facts in this webinar. And many more pleas from people of color to redress the injustice that is perpetrated as blind racism. Please watch.

“But we create jobs!” Apparently people of color do not benefit in the short-term, nor in the long-term. Somebody is making money, but not people of color. And consider this. The burning of our trees contributes to air pollution. Many other industries contribute to air pollution as well, as illustrated in the earlier blog. But one in nine African-Americans suffers from asthma. As we have seen with the Corona19 pandemic, pre-existing health conditions leave one more susceptible to infection and make treatment more difficult. If treatment is available at all. But that’s a subject for another blog.

But the youth and young adults with asthma won’t be working in the logging industry short-term. And the children seeking jobs in the next one or two decades won’t benefit either. There are alternatives.

Who benefits? Who makes the decisions? Who has the power? Is it all up to the boardroom and the stockholder? There need to be more conversations in our churches and at the polling stations.

There’s more to this than a dividend at year-end, a truckload of tree saplings, and a boat-load of wood pellets.

Don’t you think?

Notes:

Examining the Viability of Planting Trees to Help Mitigate Climate Change, Alan Buis, November 7, 2019.
https://climate.nasa.gov/news/2927/examining-the-viability-of-planting-trees-to-help-mitigate-climate-change/

Could Planting 1 Trillion Trees Counteract Climate Change? By Tara Yarlagadda, September 20, 2019. https://www.greenbiz.com/article/could-planting-1-trillion-trees-counteract-climate-change

Dogwood Alliance. Org https://www.dogwoodalliance.org/

Mom’s Clean Air Force https://www.momscleanairforce.org/

Toxic Emissions and Social Justice

What would you do if you knew that industry within your neighborhood was releasing twenty-nine toxic chemicals in to the air – and was pumping similar chemicals through deep well injections into your local aquafers – and additional chemicals were being dumped directly into your local river?

 
One of those chemicals is chloroprene – a known human carcinogen. Studies by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) show that concentrations of chloroprene in this, not so imaginary neighborhood, are raising the concentration of expected cancer to 780 times the national average!

 
Your local elementary schools have five hundred kids exposed to 400-700 times the allowable level of chloroprene. And the effects of this carcinogen on kids are ten times more severe than on adults.

 
What would you do if this were happening in your neighborhood?

 
You probably would complain to the company. But the company argues that the problem is not as serious as you allege. The company argues that their monitoring shows local levels are only fifty times acceptable limits! You also discover that there are ten thousand reported environmental violations investigated against this company.

 
Stanford University in 2016 confirmed that the closer one lived to the facility with toxic emissions, the higher the chances of death. From one chemical. And this facility is dumping twenty-nine.

 
What would you do?

 
For four years you organize and petition and boycott. You approach the school board. You approach the local and state and federal governments.

 
For all your efforts, you and your supporters are labelled “fear-mongers” and “rabble rousers.”

 
For four years you get no support.

 
You try to approach area churches. Surely, they will feel compassion and lend their voices in seeking justice. Yet in your entire parish (similar to a Canadian municipality) only one congregation will support you.

 
You picket the company. You boycott the schools. You get some publicity from a five-day march to the governor. Again, from a fifteen-day march from Now Orleans to Baton Rouge.

 
You grow impatient and more desperate, don’t you?

 
At first, your protests draw the attention of the police who charge participants with trespassing, a misdemeanor. But lately the charges have been raised to a felony, possibly with a sentence of fifteen years in prison. Your fellow protestors are now labelled “terrorists.”

 
What would you do? This is a story described in a webinar found on YouTube titled “Ground Zero in the Struggle for Environmental Justice”, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gAcWw6JEXlg&feature=youtu.be.

 
Perhaps, as you read this, you were interested and concerned, until you read that this was a story in an American community. This isn’t yet personal. It’s not your neighborhood, not your school, not your kid.

 
Why would you get involved? Why would you risk the backlash that this parish is experiencing? Or the apathy?

 
Is it not a big enough problem? Would it be worse if this were happening in multiple communities?

 
In March of 2020 the United Church of Christ reported that there are 15,500 facilities releasing toxic chemicals into the air over the United States. Of that number, 100 “super polluters” produce 39% of all the toxic air emissions. These “super polluters” are clustered in three areas – Houston, the “cancer alley” from Baton Rouge to New Orleans, and the Ohio area near Lake Erie. These facilities are located in communities with high concentrations of low-income people and people of color.

 
I find this story disturbing. For many reasons. It’s a story about children being senselessly put at risk. It’s a story about the poor and people of color once again bearing the brunt of industrial pollution. It’s a story of an industry getting away with reckless decisions, being investigated because of ten thousand complaints, without accountability?! And there are 15,500 such facilities known to be releasing toxins. And the industry has the advantage. And the industry has the support of the government. And neighborhood residents are getting cancer. And neighbors are dying… And what, by the way, are the employees experiencing?

 
But the biggest disappointment? The neighborhood turned to their churches, to their fellow congregants, their pastors…. And were ignored.

 
What in God’s name?

 
So, I wonder. If congregations across our country looked at our ground water and our rivers and our skies… if congregations sought help from our universities and had hard facts from our labs… if congregations were visited by our neighbors, our neighbors of color, our indigenous neighbors, our brothers and sisters…. Would we be silent and disinterested too? Because we need the jobs?

 
I wonder….

Problem with Microplastics Worsening

Think of plastics polluting our oceans. What comes to mind? Probably plastic bags floating on the surface. Landlubbers can see plastic bags because they are light and visible. They have a large surface area and can be seen floating on the breeze, tumbling across sidewalks and caught in the branches of trees or on the barbs of wire fences. And while they may make for disturbing photos caught in nets and wrapped around turtles, there is a far more dangerous pollutant.

 
Ocean Conservancy reports that plastic bags are one of the top five most deadly forms of marine debris. The other four are fishing gear, balloons, cigarette butts and bottle caps. Bags and fishing gear entangle marine life. But the smaller items, bottle, caps, balloons and cigarette butts look like food and they are ingested.

 
But even then, there is a more dangerous pollutant. Microplastics, bits of plastic perhaps the size of a sesame seed, or smaller. Only one percent of ocean pollutants float the other ninety-nine percent sink deep into the ocean depths.

 
They don’t sink evenly. ocean currents carry them off, concentrating them, along with oxygen and nutrients, into deep sea ecosystems, attracting marine life and intensifying the risk. So far science has identified 114 fresh and ocean species that ingest microplastics.

 
A CNN report examined 102 turtles of different species, in different oceans. There were microplastics in every one!

 
EcoWatch highlighted a study that microplastics spread to every part of a sea scallop’s organs in just 6 hours.

 
Microplastics may block the digestive system or harm the reproductive system, absorb and release toxins, trigger immune system reactions, or slow the animal’s growth rates.

 
And they’re everywhere, even to great depths. National Geographic reported researchers finding 3,400 microplastics in a liter of water from the Arctic Greenland Sea, more than 18,000 feet deep. The highest concentration on the seafloor recorded so far was 1.9million pieces in one square meter of the Mediterranean.

 
But microplastics and ingested by humans also! Twenty-six studies have found microplastics in fish, shellfish, added sugars and salts, alcohol, bottled water and air, bread, processed meats, dairy and vegetable products. Drinking only bottled water may increase the risk. Samples have found 90,000 microplastics , compared to 40,000 in tap water. Humans have been found to swallow 50,000 pieces of plastic annually – and inhale just as much.

 
Microplastics are in the air, falling with the rain. In London, atop a nine-story building, 575 to 1,000 bits of plastic had fallen per square meter of roof every day. By contrast, in the pyrenes mountain in southern France, 11,400 pieces were found per square meter in a month, one third the concentration of London. There were fifteen different types of plastics found on the London rooftop, mostly acrylic fibers from clothing. Only 8% were polystyrene or polyethylene from food packaging.

 
Are they safe in humans? We just don’t know yet!

 
Why is this article on microplastics included in a blog promoting theological reflection? Perhaps because ethically speaking, there’s something unnatural about something so pervasive and potentially so dangerous. Don’t you think?

 
Notes:
https://www.ecowatch.com/microplastics-in-ocean-2645891531.html Scientists Discover Highest Concentration of Deep-Sea Microplastics to Date, Olivia Rosan, EcoWatch May 1, 2020

https://www.ecowatch.com/people-eat-microplastics-2638716775.html People Eat 50,000+ Microplastics Every Year, New Study Finds, Jordan Davidson, EcoWatch June 6, 2019

https://www.ecowatch.com/microplastics-rain-cities-2642221279.html?rebelltitem=1#rebelltitem1 Microplastics Are Raining Down on Cities, Jordan Davidson, EcoWatch, December 27, 2019

Even in the World’s Cleanest City, Pro Surfers Can See Microplastics are an Insidious Problem, Jordana Lewis, January 29, 2019, Ocean Conservancy https://oceanconservancy.org/blog/2019/01/29 /even-worlds-cleanest-city-pro-surfers-can-see-microplastics-insidiousproblem/?ea.tracking.id=19HPXGJAXX&gclid=Cj0KCQjwtLT1BRD9ARIsAMH3BtVBmuw6MtFEhazAmrMPE anPT5WjUClTejPlUo2jzzmVTh22m0JBHcsaAsY9EALw_wcB

Ocean Conservancy, Fighting for Trash Free Seas https://oceanconservancy.org/trash-free-seas/take-deep-dive/threat-rank-report/
Microplastics Found in Gut of Every Sea Turtle in New Study, Matthew Robinson, CNN https://www.cnn.com/2018/12/05/world/microplastic-pollution-turtles-study-intl-scli/index.html

Microplastics Found to Permeate the Ocean’s Deepest Points (video) https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2018/12/microplastic-pollution-is-found-in-de

LOSS OF BIODIVERSITY MAY CONTRIBUTE TO PANDEMICS

based on the following article “DESTRUCTION OF HABITAT AND LOSS OF BIODIVERSITY ARE CREATING THE PERFECT CONDITIONS FOR DISEASES LIKE COVID-19 TO EMERGE”, John Vidal, ENSIA, March 27, 2020 https://ensia.com/features/covid-19-coronavirus-biodiversity-planetary-health-zoonoses/

There have been many conspiracy theories about the recent COVID-19 pandemic. The virus has been alleged to have been grown in a lab… and then accidentally, carelessly released… or intentionally released as a weapon of bio-terrorism. The truth may actually have to do with human expansion for economic opportunities.

There is a new discipline, “planetary health”, exploring the connections among the well-being of humans, other living beings, and ecosystems.

Road-building, mining, hunting and logging may have triggered Ebola epidemics in the 1990’s.

Tropical forests and landscapes are peaceful homes to animals and plants, as well as many unknown viruses. The edges between these ecosystems and human activity are trepassed by cutting trees, killing animals and shaking loose the viruses from their natural habitats. Those organisms need hosts. There we are.

New research suggests that outbreaks of animal-borne infectious diseases such as Ebola, SARS, bird flu and COVID-19 are rising as development expansion broadens. The U. S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that thee-quarters of “new emerging” diseases that infect humans originate in non-human animals.

Centuries ago, examples included rabies and plague. Some diseases such as Marburg, transmitted by bats, are still rare. COVID-19, emerging in 2019, and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), linked to camels in the Middle East in 2012, are new to human beings and are spreading globally.

Other examples include Lasse fever, 1969 in Nigeria; Nipah from Malaysia (1998-1999) and SARS from China. SARS killed more than 700 people, infecting over 8,000 in 30 countries, between 2002-2003. Zika and West Nile Virus mutated and have established themselves on several continents, including north America.

In 2008, a team of researchers identified 335 diseases emerging between 1960 and 2004, 60% of which came from non-human animals. Rapid urbanization and population growth bring people in contact with animal species never known before. This transmission of disease from wildlife to humans has been called “a hidden cost of human economic development.”

Eric Fevre, chair of veterinary infectious diseases at the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Infection and Global Health, says, “the risk of pathogens jumping from animals to humans has always been there.” The difference in these last decades as been that diseases are springing up in both urban and natural environments. “We have created densely packed populations where along side us are bats and rodents and birds, pets and other living things. That creates intense interaction and opportunities for things to move from species to species.”

“Pathogens do not respect species boundaries,” says Thomas Gillespie, Emery University Department of Environmental Sciences. “The majority of pathogens are still to be discovered. We are at the very tip of the iceberg.” We are reducing natural barriers between virus host animals and humans.

Wildlife everywhere is being put under stress. Habitat is lost. Species become crowded and in greater contact with humans. In the U.S., suburbia encroached on disappearing forests, resulting in humans contracting Lyme disease.

Is nature the threat? No, the risk comes from human activity interfering with natural ecosystems of species like rodents and bats.

Disease ecologists argue that viruses and other pathogens are likely to spread through informal markets that provide fresh meats and produce to fast-growing populations. Here animals are killed, cut up and sold right on the premises. The market selling fresh meat and produce in Wuhan, China, thought to be the staring point of COVID-19, was known to sell wild animals including wolf pups, salamanders, crocodiles, scorpions, rats, squirrels, foxes and turtles.

Markets in Africa see bats, monkeys, rats and dozens of species of birds, mammals, insects and rodents killed and sold close to refuse dumps with no drainage.

Is the problem dirty markets? No, the demand from developed countries for wood, minerals and other resources is leading to ecological disruption, driving disease.

The risks aren’t new. The demand is increasing. We travel more broadly and more quickly. The necessity for effective, rapid response is increasing.

Short-term responses seek to contain the rate of infection. Long-term solutions require new approaches to urban planning and development.

COVID-19 and other pandemics remind us of several points:

1 – All life is interconnected, whether pathogens, hosts and vectors; or laborers and executives crossing international borders in search of profit.

2- Consideration must be given to the balance of natural habitats and existing biodiversity before building a few roads, cutting a few trees, and damming a few rivers.

3. Decisions about the development of new natural sites must include the input of local residents, as well as provide for the necessary infrastructure (housing, health care, sustainable food and water, sustainable energy, education and employment) for their well-being.

4. Politicians are quick to skew information for their own purposes (conspiracy theories, interference) deflecting honest inquiry and accountability.

COVID-19. This is not the worst pandemic. Nor the last.

From Knowledge Factories to Wisdom Schools

Matthew Fox has been calling for changes in the way we do education. Because of COVA-19, schools are closed; students are confined to studying at home. Now is a time for some interesting experimentation in teaching methods and learning needs. What are we discovering? What might continue when we return to “normal”? Whatever that is.

 
Matthew Fox’s book Hildegard of Bingen: A Saint for Our Times (Namaste Publishing, Vancouver Canada, 2012), discusses Hildegard’s spirituality utilizing four approaches to transformation: via positiva, via negativa, via creativa and via transformata. Let’s reflect here for a moment on the via creativa and its place in stimulating the capacity for wisdom over the capacity for facts.

 
Fox says, “If we are going to renew education, we will need to move from knowledge factories to wisdom schools” (p.92). “The bridge,” he writes, “is creativity.” Fox notes, with some grief, that when school budgets need to be cut, gone are the art department, the theatre department, and the music department. Fox argues that this is counter to wisdom because, quoting Hildegard, “wisdom is in all creative works.”

 
As I walk my neighborhood, talking to parents, at a distance, I find some take an hour or two a day to do assignments with their children. Others keep a more “normal” routine, with study time, recess, lunch breaks, exercise periods, all imitating a normal school day. I wonder whether we are replicating the knowledge factory, because that’s what we know and have experienced, or is there a possibility of nurturing wisdom schools?

 
Obviously, I cannot observe what happens at the kitchen table. But I can see what is happening on sidewalks all around the neighborhood. Chalk drawings. Messages of welcome, even though homes are isolating. Messages of gratitude and encouragement for front-line workers. Colorful flowers. Simple animals. Complicated geometric patterns. Hopscotch blocks that extend past three consecutive houses. There are drawings, both coloring book prints and free hand, in the windows. Given the time and the opportunity, these children are seeking creative expression!

 
Hildegard would be pleased, I think. She would look at all this creative expression and interpret that to be the activity of the Holy Spirit. Whether the families are practicing a faith discipline or not, the children are tapping a creative energy inside. And Hildegard would understand this to be the praise of life and the expression of true humanity.

 
We bemoan the limitations brought on by this pandemic. Who knows what wisdom our communities will discover? There is immense tragedy in the suffering and death resulting from this virus. And yet, maybe, we will be wiser, more compassionate, more appreciative, more alive when it’s all over.

 
In the meantime, find some chalk. Compose a song. Learn an instrument. Write that poem or short story that plays in your imagination. You may be wiser – we all may be wiser – for it!