Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Degradation and Forgiveness

By: Mikaila Gawryn
Earth Ministry Intern

If the contrast between silent, lush, mountain forest and dehydrated orange mine tailings wasn’t enough to startle me the white stone cross with mining steaks driven into its extremities surely was. I stood gazing at it, quietly humbled. I had wandered, on a whim, into the graveyard of the Holden Mine, which from 1937 to 1957 produced what is valued at over $500 million in copper, gold, zinc and silver.

As I walked the trail up to the tailings with MaryFrances Lignana, one of our Earth Ministry board members, I realized that I have had the privilege of growing up without seeing the environmental scars of industrial production. I use the word privilege intentionally because only a privileged few see the shiny new “products” created from mines like this one. I have not seen the consequences of a lifestyle dependant on industrial scale use of the environment. I definitely haven’t had to breath, drink or eat the consequences as many in our world do every day. Maybe going to the tailings that afternoon was partially due to my desire to see the harsher side of this industrial lifestyle.

What I found most astonishing was the close proximity of splendor and disfigurement. As we followed a creek up the mountainside, it turned from gurgling clear to chalky white, until the tanned rocks were covered by milky sediment that appeared indifferent to the flowing water. Tracing the creek up to its source led us to a rusty “Danger! Do Not Enter!” sign, and a stagnant pool of water emerging from the opening of the mine shaft. Yet, the fresh green trees and undergrowth extended uninterrupted framing the wide wooden beam entrance. The sounds of forest life could be heard through the thick hot silence of the open tailing plane. Rusting equipment seemed to blend into the dusty rock of the tailings, only yards away from creeping vines and leaves full from a wet spring. It was as if a deep wound had been gashed into the living flesh of the mountainside. The splendor of God’s creation was disfigured here.

I can’t deny the benefits that industrial “resource” use has brought. Yet the damage done by such use is plain to see. It is these dichotomous situations in life that should lead me to prayer. All too often though, prayer is not where I go. Instead I thought to myself: How can we work against environmental degradation when destruction of the natural world is so systematically part of our society? How could I change these things? Any of these things?

In this mindset it is no surprise that I found the image of the cross startling. The white stones had been clearly visible from the entrance to mine the shaft, though I had to walk a few hundred feet to see the mining steaks driven into the ground. I had to walk closer to read the word underneath it: “forgiven”.

It was a good reminder of where my mind should have been. I shouldn’t have been thinking of what I could do, because when it comes down to it I am only human, and only one. The cross at the mine tailings reminded me of my tendency to despair in the face of degradation. Thankfully, I realized that I can do nothing on my own. We can do nothing on our own. As we live as witnesses to both the splendor and disfigurement of creation let us look to God for guidance and courage and let us lean upon the power of God for forgiveness.

Until my next post,



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