One of the biggest ecological disasters ever to occur was the so-called Dust Bowl of the 1930s. Centered over the panhandles of Oklahoma and Texas and extending into surrounding states, the area had been grassland capable of surviving almost any weather extreme.
Once its ancient sod cover was plowed and the planting of grain was interrupted by the difficult economy, the rich soil was lifted by the wind and blown thousands of miles away, sometimes obscuring the sun along the Atlantic seaboard.
A central character in Timothy Egan's book, "The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl," was an Oklahoman farmer named Bam White. With the price of wheat dropping, he typified the practice of farmers across the area who plowed more ground to plant more grain to earn enough money to make payments on their tractors.
State and national governments, farmers, businessmen, land speculators, everyone across this vast area of the country, were forced to recognize the impact that people could have on their environment. It was also a lesson of what not to do in the future.
The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its second major report on Friday. A news story about its findings suggests a return to conditions resembling the Dust Bowl in some parts of the United States.
Is it necessary to return to lessons already learned before reaching harmony with our planet? Let's hope not, but in the meantime, there is always something one person can do. Prayer is not a handful of dust thrown hopefully into an unhearing wind. Prayer is harmonizing one's own thought and fondest desires with the only power of the universe, God.
Mary Baker Eddy described an all-loving God in her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures." God, as the source of love, has nothing but good for His creation. Learning that, and how it applies to each individual, is one purpose of prayer. She wrote, "Love inspires, illumines, designates, and leads the way. Right motives give pinions to thought, and strength and freedom to speech and action" (p. 454).
Isn't this what we need in our effort to improve the environment: an inspiration of love, showing us the way? It's something worth listening for in prayer.
In the 1960s, Los Angeles found that its gasoline-driven transportation system was not compatible with its light annual rainfall and smog-trapping terrain. Rather than give up on their wonderful climate and location, the city and the state have conducted more than 30 years of programs to reduce automobile emissions. The air is better, and their lifestyle has not been dramatically curtailed. But they remain alert, and more programs are under way to further improve the air quality.
I find this one example heartening, indicating ways that ingenuity, creativity, and commitment can solve problems, and I know that prayer played a role.
I also find inspiration in another statement in Science and Health, which, to me, broadens the scope of what is possible for humanity and the earth: "Life is eternal. We should find this out, and begin the demonstration thereof. Life and goodness are immortal. Let us then shape our views of existence into loveliness, freshness, and continuity, rather than into age and blight" (p. 246).
"Loveliness, freshness, and continuity" – beauty, newness, and permanence. This is our legacy and future, and it's discovered and fulfilled with prayer.
The earth is the Lord's,
and the fulness thereof;
the world, and they
that dwell therein.