Reader Writes - August 2018

Dear People, of all the fowls of the air we are perhaps the most detached from the solid surface of the roundy globe. But for the briefest days of nesting in the northern hemisphere’s summer, we remain and have our entire being in the skies. We are of course the swifts. And we hope you are not only very familiar with our acrobatic scimitar-winged flight and joyful group fly-pasts of high summer, but also have delight in our brief presence as your respectful neighbours. We, those remote galleons of the summer sky, constantly traverse great tracts of the earth and feel we are in a good position to tell you what we see and know. Thanks to the boffins in Oxford, who have been studying our tribe in the roof spaces of the Pitt Rivers Museum for several decades, you people might take our testimony seriously. For example, did you know that when the weather is appallingly cold and wet over England, we may travel to France just to feed. We are writing to you because we are worried.

In the beginning –yes, we too have our creation story- it was known by all that God made everything in its right order and he made it “very good”. But for reasons we have to accept but often question, he gave humans the special privilege and responsibility of being his chosen creature amongst all creation. He made you stewards of the earth and its teeming life: forests and plants, birds and all creatures. He blessed you and told you to be fruitful and manage the earth, better called the biosphere. That great responsibility is very different from exploiting and exhausting the earth’s resources. This is why we are writing; things are going wrong, and it’s much more serious than even Brexit and the World Cup. But first, some spiritual history.

It happened, of course, in the garden of Eden. Your forebears, the first Homo divinus, were forbidden to eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge. You were given freedom but chose bondage. One hot afternoon your Adam and Eve explored the close aromatic shade of the forbidden tree; much later they reappeared, lips and fingers stained with the dark sweet juice, minds intoxicated with forbidden possibilities. Our Creator was very disappointed and expelled you from paradise; east of Eden, on barren stony slopes, you have laboured in sweat and blood to this day. Sorry, People, but it’s as grim as that. The rescue of Noah in the first great cataclysm never changed the direction you were going in.  

So this is why we are worried. Traversing the great Sahara twice a year we see the inescapable evidence of coming catastrophe. The desert is expanding, the food needed for all of us is diminishing, your people are migrating. Take something more familiar to you; your islands and grassy cliffs once teemed with seabirds. But what has happened to our ungainly brothers, the puffins? You have over-exploited the waters with your fishing. But there is worse to come; warming oceans and extreme weathers are destroying our food. Knowledge and wisdom give you the future; choose to care for it and share its bounty. As one of your apostles has said, you are without excuse, for the Creator’s nature is evident all around you. Worship God and care for his good earth, People!

Robert MacCurrach