Saturday, March 29, 2014

Environment, Ecology, or Deep Ecology?

When the environmental movement originated in the 1960s and 1970s, a relatively new term entered our modern vocabulary. The term environment was well understood but ecology was comparatively new and unfamiliar. Most people understood damage to the environment but used the term ecology incorrectly. Ecology expresses broad scope interrelationships of living things and their physical surroundings. Ecology describes the existence of these relationships rather than the quality of the environment. It is correct to say certain practices cause environmental damage but incorrect to assert that certain practices are bad for the ecology.

The environmental movement birthed in the 1960s and 1970s generated societal outcomes far displaced from positively regarded attitudes toward a healthy environment. In brief, environmental advocacy has morphed into environmental activism. Environmental activism has spread to multiple and complex phenomena of our contemporary society. No longer do we restrict environmental advocacy to proper respect and care of our wild animals, plants and natural resources. Beyond this, many modern members of our society have acquired an agenda-driven “cause” mentality. Many categories of causes have become attached to the environmental movement in the last five decades. Since environmental advocacy has become environmental activism, we regard some causes with enthusiasm; other causes we regard with distrust because activism has become extremism.

The term ecology was an unfamiliar term in 1962 when Rachel Carson provided the impetus for the environmental movement. The movement brought with it the opportunity for broader understanding and appreciation of the environment and ecology. Many terms such as ecosystem, ecologist, biosphere, and diversity have spun off from the environmental movement beginning in the 1960s and have become popular since then. These are now part of the familiar modern lexicon. Many of these expressions received occasional mention as far back as the mid-nineteenth century.

We introduce a new and far less familiar term: Deep Ecology. Historical research on environmental advocacy may not reveal mention of the term or its significance in the current climate change media discussions which assault us at every turn. Personally, I am convinced that many important social issues of our day spring from a subconscious awareness, tacit approval, or even an endorsement of deep ecology even if the term is not explicitly named.

Norwegian environmental activist Arne Naess originated the term Deep Ecology in 1973. He claimed the inspiration for his philosophical, social, and political movement came partly from the inspiration of Rachel Carson and was a spinoff of the Gaia Theory, a theory which placed much emphasis on the earth as a self-regulating mechanism. Deep Ecology was a by-product of the green movement which advocates a radical view of humanity’s relationship with nature. It does not see humanity as unique. Rather, humanity is merely a thread in the fabric of life. Ecocentrism is right; anthropocentrism (man-centeredness) is wrong. The last statement suggests man, created in God’s image according to Biblical theology, should not enjoy a privileged position on the spectrum of earth’s residents.

Nobel prize winner Al Gore calls the society of modern man “a dysfunctional fossil fuel civilization.” Some analysts write that Gore crosses over into deep ecology metaphysics. Over the past five decades many environmental advocacy organizations have transitioned to environmental activism, even environmental extremism and radicalism. For example, The Sierra Club in its early years was primarily focused on appreciation of our natural beauty and its preservation. It has become activist in its energy policy advocacy and now supports only wind and solar power. The organization does not support use of oil, natural gas, coal, nuclear, and biofuels. Only 2% of modern society’s energy production is considered “good” while 98% is “bad” according to this standard.

Studying the history of the environmental advocacy movement, we encounter many other surprising revelations. The Deep Ecology movement advocates significant reduction of the human population. By extension of that thinking we might posit that advocacy of wind and solar technologies to solve our society’s energy needs in place of fossil fuels necessitates a profound restructuring of our society if not an actual reduction in population. Europe’s green energy program is on the verge of collapse owing to its tilt away from traditional fossil fuels and toward renewables. In the United States restraints on fossil fuels result in significantly higher energy costs. Are not these policies anti-human, raising energy costs and the cost of living in an economy already besieged by high unemployment, falling incomes, and high living costs?

Modern environmentalists do not wish to be labelled “Deep Ecologists.” The thinking of many of today’s environmental activists who have captured the thinking of politicians formulating policies by which our country operates, however, are often philosophically akin to the principles governing Deep Ecology. 

Since the onset of the environmental movement, many burdensome regulations have been enacted. We do not disparage necessary and appropriate environmental directives. However, some dictates elevate the importance of animal life at the expense of human life. The west coast northern spotted owl and the current delta smelt controversy on the California coast come to mind. Each regulation scenario triggers many questions. The wisdom of hundreds of government regulations cries out for study.

Consider the social changes accompanying the onset of the environmental movement. The controversial Vietnam War was about to wind down. Social ferment and the sexual revolution was upon us. The onset of the New Age Movement corresponded to the arrival of the environmental movement including its deference to animal life and its de-emphasis of the value of human life. In 1973 the US Supreme Court legalized abortion to our national shame: human life seemed less important than wildlife. In the face of 17 years of declining worldwide temperatures since 1998 we now struggle to approve oil drilling in the Arctic or construction of the Keystone pipeline, battle against the closure of coal fired generating plants, shutter many nuclear generating installations, and strive to overturn fracking restrictions in the recovery of our plentiful natural gas deposits. Many of our government policies work against expansion of use of fossil fuels in deference to nearly impossible renewable energy strategies. The economic welfare of our expanding population seems secondary.

Fossil fuel burning has recently been labelled a “polluter” of air because the burning of these fuels produces CO2, a colorless, odorless gas vital for life processes of plants. By this standard every animal, including humans, pollutes the atmosphere by exhaling CO2 in their respiration process each living moment. Robert M. Carter, professor of Environmental and Earth Sciences at James Cook University, says, “Carbon Dioxide is not a pollutant but a naturally occurring, beneficial trace gas in the atmosphere.” Many scientists concur with this statement. The organization CO2 Is Green website asserts “What we see happening in Washington right now is the replacement of politics for science in conversations about CO2.”

Humanity is the pinnacle of God’s creative purpose. Scripture stresses God’s relationship and redemption of humanity. The Creator has providentially supplied natural resources for the benefit of man. Of course, God cares for the needs of millions of other earth species. Man, however, is entrusted with creation care. No other creature shares this honor. Wild creatures exist for our enjoyment and should be admired and treated with respect. Animals, plants, and the environment of our physical planet, however, occupy a lesser niche in the system of the created world than humanity.  

We pray that the philosophy of the deep ecology movement would not become more entrenched in our politics, our worldview, and our theology. As church members we must become better informed. May our God generously supply HIS wisdom in our ability to think with clarity.     

Friday, March 21, 2014

Earth's Warming History

Diligent inquiry yields informative facts in a complex subject such as climate change. Before 1988 the topic did not generate heated emotions. During the 1970s scientists flirted with the possibility of global cooling. In terms of “scare” topics there is no paucity of subject matter. Some topics are legitimately worthy of fear. Severe weather events embedded in long term climate have long been causes for concern. So-called normal weather is sometimes chaotic. Nevertheless, our climate system sustains human life. Lately it has acquired a reputation for being a threat to man’s well being because of what humans are doing to harness their enormous energy needs. We must look at the history of how we arrived at this state of fear and disagreement.

Some human caused problems yield reasonably simple solutions. Other cause and effect scenarios do not because the causes as well as the effects are less certain. We review a human caused problem which yielded a solution. Rachel Carson published Silent Spring in 1962. It became a Book-of-the Month selection. When I was a new member of the Book-of-the-Month Club, the title and subject matter held high interest for me because of my fascination with wildlife and all topics of the natural world. I hoped my students would learn to share my appreciation. When a “science current events” oral report was required of my students on occasion, some class members focused on topics of environmental impact, partially due to Rachel Carson’s influence. Her campaign reported the powerful, often negative effect humans were having on the natural world due to chemical spraying practices.

Carson highlighted the impact of pesticides such as DDT and the outcome of reduced reproductive success in birds such as the peregrine falcon and bald eagle. Her campaigns were fruitful. The recovery of bald eagles, our national bird, is an unequivocal success story of the environmental movement which began to achieve prominence around 1960. In my northwest Illinois neighborhood, this success has been highlighted by increased eagle sightings, including one recent visit within one hundred feet of our home.

Recalling the days of the nascent environmental movement, one of my visionary teacher colleagues organized a school-wide day of student hands-on participation in May 1970 to celebrate the initial “Earth Day.” This highly successful local school participation was nourished by a number of environmental awareness phenomena. We mention but two. One frequently copied photograph, “Earthrise,” taken during the famous December 1968 flight into moon orbit by astronauts Borman, Lovell, and Anders, became the emblem for a fragile Earth we take pains to preserve. The picture became a symbol of the newly launched environmental movement. The Population Bomb by Paul Ehrlich expressed a more alarmist view of the dire outcomes in store for Earth. Ehrlich implied man should do something about the oncoming problem of starvation and overpopulation.

Rachel Carson had a most positive effect on preventing the abuse of pesticides in addition to her promotion of a healthy respect for the environment. Government regulation of pesticides was achieved, but not without opposition from manufacturers of the chemicals. Man-made chemical substances came to be increasingly regulated by edicts from government agencies. Paul Ehrlich’s predictions on human starvation and overpopulation did not materialize as did the harmful effects of pesticides. Ehrlich advocated zero population growth and revised strategies for food production. His alarmism is an example of woefully ill-informed and inaccurate predictions. 

Between 1968 and 1988 a few writers expressed concern about both global cooling and global warming. Some pinpointed CO2 as a possible culprit in a warming scenario. More important players were ascendant in the growing global warming awareness. Key events occurred in 1988. Bert Bolin was chairman of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) from 1988-1997. The IPCC is a scientific body under the auspices of the United Nations formed by the linkage of the World Meteorogical Association (WMO) and the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP). Five assessment reports of IPCC sessions beginning in 1990, most recently in 2014, have been embraced by climate change enthusiasts. The IPCC findings are quoted by climate change campaign advocates as representative of scientific consensus. More accurately, the IPCC positions may be viewed as a “stacked deck” under the auspices of the United Nations.

Another major player turned out to be Maurice Strong who used his ambitions for the role of the United Nations to organize a 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. According to Christopher Booker in The Real Global Warming Disaster, Strong “used the issue of global warming to persuade the politicians and governments of the world to accept the supranational authority of the UN on a scale it had never enjoyed before, handing it powers considerably more far-reaching than anything in the minds of those who drew up its original charter. It was the biggest single step towards turning the UN into an unelected world government since its foundation half a century before.”

The church community must guard against the errors of enlisting in a campaign which may be seriously mistaken on several counts. At a Senate Environmental and Pubic Works committee hearing on January 16, 2014, there were nine people offering testimony on the subject of global warming. Only two or three promoted a balanced scientific perspective. One participant, Judith Curry, is among the most respected professional climate specialists in the country. Curry is Chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Her testimony is diametrically opposite of the so-called scientific consensus of the IPCC on climate projections for the future. Of concern is our government leadership’s endorsement of climate policies in opposition to responsible energy use. Even worse is our embrace of economic chaos resulting from commitment of billions and trillions of dollars to prevent the climate change which has not arrived and may never arrive.

Rachel Carson’s pesticide campaign identified a clear cause and effect relationship. Problem solutions were clear to all. We do not see the same relationship of cause and effect in our contemporary climate change issue.    



Saturday, March 15, 2014

Climate Confusion

On the evening of March 10, 2014, over half of the Democratic senators in Washington staged an all-night “filibuster” in senate chambers to highlight awareness of climate change. That the world’s climate changes is beyond any question. Climate change should not be used as a pejorative term. Thirty senators from the Democratic side of the aisle, however, focused on only frightening potential outcomes of climate change. Their version of climate change cast the issue as “a question of our own survival.” Senate Majority leader Harry Reid implored the U. S. and the world to “act before it is too late.” He claimed it is “the worst problem facing the world today.” Many other senatorial warnings were explicit and frightening: “We are on the cusp of a climate crisis that threatens our health, our economy, and our world,” was their collective lament.

Observers of weather and climate since the latest long term warming phase began about 1850 would be hard pressed to document a trend toward climate disaster in the past decade, or few decades, or in the last century. Our blog has highlighted many of the most intense individual weather events as well as long term trends. Readers would face an enormous challenge to prove a proliferation of weather disasters in recent years due to climate change. Historic hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, droughts, and blizzards have occurred in the past. They are still occurring today. Because heavily publicized current climatic events may convey the impression things are “getting worse,” that perception may stand in for reality in the public mind. Statistically, perceptions of this nature are more often discovered to have little grounding in reality. 

Our legislators would have served truth discovery more effectively had they held an all night session to discuss the complexity of oceanic and atmospheric oscillations, the influence of solar activity on our planet, how cosmic rays affect cloudiness and affect earth’s temperature, or how orbital cycles influence earth’s weather. Citizens may be more interested to discover long term climate swings of the past eight millennia or how short term temperature trends in just the last century have caused temperatures to increase or decrease noticeably four times. They would be surprised to find that cloud cover and water vapor are far more important in climate forcing than the uncertain effects of CO2. Our citizenry may appreciate the knowledge that the oft-quoted 97-98% of climate scientists supposedly in consensus on this complex issue is manifestly misleading or false. 

Is the earth fragile? Do we not wish to treat our environment with care? Yes, our wonderful planet should be handled with the utmost care. Quality of water and air resources must be improved or maintained. Forests must be managed and restored wisely. Chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers need to be monitored and controlled so the quality of our environment does not suffer. Harmful pollutants must be controlled to avoid environmental damage. While there is room for improvement, these factors have been reasonably well controlled in the United States. Our responses must be realistic to match the needs of a healthy and economically viable populace. The Creator has endowed mankind with wisdom to handle our earth in a responsible manner.

At this level we respond to the senators who staged the climate change “all nighter.” With little doubt, each of 28 senators articulated reasons why current climate change is causing serious harmful environmental effects in their districts. Their conclusion was unabashedly negative: Climate change is hurting the earth. Not only so, it will become much worse. Their conclusions were fraught with apocalyptic warnings. Much of the discussion revolves around whether or not carbon dioxide, a natural product of the burning of fossil fuels, is a pollutant. Evidence that this issue is extremely divisive is a 5-4 decision the U. S. Supreme Court offered in 2007 and recently clarified. In the face of the errant belief that the cause for climate change is “settled science,” the court view that the EPA must be able to pronounce carbon dioxide a pollutant throws the issue into confusion. In the light of confusion on how to deal with the “settled” issue of climate change, we are faced with the chaos of committing additional trillions of dollars in a misguided effort to reduce CO2. The additional chaos imposed on our already reeling national budget is unthinkable.

The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation believes “Earth and its ecosystems…are robust, resilient, self-regulating and self correcting” and display God’s glory. The Alliance denies “that carbon dioxide—essential to plant growth—is a pollutant.” They believe that “Reducing greenhouse gases cannot achieve significant reductions in future global temperatures.” Cornwall spokesmen declare that “Recent warming was neither abnormally large nor abnormally rapid. There is no convincing evidence that human contribution to greenhouse gases is causing dangerous global warming.” Their concern is that “while passion may energize environmental activism, it is reason, including sound theology and sound science—that must guide the decision-making process.”

The Christian response to climate issues involves a difficult entanglement of science, theology, economics, and politics. Our idealistic desire to “do something about it,” may lead to impossible terrain if the science is wrong, if the economics are unsound, or if our theology is errant. In addition, political motivations or personal desire to benefit economically from agreed upon climate solutions, may consign the entire project to failure or catastrophe.

A focused study of these interwoven issues becomes essential for those in leadership in the evangelical community. We cannot afford to err scientifically, economically, or theologically. The science is definitely not settled on the maze of issues surrounding climate change, and in particular, anthropogenic global warming. Draconian solutions proposed to remedy slight temperature changes caused by man instead of accepting warming and cooling occurring naturally throughout earth history seem not to be grounded in wisdom and reason. We must humbly ask God for wisdom and reason.  


Sunday, March 9, 2014

Climate Wisdom

The counsel of Psalm 90:12 is appropriate for daily and mundane as well as eternal and spiritual guidance. “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom,” proclaims King David. The Apostle James advises, “If any of you lack wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:7). Taking the apostle at his word, we ask God for wisdom in our discussion of climate and climate change.

When rancorous debates occur, we must consign the issue to those with minds of wisdom. Society has been locked in many fierce debates over time. One current debate, abating only minimally, relates to climate change. Global warming proponents have lately given the discussion topic a different name. They now speak of climate change. This oversimplification does not signal the death of global warming. Far from it, for we are regularly assaulted with the pronouncement that disastrous global warming results from anthropogenic effects owing to emission of CO2 into the atmosphere. This outcome of modern society’s consumption of fossil fuels remains a fear-inspiring cause célèbre.

Reports of interesting, harsh, or even violent weather fill the news. Media analyses of such events invariably seem to intone various unsubstantiated theories as causative. Superstorm Sandy in October 2012 is but one example of many. It was caused, or intensified, by anthropogenic global warming, it is claimed. Commentators proclaim without hesitation that events such as periodic floods, droughts, and even the exceedingly harsh winter of 2013-14 in the Midwest and east, have explanations in climate change scenarios. Translation: Man is responsible for the changes!

We must seek an infusion of wisdom in this analysis. Climate science is exceedingly complex. Historical events are intertwined with climate conditions characterized by either long term coolness or warmth. For instance, the Medieval Warm period followed the cooler Dark Ages. During the Little Ice Age which followed, there were ice festivals and skating on the Thames River to match dearth and famine. If we agree that climate is always changing, we first acknowledge that attributing currently observed modern phenomena to “climate change” is an example of circular reasoning. Of course climate is changing. It has been changing for thousands of years both long term and short term. There have been at least nine major long term temperature fluctuations in the last eight millennia.

In the distant past, the era from 6000 BC to 2000 BC is termed the Holocene climate optimum following the close of the last major Ice Age. Prior to the history of the sojourn of the Israelites in Egypt a modest cool period was followed by a warm period from 1500-500 BC. During the Grecian Empire a cool period preceded the Roman warm period. We review common knowledge of better documented recent cooling and warming periods, ending with the current “warm period:” (1) The Roman warm period extended from 100 BC to 400 AD. (2) The Dark Ages, 400-900 AD, were characterized by cooling. (3) The Medieval Warm Period extended from 900-1300 AD. The Little Ice Age (4) lasted from 1300-1850 AD. (5) Finally, the Current Warm Period began in 1850. This period has seen retreat of glaciers which continues to this day. The cause of gradual earth warming was not a societal obsession until the last few decades. Even if the intellectuals of history reflected on changes in climate, they did not have CO2 and fossil fuels to include in their explanations.

Temperature anomalies of 0.5˚C persisting for decades or centuries may bring conspicuous changes to earth’s climate and the manner in which earth’s life forms cope. These periodic anomalies did not result in a true “Ice Age,” but their effects on society were significant. We may explain centuries-long warm and cool periods with more recently described climate oscillations still occurring today--cyclical atmospheric or oceanic temperature or pressure fluctuations. Some are short; some are long. Most oscillations are more or less predictable and regular. These oscillations have significant effects on climate and their effects are becoming better known as we continue to study them. My personal favorite phrase to describe the oscillation scenario: Inherent variability in global climate.

In the current “warm” period persisting since 1850, there were four minor warming or cooling periods since 1910. A warm period occurred 1910-1940; cooling occurred 1940-1970, warming from 1970-1998, and cooling since then. The current cooling has been dubbed a “hiatus” within a period when global warming enthusiasts insist the long term trend is inexorably and tragically hotter. Inherent variability of global climate has been replaced by the frightening scepter of “Climate Change,” formerly touted as “Anthropocentric Global Warming.”

When God created Earth, he created an optimal climate system. The climate has experienced many cooling and warming events. If we endorse “inherent variability” in our global climate, we will not imprudently attribute the current warming to fossil fuel consumption. We will remember that causes for long term temperature ups and downs have been manifold. Fossil fuels have supported human population expansion from one billion to seven billion in the last 200 years. We would do well to contemplate whether pulling back from their use in the 21st century would be a wise path for man to follow. We must look past CO2 to discover the wisdom of God with respect to multiple causes of climate change.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Frozen Deep

Relentless cold describes the winter of 2013-2014 in the central and eastern United States. Accompanying the cold have come frequent snows. In our region this winter has gifted us with over two dozen snowfalls and 43 daily below zero readings so far. Snowfall approaches highest seasonal totals in our area since climate records commenced in 1850. Statistics for record lows and record “low highs” in February augment the recent record low high for March which surpassed the low high for any day in March in meteorological history by three degrees.

Tiring statistics may overshadow knowledge of how God created and oversees Earth’s dynamic climate system for the welfare of man. What sort of weather do most people prefer? How have we become conditioned to welcome pleasant, predictably comfortable weather events and look unfavorably or complainingly at weather events which cause discomfort or inconvenience? The answer lies in failure to understand that warring air masses with their active interactions on a planet blessed with a dynamic atmosphere results more often in beneficial than harmful events. Attendant wind, rain, lightning, and thunderstorms, and even occasional harsh droughts, floods, snows, and frozen deeps are included.

The benefits of our climate system far outweigh the detriments. Our planet’s population has increased from one billion to over seven billion since 1810. Some people struggle for survival, but food and medical scientists have allayed the recent fear of a population explosion with accompanying famine and pestilence. Our world, in fact, can support many more.

What of the Midwest winter of 2013-2014? There are literary, scientific, and spiritual lessons to be gained from a study of weather imagery in the Book of Job. Even though our modern media commentators denigrate winter with its intense inconvenience, the view of winter’s frozen glory is placed in a different light by the writer of Job. God’s breath produces ice, declares author Elihu: “The breath of God produces ice, and the broad waters become frozen” (Job 37:10). God himself continues in chapter 38: “From whom comes the ice? Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens when the waters become hard as stone, when the surface of the deep is frozen?” (Job 38:29) God himself places frozen water, hard as stone, in a favorable light and receives credit for producing it.

The Great Lakes are almost completely frozen over. Hydrologists claim ice cover slows evaporation. Below normal lake levels of recent years will be restored, a welcome scenario for shippers who have endured problems from shallower water. Increased snow depths this winter will melt and add to water volume. Ice caves may be visited for the first time in years on Apostle Island in Lake Superior. Some fish will benefit from improved spawning beds.

Meanwhile, climate change alarmists state extreme weather events result from the increase in man-made carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Each time there is a weather “disaster” such as the harsh winter plaguing our country this year, these events are laid to the fossil fuel consumption activities of modern man. Exceptional, undesirable weather is laid to man-caused climate change. We must heed counsel to study the evidence and judge accordingly. The evidence points to dozens of causes for each observed effect. Our climate system has been designed by the Creator to function for the benefit of man.

Is Earth cooling or warming? We encourage readers to give attention to the commonly acknowledged fact that there has been no warming for over 17 years. The climate change alarmists have stridently avowed that long term warming is still occurring. They say we have merely slowed down for a “speed bump.” The anthropogenic global warming believers (aka climate changers) will not relent in their insistence that developed nations must commit trillions of dollars to slow down or halt disastrous computer projected warming for the long term. Expensive “remedies” are to be paid for by our citizens.

Christopher Booker in The Real Global Warming Disaster ends his lengthy volume by colorfully calling the global warming panic a “nyktomorph,” from the Greek words for ‘night shape’: that which provokes the mind into wild imaginings because it hasn’t been given enough data to identify the source of our panic correctly. Shakespeare wrote, “In the night, imagining some fear, how easy is a bush supposed a bear.” If the runaway global warming hysteria turns out to be Booker’s “nyktomorph,” then “it will turn out to be one of the most expensive, destructive, and foolish mistakes the human race has ever made.”

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Reproduction, Behavior, and Design

Dealing with each of the three topics in this post title with any degree of thoroughness could be an exercise in futility. Each topic, however, has lately been brought to mind by the activity around the small suet feeder suspended from our rear deck. An exceedingly cold, snowy winter in northwest Illinois has failed to disperse our traditional feathered winter residents. In our neighborhood they seem to be thriving. Most of these birds are less often seen during the summer when they inhabit the cover of warm weather foliage, busily reproducing. In the warm season they obey an unseen, inner imperative to multiply their kind.

Winter affords opportunity to observe certain species at close range. How close? I have suspended a small wire cage from our deck containing a block of seeded suet a few feet from my west-facing sun room window. Perhaps my avian friends don’t need the food I supply, but their visits to our feeder have helped me contemplate lofty thoughts about how our Heavenly Father cares for this world’s creatures during all seasons and conditions and endows living things with skill and beauty. God’s provides animals with coping skills.

Psalm 84:3 speaks of the sparrow finding a home and the swallow a nest for herself. Chapter 104:27 calls attention to many varied creatures for whom God makes provision when “these all look to you to give them their food at the proper time.” Jesus proclaimed, “…not one (sparrow) will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.” Generally, scripture contains expressions of divine care bestowed by God on the creatures he created.

Even as our unusual early March deep freeze still holds the landscape in its icy grip, some songsters have sensed the longer day length during February and have begun to serenade the neighborhood with more exuberant vocalizations. In their instinctive awareness, they anticipate the coming of spring and the approaching days when their efforts will be directed toward reproduction--mating, nest building, egg laying, hatching, feeding, and fledging their young. (Our local newspaper announced that yesterday’s March 2 high temperature was the lowest high temperature, +3˚F, for any day in March in recorded history in this region.) In less than two months our bird residents will obey their inner reproductive mandate, including our neighborhood’s eight or ten winter resident bluebirds who seem unfazed by last night’s readings of -8˚F.

Our suet feeder has been visited by blue jays, cardinals, chickadees, downy and hairy woodpeckers, flickers, juncos, nuthatches, red-bellied woodpeckers, starlings, and tufted titmice. Birds not interested in the feeder--including bluebirds, cedar waxwings, and robins--sometimes observe from a distance. Most unusual are the collectively exuberant intervals when multiple specimens of six or more different species await their turns at the feeder all at once. This morning six different species scrambled to visit in less than one minute, with three on the small feeder at once on one occasion. In between are long stretches when no birds are anywhere in sight. A similar phenomenon occurs in the fall when multiple species fly about from tree to tree, feeding, frolicking, and then deserting the area. We are reminded of animated human enthusiasm at picnics or sporting events. Our past posts on soulishness discuss this fascinating phenomenon.

The specifics of the reproduction process have great interest far beyond the visual observation of animal behavior, nest building, parental nourishment of babies, care and training of young animals, how the new generation adapts, and other factual items of interest. Biologists deal with reproduction at the level of gametes, zygotes, embryos and wonderful construction and integration processes of various types of body organs and systems during gestation. We visually observe our neighborhood birds and mammals, but even more remarkable miracles occur at these levels.

Finally, we comment on the diverse design features of our feeder visitors. When we observe the uniqueness of feathers, bill shape, or coloring, and contemplate the catalog of multiple physical features and adaptations of birds at our suet feeder, our heart leaps with wonder. We must agree that knowledge of the theology of creation extends from the birds in our back yard to countless thousands of wonders our cosmos surrounding us each day of our lives.