All of the beautiful creatures featured on this blog inhabit the Adirondacks in upstate New York, a stretch of 6 million acres of wilderness forests and lakes. In 1892, after years of logging and railroad fires nearly destroyed the forest, New York State declared vast portions of this huge region to be “forever wild” — a bold environmental action that, 126 years later, has regenerated the forest habitats, helped to restore lakes and wild streams, and created a place of beauty and peace that should be a model for environmental stewardship elsewhere.
Sadly, we are living in a political moment in which certain politicians, encouraged by certain corporate interests, seem to gain favor by trashing environmental stewardship, calling for an end to environmental protections and even denying climate science. We are witnessing the appalling destruction of the Environmental Protection Agency and the years of efforts through regulatory action to prevent pollution, clean up rivers and the very air we breathe. In New York, there even have been efforts to overturn the “forever wild” provisions, but fortunately, they failed.
Environmental stewardship is an integral part of Catholic social teaching. Care for God’s Creation is inextricably linked to upholding the dignity and worth of human life — humans cannot thrive in circumstances in which the air, water and natural habitats are routinely polluted. Pope Francis put a clear focus on the moral imperative of environmental protection in his landmark encyclical Laudato Si:
“I urgently appeal…for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all…We require a new and universal solidarity…All of us can cooperate as instruments of god for the care of creation, each according to his or her own culture, experience, involvements and talents.” — Pope Francis, #14 in the Encyclical Letter Laudato Si, On Care for our Common Home
All of the forest creatures — yes, even that hungry beaver above — have an integral role to play in the replenishment of the natural environment, and we humans have an obligation to make sure that the conditions exist for this continuous renewal and replenishment of our natural resources.
In these beautiful north woods I also find peace and replenishment. What’s good for the birds is also good for people! My time here is now short, but my memories of these beautiful wild things will sustain me in the days to come!