By Rev. Chris Brouillard-Coyle
Weather and work made it so that our lawn remained untouched well into May. Since we refrain from the use of pesticides and are surrounded by untreated fields, there was a bounty of dandelions on the grass.
I think this is pretty, as the yellow breaks up the sea of green. Besides, dandelions have a host of benefits including being the first food for bees, a source of rubber. The roots can be used as a coffee substitute, there are compounds with curative properties, the leaves are high in vitamin A, vitamin C and iron, and these can be made into soup, jam, salad and, perhaps most importantly, wine.
This year I also discovered another benefit: as we looked out the window on a gray day, we saw flits of yellow. Four male goldfinch had discovered our lawn and were feasting on the seeds of the dandelions.
Over the next few days, we saw a bounty of other songbirds doing likewise. Then, I saw a post on Facebook where a woman was lamenting the need to forego bird feeders in her area because of the prevalence of rats. It had been months since we had put seed out for the birds. As it turns out, we don’t need to – Mother Nature has provided through the dandelions and the various native plants we have included in our garden.
Our fifth mark of mission is: to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth. When we think about the environment, what often comes to mind are reduce, reuse and recycle campaigns, conversations about the use of plastic, the debate about pipelines and the tar sands, or perhaps the debate about carbon tax. These are important practices and conversations as they provide a framework from which humanity can act in an effort to sustain and renew the life of the earth.
What I have learned from reading “Bee Time: Lessons from the Hive” (Winston, Harvard University Press, 2014), “The Hidden Life of Trees” (Wohlleben, Ludwig Verlag, 2015) and participating in the “in the zone” project (http://www.inthezonegardens.ca/) is that there is incredible value in seeking to safeguard the integrity of creation. If we begin with the premise that God created and it was good, then we need to trust the foundation of creation as being something which is already sustainable and renewable.
Human beings have spent an inordinate amount of time trying to engineer creation so that it works to our convenience and benefit. The result is that we arbitrarily decide what aspects of creation are valuable to us and put less effort into caring for the rest. In doing so, we miss the interconnectedness which supports our eco-systems and allows all of creation to thrive.
For example: mass deaths of honey bees has created a crisis which has contributed to the evolution of an industry where honey bees are shipped to farms to assist with the pollination process. To further address this problem, scientists are working to create self-pollinating plants. Meanwhile, studies show that allowing natural plants to grow in areas near farmland helps to encourage other species of bees to participate in the pollination process and has led to increased stability of the farm.
It would seem that there is incredible value for all of nature when we support the integrity of creation itself. The more we seek to enable nature to do what it is designed to do, the more benefits we experience. This is certainly a conversation worth having in our homes and in our churches. As we are called to do in serving one another, when we look at the environment, it is important to recognize what God is already doing and seek to participate as we are able.
The use of native trees and plants in gardens, the use of rain barrels, organic agriculture, buying local, and celebrating the beauty that already exists can all be vital steps to trusting that God’s creation is already good. We have a role to play in preserving what is already not only for our own benefits but also for our children and grandchildren unto seven generations. What will you do?
Rev. Chris Brouillard-Coyle is the Social & Ecological Justice Huron co-chair.