Wonders and warnings


Back in Memphis after a brush with global weirding. That’s a more useful phrase than global warming, as the local affects of climate instability show up as extremes of cold, heat, drought and drenching. In our case, we just caught a glancing blow of a storm that rearranged many lives this past week. Just 10 inches of snow and temperature in the teens locked us in our cabin for three days longer than these city people planned.

And amid the weirdness, great beauty for our eyes are tuned to regard as beautiful the most mundane aspects of nature. Freezing and thawing of water, snow on the trees, fire on wood. What could be less notable? But I am drawn in wonder to the play of sunset’s light in the ice.


We are so comfortable in natures womb that we are surprised to learn how wondrously balanced it all is, and what a narrow range of conditions permits our living. Just a wobble this way or that, and we find ourselves near edges we had no idea were there.

About a month ago I found myself with many hours of driving alone, so I downloaded Bill McKibben’s, Eaarth which riveted me in extremes of sadness and hope. Sadness as he persuaded me that the planet I grew up loving no longer exists. We have literally changed the chemistry of the air with countless effects, some of which we can actually see in all their weirdness. The hope (less convincing) is found in the human ways of coming together with what we have and can do. Bill sees hope in localism and regionalism and, via our long term connectedness, globalism. He and some Vermont students created one of the most remarkable signs of viral hope that you should visit: 350.org.

The number is the whole story–the level of carbon in the air above which our Eaarth can stabilize somewhere near our current level of warming. Above that and the chemistry of the air guarantees that we will continue to warm — and not in the long future of our grandchildren. But visibly, quickly, in a few dozen years. I love a lot of people who are vulnerable to that.

McKibben sees hope in how we connect to each other where we actually live. I saw that this week up in our micro-neighborhood of a couple dozen cabins scattered around the steep and winding gravel roads. Eddie Geller is about 6 foot two inches of practical human decency, who made it around on his ATV to check on every last stranded family. Getting baby formula for the Brazilians up the hill, getting another woman to her chemo appointment. And then he guided us all down the icy roads to safety when it was possible to move at all.


I was worried for the safety of my family amid the ice. I was glad Eddie was in my life to help. And I am worried for my larger family amid the growing warmth. But also filled with the wonder of how we are wired to find our way, first toward each other, and then to do what wisdom makes visible.

Go to 350.org and help out.

– Posted on the journey

About garygunderson

Vice President, Faith Health, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC. Author, Leading Causes of Life, Deeply Woven Roots, Boundary Leaders and Religion and the Heath of the Public. Secretary, Stakeholder Health (Health Systems Learning Group).
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