By CLIVE BUTCHER
Saturday 25 September 2021
9 And God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. 11 Then God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.” And it was so. 12 The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.
This picture of the Blue Mountains in Australia from 2016 shows an incalculable number of trees, yet a report from ‘The State of the Worlds Trees ‘this year states that one third to one half of species are threatened with extinction. The threat is varied but led by agricultural needs and logging, with Madagascar and Brazil having the most threatened species. Tree loss does not just affect us by loss of carbon sequestration and oxygen production but from loss of healthy biosystems, the animals and plants that depend on the trees. The trees of the Blue Mountains have suffered from the fires of 2019 with 20 % of the World Heritage site affected. Although fire plays an important role in in the natural cycle of regeneration the scale and frequency of fires related to climate change is a major threat. More obvious human related forest destruction is seen in Brazil with forests cleared for cattle breeding or mining.
Tree planting is only part of the solution, we cannot plant enough trees to compensate for our carbon emissions. Yet the tree planted to commemorate our bicentenary is perhaps a symbol of intent!
Trees feature prominently in the Bible, a reminder of their importance to us and of God's love for his Creation. The image of the tree of ‘the knowledge of good and evil’ was of significance for early humanity and for us today. Solomon in his wisdom spoke of the cedar trees of Lebanon (1Kings 4:33). Jeramiah (23: 5) speaks of a ‘righteous branch’. Psalm 1 talks of ‘trees planted by streams of water’. We remember the Cross described as a tree and, once again Revelation 22 with the promise of the tree of life.
Prayer for trees and earth - Gerson Ramirez, El Salvador.
God of creation, you have taught us to love life. That our longing for life should be above all other desires; a transcendent longing that values all of creations living creatures. The earth and trees groan because of our failure to care for and protect them, ruling over and profiting from them rather than protecting them from death. We have viewed the earth as a resource to be exploited rather than as our mother. We accept the challenge of taking care of ourselves in order to care for the earth our mother and our common home, for the trees and for life itself. We recognise that you have given us an understanding greater than other living creatures in order to reflect your creative, communal and loving character towards everything that exists. Lord, we commit to live caring for all nature, guarding our hearts from selfish desires and not living as proprietors, but as brothers and sisters in community with all living things, especially the trees that are the source of life.