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The Dead Zone is what they are called. Dead Zones are the reality of life for some in this country. Yet, long before BP Global’s latest bit of environmental negligence in the Gulf of Mexico there was a local tragedy that hunters and fisherman of every political stripe would talk about. South Louisiana had been loosing it’s marshland for decades and a rapidly increasing number. This deterioration of nature’s coastal cleaning apparatus and natural hurricane barrier left not only plants and wildlife vulnerable, but also human’s and the industries that kept sustenance in one of the poorest areas in the United States.
In the middle of this local catastrophe is the Dead Zone. This was an area where the Mississippi empties into the Gulf of Mexico below New Orleans. Nothing can survive in this churning, toxic pool of water that is dumped into one of our country’s best fishing and shrimping areas. Whether it is from fertilizer or chemical dumping, it is killing everything in that area of the country.
This is pooled with environmental racism, geographically high cancer rates, chemical plant dumping and the remains of slash and burn farming methods. It is no wonder that these areas of our nation place at the bottom of categories that one would want to be on the top of nationally and on the bottom of lists that one wants to excel on.
Without political clout they often find themselves without the same type of professional activists that one would find on the East or West Coast. Yet, is it any less immoral when children from the Mississippi Delta find themself surrounded in a poisonous environmental mix than upper-middle class governmental worker’s children in the Palisades neighborhood? Yet, to our shame the Mississippi Delta is not the distance that we travel in our ignorance.
Can we be so calloused that we cannot see our moral interconnectedness with those across town never the less a thousand miles away? It is because we do not have to travel to the Delta to see the impact sheltering ourselves from deterioration can isolate us morally from our neighbor’s plight. Safe enclaves will not protect us from the divine’s piercing gaze into our responsibility for our brothers and sisters.
It is morally shortsighted to wall ourselves off into the organic isles of our local grocery and plop our recycling into bins with pleasant sighs. While these actions barely begin at healing a scarred planet they are found wanting in their individualistic and self-satisfying nature. Our planet will not be saved from its systematic destruction by individual acts of cleansing, but by the corporate act of forcing redemption upon our institutions letting down our plants, animals, neighbors and our planet.
We can no longer ignore the agonizing cry of our neighbors, nor the whirling seasonal changes that are beset upon us in this literally changing climate. Our politicians have shown to be cowardly in the face of this great challenge. Our religious leaders are afraid of being called too political by their safe or conservative members. The activists have become professionalized and so dispirited that they can only grasp for minor victories.
In the end it is about sin. From our holy text’s earliest admonitions is for us to take care of this planet in good stewardship. To do otherwise is to oppose God’s good purpose for this world. No matter how conservative one claims to be they can no longer hold that mantle if they hold to the rape of our planet by corporate interests over and above the conservation of land, water, health and long-term sustainability on the land. Liberals can no longer be taken seriously by their tepid mouthing of environmental policies. Their incrementalism has shown to be lacking in character.
It will take people whose radical faith impels them to stand up for all living creatures and our neighbor’s own survival. It will take something that is a much more rare commodity than a strategy for votes or dividends. It is courage. It is no less than redemption that we seek. We have a Savior that contends that his salvation makes all things new. That is what our choking, sludgy and arid planet needs from us. It is what our wheezing and asthmatic neighbor pleads with us. We need a radical confession to the belief that how we live at this point in our history is not good enough. It is immoral and as with any immoral behavior must be brought in repentant change to bring about redemption. Our hope is that we can co-exist in mutuality with our neighbors in peace and this does not mean non-engagement. Nor does it mean conflict avoidance. It means that we must humbly work toward salvation, not only for our souls, but for our planet as well.
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