Putting Our Planet Back in the Safety Zone

safety-zoneThe great gospel quintet The Fairfield Four do an old song titled “Standing in the Safety Zone.” The lyrics are roughly, “If you want to get to heaven, oh, you better stand in the safety zone.” A similar sentiment could be said about our planet. If we want to continue to live with the world as God intended, then we’d better learn to live in the safety zone. There are a thousand different factors that are contributing to global climate change, but basically we are fouling our own nest and we need to stop.

(Graphic Above: The inner green shading represents the proposed safe operating space for nine planetary systems. The red wedges represent an estimate of the current position for each variable. The boundaries in three systems (rate of biodiversity loss, climate change and human interference with the nitrogen cycle), have already been exceeded.)

In the days ahead you will be hearing a lot of shouting about climate change. Congress will begin taking on a host of environmental legislation in the late fall. The international climate convention will be held in Copenhagen in December to address the end of the Kyoto agreements (that the U.S. never signed). The coal industry, along with other energy companies, is currently paying and training people to be part of America’s Power Army as a fake grassroots lobbying effort to promote “clean coal” and “safe nuclear energy” and  “balanced energy choices.” They also aim to create “reasonable doubt” in the minds of Americans about the veracity of climate change or the need for industry regulation.

In the middle of all the shouting, it’s important to remember that we need the strongest possible climate change legislation if we are going to protect the world’s vulnerable from starving to death, being driven off their land, or swallowed by rising oceans. The poor of the world are the canary in the global coal mine and they are choking on the waste generated by the U.S. and Europe (but the Europeans are doing something about it).

Here’s an excerpt from a recent Science Daily article titled Scientists Outline ‘Safe Operating Space’ For Humanity.

New approaches are needed to help humanity deal with climate change and other global environmental threats that lie ahead in the 21st century, according to a group of 28 internationally renowned scientists.

The scientists propose that global biophysical boundaries, identified on the basis of the scientific understanding of the earth system, can define a “safe planetary operating space” that will allow humanity to continue to develop and thrive for generations to come. This new approach to sustainable development is conveyed in the current issue of the scientific journal Nature. The authors have made a first attempt to identify and quantify a set of nine planetary boundaries, including climate change, freshwater use, biological diversity, and aerosol loading.

Read the whole article here.

Jesus Bees and Street Honey

I love bees. I took a semester of bee-keeping when I was studying biology at the University of California, Davis. It was always a great adventure to ride my bike out to the veterinary medicine school where there was a “study hive.” I would spend hours tracking particular bees in the large glass-walled hive. For extra credit in that course, I wrote a collection of “bee poems” to submit with my research.

Someday, I’ll take up the renegade art of urban beekeeping and sell street honey in the inner city. (It’s actually illegal to keep bees inside the District of Columbia.) Read  here for more on the joys of backyard beekeeping.

Bees also have a time-honored place in Christian history. There are several mentions of bees in the Bible. And they are considered to have attributes of Jesus due to their honey and sting. According to an interesting article by Croatian vet students about animal symbolism in Christian art:

Honey symbolizes gentleness and charity, and sting symbolizes justice. Furthermore, bees are of the symbols of resurrection. Three winter months during which it does not come out from the bee-hive remind us of three days after Christ’s death when his body was invisible, then appeared again and was resurrected. The organisation of life in the bees community, with perfectly defined interrelations and relation to the queen-bee, became almost the ideal of Christian virtues. On the other hand, bees and bee hive symbolise eloquence, and are presented with the three known holy orators called “Doctores melliflui” (scholars sweet as honey). They are: St. Ambrosius, St. Bernard of Clariveaux, and St. John Chrysostom.

There’s also a fascinating bible study out there somewhere on Judges 14 where a hive of bees in the carcass of the lion distracts Sampson as he is on his way to “take” his enemy wife. Tell me what you find. The Hebrew word for bee is: devorah. It’s etymologically related to the words for “speaking” and “choosing a direction.” It’s associated with prophecy.

Of course, most folks have heard that bees are under attack from climate change and mono-crop agriculture. So eat your honey, plant native wildflowers, don’t use pesticides, and love your bees..