Saint Francis of Assisi saw the beauty and interconnectedness of all things, which inspired him to write the Canticle of Brother Sun. Saint Bonaventure writes that God is visible in his footprints, that is, in creation. Plants, animals, earth, air, wind, fire, people, all bear the imprint of the Creator. Many of us have become so far removed from the natural wonder of our world that we ignore the sacred connection of creatures—creation, to their Creator.
During the delegation’s visit to the Asubpeeschoseewagong (Grassy Narrows) First Nation, we had the opportunity to see, experience and learn from people who remember and live in away that respects the sacredness of life. We saw how a natural forest is a diverse, interdependent ecosystem. We learned how the forest supports both plant and animal species that also support human life.
We also saw clear-cuts and their results. In speaking of what is happening at Whiskey Jack Forest of Grassy Narrows, Brian Tuesday, says that the people “are forced to disconnect from the very life that sustains them. The trees, the animals, the plants that they coexist with and had a living relationship with are being destroyed.” The areas that have been clear-cut have been replaced with a mono-culture of genetically engineered trees.
In a short one hour drive we passed several of these tree farms. The clear-cuts destroyed the habitat of several species of animals, birds and plants and in turn the loss of food, medicines and other resources that sustain three of the community’s families.
Yet there is hope. Normally, areas that have been clear-cut are chemically treated so that no other types of tree or vegetation can grow there besides grass, ensuring that the selected type of tree has no competition for soil nutrients. Pressure from Grassy Narrows and the four year Blockade contributed to the cessation of aerial spraying in the area thus enabling some local vegetation to re-establish itself.
There are signs of life returning. In one of these areas blueberries abound. The team was invited to pick blueberries by one of our hosts from Grassy Narrows. One of the team, Pat McSherry, remarked on how surreal it was to see the contrast between the clearcut and the thriving blueberries.
As suggested above, one can glimpse the image of God through the footprints of the Divine One in creation. Not only humans but all of creation bears the divine imprint of the Creator. Further, each microbe and being of creation is unique. Each deserves reverence and respect because of its singular manifestation of the Divine spark—of God. Wanton destruction of creation for greed without regard for its inherent sacredness is a form of sacrilege.
My experience of Grassy Narrows has prompted me to reflect on what happens if the clear-cutting does not stop and the life of the Asubpeeschoseewagong First Nation is drained away. It is not enough for me to point the finger at others. I have to contemplate on how the Gospel is calling me respond to the challenging question posed by Brian Tuesday, “What have we done to see that justice prevails?”