“To commit a crime against the natural world is a sin. For humans to cause species to become extinct and to destroy the biological diversity of God’s creation . . . for humans to degrade the integrity of Earth by causing changes in its climate, by stripping the Earth of its natural forests, or destroying its wetlands . . . for humans to injure other humans with disease . . . for humans to contaminate the Earth’s waters, its land, its air, and its life, with poisonous substances . . . these are sins.”
- Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, 2005
We spent the early part of the Labor Day weekend at Suttle Lake where we had spectacular views of the Shadow Lake fire raging in the Mt. Washington area. 500 people were evaucated from Big Lake last night as the fire grew. It began over a week ago after a lightening strike.
We witnessed helicopters taking water from smaller water bodies in the area they then used to dump on the fire. As of today, however, the fire is reported as 0% contained. At Suttle Lake - besides the view - the only impact we felt was the occassion smell of smoke. Suttle Lake Lodge, part of the complex we stayed at, has burned down three times in the past. The most recent fire at Suttle Lake was six years ago.
Fires are hiting Oregon very hard right now. Part of this is the natural cycle of life in the Pacific Northwest, of course. Yet the impact of fires have been made worse in recent years - and this point has to be stressed - because of on-going climate change.
Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell recently told Congress:
"Throughout the country, we're seeing longer fire seasons, and we're seeing snowpacks that, on average, are disappearing a little earlier every spring," he said, as well as devastating droughts. As a result, fire seasons have lengthened by more than 30 days, on average.
"Our scientists believe this is due to a change in climate," said Tidwell.
We can pretend this isn't true but we do so at our peril. I cannot say that the Shadow Lake fire is a direct result of climate change or not but it is clear that climate change is increasing the severity of forest fires across the globe. It is a sin to ignore our responsibility to act as stewards of creation.