On April 22 we observe Earth Day, which reminds us of the challenge we face to meet our continuing obligation to care for and replenish the Earth.
But in the American east, we blast Appalachian mountaintops off into valleys, retrieving small seams of coal while blocking miles of streams.
In the Midwest, we plow up dry area grasslands for industrial agriculture, taking as much as three feet of irrigation water annually from underground aquifers like the Ogallala. Those aquifers are replenished by nature with perhaps an inch of water annually.
In the arid west, we dam rivers so that people and crops can live in deserts. The land becomes more saline, and the rivers no longer reach the sea. Before the Europeans, Minnesota was a natural resource treasure, with forests of virgin white pine and large deposits of rich iron ore.
Our glacially deposited soils were nourished by the ample waters of our lakes, streams and aquifers. Now, the forests are clear cut, their lumber exported to the world. Most of the iron ore has gone everywhere, leaving behind empty pits. We need to protect our remaining soil and the waters that nourish it.
All over the earth, abuse of nature continues.
Many are hungry, while the wealthier make a place at the food table for their cars and trucks by converting food to fuel. The vengeance for these acts will not be sudden, as in the great flood of biblical history.
Instead, rivers will gradually silt up the dams, overtop and remove them and resume their destined routes to the sea.
Soils — impoverished and polluted from single-cropping and excessive fertilizers — will no longer nourish the Earth’s billions of people.
A warming atmosphere, saturated with our carbon emissions, will wreak its own havoc.
There is still time — but not much time — to take seriously our responsibility for the Earth.