No New Normal (Charles McNeil)

Recently I had a conversation with a farmer who observed that this growing season might be akin to the 2002 season of drought.  He thought that the conditions between this year and that one seem to be similar.  And like the people of the Old Testament Egyptian experience that farmer and many other farmers have put away feed for their livestock from last year to cover any possible shortages that may come along.  Wise and prudent to say the least!

This conversation dove tailed with a series of online articles I have been following about the Presbyterian Church’s General Assembly’s moderator, the Rev. Peter Bush, visiting the Cariboo region of interior British Columbia. Peter, both in words and pictures, has been conveying the devastation which last year’s fire and this year’s flooding has had on the land!  (See here for the record of Peter’s visit.)

Note land.  Not only have people been hugely effected, and certainly there has been devastation on the people but there is huge devastation on the land itself.  As if it hadn’t been enough that the pine beetle and spruce bud worms has swept through the bush of the interior of British Columbia a number of years ago and destroyed hundreds of thousands of acres of trees thereby affecting the landscape, eco systems, and weather patterns of that part of the world.

Then came the fires last season that swept through much of the interior of B.C. affecting all creation – humans, animals, and the whole environment.  I had the privilege and gift of having lived and worked in the Cariboo over a number of years before coming to the parkland of Alberta.  I live and work in a beautiful part of God’s creation at present, and certainly lived and worked in yet another beautiful part of God’s creation in the Cariboo!

What always struck me about the Cariboo was how wild and harsh the natural conditions could be.  Extreme cold and heat.  Storms that rattled the very marrow of one’s being.  Too little and too much rain.  And so it went.

I have heard the Cariboo, described by more than person, as being a dry and thirsty land.  And a wild land.  People who live there have had to be of hearty stock and self sufficient.  Building and rebuilding over a life time.

Witness the devastation of the forests in years just past, the fires of last year, and the flooding of this year.  I suspect the people of that region are living with something akin to PTSD.  Some have lost everything materially.  Others have been spared such loss but have seen neighbours, friends, and families suffering.  Still others had the experience of having the fires burn right up to their fence lines but because of extraordinary effort their buildings were saved.

Such people are reported to have huge clean up to do: especially as they are resort owners who have a season fast approaching where they need to be ready for their returning customers.  But will the customers return?  That was the question hanging in the air from Peter’s on line report.  Clearly the burnt environment might be hardly conducive to holidaying folk wanting pristine natural conditions.

Whether in B.C. or Alberta dry conditions can be and are a fact of life.  Being proactive as neighbour, along the lines of Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, can go along way in helping those are most impacted by drought, fire, flood, and whatever else afflicts.

The odd thing is that the environment may well be renewing itself through the fiery cleansing of seasons like the last one in British Columbia.  There may well be new normals which bear little resemblance to the known conditions of the past.  In fact we all may find that there are seasons that need to be prepared for that call from us greater effort and endurance. And also greater empathy for those most devastatingly affected by whatever comes.

No matter where we live.  Be it in B.C., Alberta, rural, urban, suburban, town, or hamlet the environment from time to time can act out and get our attention.  We would be well advised to pay attention, be prepared, and to help those with whatever they are facing.

Life has an odd way of turning things around.  Renewal can come in the most perplexing ways.  I pray that we can move with whatever cleansing, renewal, and transformation that comes our way!  And that we call upon God and each other to be able to meet the need and see the whole community through this and every season of our lives.

(Rev.) Charlie McNeil
for Knox and Ganton Presbyterian Churches