Troubled Waters

Last week, the U of M canceled their planned showing of the documentary “Troubled Waters: A Mississippi River Story”.  The latest news is that the U has reversed course, and, given lots of public pressure, decided to show the film after all.  Here is a link to today’s MPR story:  minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2010/09/23/troubled-waters-screening/.

“Troubled Waters” explores the effects of fertilizer runoff, from farms and other sources, on the river.  We see the most dramatic effects in the Gulf of Mexico, where all the extra nutrients have created a dead zone.  The film profiles farmers (both organic and conventional) who are seeking to reduce run off by using less fertilizer and minimizing erosion.

I believe that this film, and the controversy surrounding it, touches on a spiritual crisis we navigate these days.   We urgently need to change the way we produce our food.  Really, we need to change almost everything about the way we live on this planet.  The change we face is really, really big, and yet it touches on the smallest details of our days.  Like the river itself, the intricate complexity of this change is mind-boggling and heart-stopping.

Journalists are speculating on what motivated the University official to pull the film — was it personal connections to agribusiness, fear of economic losses for the University, or plain and simple disagreement with the film?   Rather than judge her entanglements too harshly, we might consider them a mirror of our own, as we struggle to come to terms with the personal and societal changes our time requires.  Where do we find the capacity to develop new models of “the way things are”?  What does it look like to create an infrastructure that supports sustainability rather than thwarts it at every turn?  How about an economy that rewards care for the earth rather than sustains its abuse?

The words of Paul in Romans come to mind:  “We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labour pains until now, and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.”  (Romans 8:22-23)

The “redemption” of our bodies and the body of our earth is God’s work.   Just as with birth or adoption, the kind of change we seek requires an act of creation.   Like newborns, we are not in charge of our this journey.  The real questions are: will we allow ourselves to be drawn, even with groaning and pain and fear, toward a new world we cannot imagine?  Will we learn to enjoy the “first fruits” even as we wait and work for the full feast?

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