An open letter to the president for Earth Day

Apr 21, 2015 by

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Dear President Obama,

I hear that you’ll be coming to my neighborhood April 22 for Earth Day. Thank you so much for coming. If you want to stop by for coffee or lunch, I’d love to have you!

I lived in the Washington, D.C., area for most of my life, but chose to move to southwest Florida (Marco Island) because I love the beauty and wildlife of this region, especially the Everglades and Ten Thousand Islands.

Whenever I can spare a few hours from my work as a writer, speaker and activist, I get outdoors to enjoy manatees and alligators, tarpon and snook, gopher tortoises and burrowing owls, swallow-tailed kites and bald eagles, cabbage palms and cocoplums. I volunteer in a number of initiatives to protect endangered species and ecosystems so they aren’t poisoned by polluters or destroyed by so-called developers.

That’s why I’m glad you’re coming here to draw attention to our region. We are blessed with natural treasures, but we are plagued by even more threats poised to plunder them — for short-term corporate and political profit.

Recently, a group of brave activists in the region managed to run off a Texas firm that was trying to frack the Everglades. But environmental successes are rare in a state whose politicians think Florida can never have too many sleazy strip malls, cheap hotels, or paved-and-gated communities . . . and who remain in either ignorant or feigned denial about global warming and sea level rise in the very state that will suffer most from it.

You’ve heard that our governor told state employees they can’t use the term “global warming.” I can tell you that I’ve heard similar stories — and worse — from wildlife biologists and other environmentalists here. For example, environmental professionals have been told not to use the term “environmental monitoring” because, according to our governor, “monitoring kills jobs.” They have to use words like “research” instead of “conservation” because our governor and his allies, in spite of the fact that they often appear on “conservative” cable TV, seem to care little about conserving Florida’s environmental treasures.

It seems to me that spokespeople of the dominant political narrative in Florida have never met a long-term natural public asset that they don’t want to convert into some rich donor’s short-term cash asset.

This breaks the hearts of those of us who believe in values that transcend cash value.

As a committed Christian, former pastor, and faith-based activist, I agree with St. Paul who said, “The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” My faith teaches me that the Creator deemed creation “good” and “very good.” That means all creation has an inherent spiritual value that matters more than monetary value. Each time I see an osprey circling or a dolphin leaping or an old-growth cypress towering into the Florida sky, their inherent value inspires me with awe, wonder, worship and gratitude . . . and their transcendent value motivates me to speak from my heart on their behalf.

So thank you, Mr. President, for coming to the Everglades on Earth Day to celebrate the value and beauty of my neighborhood. Thank you for all you can do to save this beautiful and fragile part of the world that is suffering because of human greed, ignorance and political cowardice.

With gratitude and respect,

Brian D. McLaren

Brian D. McLaren is an author, speaker, activist and public theologian. He blogs at brianmclaren.net, where this first appeared.


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