by Colleen Earp
In this season of hot cocoa and warm cookies, I am feeling a bit hopeless.
Earlier this fall I was diagnosed with a severe alpha-gal allergy, also known as a mammalian meat allergy. In my case, I’m also sensitive to all mammal products, including gelatin, butter, milk, and cheese. This doesn’t cause a little bit of indigestion; this causes reactions ranging from hives to anaphylaxis. I was already a vegetarian, but kicking dairy has been heartbreaking. It means most baked goods are off limits this holiday season. No chocolate chip cookies. No pumpkin pie. It means no warm, gooey macaroni and cheese after a long day of working outside in the colder weather. It means I can’t have the wonderful cream cheese pastries I make with my grandmother every Christmas.
This allergy is caused by a tick bite (specifically from the lone star tick). Tick-borne illnesses like Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, babesiosis, and yes, alpha-gal allergy, are on the rise in the United States. Overall, warmer winters allow for longer life cycles for these teensy arachnids, increasing the likelihood of them carrying and spreading diseases. This is just one kind of public health side effect of climate change; heat related illness, air pollution, severe and lengthy seasonal allergies, and crop shortages are all very real issues, too.
My situation is not actually completely without hope. This allergy can easily be controlled through dietary restrictions. I am privileged to have access to healthcare, including coverage for my emergency epinephrine auto-injector in case of cross-contamination or miscommunication about my allergies. I have access to plenty of foods to supplement my new diet—yes, even dairy alternatives (I made my family’s traditional pumpkin pie recipe with coconut milk!). I also have an amazing community of family and friends who are willing to try new foods and take extreme care in their kitchens so I don’t have to go through this alone.
I find hope in these little modifications we can make in our own lives that consider our neighbors and future generations on this shared planet. You don’t even need a severe food allergy to change your habits! A little less meat in our diets, a little more vegetables, or a little more walking or biking, a little more recycling, a little more sustainability.All of these things contribute to healthier individuals and a healthier Earth. And a little more bug spray and tucking your pants into your socks while enjoying the beauty of creation will help prevent tick-borne illnesses, which will also contribute to a healthier individual!
So the situation is not really without hope. A plant-based diet might be better for our planet anyway. Plants require far fewer resources to produce than meat--though we all should consider our food mileage: a steady diet of foods that are shipped long distances ups the amount of resources.
In this season of Advent, we wait with hope in great anticipation for our Savior. Jesus didn’t expect us to do nothing while we wait; he demonstrated putting faith into action, going out into the world and doing what he could. With hope and anticipation, let’s continue working together to make changes for a better future for our Earth and all of our neighbors within it.
by Elizabeth Welliver
"I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert." (Isaiah 43:19)
In the past year, I have struggled to hear the good news of the Gospel over the blaring chaos of our political atmosphere. I have felt despair, anger, and numbness following the current administration's actions to threaten and attack marginalized communities, particularly people who have migrated and those who live in borderlands.
As followers of Jesus, who lived within and crossed borders between communities, we can see that the wall represents more than an act of "security," "immigration enforcement" or "defense." The wall is an attempt to separate families and communities rooted in racism and economic exploitation. The wall does not serve to foster the kindom of God, or the healing and wholeness of creation in a world too often plagued by violence and walls.
In November, a group from the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship attended the Border Encuentro of the School of the Americas Watch, a convergence of the international anti-war movement. From the communities of Nogales, Sonora and Nogales, Arizona, we learned that the wall artificially separates us from our neighbors, harming ecological stability and enforcing draconian immigration policies that threatens death to migrants. We listened for the "new thing" that God is doing by bringing activists, artists, and people of faith and conscience to both sides of the border wall to sing, chant, and resist the wall and all the violence it represents.
Standing at the border wall, I also felt the weight of complicity that I carry in its construction. In the words of Rev. Mark Adams from Frontera de Cristo, a binational border ministry in Agua Prieta, Sonora and Douglas, Arizona, "The border wall was built for me as a white, U.S. citizen." In this acknowledgement of sin, we are also empowered to repent of the wall and act for justice. How can ministries like Frontera de Cristo sustain ministry in a place divided by a wall? The families in Douglas and Agua Prieta view the border as a place of convergence, a rich and equitable exchange of culture, faith, language, and resources. I believe the "new thing" that God is doing, often in hidden places, is enlivening and emboldening us to work with partners on the other side to overcome separation and hear the voices that the wall attempts to silence.
This letter calls upon the current administration to renounce its plans to construct more border walls. We recognize the damaging effects and consequences of building this wall for all of creation. We proclaim faith that God is making a way, and it is our responsibility to follow the leadership of impacted communities to tear down the wall and invest in peace.
Elizabeth Welliver is a Young Adult Volunteer serving at Grassroots Leadership in Austin, Texas. She enjoys prayers for creation and living in community.
by Timothy Wotring
As a child who consumed the pop culture of the 90’s, I was and still am obsessed with Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Sabrina helped me to see magic in the mundane and broaden my imagination. My family also had a black cat, like Salem, at the time Sabrina was a regular on ABC’s TGIF. Lately, I’ve been re-watching Sabrina. What I’ve gladly noticed are the many climate change references and how keenly aware they were of it in the 90’s.
In the fourth season, the episode “Sabrina, Nipping at Your Nose” focused directly on climate change (12/17/99). Sabrina tires of the winter weather and even goes as far to say, “If I see my breath one more time, I’m going smack it upside its head.” In the background, a radio host offers a free trip for four to Jamaica if a caller can answer a science question. Of course, she wins because her Aunt Zelda who is a scientist is able to answer it with ease. Sabrina brightens up and heads off to school. When she comes back, the radio announcer says that all airports are closed because of the winter storm, which means the Jamaica trip is canceled. Angry and frustrated, Sabrina casts a spell to stop the snow storm. The spell backfires and she is turned into a snowman inside the house. Needless to say, the aunts come home to find a melted Sabrina. They quickly scoop her into a bucket and go to Mother Nature in the Other Realm.
Mother Nature is dressed as a corporate CEO, with a business suit and all. When Aunt Zelda, Aunt Hilda, and a melted Sabrina enter, Mother Nature is on the phone saying, “Hello Steve? Hurricane Steve? Yeah, this is Mother Nature. I need you to make a swing to the Virgin Islands later this week… Don’t give me any of that ‘I’m just a tropical storm’ business. Get off your tail-winds and get down there pronto.” These lines hit home since in September, the Virgin Islands were hit hard by Hurricane Irma and Maria. This is such a tragedy along with Puerto Rico, Barbuda, Dominica, St. Martin, and many others. Mother Nature seems to be ruthless.
When Sabrina eventually becomes materialized by a spell from Mother Nature, she calls out her out, even if it was just quickly. Sabrina says, “Well I’m sure there’s a third-world town you need to reduce to rubble so we’d better get going.” Sabrina clearly understands that climate change hurts the most vulnerable. But at the same time, Sabrina was not able to recognize that Mother Nature is also constrained to human activity. To blame Mother Nature is to point the finger at humanity as well.
What I appreciate about Sabrina is that climate change, pollution, and a talking cat appear frequently. I continue to look for the magic in mundane, but I am not looking for imaginary solutions to our predicament. We must use and promote alternatives to fossil fuels. Make no bones about it, the transition will be difficult, but we must not give up. Like Sabrina, we must not be afraid to confront the powers with a prophetic word, cast spells even if they only take place in a ballot box, and be willing to make the bold step ourselves to promote the Fossil Free PCUSA Overture to our presbyteries.