I was honored to speak at a gathering and demonstration to pressure Washington State leadership to remove the dams on the lower Snake River, thus freeing salmon runs and promoting a better relationship with our land. These are the words I shared.
Shabbat Shalom. Thank you, it is an honor to be here today to represent myself and other members of faith communities, many of whom are also connected to Earth Ministry. Each one of us, in our way, understands the natural world to be sacred, infused with divine energy. Creation is something that we all share, and it binds us together. We recognize that we are a part of, not separate from, the natural world that surrounds us.
Caring for the earth, therefore, is a spiritual imperative, a way of partnering with God in the ongoing work of Creation. And as faith communities in the Pacific Northwest, that means recognizing the important and sacred role salmon play in our ecosystem, and doing what we can to protect them, the orca, the water, and the land.
I want to share a piece of scripture with you, from the Hebrew Bible:
“You may plant your land for six years and gather its crops. But during the seventh year, you must leave it alone and withdraw from it. The needy among you will then be able to eat just as you do, and whatever is left over can be eaten by wild animals.” (Exodus 23:10)
I share this particular passage because according to the reckoning of the Jewish calendar, we are currently in one of these sabbatical years, the last year of a seven-year cycle. And while the specifics of how this year is observed has changed since biblical times, the values that underlie this decree are still relevant to us today.
For one, it reminds us that the earth is a living thing, and that it needs to rest and recover, just as we do. There is a parallel between the Sabbath, the day of rest each week for us humans, and this sabbatical year for the land. We are obligated to see ourselves in relationship to the earth, not as exploiters, but as partners. And more than that, this text reminds us that economic justice and environmental justice are linked—it is not one or the other, but both/and. And, these words teach us that we are in particular relationship with the wild animals with whom we share this earth.
These values expressed in these Scriptural verses are particularly relevant for today’s gathering, as we honor our relationship with a particular “wild animal”—the salmon, this iconic and sacred fish that is so important to this region and its peoples, and recommit to live up to our duty to honor and protect it. And that we do so not at the expense of economic viability for our region, but with the recognition that we can do both. We can uplift the flora and the fauna and the human community at the same time, for we all depend on one another for our ecological, economic and energy future. We are all interconnected.
We are in the throes of a climate crisis. Human behavior has created a tremendous impact on the environment, and brought about near irreversible change. With humility, we must recognize the role we have played, and admit that we have not been good stewards of this gift, we have let down our end of the partnership. Too often we have treated the Earth as the other, not as our neighbor.
But also with humility, we can say, we can change. We can atone and repent for our past missteps and commit to a better future. Sometimes our past deeds can not be undone, and we must commit to acting better moving forward. Other times, our past deeds can be undone, and we must commit to taking those steps to remake the past. A dam can be built, and a dam can be taken down. A river can be blocked, and a river can be set free.
Faith communities teach that God creates, and we steward. Let the voices of the faith communities, and all who have a vision and hope for a better future, join this cause to save the salmon, to save ourselves, and to save our world.