The climate crisis terrifies me. It is a hard fear to deal with because it is both overwhelming but rationally based. Sometimes I veer towards the cliff edge of full blown anxiety-paralysis about it. But then, sooner or sometimes a bit later, deep down in my diaphragm faith kicks in and corrects my steering. I am still overcome but also back on course and somehow able to feel light and joy along with the terror.
It’s hard to explain, but Alison’s reflection on Sunday did a pretty good job of it. My paraphrasing won’t go anywhere to doing it justice so I encourage you all to catch it if you missed out. Listening I was reminded of perhaps the most pretty, dreamy, existentially dystopian song ever written. Krongu Green Slime by Jeffrey Lewis starts back when ‘in the land before time / there was a time before land / where the world was just slime’. It skips through evolution and consumerism and fast forwards to finish in the land after time and the time after land, when the green slime will once more cover all.
It’s pretty depressing.
Or, it WOULD be, if I were not married to someone who has done years in postgraduate research on that green slime (algae). As I have heard my husband patiently explain to dozens of people whose politely cocked heads suggest they do not fathom why anyone would choose this area of research: on a microscopic level, algae is an unbelievably complex, intricate and beautiful life form. Single celled algae (diatoms) are neither animal nor plant, they produce up to one quarter of the world’s oxygen, they are foundational to fresh and salt water ecosystems, they are so pretty that there was a whole art movement devoted to arranging them and I couldn’t help but include two images with this email (for more highly arranged and copyrighted images, check out this article or this short video from minute 3.03).
Yep, humble old green slime has been nailing the spectrum of life from art to science for probably at least 200 million years, and yet us dopey humans didn’t know about its beauty or delicacy until we invented the microscope.
To me, this points to God’s presence in all life, even on this cellular level. God’s life-giving didn’t peak when humans came into being, nor begin when we worked out the technology to start discovering it for ourselves. God was there in the science of the cells at the start of life, and the earliest life forms were beautiful not because humans had anything to do with it but because God loves and gives beauty. So yes, the science of climate crisis is terrifying, and we need to continue to fight against this: blind faith that ‘she’ll be right’ without accepting the science will lead to catastrophic levels of pain and suffering. But also before and after this there is that life-giving, beauty-making, existing-on-a-vastly-greater-plane-than-human-existence God, and She loves us and promises us Eternal Life.
Science is fact. Faith gives life. They often contrast each other, but to me their relationship is complementary, not adversarial. Each is hollow without the other, and if I hold them both I can face the future – even a future of green slime.
**CORRECTION: my husband informed me after I wrote this that diatoms are actually brown slime, not green. Green algae apparently has ‘different photosynthetic properties’ than brown algae diatoms. I don’t think that Jeffrey Lewis necessarily knows this, so I am sticking with the link between his song and the diatom.
This first appeared in the newsletter and website emailed through my church, Sanctuary, on 4 September 2019.
Image: Wipeter, Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License