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Saturday, October 7, 2017

DISAPPEARING LAND: TWO PASTORS HELPING BAYOU PEOPLE COPE

September 27, Wednesday.  My wife and I enjoyed a visit at Menucha, Oregon, with two wonderful Presbyterian pastor friends, Dr. Kristina Peterson and Rev. Richard Krajeski, I want to introduce you to their unique earth care strategy in and around Gray, Louisiana and the larger Gulf Coast.

What is Menucha? It's the Presbyterian conference center located near the western boundary of the Columbia River National Scenic Area. (Previously I've posted re. Brother Cyril's positive views on the Scenic Area. Click here to go to the page.

What was going on at Menucha? The national meeting of Presbyterians for Earth Care, 2017. It's the faith mission of environmentalism--earth care with religious motive.

Kristina is a former student of mine at University of Puget Sound, Tacoma. After college she completed theological seminary training and still later earned a PhD. at University of New Orleans. Now a pastor in Gray, she's also the Director-Facilitator at the Lowlander Center. In fact, she and others recently founded the organization. Richard Krajeski, her spouse, is co-pastor and supporter of the Lowlander Center. 

At lunch I learned much from Kristina and Richard. About how the population of Bayou country varies, from original Indians to old French language settlers and on to newcomers such as Vietnamese refugees. The mix of ethnic cultures enriches the area. 

I learned, specifically, about an urgent practical problem: land is disappearing! Disappearing under the waters of the Gulf of Mexico! The Bayou consists mainly of water bodies gently meandering through marshes and wetlands. In recent years the wetlands are eroding and islands of remaining land masses are shrinking. People are moving, involuntarily displaced from once safe island communities and resorting, in some cases, to adapting to water with elevated housing mounted as much as 20 feet above ground. The Bayou is in crisis.


Hurricane Irma gathering strength prior to punching the Bayou. Contrast to beauty in photo above.
September 6, 2017
Photo: NASA photo, in public domain via Wikimedia Commons


Hurricanes Harvey and Irma (2017) led to extensive flooding; lowlander citizens became refugees once again. 


Hurricanes have damaged the Bayou country regularly. Wreckage 
from the Ike Johnson hurricane, 2008
Creative Commons License: Photo by Junglecat via Wikimedia Commons

 Okay, I understand property damage.  

But why is the LAND disappearing? Kristina cited two main causes:

                1: Subsistence caused by levees starving the marshes and oil pipelines and extraction leads land to sink into the Gulf.

                2: The rising level of powerful storm surges erodes the already-sinking land and kills the former fresh water vegetation and trees, thus destroying the roots that held soil in place.

Wow! How much can people and the earth take? What, in this context, are these two pastors and their congregation and colleagues doing to care for earth and people in the Bayou?
                                            
Here's the story I want to share for your encouragement. Dr. Kristina and friends organized a not-for-profit agency specializing in coordinating the flood control efforts around Gray and recovery of communities across the Delta. 

Here's how they describe the mission of the Center:

"The work of the Lowlander Center is to help create solutions to living with an ever-changing coastline and land loss while visioning a future that builds capacity and resilience for place and people."

(More Center details including photos are available at the website. I urge you to visit the site.)

Their immediate concerns include: projects to assist lowlander families in recovering from hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the blockbuster storms of 2017. Hurricane Nate coming ashore today, 10/8/2017, adds to the pressure.

Your financial support is welcome at Lowlander Center. (See the website form for your use). I can vouch for the integrity of the organization.



Upriver from Menucha
Attribution: Guy Halvorson, Oregon State Archives via Wikimedia Commons

One fantastically hopeful fact: Lowlander Center illustrates people responding to global warming and fossil energy usage by banding together in community efforts. Many faith groups like Presbyterians for Earth Care are deeply involved in the movement of saving the earth.  

(By the way: global warming concern extends around the globe. Menucha lies above the Columbia River just a few miles west of the giant 2017 forest fire that crippled the Columbia River Gorge just a couple of weeks ago. The Growing Green/Earth Care goal: helping earth to recover to its natural balance and beauty everywhere.)

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