Harvest Season Gratitude with an Abiding Concern (Rev. Lou Snead)
You don't have to be a hardcore environmentalist to appreciate the bounty of harvests that our good earth continues to produce to support life on this planet. This is the time of the year when many fruits and vegitables that require long growing seasons are finally harvested. The Fall season has traditionally been associated with the harvest of pumpkins, apples, cranberries, and even oranges. It's no accident that our national Day of Thanksgiving has been closely associated to this harvest season. As a practicing Christian, I also have also made a clear spiritual connection between the agricultural harvests that we enjoy and the critical environmental concerns that many of us now have. The havesting of grapes and the production of wine, for example, has long been a symbolic centerpiece of the Christian tradition. According to the Gospels, Jesus was a oneophile who turned water into really good wine and who asked his followers to remember him by sharing together a cup of wine. At this point in my life I am a faithful devotee to the New Testament instruction to “drink a little wine for your stomach and your frequent ailments.” Winemaking has long been associated with the good life, so drinking wine is a natural way to give thanks for the abundant harvests that Mother Earth continues to provide.
Recently, I was motivated to link the production of wine with serious environmental concerns related to climate change and global warming. A recent newspaper draw my attention in this direction and inspired me to connect the harvesting of grapes with the climate change debate that still attracts many deniers. Here's what I wrote:
OK, I'm now finally convinced. Climate change is real. Global warming has created a devastating crisis on this planet. For me, there is no more debating this issue. I will no longer pay any attention to the climate change deniers who insist that the science is not conclusive and human activity from burning fossil fuels doesn't do much harm to a resilient earth. A recent news report has tipped the scales for me in terms of having enough convincing evidence to become a climate change believer. Allow me to outline this shift in my convictions about the reality of climate change and the problem global warming is producing on us and on our healthy living on this good earth.
First, I am not a scientist, so my grasp of atmospheric research and the systemic changes in CO2 levels on the earth is specious at best. Like concerns my family doctor raises about the dangers of high cholesterol levels in my blood, I am totally dependent on what I'm told about the scientific research by those who carefully study the problems associated with atmospheric changes over the centuries. But, getting the “facts” straight on these unseen atmospheric changes and sifting through the complicated earth science debates is extremely difficult today. I must admit, however, that the climate change research amassed by NOAA, the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change and the vast majority of the national scientific associations was compelling before I read this latest new report. There seems to be significant agreement among these experts that something bad is happening in the atmosphere and it has to do with people and our cars, fossil fuel power plants, along with animals and volcanoes, spewing out bad stuff. After a visit to Beijing, China I was already beginning to think that lots of fossil fuel burning might not be a good thing. Then I heard the major oil companies now agree that humans using their products are contributing to global warming. That admission in itself is a telling indication that we may have a problem.
But, I haven't been totally convinced up to now about the seriousness of climate change or global warming. Since I live in Texas far from the coast and without much contact with polar bears, I haven't gotten worked up by concerns over rising sea levels or the melting of arctic glaciers and permafrost damage in Alaska. The hurricanes I lived through in Florida and in Houston were just part of the long history of Mother Nature getting angry every now and then. I can say the same thing about heat waves and extreme periods of drought. So, I get the point that some folks make about taking a long view on atmospheric changes within the earth's history and their suggestion not to worry about what may be going on in just the last few years or so. I tried to tell my doctor that I don't need cholesterol medication because my mother lived to the age of 102 and she ate fried food just about every day of her life. He suggested that my recent triple by-pass coronary surgery made a difference with me.
So, it seems to me that many of us choose to listen only to the “facts” that we prefer to hear and that don't require us to make any real lifestyle changes, sometimes until it's too late. Then, some new evidence comes along, like my chest pain from three blocked arteries, to change our minds. This new evidence about the problems with global warming has now pushed me to become acutely concerned about climate disruptions taking place all around us. I can't ignore this new evidence because it has captured my attention far more than the debatable climate science has.
According to a recent article, wine production around the world has been crippled by unprecedentedly climate patterns and environmental disasters. Even with more vineyards being added in the marketplace, the harvests of grapes has plummeted to a six decade low. The International Organization of Vine and Wine, a research and scientific group in Paris, has warned that there will be 3 billion less bottles of wine produced this year and more loses in wine production in the coming years. This dramatic decrease in wine production also means that aged wines will become more difficult and costs for wine will eventually sky-rocket. To me, this is clear evidence that global warming is both real and catastrophic.
What really sealed the issue for me was this part of the report- “a growing body of research suggests that some of the famous wine regions may become too warm for grapes” and, even worse, “at high temperatures Syrah wines lose their peppery aromas and Riesling picks up a gasoline flavor.” When gasoline gets into our wines we have to take global warming very seriously.
So, I am encouraging all of us who are concerned about global warming and worry about the continued good harvests of grapes to invite a climate change denier to go have a glass of veno with us and make this case. Who knows, after a bottle or two of Pinot Grigio or Malbec this serious connection between between grape production and global warming might start to make sense to them. Just don't present this environmental concern in a way that sounds too much like producing sour grapes.
Rev. Lou Snead
Rev. Lou Snead is a pioneering pastor in Central TX with more than 30 years of leadership experience. Now retired, Lou leads the Interfaith Eco Network of Georgetown. See more writings from Rev. Snead here.