Environmental tragedy is not inevitable

Praying for the world sometimes means healing the environmental disaster right next door.

It's one thing to pray in general for the world, but quite another to find an environment disaster has struck not far from home. When the daily news reports of conditions at the disaster site are aggressive, even unremitting, what are we to do? This British author's own effort to wrestle with the events surrounding the breakup of an oil tanker off the Shetland Islands gives us some valuable insights.

A friend of mine, whom I had introduced to Christian Science three years ago, telephoned one evening in distress. The main item on BBC1 Television News had been the foundering of a tanker, carrying thousands of tons of crude oil, onto the rocky, storm-swept coast of the Shetland Islands. One by one each container of the oil in its hold was ripped open by the enormous pounding waves of the North Sea, relentlessly grinding the tanker into the rocks. The crude-oil cargo discharged into the sea to form an oil slick many miles in length after every container finally burst and drained. It was item number one on the news—first, because of the threat to the livelihood of the Shetland Islanders from pollution of their main product, fresh Scottish salmon caught offshore; and second, because of the possible threat to their health from the pungent crude oil, and to the well-being of the local wildlife. Many birds were already dead, and it was feared hundreds more soon would be. There was also concern about the seal population.

Coverage of this item persisted in each news report for the next three days. The sea had now torn the tanker into parts shown moving independently of one another in the monstrous waves. All salvage operations were postponed pending smoother seas.

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The question of vice
February 21, 1994

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