Iowa farmers say weather and shifting climatic patterns are a top concern and the largest perceived threat to their production systems, according to a Center for Rural Affairs report released Aug. 29. The report, “Catching waves: Farmers gauge risk to advance water quality in Iowa,” doesn’t refer to care for God’s creation, but it does speak to some practical challenges in carrying out our God-given mandate.
“Water quality is a contentious issue in Iowa,” said Katie Rock, policy associate at the Center, and author of the report. “Continued high nitrogen, phosphorous, bacteria, and sediment levels in surface waters threaten public health and outdoor recreation.”
Coincidentally, Christians in the Diocese of Davenport and around the world opened the “Season of Creation” on Sept. 1, a five-week celebration of prayer and action to protect the environment. The annual event begins on World Day of Prayer for Creation (Sept. 1) and concludes on the Feast of St. Francis (Oct. 4), the patron saint of ecology in many faith traditions.
Pope Francis brought Catholics into the annual celebration in 2015, the same year he released his encyclical “Laudato Si,” a masterpiece on how we are to be in relationship with God, neighbor and the earth. This year’s Season of Creation theme, “walking together,” envisions brothers and sisters in Christ on a pilgrimage to take better care of creation. “Whether by considering ‘the lilies of the field’ or the ‘grain of wheat that falls to the earth,’ the spiritual journey of following Jesus is closely tied to the everyday wonders of nature that he experienced in his journey.” (Season of Creation 2018)
The everyday wonders of nature sound poetic in the passage above but, for farmers, the wonders of nature also present some challenges that seem to contradict stewardship of the earth. The Center for Rural Affairs report identified the top barriers to farmers’ adoption of watershed management plans or new conservation practices across the watersheds in which they work. Those barriers include limited cost-share or program funds, poor access to technical assistance and lack of awareness or knowledge. Farmers would like to take additional steps in managing water or soil quality, but need access to cost-sharing or technical assistance. “As Iowa continues to expand its watershed approach to water quality, understanding the needs, risks, and barriers farmers face will be critical,” Rock said in a news release.
In other words, we need to be partners with farmers in seeking solutions to their challenges, if we want to bring about better water quality. Furthermore, each of us has an obligation within our daily lives to be good caretakers of God’s creation. Secular Franciscan Kent Ferris, director of the Diocese of Davenport’s Social Action Office, shares some common-sense ideas. “A Season of Creation can lead to a personal decision to be a smarter consumer, maybe one who purchases fewer items in plastic containers. The season can also spur individuals to be courageous with advocacy realizing that it is powerful, first- world countries who have contributed most to the degradation of Creation. The season also helps us to remember that it is the world’s poor who suffer first and most directly.”
Several programs are being offered by or in the Diocese of Davenport as part of Season of Creation:
• Sept. 11 — A Season of Creation presentation, 7 p.m., Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish, Muscatine, Gannon Hall. Free.
• Sept. 16 — The Good Life Redefined, 2-4 p.m., St. John United Methodist Church, 109 E. 14th St., Davenport; an Iowa Interfaith Power & Light presentation. Cost: $20; (iowaipl.org/act/register-events/).
• Oct. 3 — Transitus Prayer Service, eve of the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi; update on the Season of Creation, 7 p.m., Sacred Heart Cathedral, Davenport. Free.
• Oct. 4 — Our Call to Right Relationship: How Appalachia changed my view of the World through the lens of Pope Francis’ encyclical, ‘Laudato Si,’ 6:30 p.m., St. Paul The Apostle Parish, Davenport, presented by Ryan Burchett. Free.
For more information, or to take away suggestions for home, parish and community, visit the Season of Creation website: http://seasonofcreation.org/about/. To participate on social media use the hashtag #SeasonOfCreation on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
When we embrace the Season of Creation we’ll be more willing to partner with farmers and other neighbors to steward the earth for the generations that succeed us.
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor