Maryland Legislative Environmental Summit

(reposted from Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin's Blog:, dated January 25, 2012)

Below is Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin's presentation at the annual Maryland Legislative Environmental Summit, held January 24, 2012, in Annapolis, MD.

We live in the midst of a 4-billion year old mystery, an on-going miracle that we call Earth. For all we know, no such miracle exists anywhere else. Whatever we may be skilled enough to find out there, there is likely not to be another Planet Earth, or another you, or another me, or another Bay or the parade of moonrises and sunsets, or the cascade of creatures that have filled our air and seas and land and made our world what it is today.

We are the chosen ones, blessed with being alive at this awesomely rich and perilous time. We didn’t ask for this moment, we didn’t create it, we did not earn it, and we don’t even understand it.

What we do understand, however, is that something very dangerous – even wicked – is happening out there – and we are doing our share to cause it.

But the good news is, we can do our share to stop it.

We are Earth’s most aware beneficiaries and its most powerful stewards.

We are not its masters, we are not its owners. We are its tenders. We are called upon to use it, take care of it, and give it – healthy and robust – to our children, just as our ancestors gave it to us.

Thomas Berry, the Catholic theologian – taught that each generation has a Great Work. It is a work that we do not choose, but that we are dealt by the hand of history. It is a work that drives our ultimate purpose and inspires our days, a work that all future generations will judge us by, a work that is bound to “the larger destinies of the universe.”

Our generation’s Great Work is to learn to thrive within life’s sustaining cycles. Our Great Work is to build a world that is resilient, ever new and ever fresh to each generation, that matches our desires and consumption, our use and our waste, our progress and our joys, to the untransgressible bounds of nature.

We must do this and we can do this, for we are not alone.

It is crowded in here.

It is crowded with your passion and persistence, your hard work and hopes, your wisdom and commitment.

And it is crowded with the concern and confusion, the hunger and the worry, the needs and prayers of hundreds more, thousands more, millions more who have never heard of you, but who depend upon you, and who need you to pursue this sacred work.

For all of us work on behalf of everyone who takes a breath of air, who wants a sip of clean water, who works to put food on their table, who takes refuge from the cold, seeks a good day’s work today and tomorrow, anyone who relies upon this awesome, giving world for their manifold, mundane needs. And that is everyone.

The names we use to describe our work might be throwing people off. It seems to me that Senator Carter Conway’s and Delegate McIntosh’s committees might need to be renamed:

Perhaps something like the: Education, Health and Environment, Economy, Jobs, Energy, Equity, Life’s Well-being, Earth Stewardship and Children of Tomorrow Committees.

The world of tomorrow will not be the world of yesterday. It will take more than science and knowledge, more than money and regulations to get us from here to there. It will take our trust, it will take our will, and it will take our faith.

We are not engaged in an us-vs-them agenda. It is not about jobs vs the environment; enviros vs progress, government vs the people.

Our task can be stated simply:

It is about us taking care of nature so nature can take care of us.

There is a great future waiting for us; we must find the way, and we must all get there together.

That is our Great Work.

That is our sacred work.

And that is why you are here.

Thank you for what you do.

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