Bees, Trees, and Katydids: Restoration

Several recent observations have combined to suggest the theme of restoration. The first is hearing the sound of a katydid. In the backyard of a house across the street a katydid has been singing in the maple trees for some days now.

Katydids are not unusual and certainly not endangered. As this piece from two years ago suggests, they are part of the soundscape of many suburban neighborhoods. I’ve heard them singing in nearby Memorial Park, but I can’t recall the last time one was heard on this block. I remember them most clearly from the Boy Scout camping trips of my youth.

What made a katydid return to this street? Who knows? That certainly isn’t a question that’s worth a lot of time and energy, but it’s worth a moment of thought to acknowledge the change and be cheered by it.

The second observation has to do with the pussy willow tree in our backyard. I’ve written about how it was grown from a cutting taken from a tree that grew at my childhood home. It’s about thirty years old. Somewhere around twelve to fifteen years ago a large, low branch died, and the necrosis extended down the trunk to the ground. I cut away the dead branch but left the remaining dead wood attached to the tree trunk until I found that I could just pull it away.

The trunk of our pussy willow tree showing a large scar. The tree is growing around the scar.
The trunk of our pussy willow tree showing a large scar. The tree is growing around the scar.

When I pulled the dead wood away there was a scar but the healthy part of the tree already had begun to grow around the scar. The tree had started to heal itself and continues to do so to this day. There is evidence that carpenter ants have infested the tree and so its days may be numbered anyway, but it is remarkable that the tree could potentially heal itself.

A honeybee feeds on our buddleia (butterfly bush).
A honeybee feeds on our buddleia (butterfly bush).

I’ve see more honeybees this year than in the recent past. That’s the third observation. Recently I read a news article–although I can’t remember where or when–that said that locally maintained honeybee colonies have a better chance of remaining healthy and avoiding colony collapse than do commercial colonies that are trucked from location to location.

Some recent news items also suggest that restoration is taking place elsewhere in the natural world.

Little brown bat populations have been declining dramatically for years as a fungal infection known as white nose syndrome has spread. Some local populations may be showing signs of a recovery, however, as this story from Vermont shows.

Atlantic puffins are also showing signs of resilience, if not recovery, after several difficult years. (http://blog.nwf.org/2014/07/puffins-faring-wellfor-now/)

For each of these stories of restoration it’s likely that we can also find several comparable stories of degradation that has taken a species or an ecosystem beyond the hope of recovery. With all of that in mind, I have been asking myself if enough can be done to restore the health of the environment, including reversing climate change (assuming it is caused by human activity)? Is there enough healthy tissue left, so to speak, to enable the healing of the diseased tissue?

Christians debate whether the new heaven and the new earth discussed in Revelation 21:1 are really the environment that we inhabit now except in a restored state or a completely new creation. This isn’t just an academic issue. Some who hold the latter view argue that it is not important for people to work to care for the created world. The apocalypse is near and therefore so is the time when the existing creation will be destroyed and replaced with the new. Regardless of which view turns out to be correct, or even if neither is correct, I maintain that good stewardship of the heaven and the earth that we inhabit now is a valid Christian responsibility and a part of our witness to the healing power of the Gospel.

Even allowing for the fact that we may not be able to stop damaging the environment in time for healing to take place, we have to acknowledge that creation, including the human body, has a remarkable ability to heal itself designed into it.

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