Greetings from Camden, NJ!
I am a bit late in getting this out to you this month as I’ve just returned from a vacation to the great state of Wisconsin. Cathy and I put 2500 miles on our Dodge Caravan, pushing it over 200K for its lifetime. While there was lots of time spent in the car, over 34 hours to get to Wisconsin and back, we had the blessing of experiencing nature in her full splendor in the places we visited. We also were blessed with meeting lots of people for whom nature is a profound blessing to life, and the giver of life to them and to their families. The blessing was most evident in a roadside billboard.
In Wisconsin we came across a billboard that read, in bold letters: Family Farms NOT Animal Factories. Indeed, as we traveled around, and stopped at road side stands selling vegetables and fruit, we asked and learned that many, if not all, of the farms in this eastern portion of Wisconsin are family farms. They have been in families for generations. The goal of the family farmer is not only to produce food for sale, but to nurture the land such that future generations will have it available for them. This two-fold bottom line (crops for sale and land to bequeath to future family farmers) is not manifest in large corporate farms, the bottom line for which is clearly profit garnered from ever more productive acreage. To be in a place where the people are committed to the preservation of nature’s way of doing things was a blessing beyond words.
Another piece of evidence of this commitment is the great sand dunes of Lake Michigan, dunes that are so big that one can see them from space, via satellite photography. As the glaciers receded, leaving the Great Lakes, they also threw great quantities of pulverized rock up on the shores of Lake Michigan in particular, forming these sand dunes. In the 1800s a group of people living in what became the state of Wisconsin decided to protect the dunes! Imagine that! A group of people, living in the wilderness of the Great Lakes region, had enough foresight and reverence for nature, that they chose not to exploit the dunes in order to build closer to the lake, a source of food and water. As a result of that choice, not only are these the largest sand dunes in North America, but they are the site of fully grown pine trees, of vegetation of all kinds, dwelling places for all kinds of animals, small and not so small. We had a chance to walk through the forest that has grown up out of these sand dunes. It was a testimony to a wisdom that is so often absent from public policy concerning the environment. Rather than exploit nature for human purposes, these wise Wisconsin pioneers chose to be in harmony with the powers of nature that gave rise and sustain these dunes. This wisdom has continued in many respects all along the Wisconsin side of Lake Michigan. It was a blessing to be there.
As we traveled back to New Jersey, we thought of the many places in our state where nature is respected, is available for our visits, our marvel. The Pine Barrens is a great spot for hiking and canoeing. Cooper River has its own powerful beauty that enchants walkers, bikers and runners and sailors. In Camden City, there are beautiful places where nature asserts itself. The Emerald Street Garden is one, with its 10 foot sunflower plants, and brilliant zinnias and marigolds! It is a place to sit peacefully in the midst of our oft maligned city, to contemplate the glory of nature’s way. The irrepressible force that impels the seed to germinate, and the roots to extend, and the tender green shoot to push its way through the earth’s crust. In March Emerald Street Garden was a dull, winter-laden, plot of land. Now it is bursting with life, flowers and tomatoes and peppers and so much more.
A few blocks from the Emerald Street Garden is Phoenix Park. It sits right on the river, adjacent to the southern end of the Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority (the waste treatment plant). On August 7, 2014 there was a ceremony to mark the beginning of the development of this land for the people of Camden, sitting right on the Delaware River. It will be a green space for everyone in this city. It will have flowers and trees, and a riparian buffer next to the river, to protect the river’s banks. It will become home to birds and other animals that thrive in our area. Wisconsin is not the only place where people act to respect nature and its rhythms. Here in Camden we are finding ways to do it as well. And as we find these ways, may we also find re-birth of a great city. May Phoenix Park welcome many of the citizens of Camden and her neighboring towns. May it be a source of comfort and of inspiration. Like that billboard on the side of that Wisconsin road, announcing a reverence for nature’s rhythms, may Phoenix Park, on the side of a 40 fathom waterway to the world, mark our commitment, in this part of the world, to a life in harmony with nature and to a way of life that cherishes not only the fruit of nature’s bounty, but also the responsibility to leave our children and grandchildren a natural world that can continue to nourish and inspire.
A particularly inspiring moment in this regard will occur on Saturday, October 4, 2014. Mr. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. will be speaking at CFET’s annual fundraiser, the Thomas Berry lecture. His talk is scheduled for 3PM in Sacred Heart Church. There will be a reception following in the Michael J. Doyle Fieldhouse a block away. Mr. Kennedy’s books and the documentary films he’s been involved with will be available for purchase and Mr. Kennedy’s signature. Tickets are $50, $20 for students under 21. You can purchase tickets at www.brownpapertickets.com. Enter “Kennedy CFET” in the search engine. Mr. Kennedy’s talk, “Our Environmental Destiny,” will inspire and challenge. Join us!
I wish you all a restful end to this summer of 2014. I ask your prayers as we continue our search for an executive director for CFET. It is time to turn this adventure over to someone who can lead us into the future. Your prayers for this effort are deeply appreciated.
President, Board of Trustees, CFET