Message from Jim Hally, CFET Board Member

As a native American might begin a story, “Many moons back”, or to use the more traditional introduction, “A long time ago” and I might add, parenthetically at this juncture of my life’s journey, many events are both “ A long time ago” and “Many moons ago”. Well, anyway, I was being paid a modest monthly salary to introduce “young-uns” of high school age to the science of biology, a subject I personally loved. Part of my updating in this discipline led me to an article in the New York Times written by a professor of biology, an acknowledged authority in his field, at the University of Notre Dame. The learned and whiskered biologist cautioned that unless we, all of us, stopped tinkering with evolution we might well destroy our planet by the year 2050. Our tampering with the “species” by way of genetic engineering, our wastefulness, and our carelessness would have dire consequences should we allow our behavior to go unchecked. I conscientiously relayed my findings and its urgent message to my high school academic wanderers. I also began to realize that I too was being challenged to a new awareness of eco-concern and action.
Then came the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. Yes, that was a long time ago! A colleague and friend of mine, Father Michael Signiski, a teacher of history, organized a school-wide campaign to plant trees around the school in observance of the upcoming Earth Day. The school was relatively new and lacking any trees of a cultivated variety. My friend Michael to whom I affectionately referred as a “home grown Piney” having grown up in Blackwood, NJ as opposed to me, an immigrant, was one of the more ecologically conscious people I knew at the time. Very much in tune with nature, Michael was famous for leading Saturday canoe trips along the Egg Harbor and Weymouth Rivers. Willing explorers also navigated with him other little known waterways and rivulets of the South Jersey Pinelands.
Michael had engaged my assistance in implementing his Earth Day planting activity only to find out that I had been scheduled to monitor Saturday detention. To satisfy my own need to help with Earth Day and to fulfill an inward urge to participate in the ancient biblical imperative of releasing prisoners and letting the oppressed go free in observance of very special occasions, I decided to commute the sentences of those bounders who presented themselves for punishment that particular Saturday morning. My decision had the further twofold benefit of embellishing Michael Signiski’s work force and to raise student awareness of the need to be kind to the planet.
More recently, as if to remind me of the article by the Notre Dame biologist whose name I have now forgotten, an article appeared in The New Yorker magazine by scientist Elizabeth Kolbert entitled “The Sixth Extinction”. This article drew the following observation from non-other than Bill Gates , “Natural scientists posit that there have been five extinction events in our earth’s history, and Kolbert makes a compelling case that human activity is leading to the sixth.”
The study of biology, and indeed many if not most of the sciences, is a study of the inter –connectedness and inter-dependence of life forms and systems. Examples of these can be truly fascinating. Case in point – the giant Redwoods in California, one of the world’s great wonders, could never have reached their massive size nor remained standing were it not for the matted and interwoven pattern of their root systems. Their root entanglements literally keep each one in place and thus they support each other. Remember the song, “No Man Is an Island”? It was based on the true story of an American sailor George Tweed’s experience on the Island of Guam. The words for the song were taken from a poem written by a fourteenth century author, poet and priest John Donne. Thomas Merton also wrote a book bearing the same title.
A similar biological interdependence appears in the life cyclical symbiotic relationship existing between the Red Knot, an annual migratory visitor to the Delaware estuary, and the evolutionary antediluvian Horseshoe Crab native to the waters of the Delaware Bay. The Red Knot begins its migratory journey in the far distant Tierra Del Fuego off the tip of South America and “ just happens” to arrive starving in the Delaware Bay at the same time the Horseshoe Crab is laying its eggs to ensure the next generation of its kind. Amazingly, the abundance of eggs of the one provide a badly needed high protein meal for the starving bird so that it may continue its journey to the Arctic Circle where it will mate and guarantee continuance of its species. Nature is full of examples of these extraordinary complexities and relationships.
The work of Jesuit Tielhard de Chardin and more recently ecologian Thomas Berry took this interdependence to a much higher level by pointing to an interplanetary and cosmic interrelatedness. This makes a fascinating connection between our very selves and the astrophysical world. “We Are Stardust”! was the title of a little article I recently read which announced, “The oxygen we breath, the carbon in every cell of our bodies, and practically all other chemical elements are in fact stellar ashes”. So, as we listen to the great symphonies of music, marvel at the artistic products of the great masters in the field of art, or wonder at some of the architectural and mechanical accomplishments of human endeavor in our time and before, we can think… Star Dust at work!!! It truly boggles the mind! Of course, this has further implications – the roses we smell, the grass on which we walk now become our cousins.
Like many others I, too, probably at the behest of Rosie, my wife, went to New Orleans to help in a small way to relieve the devastation of Katrina, one of the century’s most vicious storms. Returning from that epiphany experience I decided to become involved in the work of CFET first in the cleaning out and restoration of the old convent at Sacred Heart; then participating in the actualization of the vision and generosity of the many people who make CFET the vibrant reality that it has become. All of this leading to the idea that we can indeed save the planet. We can enjoy healthy food by learning a farm to table process. We do not have to be the victims of commercial, greedy manipulators of industrial, genetic and promotional chicanery. CFET has and continues to follow and inculcate in its own way the Jeffersonian dictum, “Never trouble another for what you can do for yourself”.