Creation Justice Ministries organizational comment on the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary Draft Management Plan
Subject: Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary Public Comment
Creation Justice Ministries
Document ID: 2020-02832
Federal Register #: 85 FR 8213
Creation Justice Ministries represents the creation care and environmental justice policies of 38 major Christian denominations and communions throughout the United States to protect and restore God's Creation.
Creation Justice Ministries educates, equips and mobilizes Christian communions/denominations, congregations and individuals to protect, restore, and rightly share God's creation.
Based on the priorities of its members, with a particular concern for the vulnerable and marginalized, we provide collaborative opportunities to build ecumenical community, guide people of faith and faith communities towards eco-justice transformations, and raise a collective witness in the public arena echoing Christ's call for just relationships among all of creation.
As Christians, we care deeply not only for God’s creation and take seriously our responsibility to live in right relationship with God’s people and planet. The creation of marine sanctuaries can be a vital tool in our care for God’s creation. Unfortunately, that care is null and void if the management plans are not updated to reflect the challenges facing God’s Marine Creation.
In the past 10 years, NOAA has tracked measurable degradation of habitat quality in the sanctuary. This degradation is tracked to human activities and commercial fishing, both of which are only allowed minimally in highly and fully protected areas. These effects are being seen in the endangerment of Humpback whales and the warming of Stellwagen’s waters, which are warming faster than 99% of the global ocean, exacerbating the effects of other stressors on sanctuary resources. Outdated management practices for this sanctuary are putting a great wealth of biological diversity at risk, such as more than 575 species residing within, including seabirds, sea turtles, 22 species of marine mammals, and fish.
The central purpose and policy of the National Marine Sanctuaries Act is “to maintain the natural biological communities in the national marine sanctuaries, and to protect and, where appropriate, restore and enhance natural habitats, populations, and ecological processes. NMSA Section 301(b)(3). By not updating the management plans for the sanctuary NOAA is forgoing its legal responsibility under the National Marine Sanctuaries Act..
It’s time to update the management plan for this beautiful, important piece of God’s creation. We ask that NOAA revises the management plans to place the strongest possible protections in place for the sanctuary. Given the degraded state of the habitat and wildlife in the sanctuary, the draft management plan ought to propose major changes to the current regulatory regime as well as include input from affected communities. We ask NOAA and the Secretary of Commerce to fulfill the purpose and policies of NMSA and revise the management plan to protect and restore the sanctuary’s wildlife and habitats. This is a question of science, law, and most importantly, morality. NOAA is scientifically, legally, and morally responsible for the health and flourishing of Stellwagen Bank Sanctuary. Use your authority to update the management plan and provide the strongest possible protections for this one-of-a-kind piece of God’s creation.
Specifically, we urge the sanctuary management plan to:
NOAA has the scientific, legal, and moral responsibility to amend the management plan to protect this important part of God’s creation. The dozens of national denominational bodies, thousands of churches, and hundreds of thousands of Christians in the Creation Justice Network pray for you and urge you to do all you can to protect this amazing sanctuary.
By Nicholas Anton
When the Incarnate Christ is baptized in the Jordan River, the Holy Spirit descends and the Father proclaims, “this is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). In this moment, God is revealed as Trinity: three persons, one essence. This is why the Feast that commemorates Christ’s baptism is called Epiphany (or Theophany), which translates from Greek as the illuminating revelation of God.
The annual Celebration of Epiphany concludes and culminates the Twelve Days of the Nativity of Christ. The revelation itself happens after His baptism rather than at His incarnation. Why?
The Incarnation of Christ is a piece of the larger puzzle whereby Christ fully takes on human nature; it is just one piece of the whole creation. However, through His baptism in water, the symbol for all creation, Christ takes on its totality. Thus, the revelation of God shows us that all things are encompassed in God – not just material things, not just plants, not just animals, and, of course, not just humans. Indeed, this extremely important moment reveals the Trinity setting in motion a divine plan for the ultimate restitution of God’s relationship with all things and all people.
At this point, you are likely wondering why I am dropping all this theology on you. Bear with me and you’ll find out! Despite the clear revelation of God as redeemer of all, we humans do not live up to our vocation and obligation, as the creatures made in His image, to be Stewards of Creation. We pollute the very symbol of creation and life – namely, water – through dumping waste and fracking for energy. We dehydrate the earth, causing dry forests ripe for fires. We take more trees than we plant and desecrate the soil with chemicals and genetically modified organisms. Even as creation itself rebels from years of abuse with pandemics and powerful and volatile weather patterns, we refuse to reevaluate our role in the big picture and right the relationship. We have lost sight of Epiphany and perverted the meaning of the Incarnation by perceiving humanity as superior to creation, which we ultimately enslave rather than protect.
Therefore, as we celebrate this important Feast, we should take time to reflect on what we can do to be better Stewards of Creation. We can start small: for instance, by ensuring our online orders come in one shipment rather than many; by using reusable “things” in all aspects of life and using them as long as possible before replacing them; by using solar chargers and other zero emissions forms of energy; by driving less; by moderating consumption and avoiding private water sources. Then we can go big: for instance, by adding solar panels to our homes; by driving hybrid or electric vehicles; by insulating our walls and windows to decrease energy usage for heating and cooling; by planting as many trees as possible. Eventually, we can advocate for measures to expand clean energy and better protect God’s creation. All it takes to start is a slight modification of our habits.
When our worldview begins with the Incarnation, revealed at Christ’s Nativity and Baptism, and culminates in the Crucifixion and Resurrection, then we know that: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Then we appreciate that the least we can do with our lives is to sacrifice as much as possible, both individually and as collectively as a community and society for the sake of all of God’s Creation.
Nicholas Anton is with the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, and a board member of Creation Justice Ministries.
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This blog shares the activities of Creation Justice Ministries. We educate and equip Christians to protect, restore, and rightly share God's creation.