Lots of folks here in West Virginia are scornful of “tree-huggers” who “care more about mayflies than people.”  Which is, of course, like saying that miners cared more about canaries than about themselves.  If the mayflies in a stream have died, something has gone wrong with the watershed, and like as not, whatever is wrong is likely to hurt the surrounding people, too.  And there is a domino effect – insects and fish that eat mayfly larvae starve, and on up the chain.  It’s all interconnected.  Scientific American reported recently on a connection between nature and our health.

A wildlife biologist from Vermont and several others reviewed a lot of studies on new diseases, like West Nile virus and Lyme disease.  They found that people are way more likely to get new diseases in areas where there are fewer kinds of plants and animals.  For example, white-footed mice, which along with deer mice are the ones that make themselves at home in hunting cabins when we aren’t there, thrive in woods or brush where there aren’t very many other animals – like the woods and vacant lots along the edge of town or farms.  White mice are good carriers of the Lyme disease bacteria.  When there were more animals other than people – from rabbits to pumas and everything in between – the ticks preferred them.  Now we’re down to us, the deer, and the white mice – and the ticks don’t have much choice.  Bingo – lots more people getting Lyme disease.

All of our actions are like a stone tossed in a pond.  The ripples spread in every direction and we don’t always know what they swamp or shake loose.  We didn’t make the mountain, we don’t know how the forest that covers it works, and we don’t know what we are breaking when we take it apart.  We cannot live without killing plants and animals, but we need to try to understand the costs before we do. And we also need to remember that the benefits may not be all we think they might be.

Jesus said, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:18)