Going from the gently rolling farmland of southern Minnesota to the rugged mountains of Colorado is always a feast for the soul. In both, for those with eyes to see, are glimpses of the glory of God, traces of his riotously creative grace left as a witness to his presence and love. Taking unhurried time to rest in such settings is deeply refreshing, a good reminder that though our lives have been granted significance by virtue of being God’s image bearers, we are not the center of the universe. In both as well, are evidences of the fall, of ruin that mars the image and distorts the beauty the Creator called into being.
Wherever we looked in the Rockies we saw massive dull red expanses of dead trees like smears across the sides of the mountains. A tiny bug called the mountain pine beetle, Dendroctonus ponderosae, have infested—and killed—some types of pine trees, particularly Ponderosa Pine, Lodgepole Pine, Scots Pine and Limber Pine.
The beetles bore through the bark, carry a fungi which inhibits the pine’s natural defenses, and destroy the water and nutrient carrying layers of cells that keep the trees alive. Dead trees on which the bark is removed reveal a mass of tunnels that, like an autopsy on CSI, tells a tale of its demise in which it essentially was starved to death.
The infestation has been massive, and the effects will ripple through the forests for years to come. Effects like increased fire danger, erosion of hillsides denuded of trees, and the silting of otherwise clear mountain streams. It is not enough to say that this is a “natural” event and therefore of little concern. How is this “natural” in a clearly abnormal world? It is a proper occasion for grief, a recognition that this is not what was intended, and a renewing of hope for a new earth in which even the tiny mountain pine beetle will be restored to its proper place and role in a Creation that once again, unimpeded, shouts out the glory of its Maker.