The Green Tau: issue 3

Solidarity and knowing our place in the ecosystem


What is a green ‘tau’? Tau  τ is the Greek letter similar to the English T. Tau itself  developed from the Phoenician letter  Tāw X  (from which the  Hebrew letter  Tav ת is also derived).  In ancient times, tau was used as a symbol meaning eternal life or resurrection. In Hebrew tav means mark and this was the sign marked on the foreheads of those who lamented their sins (Ezekiel 9:4). For early Christians tau became an apt symbol of the cross on which Jesus  was crucified. 

Francis of Assisi used the tau as his mark when signing his letters and other writings. The tau cross, often made of wood, is worn by many Franciscans across the world. Francis is widely known as the saint who spoke with the birds, and to the hungry wolf in Gubio – he worked out a deal between the wolf and the people of Gubio such that they could live together in harmony. Francis was the author of the canticle ‘Brother Sun, Sister Moon’ – probably the first piece of literature written in Italian.  Francis understood that everything in creation had been made by God and was deserving of equal love and respect and should be treated as brother or sister.  In 1979 Pope John Paul II declared St Francis as the patron saint of ecologists,   reflecting not only Francis’s love for all creatures, but also his intuitive understanding of the interconnectedness of the whole of creation.  I therefore chose a green tau to represent my desire to live sustainably, protecting the earth.  

Brother Bee Sister Wasp

It is easy to love Brother Bee if only because bees produce honey.  We think of them as round, fluffy happy-go-lucky creatures and hold them up as paragons of productivity. Yet over the last 70 years their numbers have declined rapidly because we have not seen them as brother. Instead we have allowed them to be decimated by the use of insecticides and pesticides both on fields and in our gardens. We have ignored their loss of habitat through mono culture farming and the destruction of hedgerows. And we have shown little concern that climate change is happening so rapidly that bees cannot  adapt to these shifting seasons. But the story doesn’t end with the end of the bees. Worldwide three out of four food crops rely on successful pollination by bees and other insects. We humans may be facing a dire future.

Sister Wasp is less loved! Towards the end of the summer, we and she compete for sweet sugary fruits to satisfy our appetites. Would we be better off without Sister Wasp?  We forget – or perhaps never knew – that for the rest of the growing season wasps need a high

protein diet and are hugely important as predators who keep ‘pests’ such as caterpillars, aphids and greenfly,  in check. 

If you have a garden, you can be a generous host to our brother and sister pollinators – planting bee friendly flowers and ensuring an availability of flowering plants all year round including from late autumn through to spring: https://friendsoftheearth.uk/nature/10-easy-ways-help-bees. Or find out more about wasps: https://youtu.be/YnOK5KPNV3I 

Author: Judith Russenberger

Environmentalist and theologian, with husband and three grown up children plus one cat, living in London SW14. I enjoy running and drinking coffee - ideally with a friend or a book.

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