All over the world people responded generously to the tsunami disaster on Boxing Day. Immediate food, water, temporary shelters and medicines flowed into countries surrounding the Indian Ocean. As the weeks go by more attention will be focused on the reconstruction of homes, businesses and infrastructure.
But questions need to be asked about the destruction, before the tsunami struck, of the natural barriers protecting people, boats and buildings.
Against advice from environmentalists, mangrove forests, reefs and sand dunes were destroyed for shrimp fishing and tourist developments.
Southern Asian coastlines where mangrove forests had been destroyed to make way for hotels and fish farming, had a greater loss of life in the tsunami than where mangroves were preserved.
The Marriott hotel in Phuket, Thailand, developed to environmental standards, preserving mangroves, suffered less loss of life and damage than other hotels.
In Tamil Nadu, India, where mangrove forests were left standing by aquaculture and developers, the trees protected their people and villages. The trees themselves were devastated but hopefully will regenerate.
Perhaps one thing we can learn from a tragedy like this is that we should more often and humbly let God's creation be. Sometimes reverent care of forests and reefs and dunes prevents tragedies and is what being a good shepherd of creation is all about. Our salt marshes and water meadows are good in God's sight. They are of more value to people and wildlife as they are, rather than 'developed' as housing and industrial estates.