Next Thursday (April 22) is the 51st birthday for Earth Day. Happy Earth Day Birthday. A year ago, when the world went into lockdown as we tried to contain the Coronavirus, Mother Nature let a huge sigh of relieve and things changed. Wildlife got bolder, showing up in places where they’d not been seen in decades. Noise pollution decreased. Air quality improved, revealing vistas long hidden in smog. These and other changes make the case that we do need an annual day to reflect on the impact we humans make on the planet.
For the first earth day in 1970 people gathered from coast to coast to sound the alarm that human policies, priorities, and procedures resulted in catastrophic harm to the environment. In New York City 100,000 people marched and picnicked along Fifth Avenue to celebrate the environment. According to the Museum of the City of New York, Mayor John V. Lindsay closed off Fifth Avenue to car traffic and gave an impassioned speech. In 1968 he’d created the country’s first municipal Environmental Protection Administration. Some protested the festivities, claiming them bad for business, but overall support for Earth Day was a popular concept. By the end of the year President Richard Nixon’s administration established the Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Air Act.
From a Few Activists to a Global Movement
Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson proposed the idea for Earth Day in 1969. Government and citizens collaborated with a small group of young activists and volunteers to launch the 1970 first Earth Day. Five decades later over a billion people celebrate Earth Day annually, addressing issues of pollution and deforestation. Some spend the day picking up trash, removing invasive plants, cleaning up rivers and planting new trees.
Because we’re still in a pandemic, many of this year’s events will be on-line with lectures and films to promote care of creation. To celebrate the Earth Day Birthday, I am sharing a few resources and a story with you.
Earth Day Resources
Earthday.org is offering a series of on-line events from April 20 – 22 with the theme “Restore Our Earth.” Events include workshops, panel discussions, and special performances. Presenters will address such subjects as emerging green technologies and new innovative ideas to restore the world’s fragile ecosystems.
The Houston Zoo offers a special exhibit of re-created life-size prehistoric beasts through September 6, with information about connections between these extinct creatures and modern animals living at the zoo. www.houstonzoo.org
The Church’s Role
The church community has been slow in responding to environment abuse issues, but that is changing. Here are a few examples of the faith community working to provide better care for creation.
United Methodist Church provides resources to reflect on the goodness of God’s creation and the human responsibility to steward it through worship, education and action.
Care of Creation is a Wisconsin faith-based non-profit offering resources that is “mobilizing the church around the world to bring healing and wholeness to all of God’s creation.”
In addition to training and equipping volunteers to keep creation-care issues in front of their faith communities, Lutherans Restoring Creation offers suggestions on how individuals can advocate for various related concerns such as climate change, consumption, food, and land use.
In a recent Rolling Stone article Alex Morris wrote about the growing network of evangelical activists tackling climate change and trying to bring their church with them for the journey.
Special Care of Creation Worship event
Lisa Brenskelle leads a Houston area Lutherans Restoring Creation imitative. She told me about the Earth Day worship celebration set for Saturday, April 24 at 6 p.m. (Central Time). The 45-minute service is open to all who have interest, but does require a registration: – https://www.eventbrite.com/e/creation-focused-liturgy-for-earth-day-tickets-147289164857
My Story and Theory
Last Friday we hosted a driveway social hour. A neighbor and I distributed 30 invitations to gather in our driveway at 5 p.m. to celebrate the arrival of spring and get to know each other. I do not know most of my neighbors beyond waving at them. I estimate 25 people showed up. Several stayed until it got dark. Several have stopped me to thank us for doing this and asked us to do it again. Why? Because we are all needing more in-person connections with one another. The pandemic has shown us how much we need each other.
Which brings me to my theory. I suspect the drastic uptick we’re seeing in mass shootings and the lack of regard for the planet both stem from how disconnected we are today. When we care about people, we don’t shoot them. When we care about other people, we want them to have safe drinking water, clean air, and adequate shelter.
R. E. S. P. E. C. T.
When I was a child my brother and I went tromping through our neighbor’s flowerbed to retrieve a ball. The neighbor called our mother to complain. To us she was a grouchy lady who hated kids. To our mother she was a lonely widow who took pride in her flowers. Mom made us go apologize. She accepted our apology and respectfully asked that we respect her flowers. We never were really friends with her, but we did learn to have more respect for her and her flowers.
For this 51st Earth Day I respectfully suggest we each make a little extra effort to have a conversation with a neighbor we don’t yet know and/or spend a little time outdoors observing wildlife. When we know people or critters, we’re more likely to respect them. When we respect people, and critters, we don’t trash their flower beds or any other part of the place they call home. Planet Earth is the only home we have.
Happy Earth Day Birthday!
Thank you for reading about Earth Day 2021. If you enjoyed this, you might enjoy reading this article about other groups working to preserve and protect our fragile nature world or an article I wrote about why we all need to think about Care of Creation issues.
Read more about the early encounters between the Pilgrim settlers and the Pokanokets in my historical novel Mayflower Chronicles: The Tale of Two Cultures. Available now in paperback Ebook and audio.
Bookshop.org (Supporting local Indie Bookshops)
Autographed copies available from BlueWillowBookShop.com/book/