Happy Earth Day 2014! I think it’s appropriate that Earth Day follows so closely on the heels of Easter this year, for resurrection is in fact one of nature’s specialty. And before anyone protests that I’m starting to sound like a granola-crunching-hippie-pantheist, let’s not forget that Jesus himself used the cycles of nature to explain his own death and resurrection to his disciples (John 12:20-26).
But in 2014, we cannot celebrate Earth Day without acknowledging a more sobering reality: climate change. The most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts that if we continue with our current levels of greenhouse gas emissions, we will hit a dangerous and perhaps irreversible climate change milestone within 30 years.
30 years, folks. That’s 2044. I’ll be turning 57. I imagine many of you reading this hope to be around in 2044. Others know their children and grandchildren will live to see that year. As people of faith, it’s time to do something.
Here are 5 ways that you can make a difference this Earth Day:
1.) Recycle – Ok, maybe this should be a no-brainer at this point, but I’ll confess to throwing away recyclables from time to time because let’s face it: recycling is not always convenient. Today, don’t think of recycling as “something you do when you can,” think of it as a spiritual practice. Spiritual practices are by their very nature inconvenient; they are meant to disrupt our usual routine and direct our focus outward and upward! So go out of your way to recycle today as your form of prayer, fasting, and worship.
2.) Get your hands dirty – If you have a garden, go out and work in it. If you don’t have a garden, plant a seed in a cup or egg-crate and stick it in the window. If you don’t know the first thing about gardening or plants (I fall into this category), just go outside and get some dirt on your hands! Be a part of Creation today, not just an observer. Remember that the dirt you’re trying to get out from underneath your fingernails is the very stuff that God created and called “very good.”
3.) Choose a day this week not to drive – We know that burning fossil fuels is one of if not the leading cause of climate change. That means the gas in our tanks adds up – not only in our bank accounts, but also in our environmental impact. Choose one day this week not to drive. If you have to commute a long way to work or school, make it a weekend day. Or investigate the public transportation where you live. Walk, bike, carpool, or ride the bus.
4.) Eat vegetarian one day this week – Along with issues of ethical treatment, more and more studies are showing the negative environmental impact of raising animals for human consumption. Choose one day this week not to eat meat – it’s easier than you might think! Maybe commit to going vegetarian once a week for the whole season of Easter. If you’re feeling really adventurous, try going vegan! See how much of your food you can get from local farms and gardens. Factory farming and transportation of food are also major players in accelerating climate change.
5.) Educate yourself – What are the important environmental justice issues that affect your community? Water pollution? Fracking? Deforestation? Choose one issue, and take some time to research it. Commit to following that one issue in the news and the community throughout the season of Easter – and beyond! Look online for organizations that address the issue you’re interested in. Write an email or make a phone call – get involved! You can also get involved on a national level with the Presbyterian Office of Public Witness and contact the EPA to urge strengthening the protection of our nation's water resources.
The earth is the Lord’s, and all that is in it; the world, and those who live in it. Amen.