Since that first Earth Day April 22, 1970 how are you caring for God’s good creation?
– by Tom Sine – Last week I wrote about watching Denis Hayes President of the Bullitt Foundation join Governor Jay Inslee and Mayor Mike McGinn cutting the ribbon to open the Bullitt Building, the greenest building in the US, here in Seattle Earth Day 2013.
In 1970 Denis Hayes dropped out of the Kennedy School at Harvard to launch that first Earth Day. Believe it or not the democrats were actually able to come together to explore how best to care for the environment. Today over 180 countries celebrate Earth Day every year. Most importantly that first Earth Day not only brought global awareness about the need to care for creation but to pass laws in the US and all over the world that are enabling us to be better stewards of this good creation.
How did you celebrate that first Earth Day 1970? Let me share with you my experience of that day and the concerns that we still need to be aware of as race through the second decade of this new millennium.
“I consider the first Earth Day in 1970 my second birthday.” As I explained in an article entitled “God’s Quiet Conspiracy in a Post Oil Future” in Conspire Magazine in 2010. I reflected on my experience of that important day, “ James Dator, then a political scientist with the University of Hawaii, spoke on campus about the future of the environment and the challenges facing us in the coming decade. It was easily the most disturbing presentation I had ever heard. It had never occurred to me that the future might be radically different from the present.
This was the beginning of a process in which I was, quite literally, born again. The more I struggled with the issues Dator raised about sustainability and the growing inequality in society, the more his message became a call. These concerns have been the center of my life and ministry ever since.
In 1972, a book called The Limits to Growth exploded in the public consciousness, posing the provocative question: “What are the limits to growth on a finite planet?” A group called The Club of Rome had created the first computer-based model forecasting the future of the planet, examining five components: economic growth, depletion of nonrenewable resources, pollution, food production, and population growth. The sobering conclusion was that unless drastic changes were made, the world would end, not with a bang but a whimper, by about 2025.
In his new book, Eaarth, Bill McKibben reports that for the past thirty years, Graham Turner, an Australian academic, has been tracking these same five variables. He has concluded that essentially the Club of Rome got it right. McKibben goes on to make a convincing case that, since we failed to act sooner, there will be no easy transition from our high-growth, cheap-oil past into a slow growth, post-oil future. This is true primarily because all the architects of unrestrained growth in the global economy are still largely in denial that we are in crisis; and secondly, because those of us who are aware that there is a crisis are not acting quickly or comprehensively enough.
McKibben documents the list of climate change symptoms we are already experiencing: escalating natural disasters in the tropics which are placing growing numbers of people at risk; mega fires in our forests; growing droughts in some areas and torrential rains in others; arctic ice caps in a death spiral; the unexpected release of huge quantities of methane gas from the melting ice caps; dangerous increases of acids in our oceans; a growing global water crisis; the radical alteration of our ability to grow food on our warming planet; and the rapidly escalating costs of petro-chemically based fertilizers which could cause a world food crisis.
Clearly, life as usual will not serve. Leveraging the international response needed to envision economic and environmental policy and persuading large numbers of middle class in all of our countries to begin to reinvent their lives are enormous tasks.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we need to remind ourselves that the creator God has not lost control. Scripture’s promise is that in Christ all things will be made whole, including God’s good creation. Once we reconnect to a confident hope that God intends to restore creation instead of destroy it, we confront the question of how we can become more fully a part of this process of restoration.
Certainly a call to create simpler, more sustainable lives is part of it, but followers of Jesus aren’t called to just do a simpler version of the American dream. We are called to reimagine it and reinvent it. Considering the broad spectrum of churches in North America, this will be a huge challenge. Unless we help these sincere believers examine some of their fundamental life assumptions, we will never be able to persuade most of them to make the changes that will be necessary. Many have settled for a compartmentalized faith. The American dream and the seduction of the imperial, global mall have defined their choices, and their faith life is little more than a devotional “add-on” to the normal, consumptive North American life. Consequently, many of these good people not only contribute to our huge and growing carbon footprint, but participate in an extravagant expenditure of time and money on self-interested activities that could otherwise be invested in God’s quiet conspiracy to transform our world.
We are constantly trying to motivate followers of Jesus to take back their lives. Instead of allowing class, income, and culture to define their lifestyles, we want them to turn to Scripture to help them redefine their notions of the good life. Jesus’ paradoxical teachings remind us that we can’t find life by pursuing it. Only as we lose our lives in service to God and others do we have any possibility of discovering the good life of God…” “God’s Quiet Conspiracy,” Conspire Magazine, volume 2 issue 2 Summer 2010.
As you can see in the picture our community raises 30% to 40% of our vegetables on an urban lot, we try to model a lifestyle that is not only simpler and more sustainable but more festive too.
Since that first Earth Day April 22, 1970 how are you caring for God’s good creation? Write and tell us today what you are doing.