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Important anniversaries in 2020: The first Earth Day in 1970

Lynne Baab • Friday March 6 2020

Important anniversaries in 2020: The first Earth Day in 1970

When I think of what has happened in the 50 years since the first Earth Day, I feel deep gratitude and profound grief. And when I think of this gorgeous fragile earth which reflects the beauty of its Creator, I also feel deep gratitude and profound grief.

I am grateful for Rachel Carson, whose 1962 book Silent Spring alerted the world to the dangers of synthetic pesticides. Silent Spring was one of the triggers for the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. I’m grateful that the first Earth Day was supported by both Democrats and Republicans, and more than 20 million people attended Earth Day events in 1970. So many good things have happened since that first Earth Day, including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the banning of DDT. Thank you, God, for every act of caring for the earth.

I grieve that for so many people, convenience and profit are more important than caring for the earth. I grieve that many Christians believe that Jesus is coming back very soon, and therefore we don’t have to preserve the earth for our descendants. I grieve that figuring out how to respond personally is sometimes challenging. Lord, I lament human selfishness and self-absorption.

I am grateful for the visual beauty of creation: Mount Rainier which gladdens my heart every time I see it, waves on beaches, reflections of sunsets in lakes, tall sturdy trees that are flexible enough to bend in the wind, and the vivid flowers of spring and summer. I’m grateful for all the research that shows the power of forest bathing – spending time in nature – to lift up human spirits. Thank you, beautiful God, for the beauty you lavished on your creation and for the eyes to see it.

I lament the pollution of water and air that impacts all of us. I lament the carelessness of the individual who dumps kerosene down the toilet, as well as the passion for profit that motivates corporations to break environmental laws in hidden ways. I grieve at the proliferation of chemicals in every area of industry, which spills over into our homes and air and water. I grieve about an attitude of distrust and opposition between people who care for the environment and business people.

I rejoice that I know Eliza Erskine, who recently got a masters degree in sustainable business development from Harvard and has started a business, Green Buoy Consulting. Eliza is gaining clients – business owners who want to make a profit and honor the creation at the same time. I am thankful for Janette Plunkett, a member of my Seattle congregation who advocates for climate change policies at the national level in the Presbyterian Church (USA), and who has brought many green initiatives into the business where she is an executive. I am grateful for so many advocates who work within institutions to change portfolio distribution, transportation patterns, and energy use in ways that honor God’s beautiful earth.

I grieve that the poor and vulnerable are always the ones most affected by damage to the earth. The rich can move away or mitigate environmental damage in some way, but the poor, sick, and aging are often stuck, as are animals. I grieve that the poorer nations of the world are already being profoundly affected by climate change. Lord, have mercy on the people and animals who are damaged by selfish human decisions to exploit the earth.

I rejoice in the bounty and abundance that God built into the earth. Soil, water, air, and sunshine give most inhabitants of earth enough to eat. I rejoice in delicious fruit, crispy vegetables, rich meat and cheese, fragrant bread, and so many other treats for the senses. Thank you, God, for the fruit of the earth. Thank you for feeding us.

I grieve about the pollution of the food supply with chemicals. I grieve that the production of food contributes to climate change gasses. I grieve that some people are overfed and others do not have enough food. I grieve that so much food goes into landfills and creates methane as it decomposes. Lord, hear my lament about our food supply and have mercy on us.

Lord, I rejoice and grieve that this topic is so much bigger than one blog post. I’ve omitted so much here: My grief about the fires in Australia. My wonder at the intricacy of the human body. My deep pain about plastic packaging, plastic in the Pacific, and micro-plastics in our water and now even in our food. My awe about helpful bacteria and all they do. Lord, you know.

Creator of all, I rejoice in the privilege of writing down my thanks and praise for your beautiful earth. I could go on and on, modeled after Psalm 104, praising you as a beautiful Creator. Thank you that you hear our grief about all these concerns, that you that you want us to bring our grief, sorrow, frustration and anger to you. Help us to continue to bring those emotions to you, and help us to continue to praise and thank you. And help us to listen to you so we know how to act responsibly in our own daily lives and spheres of influence.

Next week: the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale. Illustration by Dave Baab: Mount Rainier from Lake Washington Boulevard near our home. I love to get new subscribers. If you’d like to receive an email when I post on this blog, sign up below.

This post is structured after a series of blog posts about grief AND thankfulness dating from late 2019 and early 2020. If you missed the series, the posts come from the idea that maturity enables us to hold grief in one hand and gratitude in the other. The first post is here.

We are in the season of Lent. Here are some blog posts that have connections with Lent:



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