Friday, June 21, 2024

The case for making Earth Day a religious holiday


IEarth Day is upon us—that little non-holiday that gets sandwiched between Easter and Passover some years, or follows in the wake of those “real” holidays in other years. If the Super Bowl is America’s unofficial national celebration day, then Earth Day is the collective yawn that brings a shrug. No recipe offers Earth Day Chips and Dips better when friends and loved ones gather in celebration of the miracle of the living planet. because they do not. Not even ours.

For both of us environmentalists—one of us nominally Jewish, the other Catholic—we find the ill-defined nature of the only day honoring the place that makes life possible more than a little sacred. So, this 53rd Earth Day, we reflect on what the actual Earth Day represents and how it can become a central time for a new approach to worship.

Before we delve into that loaded word, let’s back up. even though the earth was scorched – New York City had hottest january On record and a February like an April – the idea of ​​honoring this planet with its miraculous coating of life has somehow faded away.

It was not always so. The first Earth Day in 1970, co-chaired by Republican Senator Pete McCloskey and Democratic Senator Gaylord Nelson, brought more than 20 million People—one-tenth of the American population at the time—were on the streets. According to CBS News Special reports That day, several high schools announced that they would waive absences. Earth Day 1970 left, reputation“The largest one-day protest in human history.”

We remember when the air in big cities still hurt our young lungs, and the rivers were so polluted that they frequently caught fire. The sentiment then was to protest against chemical pollution and smog. Within a few years of that first Earth Day and the national sentiment behind it, President Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency and Congress passed unprecedented environmental legislation, including the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, . The federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, the Toxic Substances Control Act, the National Environmental Education Act, and other protections that have greatly improved human health in our cities and communities and prevented the extinction of hundreds of species.

But Earth Day may have become a victim of its own success. Even as we face new and seemingly overwhelming environmental issues – the extinction crisis, the toxic chemical crisis, the climate crisis, the acidification of the oceans, the plastic tsunami – the spirit of the day is no longer mass protest. Yet current environmental problems pose an existential threat to planetary and social stability, even to civilization itself. One day out of 365 to mark the entire planet is a far cry from the reverence and recognition for all known life, for our entire existence.

Read more: Mark Ruffalo and Gloria Walton on How Storytelling Can Save the Planet

So, what would an Earth-reverential belief system look like with Earth Day at its center?

To begin with, let’s look at which established religions are correct and where we can take our cues. Perhaps the first step might be, um, to trace the nature-centered origins of our current religious holidays. Most of us know in the back of our minds that Christmas and Hanukkah fall on the winter solstice; Easter and Passover coincide with the arrival of spring; Sukkot and Diwali mark the harvest and the last heat of summer, and Eid follows the path of the moon. These holidays have their origins in gratitude. Gratitude for the returning sun. Gratitude for the harvest that can protect against the starvation that winter can bring. Thanks for avoiding it. We can imagine these holidays as days of thanksgiving for what the natural world gives and a reminder that our responsibility for what is left is an ongoing covenant.

Next, we can look at what religions do to help us create community and mark important parameters of life: birth, maturity, marriage, and death. What if we came to celebrate these benchmarks biologically? Birth, that ecstatic co-joining of atoms and molecules may result in sensation, which may inspire a ritual of how the true and the factual become inanimate. Instead of (or in addition to) bar/bat mitzvahs and confirmations, would it be too much to expect our children to exceed the average daily 20 minutes most American children spend outside, and to memorize the names and descriptions of local plants? Commit and learn the ideas involved in correctly planting an animal, or a tree? The covenant of marriage can be an occasion to remind young couples to consider the burden of children on the planet and to resolve to pursue sustainable patterns of behavior. Death, in the end, can be recognized for what it is – the return of atoms and molecules to the cycle. In the circle of life, separation is as miraculous a process as union. We Even then Don’t really know how nothing became nothing and created a universe in which random pulses of energy and matter coalesced into beings writing ops. In short, there are a lot of secrets to go around.

Finally, we might just need a book. The Jewish Torah wraps up the year nicely, from one Simchat Torah to the next, when we finish the annual reading of the story and begin again in the same service, creating a sense of a Hermetic year. What if such a book existed for Earth? What if it was filled with hymns to the world of the living? What if it contained the stories of the prophets of natural Earth wisdom – Darwin and Carson, Galileo and Humboldt? What if we characterized those discoveries as a gradual opening of consciousness to the laws of nature. What if our Bible of the natural world emphasized that there is a multiplicity of processes and phenomena still to be discovered? What if we used that book not to scold our children for disobeying the commandments, but to light a path that encourages exploration and respect, and gratitude for the relationships that make this planet space? Does the vehicle have life support?

Are we proposing a whole new religion? We are not sure. Maybe an old one. The root of all religious sentiment is the feeling that we are much larger in space and deeper in time than ourselves. The world certainly is like this. At any rate, we know that spiritual inquiry, like scientific inquiry, is not static. Similarly, a new continent of scientific knowledge has been revealed to us since the First and Second Religious Great Awakenings of America. It seems entirely appropriate and spiritual for us to include this new knowledge-continent in a progressive knowledge of life, death, and the universe in a new Great Awakening.

In short, we should make nature central to our belief systems, with Earth Day or any number of Earth-centered ceremonial days serving as regular reminders of what we do to our home planet. It is characteristic that many people seek nature in parks or on a dreamy photo safari. In a world of commodification, we believe that nature should be a commodity, accessible through transactions. We’re used to thinking that, just as cornflakes can be found in the cereal aisle, so are nature’s reserves in places like Yellowstone. But nature is not just one place. and it should not be relegated to a box on the same calendar where “pick up dry cleaning” Gets more ink.

we have to tell everyone that the rotation and rotation of the planet makes All 365 days deserve a recognition that extends to all 365. The recognition of the planet was born in protest. Going forward it should be about respect, about respect for the living world that makes even human life possible. Celebrating the whole world as a living miracle really must be more fun and more win-win than the most watched football game.

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