On this Earth Day


I’m so glad I can say both of these greetings together. They do belong together. In our Orthodox theology the life and sanctification of our Earth is intimately bound to our becoming holy. The inspiration for Earth Day goes back to Rachel Carson’s book The Silent Spring, The crisis she described in 1962 was catapulted into public consciousness a few years later by such events in 1969 as the massive oil spill off the coast of California and the fire in Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River that had become a dumping ground for heavy industry.

But as I was a huge – really huge – fan of the American space program in the 1960s, I like to believe that what really catapulted public consciousness was the first picture of the earth taken from space, from Apollo 8 orbiting the moon. Seeing our planet as a jewel suspended in the blackness of space was perhaps the most awe-inspiring image in all human history. That is our home in space, and it is beautiful. When God finished the six days of creation in the Book of Genesis, chapter 1, God called it all ‘very good.’ On Christmas Day, 1968, as Apollo 8 orbited the Moon with Earth in view, the Apollo 8 astronauts read the first ten verses of the Book of Genesis, in the most watched television broadcast up to that time. And I remember watching it. If we treat our planet as anything less than ‘very good’, then we are blaspheming against God.

So yes, HAPPY EARTH DAY! Now let’s do something worthy of God’s wisdom and sense of beauty. Because our God is beautiful, and our Savior who rose from the dead is BEAUTIFUL!

And let’s also remember that President Richard Nixon was the first American President to propose and sign serious legislation for the protection of the environment. And it was he who signed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) into existence in 1970. Tragic that Nixon’s party has become the party that wants to destroy the EPA and pretty much every worthwhile environmental initiative. Tragic that the party supposedly preferred by American ‘Christians’ is blaspheming against God’s love of the Earth!

In that same year of 1970 the first Earth Day was celebrated on April 22nd. Those were heady days for our planet. Has our sense of awe been jaded since then? Do our young people today have anything to inspire them? Or are we – yes, we – keeping them satisfied and lulled to mental sleep in their virtual realities? Have we given up on reality??

‘Earthrise’ Taken aboard Apollo 8 on December 24th, Christmas Eve, 1968, by Bill Anders, this iconic picture shows Earth over the lunar horizon, as the first crewed spacecraft orbited the Moon, with astronauts Anders, Frank Borman, and Jim Lovell aboard. Image Source: NASA

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