Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, with love, justice, and compassion

Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, with love, justice, and compassion

Rev. Fletcher Harper

April 2020

This week is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. In April 1970, tens of millions of people came together on the first-ever Earth Day to demand government action on pollution. The cultural and political momentum from that event led to landmark clean air and clean water protections.

Today, we are in a very different place. We are facing two devastating global crises--the climate crisis and a global pandemic. The climate crisis, with more and more extreme weather events, is threatening millions of people around the world. The Coronavirus is killing hundreds of thousands of people, destroying livelihoods, and is fundamentally altering how we relate to one another.

This is an urgent and poignant moment. A crisis of this magnitude brings out everything that is wrong with a society. It can also be the catalyst for making things right.

As people of faith, every one of our religious and spiritual traditions call on us to care for the most vulnerable amongst us; our neighbors; the stranger at our door. At this moment we turn towards each other. All of our faiths teach us so. And we are coming together, in Faith Communities of Care and Resilience, to prepare us not just for what is happening today, but for what is to come.

We know that this pandemic is just a harbinger of a future in which climate change is accelerating. We know that this pandemic, just like the growing number of climate crises, is hurting the most vulnerable among us. We know that our frontline communities are disproportionately affected: people of color; people who are homeless; people who are incarcerated; refugees and undocumented families; and people with jobs that can’t be done from home. We also know that the environmental injustices such as air pollution put people in the same communities at much greater risk from this virus. In fact, our most vulnerable sisters and brothers are dying at much higher rates. And the enormous health disparities are compounded right now by an economic crisis as tens of millions of people around the world lose their jobs and livelihoods.

To make matters worse, amidst the global scramble to protect lives and livelihoods, the fossil fuel industry is racing to exploit the crisis to advance its agendas. The pandemic has caused massive declines in demand for oil and gas, with the impacts compounded by an ongoing price war that has driven oil prices to unprecedented lows. Now, oil, gas, and deforestation corporations--and the U.S. banks that finance them--are demanding large government bailouts. Some big U.S. banks are even getting ready to go directly into the fossil fuel business, setting up shell companies to own and operate oil and gas fields, as they prepare to seize assets from bankrupt fossil fuel companies. Under the cover of COVID-19, they are also seeking the wholesale dismantling of environmental protections and a delay in the inevitable--a cleaner global economy.

This is an affront to all of our moral teachings. It is not right to favor the rich and powerful over those struggling to survive. It is not right to destroy the Earth. And yet the forces against us are so strong,

And yet, we know this also: This is a moment that can change how we’re showing up in the world. This is a moment when we show empathy. When love, justice, and compassion are the biggest muscles that we have.

GreenFaith is participating this week, as part of a global coalition, in a series of events that highlight where we stand as people of faith and spirit.

We hope you can join us.

  • On Thursday, April 23 at 9 am New York Time, we are hosting a special Interfaith Call for Care in Resilience that will be livestreamed globally on the Earth Day platform.

    A powerful interfaith group of faith leaders will share reflections and lead a discussion. We will hear from Benki Piyako, a leader of the Ashaninka tribe, an indigenous community in the Amazonian state of Acre, who is leading the campaign to defend their land against outside exploitation. We will also hear reflections from Swami Dayananda, a senior Hindu monk at Yogaville ashram in the US state of Virginia, who has organized a multi-faith, multi-racial coalition in opposition to a proposed major fossil fuel pipeline.

  • We are launching local Pray-Ins for Care and Resilience. For a Pray-In, you invite your loved ones, friends, and neighbors for a moment of spiritual respite and reflection in this stressful time. They are a way of bringing home and sharing the solace and connection that you find in our regular Faith Community Calls for Care and Resilience. The Pray-Ins this week are focused on making the connection between what we are facing today and the climate crisis, and taking action to stop the corporations financing this unsustainable future.

    You can sign up here to host a Pray-In this week with your community. We’ll contact you about how to host a Pray-In after you sign up. In the meantime, here is a quick guide that will help you get started.

  • Lastly, we ask you to donate to GreenFaith, as we have every Earth Day in years past. Frankly, we hesitated to send a fundraising appeal this year. We do not want to appear to benefit from a crisis and we understand that you may support other important causes, or have been economically affected. And we completely understand that. But we also know that at this moment we have to turn towards each other and grow more communities of care and resilience as a human family and as people of faith. And yes, now is the time to start this transformation. For that we need your generous help. If you are able to, will you give today?

The climate crisis and COVID19 have much in common. Both exacerbate fractures--inequality, poverty, and injustice--in our societies, and both disproportionately impact those on the frontlines who are most at risk. The human response to extreme disasters is to help each other, to be compassionate and kind--something that is harder, of course, when we can not physically come together. But we are coming together, nonetheless, with care and resilience. We nourish each other, take action to protect each other, and fight against injustice.

It’s been so inspiring to see this beloved community joining hands (if online only). We are imagining a different world, we are rising up against injustice, and we are meeting this challenge with the love, justice, and compassion that our faiths demand. Thank you.

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