The contemporary environmental movement began forty-seven years ago this weekend: April 22, 1970, with the first observance of “Earth Day.” It was a synergistic event that involved people like activist John McConnell and Senator Gaylord Nelson. They were able to tap into the “countercultural” movement of the time in an effort to protect the planet.
Today, “Earth Day” is as celebrated as ever, now an international campaign in more than 180 countries. Of course, not everyone is happy about this. There is maintained, vociferous opposition by some to anything remotely environmental or conservationist in nature. Even the phrase “climate change” has recently been banned within a number of government agencies.
Yet, this fact remains: Humanity is the Earth’s biggest enemy. More to the point, we who are USAmericans are the planet’s greatest threat (another unpleasant fact), as we put more pressure on our collective resources than any other nation in the world.
Fresh out of college I attended a workshop where I heard a facilitator present a novel concept for the first time. Easily found on YouTube and other online venues today, this tool reduces world population to a single village of a hundred people. “If the world were a village of a hundred people,” it begins, then these are some of the facts:
There would be 60 Asians, 14 Africans, 11 Europeans, 10 from other American countries, and only 5 from the United States. Nearly 80 in our village would have to live off of only 6 percent of the wealth, while 3 people – only 3 – would possess more than half of all the wealth in the world. The richest “villager,” that single one at the top, would own twice as much as his or her closest competitor, and he or she would be from the USA.
And lest we think we get off the hook because we are not in the “1%,” collectively our nation consumes a quarter of all the earth’s resources: Five people in the “village” devour 25% of all that is available, so that if every person in the world lived as the average American, humanity would need nearly five planet Earths to maintain our current standard of living.
I’m not saying we should all fall off the grid and resume lives more reminiscent of medieval times than the 21st century, but we must take steps to defend, preserve, guard, and conserve our home. People of faith should be leading this effort – not opposing it – as the great monotheistic faiths share a common story of origin: God created a good, harmonious world, and then charged humans with the epic responsibility of nurturing it.
We are to be stewards and curators of God’s beautiful garden, not its pillagers and exploiters, as we have not been graced with this world to ransack it, but to honor it. We do this, yes, for our children, our grandchildren, and their grandchildren; and we do this for the glory of God, fulfilling the primal commandment given to us all.