Earth Day

Happy Earth Day, a day when we honor and celebrate our Mother and our home.

Christian theologian Paul Tillich spoke of God as “the ground of being.” The Earth is literally our ground of being – we grew out of the Earth, we are sustained by the Earth, and we can only leave the Earth (at least physically) by taking the Earth with us. Along with the Sun, we are totally dependent on the Earth for our survival and sustenance. Therefore it is critical that we care for the Earth, and that we avoid changing the Earth in ways that would make it inhospitable for humans.

How do we do this? How do we persuade people to look past their immediate self-interests and do what’s in the long-term best interests of our species and our planet? Some well-meaning folks believe we need to approach this from a completely rational perspective.

Writing for, Joseph Romm says

We have fiddled like Nero for far too long to save the whole earth or all of its species. Now we need a World War II scale effort just to cut our losses and save what matters most. So let’s call it Triage Day. And if worst comes to worst, at least future generations won’t have to change the name again.

We already have millions of people who have allowed themselves to be convinced that climate change is a fraud, who believe that Jesus is coming back in a few years, or who figure they’ll be dead before things get too bad. We humans have a long track record of ignoring prophets bearing bad news. I don’t need Tarot cards to see that “Triage Day” would be a dismal failure.

But caring for the Sacred? Making sacrifices for something Holy? Putting the desires of God, Goddess, gods or goddesses ahead of our own? While far from perfect, I like these odds a lot better.

Bron Taylor comes to the same conclusion. He proposes Dark Green Religion as a civil religion for the future and defines it as “one where nature is sacred, has intrinsic value, and is therefore due reverent care.” If we believe the Earth is sacred – either naturally or supernaturally – then we are far more likely to behave in ways that are helpful to the Earth and by extension, helpful to humans. We have a long way to go, but in an essay for this year’s Earth Day, Taylor says

Truth be told, we are a species not highly evolved enough to be ready for Earth Day, let alone Mother Earth day. But there is some tantalizing and hopeful evidence that we’re beginning to find our way.

Let me be clear: I did not choose Paganism because I think it’s the “right” religion. I became a Pagan because the goddesses and gods of my ancestors called to me. I became a Pagan because I experienced the wonder and awe of Nature. My belief that the Earth is sacred flows out of those experiences, and I am motivated to care for the Earth because of them.

Those emotional, spiritual, religious experiences changed my life and changed my behaviors in ways that no amount of logic and reason ever could. I don’t think I’m unique in this regard.

If focusing on how bad things are helps some people do the right thing, then I suppose that’s OK. But they shouldn’t be surprised if they get the same response as the prophets of the Old Testament.

So today I honor the Earth and I joyously celebrate Earth Day. I hope you will too.

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