Look at how beautiful we can be.
Everybody has noticed. Around the world, skies are bluer. Wildlife has been seen and heard like never before. What seemed like an impossibility was, it turns out, completely possible after all. Healthier air and cleaner water. The 50th Earth Day might actually be the cleanest Earth Day in history…because humans changed their behavior.
I don’t believe in coincidences. I don’t believe it is just happenstance that the world is shut down on Earth Day this year. I believe it is a beckoning – an important message, like from a parent who unconditionally loves their child into greater things: “Look! See how immensely beautiful you can be? Do you see in yourself what I see in you? Do you see your potential for love and goodness?”
Many doubt our power – some doubt humanity’s ability to destroy the Earth and some doubt humanity’s ability to restore it. It is convenient to doubt our power because it absolves us of accountability. But, now, there is no doubting the power we humans have over the Earth. For, in the span of a few months, we have returned to pollution levels that, if sustained, would reverse the damage of the last 100 years. None of us would have wanted to see this successful reversal in pollution result from millions losing their jobs and thousands losing their lives. But is this choice, the one between a healthy environment for all communities and a thriving society, only a binary one? Doesn’t God love us so deeply as to want both for us and for all of Creation? Don’t we love one another enough to want both?
When restrictions are lifted, people return to their jobs, and we begin to dig our way out of this darkness, how will we respond? Will we go back to the way things were? Or will we emerge and grow into a new, beautiful, loving society which promotes an ecological balance in which clean water and breathable air are equitably shared among all of Creation? We have the power to choose which way we go.
Faith communities are thought leaders. They teach new ways of thinking, shift the social norms of tolerance, and introduce new behaviors. One of our volunteers, Bill Spare, tabulated data from the Association of Data Archives and found that there are nearly 19,000 congregations in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Over 7 million people are members of those congregations. That’s 7 million people who look to their faith community to be thought leaders. That’s 7 million people who will either go back to the way things were, or pivot and embrace new behaviors.
Last week over 80 people registered for our online Learning Lab: “The Power to Motivate: Learn to Lead a Behavior Change Campaign at your Congregation.” I always encourage people to not be overwhelmed by the sea of change that is needed, but to begin with your individual circle of influence. While 7 million people feels overwhelming, what about the 200 people in your congregation? That surely feels more realistic. And that is all that is being asked of us. One of my favorite prayers by Archbishop Oscar Romero reminds us that we cannot do everything, but we can do something, and do it very well. The people who attended or registered for the behavior change Learning Lab last week represented over 50 different congregations made up of an estimated 10,000 worshipers. That’s one heck of a start.
“The rain begins with a single drop.”
Manal al-Sharif, Saudi Arabian feminist activist
Communities of faith are the most powerful institutions to influence behavior change. You, as a leader in your congregation, can be the spark that sets off a chain reaction of behavior change in your community. Here are some ways to get started:
- Join us for online Learning Labs each month to dive deeper into specific topics that will help you lead your congregation
- Earth Day Anyway is a calendar of daily actions you can take at home during Covid-19
- Look no further than your back yard and collaborate with nature-lovers around the world in this year’s City Nature Challenge (despite the landing page, the challenge is open to residents in Baltimore City/County, and the counties of Howard, Harford, Anne Arundel, Carroll and Queen Anne's)
- Click here for many more resources for Earth Day and beyond including Green Ramadan ideas and honoring Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ at the 5-year Anniversary
We are being called to a more beautiful existence in which a healthy and clean environment is equitably shared among everyone in Maryland and beyond. On this, the 50th Earth Day, let’s commit to keeping the skies blue in Baltimore, the birds chirping in Lancaster, the air safe in Salisbury, and the water clean in the Anacostia.
Let’s see how beautiful we can continue to be.