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On April 22nd, the world celebrated “Earth Day”, so HAPPY EARTH DAY EVERYONE!
But wait, shouldn’t “Earth Day” be every day?
Well, let’s briefly review how Earth Day actually came to be 46 years ago. It was 7 years in the making until it became official in 1970. Many say that it was the result of 20 million people who participated at the grassroots level to achieve the declaration of Earth Day. Indeed, it’s all in the grassroots, and now it’s being celebrated around the world as a way to demonstrate support for environmental protection.
I think days like Earth Day are wonderful. They create opportunities to raise more awareness of the environmental issues that are affecting our beautiful planet and to remember with more tenacity why we need to have such a day in the first place.
The reality is that the lack of connection that many of us have with the earth is blinding some of us from seeing the interconnectedness of our planet. We are forgetting that what we give is what we get. As much as society presently likes to believe the saying “out of sight, out of mind”, our treatment of the planet has caught up with us, and now it requires more attention and action than ever before.
Shoghi Effendi says:
We cannot segregate the human heart from the environment outside us and say that once one of these is reformed everything will be improved. Man is organic with the world. His inner life moulds the environment and is itself also deeply affected by it. The one acts upon the other and every abiding change in the life of man is the result of these mutual reactions. 1
Our hearts and our bodies (Temples of our Spirit) are also moulded by the reality and state of the world today. This beautiful planet Earth God has given us as the birthing place and medium of growth for our souls is suffering greatly due to humanity’s selfish desires, greed and carelessness. The structures and systems of civilization that are in place are mostly motivated by these corrupt values, and we are at times completely blind to how that affects the choices and decisions of our everyday lives. Just to give a few examples: the effect of consumerism on the natural resources of the planet; the genetic modifications, overuse of pesticides and chemical overload in food; the lack of diversified investment in cleaner alternatives of energy; and the chemicals used by companies in 90% of personal care and home products which have been correlated with cancer, infertility and hormone disruption, etc.
As Baha’is we strive to have a world-embracing vision and we desire nothing less than the betterment of the world, as the Beloved Master beautifully expresses:
Strive ye with all your hearts, raise up your voices and shout, until this dark world be filled with light, and this narrow place of shadows be widened out, and this dust heap of a fleeting moment be changed into a mirror for the eternal gardens of heaven, and this globe of earth receive its portion of celestial grace. 2
How can this Earth, then, receive its portion of celestial grace?
As Baha’is, we find this vision in the teachings of Baha’u’llah, which promote unity, prosperity and justice for the planet. We know we are interconnected with everything; therefore, we must strive to have profound respect for the natural environment, rise to our obligation of stewardship to our home planet and look at it with humility.
As we build communities that sacrifice day in and day out for the betterment of their neighbourhoods, towns and cities, Earth Day can be a timely reminder of how nature not only reflects the vast attributes of God, but also operates under a law of reciprocity.
If every day is Earth Day, why not think of the choices we can make and questions we can ask ourselves every day? Here are a few practical and simple questions to ponder:
WATER: How do I conserve water? Do I turn off the tap when I’m not using water? Is it necessary for me to take a 15-minute shower every day?
ENERGY: Do I turn off the lights when I leave a room?
DRIVING: Do I choose to drive when I could easily walk or bike? Do I plan my errands better so I don’t make two or three trips instead of one?
FOOD: How much do I cook at home? When I go out, do I always take the leftovers and actually eat them? Did you know that restaurants and consumers throw away an estimated 55 million tonnes of food a year, enough to feed 200 million people?
FAST FOOD: Do I usually choose to get my food at a drive-thru? Can I try to remember that it usually takes an average of 3 minutes every time I get something from a drive-thru, and for certain countries (like Canada) if this were avoided, it would mean an annual reduction of CO2 emissions by 1.4 million tonnes and save 630 million liters of fuel, basically equivalent to taking 320,000 cars off the road? And remember, this is only for Canada, imagine if more countries were in the calculation!
DIET: Have I given myself a few minutes to learn how much water and energy is used for me to have the food I choose to eat? Do I remember that it takes 200 liters of water to make 1 cup of coffee? And 15,000 liters to make 1 kilogram of beef?
FASHION: Have I looked into the practices of the companies I buy clothing from? Do they pollute the rivers with dye? Do you follow the trend of buying large amounts of cheap clothing? Perhaps every time you want to purchase clothing you could try to remember that more than a half trillion gallons of fresh water are used in the dyeing of textiles each year.
This statement from the Baha’i International Community in 1997 explains our role in crystal clear terms:
The changes required to reorient the world toward a sustainable future imply degrees of sacrifice, social integration, selfless action, and unity of purpose rarely achieved in human history. These qualities have reached their highest degree of development through the power of religion. Therefore, the world’s religious communities have a major role to play in inspiring these qualities in their members, releasing latent capacities of the human spirit and empowering individuals to act on behalf of the planet, its peoples, and future generations. 3
You can find out more about Earth Day and how to get involved from the Earth Day website, and let us try to remember our planet Earth not only on Earth Day, but every single day!
- Written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, from a letter dated 17 February 1933 to an individual believer
- Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 36
- Baha’i International Community (1997) Earth Charter. UN
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