This Thursday is Earth Day. Around the world, volunteers will pickup litter and plant trees, politicians will give speeches, and everyday people will take a little time to reflect on the wonders of nature. All the while, the earth will keep on spinning, and life, as we know it, will increasingly become more and more precarious.
Just this month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that in the year 2020 global CO2 (carbon dioxide) levels reached their highest point in 3.6 million years at 412.5 parts per million. In laypersons’ terms, that means that the level of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere is at an all-time high. In a nutshell, increased greenhouse gases absorb more heat from the sun. The trapped heat causes a rise in global temperatures, and rising temperatures result in changing climates. The chain of cause and effect eventually results in, among other things, altered weather patterns, increased levels of extreme weather, sea level rise, habitat loss, and ocean acidification. All of which adds up to a more than precarious situation for the planet and its inhabitants.
The climate is changing, and the overwhelming scientific consensus is that these changes have been and are being driven by the burning of fossil fuels. The world, of course, largely has and continues to run on fossil fuels. The other reality, however, is that with imagination, courage, and determination, the addiction can be broken. Just like mercy and grace are extended to others through concrete acts of goodwill and kindness, the same can be done for the earth by transitioning to renewable and sustainable energy sources—solar, wind, hydro, etc.
Years ago, I was part of the first organized effort at my high school to promote recycling. “Don’t Throw Your Future Away” was one of our catchy slogans along with the pithy but true “Earth Care Begins With You.” However, that was thirty years ago. Individual recycling, consumer-consciousness, and local conservation efforts are all good, helpful, and rewarding, but here’s the thing, we are at 412.5 parts per million of CO2 levels and climbing. Shifting away from fossil fuels is not something someone just wakes up one day and decides to do all on their own. Instead, like all great endeavors, it requires a collective effort of citizens, businesses, and governments.
Enjoy this Earth Day. Take a hike and soak in the wonder and beauty of creation. Recommit yourself once more to recycling and making wise consumer choices. Help clean up a creek or donate to a conservation effort, but remember, a catastrophe of this proportion (412.5 parts per million) is far beyond any of our own individual capacities to fully comprehend let alone turn around. This Earth Day write a letter to your elected representatives (local, state, and national) and remind them that while good creation stewardship begins in our own backyards, what the earth needs now is broad, bold, innovative, and cooperative action.