EARTH DAY 2020 – a day to commemorate or celebrate?

Apr 22, 2020

22 April 2020 is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.  And probably most people will still not have heard of it. The Earth Day Network’s mission is “to build the world’s largest environmental movement to drive transformative change for people and planet.” Since the first EARTH DAY in 1970  it has grown; with its billion supporters and thousands of partners around the world its aim is to mobilise civil society for greater protection for our planet.  

The  2020 theme is “Climate Action” which, before the sudden arrival of Covid-19, was seen as the biggest challenge to the future of humanity and the life-support systems for the world.   Initially it was not expected that so much world-wide energy and resources would be poured into dealing with the pandemic. Covid-19 is causing enormous pain and trauma  across the world, on personal and societal levels. Figures like 2 million cases, nearly 100 000 deaths are mind-boggling.  But many recoveries are also happening.

Although this the enormous challenge right now it is accepted that sooner or later it will come to an end. Julian of Norwich was a great mystic, living in the 14th century, at the time of the black (bubonic) plague and its aftermath in which more than 50 million people died. She experienced personal  dialogue with Jesus. He once used the now famous words, “all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.”

Never has so much global solidarity been experienced to address the health aspect as well as the economic aspects, especially job losses, poverty and hunger. As we have observed the progress over the last month, as in every circumstance of solidarity there are, and will be, cracks, as responses are implemented.

Climate action remains and is one action for which a united universal response has never been forthcoming. It is for now the second greatest challenge facing humanity as well as nature.  In fact global warming is believed to have contributed to some degree in the development of the virus in late 2019.   When in the next months the health issues are more firmly under control, the economic challenges across the world will remain and need concerted efforts to rebuild every facet of the economic life of all citizens as our president Cyril Ramaphosa presented in his address on 21st April.

A focus on climate action has been affected for now, but fortunately for the cause of climate action, there are already byproducts in cleaner air and water and a decrease in carbon emission due to the lockdown and restricted movement of people. As we attempt to bring our lives back to normal, we realise that there will be no normal in the way it was.

Now is the time to think ahead even beyond the economic hardship being experienced now and not abandon the need for climate action to save and protect our planet’s resources, water, animal and plant biodiversity, healthier diets and a less frenetic pace of life.  Will that happen?  What could bring it about? Will ongoing lifestyle changes be voluntary or forced by circumstances?  Will there be greater social equality and how far will the plight of the poor be taken into account? Will we work from home more, spend less on luxuries or non-necessities?

Natural and behavioural scientists, spiritual and ethical leaders have warned us before. Earth Day is 50 years old. The Earth Charter is a set of 16 principles developed by world leaders in early 2000s towards combating negative climate change. Will these come back into focus with initiatives such as MARFAM’s theme OUR WORLD, A FAMILY OF FAMILIES which highlights the aspect of family?

Does God still have a role to play in his own creation?  In Laudato Si,  Pope Francis refers to previous popes’ warning messages on ecological matters.  He includes a quotation,  “the Earth Charter asked us to leave behind a period of self-destruction and make a new start but we have not as yet developed a universal awareness needed to achieve this.  A courageous challenge: as never before in history common destiny beckons us to a new beginning.  Let ours be a time remembered for the awakening of a new reverence for life, the firm resolve to achieve sustainability, the quickening of the struggle for justice and peace and the joyful celebration of life.”

In spite of our pain, and to use an Afrikaans term, the “snot en trane,” was that not the essence of the message Jesus left with us and that he lived during Holy Week and continues to share in the post-Easter season.  “Love one another as I have loved you. If you love one another, the Father and I will come and make our home with you.”  May God be welcome in each home, as well as our common home of creation, as we commemorate and celebrate  EARTH Day 2020.   TR  FAMILY WEEKLY  22 April

Image Peter Keshwar Society of St Vincent de Paul explains how the society helps the poor at this time,

NOTES:   Earth Day Network is going digital.  Visit on 22 April to join in the conversation and discussions.

MARFAM theme:  Our World – a Family of Families, brings together the issues of the health of humanity and of creation from a family perspective. Please support our campaign. Visit our on-line shop and DONATE.

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