by Carl Teichrub
Earth Day! Earth Day! Earth Day! Everybody seems to be celebrating Earth Day. Corporate sponsorships, government backing, grassroots activism: it seems everybodys involved in Earth Dayfrom Toyota to the City of Denver, from the United Nations to the National Council of Churches, from elementary schools to major university campuses. Obviously, Earth Day is much more than just a single annual event; it has become a global cultural platform.
The idea for Earth Day goes back to 1962 and Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson. Convinced that environmental issues needed greater national exposure, Nelson suggested to President Kennedy that he embark on a "national conservation tour." The following year, Kennedy went on a five-day tour promoting natural conservation, but the tour never generated the political interest that Nelson was hoping for. However, according to the Senator, "it was the germ of the idea that ultimately flowered into Earth Day."
Six years later, during the height of the anti-Vietnam War demonstrations, Senator Nelson hit on the idea of creating a "national environmental teach-in"styled after the protest movement. "At a conference in Seattle in September 1969," wrote Nelson in a short history of Earth Day, "I announced that in the spring of 1970 there would be a nationwide grassroots demonstration on behalf of the environment The wire services carried the story from coast to coast. The response was electric."
Students and educators were recognized as a specific target group ideal for maintaining long-term momentum. Enhancing this important aspect, a book was compiled through Friends of the Earth and then distributed nation-wide to teachers and professors.
Titled, The Environmental Handbook: Prepared for the First National Environmental Teach-In, April 22, 1970, this volume bared all in the quest for a new social and environmental contract. While you read through the following excerpts taken from The Environmental Handbook, keep in mind that what you are reading is the foundational teaching material used in what later became known as Earth Day [Note: incorrect spelling in the original]:
· On Religion: "What we do about ecology depends on our ideas of the man-nature relationship. More science and more technology are not going to get us out of our present ecological crisis until we find a new religion, or rethink our old one..." (p. 24, Lynn White Jr.) "No new set of basic values has been accepted in our society to displace those of Christianity. Hence we shall continue to have a worsening ecologic crisis until we reject the Christian axiom that nature has no reason for existence save to serve man." (p. 25, Lynn White Jr.)
· On Population: "No technical solution can rescue us from the misery of overpopulation. Freedom to breed will bring ruin to all The only way we can preserve and nature other and more precious freedoms is by relinquishing the freedom to breed." (p. 49, Garrett Hardin)
· On Government: "Looking beyond our borders, our students will be encouraged to ask even harder questions. Are nation-states actually feasible, now that they have the power to destroy each other in a single afternoon? Can we agree on something else to take their place, before the balance of terror becomes unstable? What price would most people be willing to pay for a more durable kind of human organizationmore taxes, giving up national flags, perhaps the sacrifice of some of our hard-won liberties?" (p. 145, John Fisher)
· On Shamanism: "What was it that enabled Eskimo shamen, their minds a product of the taiga, tundra, and sea ice, to travel on spirit journeys under the ocean and to talk with the fishes and the potent beings who lived on the bottom? How did the shamen develop the hypnotic power they employed in their séances? What can we learn from the shamen who survive about thought transference and ESP? The answers are in the arctic wilderness still left to us.
Wilderness is a bench mark, a touchstone New perspectives come out of the wilderness. Jesus Zoroaster, Moses, and Mohammed went to the wilderness and came back with messages This handbook, and the teach-in it serves, have their beginnings in wilderness." (p. 148, Kenneth Brower)
· More on Population: "Stabilizing the U.S. population should be declared a national policy. Immediate steps should be taken to: 1. Legalize voluntary abortion and sterilization and provide these services free. 2. Remove all restrictions on the provision of birth control information and devices; provide these services free to all, including minors. 3. Make sex education available to all appropriate levels, stressing birth control practices and the need to stabilize the population " (pp. 317-318, Keith Murray)
· On Family: "Explore other social structures and marriage forms, such as group marriage and polyandrous marriage, which provide family life but may produce less children. Share the pleasure of raising children widely, so that all need not directly reproduce to enter into this basic human experience. We must hope that no one woman would give birth to more than one child." (p. 324, Four Changes section)
· On Global Transformation: "Nothing short of total transformation will do much good. What we envision is a planet on which the human population lives harmoniously and dynamically by employing a sophisticated and unobtrusive technology in a world environment which is left natural Cultural and individual pluralism, unified by a type of world tribal council." (p. 330, Four Changes section)
· On Social/Religious Transformation: "It seems evident that there are throughout the world certain social and religious forces which have worked through history toward an ecologically and culturally enlightened state of affairs. Let these be encouraged: Gnostics, hip Marxists, Teilhard de Chardin Catholics, Druids, Taoists, Biologists, Witches, Yogins, Bhikkus, Quakers, Sufis, Tibetans, Zens, Shamans, Bushmen, American Indians, Polynesians, Anarchists, Alchemists the list is long. All primitive cultures, all communal and ashram movements. Since it doesnt seem practical or even desirable to think that direct bloody force will achieve much, it would be best to consider this a continuing revolution of consciousness which will be won not by guns but by seizing the key images, myths, archetypes, eschatologies, and ectasies so that life wont seem worth living unless ones on the transforming energys side." (p. 331, Four Changes)
It is apparent that the history of Earth Day is rooted in very radical political, social, and religious ideologies. Not surprisingly, our modern Earth Day celebrations are also liberally laced with New Age beliefs, pagan practices, and other religious concepts which run counter to the Biblical worldviewany visit to a major metropolitan Earth Day festival or celebration demonstrates this fact.
However, throughout Scripture we find God specifically warning His people to stay away from pagan practices and beliefs. Deuteronomy 18 is one example. So is Romans 1, which specifically links the worship of the creation rather than the Creator as a major problem.
For the Christian, consider the words of 2 Corinthians 6:14: " what fellowship hate righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?"