This Sunday we will observe Earth Day at our church because in the progressive church it is a high holy day. Each year it becomes more and more imperative that we remember that “the Earth is the Lord’s,” and we are but caretakers while we have the privilege to live here.
Once upon a time there was a lovely couple who lived high in the mountains. I forget if they were lesbian, gay, or heterosexual, but they were likeable people who lived in a lavish and beautiful home. Their garden produced more food than they could eat, so they often shared it with the poor, simple people who lived in the village below.
The only problem was the couple produced an awful lot of waste. In fact, they produced more than all the villagers combined. The smoke from their garbage pile was so high and so toxic that it often blocked the sun and made it difficult to breathe. The couple’s sewer emptied into the river and was carried downstream to the lake on which the village was built. Their luscious garden was productive and was kept insect free with the use of pesticides. They figured it didn’t do any harm, because the rain and snow washed it all down the mountain and it disappeared into the lake below.
The couple drove everywhere they went, and their car produced enough pollution to make the skies gray in the summer and fill the air with ozone. They could have gotten the car fixed, but it would have cost money. If they spent the money on the car they wouldn’t be able to buy things in the village, so no one pushed the matter.
Eventually, the people in the valley noticed that life for them was changing. The insects began to disappear. Then fewer and fewer of the flowers that the insects pollinated bloomed. As the flowers died so did the fruit trees. Birds dropped over dead from the poisons in the water they drank. Animals began to die of starvation and, one-by-one, became extinct. The fish they caught from the streams and lakes began to taste funny, and they made people sick. Soon, the lake itself began to die.
Then, one spring, there was an awful silence.
The couple, of course, is the United States, and the village we are polluting is the world in which we live. Americans constitute less than six percent of the earth’s population, yet we consume almost half the world’s energy and other resources. This week I read one of the most disturbing quotes of my life: “If the rest of the world decided to live like Americans, the resources of the earth would be depleted within 60 months and all life on the planet would perish.”
Apparently we really have forgotten that “the earth is the Lord’s” and soon we must give it back … or, at the very least, pass it on.