This year, because Easter arrives so late, Good Friday falls on April 22, which coincides with Earth Day. This conjunction provides a unique opportunity for a short reflection on our faith and the health of our planet.
During Lent, we read about, and even re-enact, the events of that Good Friday of more than 2,000 years ago. This year, on Good Friday/Earth Day, we would do well to also reflect on the all-too-real sense in which we, in this country, at this point in history, are all participating in a “crucifixion drama” of sorts in which the victim is our beautiful, life-giving planet. The cross that threatens to kill the planet – or at least, life on it – is climate change. And the nails we are using are, first and foremost, the burning of fossil fuels.
The affluence and productivity of our industrial economy are based, in very large part, on our profligate burning of fossil fuels – to generate electricity, to power our cars, trucks, boats, and planes, to fertilize our soils and harvest our grains, to package our food and dispose of our waste. And, as a result, we have pumped so much carbon into the atmosphere that we are past the point where it can sustain life and civilization as we know it. And the effects of climate change are bearing down on us now. The sharp rise in extreme weather events, the rapid melting of mountain glaciers and polar icecaps, the rise in ocean temperatures and water level, the expanding of deserts (Pakistan registered temperatures this past summer of 129o F and eight countries set all-time temperature records, fires spread across northern Russia and Siberia due to the heat and drought) are all caused by the ever-increasing amount of carbon in the Earth’s atmosphere.
Meanwhile, our leaders temporize about climate change and obstruct efforts to change the way we do business. It was their counterparts who, on that Good Friday long ago, condemned Jesus and, after condemning him, roused the people in the streets to ratify their treachery: “Crucify him! Crucify him!” May we not so blindly follow the authorities.
People around the world are demanding that governments take immediate, dramatic steps to stem the causes of climate change. Oct. 24, 2009, witnessed a Global Day of Climate Action, the largest international mobilization of civil society in history. And just weeks ago, a Sri Lankan scientist proposed adoption of “Millennium Consumption Goals” as a way to force the rich countries to take steps to limit their climate-changing practices, because climate change is bearing down so heavily on the poorest countries and most vulnerable people.
As we remember and re-enact the events of Good Friday, may we commit, this Earth Day, to joining the crowds in the streets now who are mobilizing to stop the current “crucifixion,” the destruction of the Earth’s atmosphere. If we are successful, it is possible that in another 2,000 years, there will still be human beings alive to commemorate the actions that we are now taking…as a resurrection.
Jon Miller is a member of Christ Church, Detroit.