Earth Day: A celebration of relationships
by Rita Feeney, FSPA
In 2010 we celebrate two historic events that focus on care of the Earth and justice for all: Earth Day turns 40 in April and the Earth Charter turns 10 in March. In 2009 FSPA and affiliates added another voice to the conversation: A Vision Quest.
The concept of celebrating a day focused on Earth began in 1962. For several years Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson had been troubled by the fact that the state of our environment was a nonissue in the politics of the U.S. All across the country, evidence of environmental degradation was appearing and everyone seemed to notice except the political establishment. The people were concerned, but the politicians were not.
In November 1962, Senator Nelson thought he could put the environment in the political “limelight” by persuading President Kennedy to give visibility to this issue by going on a national conservation tour. The president began his five-day, eleven-state conservation tour in September 1963. But for many reasons the tour did not succeed in putting the issue on the national political agenda. However, it was the germ of the idea that ultimately became Earth Day.
At a conference in Seattle, Wash., in September 1969, Senator Nelson announced that in the spring of 1970 there would be a nationwide grassroots demonstration on behalf of the environment and everyone was invited to participate. The wire services carried the story from coast to coast and the response was electric. The American people finally had a forum to express their concern about what was happening to the land, rivers, lakes and air, and they did so with spectacular exuberance.
The April 22, 1970, Earth Day marked the beginning of the modern environmental movement. According to Margaret Mead, “Earth Day is the first holy day which transcends all national borders. It reminds people of the world of the continuing care which is vital to Earth’s safety.”
The Earth Charter is a declaration of principles for building a just, sustainable and peaceful global society. The charter recognizes that environmental protection, human rights, equitable human development and peace are interdependent and indivisible. It is used an as educational tool; an invitation to individuals, institutions and communities to reflect on attitudes and ethical values governing behavior. It is a call to action and a guide to a sustainable way of life that can inspire commitment, cooperation and change. Many religious congregation members, including many FSPA, peace groups, environmentalists and local governments have signed on, signifying a commitment to use the Earth Charter to support social change for a sustainable future.
The concept of the Earth Charter originated in 1987. It wasn’t until 1994, with the launching of an international initiative, that the drafting of a charter became a reality. The final text of the Earth Charter was approved at a meeting of the Earth Charter Commission at the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization headquarters in Paris in March of 2000. The official launch was June 29, 2000, during a ceremony at the Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands.
In 2009 the FSPA general assembly called on sisters and affiliates to inner transformation, authentic relationships and awakening consciousness. While Earth Day and the Earth Charter call for all people to care for the Earth and the building of a just, sustainable and peaceful global society, A Vision Quest deepens the call to inner transformation. Such internal evolution goes beyond action to a complete change of how we see life.
We live in a culture of individualism. By A Vision Quest’s statements, we are called to transformation, to change our focus from “I” to “we.” Our society and world is based on “mine” and “yours,” “friend” and “enemy.” Jesus reached out to all people, the woman caught in adultery as well as the lepers and the impure. It is that transformation into the oneness of life that brings about the kingdom of God as Jesus envisioned it.
Relationships can be surface interactions with one another and Earth. However we are called to a deeper connection, to an authentic knowing of one another, the Earth community and Earth. The Earth and each individual is a gift from God, given for our growth and enjoyment. By honoring this gift we honor and give praise to God.
As we arrive at an awakened consciousness we become aware of the inter-connectedness of all of life. Each of us is made in the image of God—the divine lives within. As we enter into this deeper consciousness we become more the people, community and Earth we were created to be by the Divine!
In the words of Chief Seattle, “We are part of the earth and the earth is part of us. We did not create the web of life; we are merely a strand in it. What we do to the web we do to ourselves.” We are also part of the other and each one is part of us. What we do to our sisters or brothers we do to us. We are all one!