Let’s make every day an Earth Day Print
Seeing with Jesus' Eyes
Thursday, Apr. 20, 2017 -- 12:00 AM

We in Wisconsin should especially appreciate Earth Day because it was started by Gaylord Nelson when he was a U.S. senator from Wisconsin.

On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans crowded streets, parks, and auditoriums to celebrate the first Earth Day. They called for a healthy, sustainable environment. Earth Day's time had come.

Respecting the earth

I learned to respect Earth Day and the environment from my dad's example. He usually planted and cared for a garden. In early spring, when it was still cold, he grew plants in a glass-covered structure heated by fermented manure called a "hot bed". It protected the young plants from the cold.

Dad's example motivated me to choose conservation as my 4H project. In seventh and eighth grade, our class also studied from a supplementary textbook on agriculture that included conservation.

At Platteville University, I took a course in conservation; consequently, when ecology was discussed in the seminary, I had a fresh start on my urban classmates. Many of them never heard of ecology.

Ecology and morality

St. Francis of Assisi is the patron saint of ecology because he loved God's creation.

Recent popes have emphasized that ecology is related to human morality. In his 2016 encyclical Laudato Si' (On Care of our Common Home), Pope Francis wrote that humans must care for creation and share its fruits with one another, especially the poor, through little daily actions. He said education can bring about changes in lifestyle.

At Beloit Catholic High in the 1980s, we celebrated an Earth Day service which in some ways embodied Pope Francis' words. The service arose from a conversation between our biology teacher, our principal, and me. This prayer service involved faculty, students, and others.

Rainbow of hope

We decided to use a rainbow image in our prayer service because rainbows symbolize hope and beauty. Just as different colors contribute to a rainbow's beauty, so too each of us has different gifts that we can contribute to a healthy, beautiful environment.

We began by drawing the outline of a large rainbow on the floor. Then we taped pieces of poster cardboard together and cut the cardboard in the shape of the rainbow outline we drew on the floor. We colored the pieces of cardboard with the colors of a rainbow. We cut the cardboard rainbow into pieces and gave each piece to a homeroom.

Each homeroom suggested three or more ways they could improve the local environment. They wrote these ways on their piece of the cardboard rainbow.

Practical ideas

At the prayer service, homeroom representatives shared ways that they would respect and improve the environment. They wrote their ways on their piece of rainbow. Each piece of rainbow with its homeroom commitments was taped with carpet tape to the outline drawn on bright white paper stapled to a large portable platform. Piece by piece a rainbow of hope gradually appeared.

Some practical ways that we shared to keep earth bright and beautiful included: 1) plant a tree, 2) become informed on ways to improve the environment, 3) plant and care for a garden, 4) recycle, 5) participate in highway litter pickup, 6) pick up litter and set an example, 7) walk or ride a bike if we can instead of driving.

Earth Day has made Americans more aware of the blessings and beauty of the environment. Pope Francis reminds us that earth is our common home and mother. She provides food, clothing, shelter, water, beauty, and much more! Let's continue to be informed and do our part to keep the environment neat, clean, and healthy. Let's make every day an Earth Day!

Fr. Donald Lange is a pastor emeritus in the Diocese of Madison.