It’s Earth Day.
In the middle of such a large generational phenomenon that is COVID-19, let’s not forget how this is affecting people all around this earth. The huge impacts of this pandemic on our health, our families and our finances are even more devastating for those without homes; without a regular supply of soap and water; without money, a job or food.
Yet COVID-19 is hardly our only health crisis. There are 400,000 deaths each year on the African continent due to malaria, which is preventable and curable. The rate of active tuberculosis among the Inuit is more than 300 times that of Canadian-born, non-Indigenous people.
This is not what Jesus intended in the prayer that he taught his disciples: may Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. God’s will for the air we breathe, for the soil that we cultivate, for a careful use of water and other natural resources, for environmental conditions that will lessen the devastating impact of malaria, tuberculosis, unsafe water, land without nutrients—God’s will is for us to care and sustain these precious resources for others, for the generations to come.
Our Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) partners know the balance of land, water and nutrients required to grow food. Policy Research for Development Alternatives in Bangladesh—Unnayan Bikalper Nitinirdharoni Gobeshona or UBINIG—has helped women preserve native seeds to address the losses associated with natural disasters, industrial farming and extreme weather. This has promoted biodiversity by creating a catalogue of local seeds that can withstand climate change problems; require reduced use of fertilizers and pesticide; and a foster healthier planet. UBINIG has supported villages in regenerating mangroves and planting bamboo in order to help protect shorelines against erosion, flooding and high winds. Communities have been trained on how to protect these plants to ensure their survival and growth—safeguarding the waterways and their communities.
Yet now people who have worked for years in caring for these communities in Bangladesh are on lockdown, UBINIG director Farida Akhter recently said. “Midwives and farmers are literally without work, meaning they are literally without food.”
Today is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. And while it is a secular event, more and more it is apparent that every day is Earth Day in God’s world. Let’s remember to pray for our partners and pray for the earth—the “Community of Creation,” as Cherokee elder Randy Woodley has said in his Indigenous vision and meditation on shalom.
Let’s not forget to hope for a healthier earth and an end to the horrific effects of COVID-19. Let’s hope for a pandemic of justice and equality, says Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, the famous Palestinian-Canadian physician known as the Gaza Doctor. “We all share one blue sky,” he said, seeing how coronavirus might promote cooperation in the hearts of millions of Palestinians and Israelis who yearn to live in peace. “No one can differentiate between the cry of a newborn Palestinian, Israeli, Jewish, Christian or Muslim baby,” he said. “Each one is a cry of hope for a life in which we are all born equal and free.”
On Earth Day, let’s pray for peace on this earth, for an end to that which tears at the planet: a warming climate, polluted waters and profit over planet and people. Let’s be sure to invest in public health systems and preparedness in Bangladesh, in Canada and around the world. The health of people and the health of the planet are so interconnected.
“Creation and the carrying out of shalom (what we are to do daily) are inextricably interwoven,” says Woodley. “We have the opportunity each day to participate in God’s shalom activities.” Perhaps in the awakening to the impacts of COVID-19, there is a silver lining, an opportunity for a reset that will help to make possible new ways of working, of interacting, of caring for the earth.
Will Postma is the executive director of PWRDF.