Earthrise: What brought the whole world to honor Earth Day?

Earthrise is a photograph of Earth and some of the Moon’s surface that was taken from lunar orbit by astronaut William Anders on December 24, 1968, during the Apollo 8 mission.

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By CAROL TREMBATH
Contributing Columnist

FRIDAY, APRIL 22, 2022—If we go back in time, what brought us to celebrate Earth on April 22, 1970? What brought the entire world to honor the Earth thereafter yearly on each April 22nd?

One milestone was “Earthrise,” a NASA photograph that astonished the world with its profound beauty. It is now known as the single, most important photo that propelled the environmental movement and our celebration of Earth Day.

Even before that, in 1962, Rachel Carson published her book called Silent Spring. It was a New York Times bestseller that told the tale of countless birds eating the pesticide DDT and dying in such great numbers that soon there would be a “silent spring” on the Earth. It was especially disturbing to environmentalists. Today people trace the birth of the modern environmental movement to that book.

The Silent Spring story underlined in profound terms the cause and effect of things we are doing to our environment. It highlighted the pesticide DDT that stopped insects from eating our food. But the real question was, “What was the effect of this poison on us humans and the planet?”

In the 1960s, many events were brought to light in the news about factories pumping pollutants into lakes, rivers and streams, but few people thought globally about it. The idea was, “I’ll clean up my steam and everything will be fine. Let’s fix the lake in my backyard or in the nearby city. That will take care of the problem.” So there was this sense that there was pollution in the air and water, but few people thought globally.

Enter Carl Sagan, the great astrophysicist, who told us in many ways that air and water molecules don’t carry a passport but move globally without restraint around our world. Contaminated air and water molecules travel into the air and ground and affect all the lands and oceans of the world.

At the time this concept was not widely embraced and the new message was that we are not isolated on the planet. As a result, a congressional committee was set up to talk about the warning in Rachel Carson’s book, but no legislation would come out of it.

At the same time, the 60s were a particularly turbulent decade in American history—perhaps the most turbulent since the Civil War. We as a nation were preoccupied with the War in Vietnam, the Cold War with the Soviet Union and the Civil Rights Movement. Americans were focused on other issues.

But, then in 1968, came NASA’s Apollo 8.  It was the first space mission where a crew left the Earth and you know where they went? They went to the moon and would soon perform several orbits. For the first time, they would leave Earth for a new destination.

Apollo 8 received its most deserving mark in history on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1968. It would turn out to be the eve of “new birth.” On that flight, Apollo 8 entered lunar orbit, and that evening mission commander, Frank Borman, command module pilot Jim Lovell, and lunar pilot William Anders held a live broadcast in which they showed pictures of Earth and the moon as seen from their spacecraft.

But, something very significant happened on that orbital flight. Astronaut William Anders lifted their Hasselblad camera and took a picture. Until that moment, we had seen the Earth in books with drawn-in boundaries and color-coded landmasses.

But at that instant, there was Earth rising above the lunar landscape. Anders snapped that photo and for the first time—this was Earth from space—as only the universe could reveal it.

With this picture, we saw Earth alone in the darkness of space—silent, with its blue oceans, clouds, and enormous landmasses. But we also saw a fragile planet in the blackness of that forbidding space where there was no one coming from the outside to help us or to save us from ourselves.

This cosmic perspective descended on us all from the portal of space straight to our hearts. We as Americans went to the moon but with NASA’s Apollo 8, we discovered Earth.

This image was a colossal upgrade in our consciousness about our planet and our own part in its survival. The Earth was shown without borders—that was a powerful new mindset. It was a pivotal moment.

In July 1969 we would walk on the moon, but what happened after that? One year later in 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency was signed into law.

Then, also in 1970, NOAA—the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration was created. Before that, we never combined the ocean and air in the same phrase. NOAA’s job was to monitor our climate and weather in the service of our safety, health, and commerce, especially how it relates to the seas which help to bring goods and services across the oceans.

So what else was founded?

The comprehensive Clean Air Act was passed in 1970 and the Clean Water Act in 1972. DDT would be banned in 1973. Leaded gas would be banned as of January 1, 1996. All of this happened during the years of us going to the moon.

In 1971, Doctors Without Borders was founded. It has nothing to do with the environment, but why did they call themselves “without borders”? Where did that mindset come from?

In addition in 1971, there was a public service announcement of a Native American with a tear coming out of his eye, now known as the Crying Indian PSA. That commercial showed an Indian standing alongside a freeway where people were driving by throwing trash out the windows which landed at his feet. It became one of the most recognized public service announcements about pollution.

So what values drew us in that era to our space program and our new look at our mother Earth? Was it Tang? Was it Velcro? Or is it a total consciousness that maybe Earth is one eco-system in which we are all participants. We began to see things globally not locally.

Astronaut Jim Lovell of that Apollo 8 mission said of space, “The vast loneliness is awe-inspiring, and it makes you realize just what you have back there on Earth.”

Environmentalist David Suzuki said, “The human brain now holds the key to our future. We have to recall the image of the planet from outer space; a single entity in which air, water, and continents are interconnected. That is our home.”

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What’s next?

What can be done to help our magnificent but fragile planet?

Follow NASA’s adventures by selecting a NASA Newsletter

Check out: Hasselblad in Space

Visit the official Earth Day Website: https://www.earthday.org/

Recommended Reading

An Inconvenient Truth: The Crisis of Global Warming by Al Gore

The Sacred Balance: Rediscovering Our Place in Nature by David Suzuki

The World Is Blue: How Our Fate and the Ocean’s Are One by Sylvia Earle

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert

The End of Nature by Bill McKibben

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Who is Carol Trembath?

Born and raised in the Great Lakes State of Michigan, Carol Trembath has been an educator, librarian and media specialist for 30 years. She is the author of a number of books. If you enjoyed this story, you’ll want to read some of Carol’s earlier columns:

Carol Trembath on a Native Perspective on the Spiritual Wonders of Water.

Remembering a great American spirit of freedom on Harriet Tubman Day

To see all of her books, visit Carol’s Amazon author page.

Carol earned a Masters Degree in Library and Information Science from Wayne State University and a second Masters in Educational Technology from Michigan State University. Carol has been an educator in the Plymouth-Canton School District, Allen Park Public Schools, and the Walled Lake Consolidated Schools. Carol is a member of the Michigan Reading Association, American Library Association, and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

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Care to Read Even More?

Last year, our publishing house launched a hopeful new book by Ken Whitt, packed with ideas for families who care about these issues Carol Trembath has just described in her Earth Day column. It’s called: God Is Just Love: Building Spiritual Resilience and Sustainable Communities for the Sake of Our Children and Creation.

In Ken’s book you’ll find recommendations for further reading that are very similar to Carol’s list.

How can people of faith foster love and resilience in our children while building sustainable, diverse communities? That’s the big question Ken Whitt answers in light of the many threats looming in our world. Through wisdom he has gleaned from scientists, scholars and lots of real families, Ken shows how God’s love is a hopeful compass in our lives. He encourages enjoying stories, songs and explorations of the natural world with children, and closes with “100 Things Families Can Do To Find Hope and Be Love.”

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So when is Easter? The answer is not as simple as you think.

Pink tulips, colored eggs, one fancy painted egg, in basket

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

SUNDAY, APRIL 17 and SUNDAY APRIL 24—As a journalist covering religious diversity for nearly half a century, the trickiest annual question is: When is Easter?

The question routinely sends me scrambling to double-check my calendar and that’s because, even if I happen to remember the date of Easter for Western Christians, I have to double check what our Eastern brothers and sisters are doing.

Sometimes, the entire Christian world celebrates Easter on the same Sunday. In this millennium, so far, East and West have been unified on seven occasions—in 2001, 2004, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2014 and 2017. Then, we won’t be on the same Sunday again until 2025. Generally, Eastern Orthodox churches celebrate later than Western churches, mainly because much of the Orthodox world still calculates Easter’s date using the older Julian calendar, which “lags behind” the Gregorian calendar, and because Orthodox tradition requires the date to be after the Jewish Passover.

In 2022: Western Easter is Sunday, April 17.

In 2022: Eastern Orthodox Easter is Sunday, April 24.

How are these dates selected? In general terms, Easter’s date is set on a Sunday after the first full moon following the spring equinox.

Sound simple?

Well, the first thing journalists who cover global holidays learn is that the “vernal equinox”—or “March equinox” or “northward equinox”—is not always on the same date. In fact, it can occur as early as March 19 and, right now, we are living through a period when that equinox routinely falls on March 20. However, church tradition dictates that the equinox is fixed on March 21.

That means, if the phases of the moon are perfectly aligned, Easter Sunday could occur on March 22, but not before that date. How rare is it for Easter to fall on March 22? The last time it happened was 1818, when James Monroe was our president. Over at the Vatican, Pope VII ruled the Catholic church, except for a nasty period when Napoleon kidnapped him and held him in France. By Easter 1818, Pius VII was back home at the Vatican again to celebrate that rare astronomical occurrence. (Don’t recall that pope? Well, Americans mainly know him for having expanded the Catholic church in America by establishing dioceses in Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Charleston and Cincinnati.)

In short, it’s very very rare to have Easter as early as March 22. The next time the world will see a March 22 Easter? Well, none of us will see it. The moon and the calendar won’t align like that again until the year 2285.

Easter can fall as late as April 25 in the West, so this year of 2022 has a “relatively late” Easter for Western churches. Next year, 2023, Easter will be April 9. In 2024, it will be March 31. Then, in 2025, we get a much later Easter: April 20.

Eastern Christianity’s later Easter can fall as early as April 9 or as late as May 8 as those dates are listed in our contemporary Gregorian calendar.

Care to learn more?

When is Passover in 2022?

When is Passover in 2022?

passover meal

Photo by ehpien, courtesy of Flickr

SUNSET ON FRIDAY, APRIL 15—The first seders of Passover in 2022 will be held on Friday, April 15, although such Jewish occasions may be marked on calendars in ways that can seem confusing to non-Jewish readers. For example, Wikipedia says that Passover begins on April 16, 2022, this year—with a footnote explaining that Jewish days always begin at sundown on the previous day.

And when does it end? That’s a bit confusing to non-Jews, as well, because Passover in Israel lasts seven days while the festival is observed for eight days in most Jewish households around the world.

Like the Christian Easter and the time of Islamic festivals, Passover’s dates move through lunar cycles. However, unlike observances in Islam, which eventually “move” through the entire Gregorian calendar—Judaism established a system for correcting its calendars so the many holidays related to agricultural cycles will remain roughly in the proper seasons throughout the centuries. If dates begin to stray too far, due to lunar cycles, the Jewish calendar can occasionally “add” an intercalary month to reset them. The Christian date is self-correcting because Christian tradition holds that it can only occur after the vernal equinox.

Passover can begin as early as March 21, but has started on an April date in 17 of the 22 years of this new millennium. In 2023, Passover starts at sundown on April 5, then the first seder moves to the evening of April 22 in 2024. It moves back to sundown on April 12 in 2025.

Care to learn more?

When is Easter in 2022?

Western and Eastern Christians begin Lent on March 2 and March 7 in 2022

Man putting ashes on woman's forehead

Receiving ashes on Ash Wednesday. Photo by John Ragai, courtesy of Flickr

Western Christians Mark Ash Wednesday on March 2, 2022

In the Western church, Ash Wednesday is a day of repentance and prayer. During a liturgy marking the day, a church leader typically swipes the ashes into the shape of a cross on the recipient’s forehead. Rather than wash the ashes, recipients are supposed to let the ashes wear off throughout the remainder of the day as part of their spiritual reflections.

2022 update: Once again this year, many churches are offering alternatives to the typical Ash Wednesday services. Some are offering the application of ashes on the forehead via a cotton applicator, while others are offering DIY ashes. Check with your local congregation for details.

The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke detail the story of Jesus spending 40 days fasting in the desert, where he is repeatedly tempted by Satan; similarly, Lent marks 40 days—not counting Sundays.

Eastern Orthodox Christians Mark Clean Monday on March 7, 2022

Eastern Orthodox Christians start Great Lent on March 7, this year. “Clean Monday” is the start of the fasting period for Eastern Christians that prohibits meat, dairy and various other foods. Clean Monday—a public holiday in Greece—is commemorated with outdoor picnics, kite flying and shared family meals.

Remembering the ‘Four Chaplains’ who gave their lives

Black-and-white stamp of Four Immortal Chaplains

This U.S. postage stamp was issued in honor of the Four Immortal Chaplains in 1948. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

FEBRUARY 3 and on SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 6—Though Feb. 3 is officially Four Chaplains Day, events remembering the men usually take place on the Sunday nearest to that anniversary.

On Feb. 3, 1943, the converted luxury liner Dorchester was struck by a torpedo while crossing the North Atlantic; the ship sank within 20 minutes. Hundreds of U.S. troops and civilians were aboard the ship when it was struck, and as passengers were scurrying to lifeboats, four chaplains—the Rev. George Fox (Methodist), Rabbi Alexander Good (Jewish), the Rev. Clark Poling (Dutch Reformed) and Fr. John Washington (Roman Catholic)—spread out and began helping the wounded and panicked. Amid the chaos, the four chaplains were calmly offering prayers and encouraging words. When life jackets ran out, the chaplains already had given their own to others fleeing the ship. The four men joined arms and said prayers, singing hymns as they sank with the ship.

Ceremonies in honor of the courageous men emphasize “unity without uniformity,” a primary part of the mission of the Four Chaplains Memorial Foundation. The Chapel of the Four Chaplains was dedicated by President Harry S. Truman in 1951. In 1988, an act of Congress officially declared February 3 as an annual Four Chaplains Day.

A WINDOW AT THE PENTAGON

The four chaplains were posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and Distinguished Service Cross. In 1960, a Congressional Medal of Valor was created and presented to the chaplains’ next of kin. Stained glass windows of the men still exist in a number of chapels across the country—and at the Pentagon—and each year, American Legion posts nationwide continue to honor the Four Chaplains with memorial services. The Four Chaplains Memorial Foundation continues to honor those who exemplify the heroic traits of the Four Chaplains, promoting “unity without uniformity.”

International Holocaust Remembrance Day

candles lit in rows

Photo by Ted Eytan, courtesy of Flickr

THURSDAY, JANUARY 27: Each year, international remembrances of the Holocaust occur on two major occasions: This International Holocaust Remembrance Day was established by the United Nations, marking the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp on January 27, 1945. The other globally observed memorial is Yom Hashoah, which was established in Israel and begins in 2022 on the evening of April 27.

Member states of the UN have developed educational programs, conducted memorial ceremonies and instituted remembrances over the years. If you follow this UN link, you will find a gateway to UN-recommended resources. There are lots of materials to explore from that homepage, including The World Memory Project and a guide to Remembering Survivors and Victims.

Over the last two years, remembrance-day programs have focused on the 75th anniversary of Auschwitz’s liberation. This year, educators are pointing to the 80th anniversary of the infamous Wannsee Conference on January 20, 1942, when Nazi leaders discussed “the organizational, logistical and material steps for a final solution of the Jewish question in Europe.” Katrin Bennhold reported on that lesser known milestone in The New York Times under the headline: 80 Years Ago the Nazis Planned the ‘Final Solution.’ It Took 90 Minutes.

Pew Research Shows: Education Is Essential

Researchers, educators and historians know that Holocaust Education is a global challenge. In the U.S., more public schools nationwide began including the Holocaust in standard curriculum after a public outcry sparked by a 1978 TV miniseries. Today, most school systems in the U.S. include the subject—however, awareness of this vast genocidal campaign by Nazi Germany varies widely around the world.

Pew Research has examined Americans’ knowledge about the Holocaust, concluding:

Most U.S. adults know what the Holocaust was and approximately when it happened, but fewer than half can correctly answer multiple-choice questions about the number of Jews who were murdered or the way Adolf Hitler came to power, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

When asked to describe in their own words what the Holocaust was, more than eight-in-ten Americans mention the attempted annihilation of the Jewish people or other related topics, such as concentration or death camps, Hitler, or the Nazis. Seven-in-ten know that the Holocaust happened between 1930 and 1950. And close to two-thirds know that Nazi-created ghettos were parts of a city or town where Jews were forced to live.

Fewer than half of Americans (43%), however, know that Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany through a democratic political process. And a similar share (45%) know that approximately 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust. Nearly three-in-ten Americans say they are not sure how many Jews died during the Holocaust, while one-in-ten overestimate the death toll, and 15% say that 3 million or fewer Jews were killed.

Read the entire Pew report, including charts that provide detailed break-outs of the data.

Tu BiShvat: Try a Jewish fruit salad?

A fruit market in Barcelona, Spain, shared via Wikimedia Commons by Mike McBey.

BEGINNING on the EVENING of SUNDAY, JANUARY 16: For Tu BiShvat this year, you might try a special kind of Jewish fruit salad. Gather diverse kinds (totaling 15 items) of fruit and display them in three groups.

  1. Fruit with a tough skin but edible inside such as pomegranates, coconuts, pineapples.
  2. Fruit with a soft, edible skin and inedible inner pit/stone: olives, cherries, plums.
  3. Fruit which can be easily eaten in their entirety: figs, grapes, berries.

Why 15? Keep reading!

What have you assembled? The centerpiece of a Tu BiShvat Seder. Many are familiar with the term “Seder” as it pertains to the holiday of Passover.  The word “Seder” refers to an ordered meal. A Tu BiShvat Seder, based on a practice begun by Jewish mystics in the 16th century, has become a welcome addition to Jewish practice for many families or communities. This Seder focuses on fruit, trees and environmental awareness.

At the Seder, include readings and poetry about trees and nature. Talk about how people’s personalities reflect the traits of the fruit groupings:

  1. People hard to get to know, but warm and wonderful when you get past their tough exterior,
  2. People easy to have superficial conversations with, but difficult to pierce their outer layer,
  3. People who share themselves easily and fully, and are transparent in interactions.

Consider: Some people present themselves as one type most of the time. Others move between these types. Invite people  at your Seder to think or talk about themselves or others through this lens. Make and enjoy a fruit salad with selections from each fruit group.

Display four cups of wine or grape juice consisting of four shades of purple/white. One cup contains only white wine/grape juice. This one represents winter. The next one holds 3/4 white wine/juice and ¼ red wine/grape juice. This blush color represents spring. The third cup is entirely red/purple. The deep, rich color represents summer.  The last cup holds ¾ red/purple wine/juice and ¼ white. This represents fall. Look at the subtle progression of color and how it represents one season blending into the next. This is true of the seasons of our lives as well.

Consider: what season of life are you in now? Perhaps your age represents one season but your attitude and openness represents another season. These questions can also form part of the discussion at your Tu B’Shevat Seder.

Along with organizing the food and drink components, you can invite a speaker or discuss among yourselves an article or organize an activity related to composting, solar energy, noise pollution or climate change. Use the Seder as an opportunity to learn about environmental issues in your community. Arrange a tree planting, beach clean-up, or garden tending event on the weekend before or after Tu BiShvat. These activities expand the holiday to broader concerns.

What Is Tu BiShvat?

Spellings vary in English from the Hebrew. Wikipedia editors have standardized their spelling as Tu BiShvat, even though they spell the month referenced: Shevat.

Tu BiShvat is the Jewish New Year of Trees.  In Hebrew, each letter has a numerical value. When linked, the letters “tet” and “vav”  are pronounced “Tu.” Their numerical value is 15. (Ahh, now you understand the importance of that number!) Therefore Tu B’Shevat refers to the 15th day of the Hebrew month, Shevat. This year, the month is concurrent with parts of January and February.

In Israel, the brief winter months are marked by heavy rains and surging creeks. By late January or early February, most of the rain has ceased and the earliest hints of spring can be discerned. Although several weeks of cooler, shorter days remain, buds appear on some trees. The sap begins to rise in almond trees. The sap can’t be seen, but it is a necessary precursor to the trees’ blossoming.

There are those who would suggest that the time to celebrate the spring or acknowledge our dependence on nature is when everything is in full bloom and the temperatures are mild. But a different perspective is offered by celebrating the rising of the sap and trusting that what needs to grow will grow at the appropriate time.

On Tu BiShvat we honor growth that begins silently, below the surface. Like life beginning in the womb,  and the birth of ideas and realizations originating in the unconscious, much that is creative begins in the  dark. What precedes growth and revelation isn’t seen but it is necessary for fruition to take place.  The darkness of the womb, of the night, of winter, of silence: the darkness and the waiting are powerful and undervalued.

Tu BiShvat provides a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the natural world.  In Judaism we have blessings for smelling fragrant trees, herbs, spices and fruit.  We praise God for seeing wonders of nature, such as oceans, lightning, shooting starts, deserts, mountains, rainbows, and  sunrise. We benefit from reminders that the preservation of the natural world is incumbent upon us.  Tu BiShvat provides a reminder of how dependent and enlivened we are by the physical world.

But Tu BiShvat also offers reflection in spiritual terms. Growth takes time and is rarely linear. What can’t be seen can be vital to full flourishing. Dormancy is not death.

Referencing what it truly means to grow and deepen, Henri Nouwen wrote: “We are called to be fruitful–not successful, not productive and accomplished. Success comes from strength, stress, and human effort. Fruitfulness comes from vulnerability and the admission of our own weakness.”

May our appreciation of nature and human nature be constant, and may it begin now. May we honor the unseen along with the seen, and may we cherish each stage of life for its unique gifts.

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Care to read more? 

Early in 2022, we will publish Torah Tutor by Rabbi Lenore Bohm, who began her career among the first wave of women ever ordained as rabbis. Drawing on a lifetime of teaching the Torah to groups of adults, Bohm divides her book into the 54 portions read each year from the Torah, which are the first five books of the Hebrew Bible.

This is a perfect book for individual reading or small group discussion.

Rabbi Jack Riemer—author of Finding God in Unexpected Places—was one of the early reviewers of Bohm’s manuscript. He adds a glowing endorsements:

Rabbi Bohm’s book is indeed a treasure—both for those who think that they know the Torah already and for those who have never studied at a grownup level before. It will open your mind to some of the questions that the Torah asks of us as well as to some of the questions that we should ask when we confront the Bible. I promise you that this is a book that you will find well worth reading—and that you will want to reread many times.