EARTH DAY: Add spirit to the world’s largest secular holiday

MONDAY, APRIL 22: What began as a progressive political movement spearheaded by Wisconsin’s Sen. Gaylor Nelson in 1970 is today a worldwide movement with deep spiritual connections. The Earth Day Network welcomes religious participation, explaining: “Faith leaders have been a driving force behind the most important and successful social movements. We encourage all people of faith across the globe to join us on Earth Day this April as we show the world The Face of Climate Change.”


The Earth Day Network, which is the global hub of this annual event, offers a wide array of faith-based resources:
For Congregations: The Network provides sample sabbath invitations, plus a 1-page bulletin insert for use at weekend worship.
Earth Stewardship: Convenient links will take you to statements of concern for the Earth from a host of religious groups. Need some inspiring material to carry with you into your congregation? You’ll find plenty of choices from that online starting point.
The Face of Climate Change: Here’s the portal to the big 2013 theme called “The Face of Climate Change.” This is a grassroots opportunity for anyone to add to the global effort by uploading photos of environmental change in your part of the planet. The invitation says: “Help us personalize the massive challenge climate change presents by taking a photo and telling your story. How has climate change impacted you? What are you doing to be part of the solution?”


Environmental activists began brainstorming the idea behind Earth Day in the late 1960s, leading to the first Earth Day in 1970. (Wikipedia has details.) While that first Earth Day drew some 20 million American participants mainly associated with schools and colleges, today’s observance spans 192 countries and gathers approximately 1 billion volunteers.

The Earth Day Network, founded in 1993, launched the concept into a new dimension, organizing large-scale, international events such as The Canopy Project, which pledges to plan 10 million trees in impoverished areas within the next five years. True to its grassroots beginnings, the Earth Day Network launched The Canopy Project to combat land degradation, energy loss and pollution in impoverished communities—one tree at a time. Of course, anyone can plant a tree on Earth Day, and anywhere. Today, original Earth Day organizer Dennis Hayes calls the observance “the largest secular holiday in the world.”

Find out what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is doing for the holiday by checking out its site.


With a rapidly growing population and the ability to produce organic crops on a massive scale, Earth Day Network is turning to India as a major player in protecting our planet.

“India is poised to become the world’s largest supplier and consumer of certified organic foods,” reported the CEO of a major group of companies in India. “The farmers across the country are keen observers and are learning from each other about the benefits of richer soil, richer crops and richer pockets!”

Earth Day Network launched a permanent India Program in 2010, and is preparing the next generation by helping teachers incorporate environmental education into their curricula. Earth Day Network-India coordinated more than 1,000 events across India last year, with more than 30 million participants. This year, the organization is reaching out to Indian women with a Go Organic Garden Party, encouraging the citizens who make 85 percent of consumer choices to buy organic. Earth Day Network also works with top women leaders in India to create a network that would promote women’s roles in creating a green economy.


Engineers may design eco-friendly energy sources and leaders support a “green economy,” but Earth Day Network insists it’s everyday people—those who live sustainably by conserving resources, recycling, buying organic produce and performing other individual acts—who truly make a difference on a global scale.

Just take it from Ria Chhabra, a 16-year-old near Dallas whose school project on fruit flies and organic produce garnered international attention and the assistance of university labs. (Read the article in the New York Times.) Want more ideas for young people? Kids can access Earth Day crafts and recipes at Kaboose.

Earth Day Network also coordinates and inspires several events across the U.S., which includes the Earth Month Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Fair (STEM Fair); the Environmental Film Festival; and the Green Fashion Show. The STEM Fair was underwritten by NASA, Grant Thornton, Chobani and Copia.

(Originally published at, an online magazine covering religion, values and cross-cultural issues.)

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