By Lynne Baab —
On March 20, at 9:15 a.m. Pacific Time, the earth will be completely vertical in its orbit. You probably know that for most of the year, the earth is tipped, with the north pole either slanted toward or away from the sun. Twice a year, for one exact moment around March 20 and September 22 (give or take a day), the earth is not tipped.
Another way of saying this is that on those equinox days, the sun is directly over the equator. Sunrise and sunset are due east and due west at every latitude.
At a UNESCO conference in 1969, when care for the environment was just beginning to be promoted, John McConnell proposed creating an Earth Day on the March equinox. Only a month after McConnell’s proposal, a United States senator proposed April 22 for Earth Day, and that day has been celebrated in the United States since 1970. But the Equinox Earth Day continues to be celebrated in some countries around the world. It can never hurt to celebrate something important twice!
John McConnell (1915-2012) was a Christian, whose passion for caring for the earth came from his reading of the Bible and his belief that God cares for the well-being of all people. In 1939, he was working in a plastics research lab in Los Angeles, and he became concerned about the impact on the environment of the manufacture of plastics. Throughout his long life, McConnell was an activist for environmental stewardship, world peace, and care for the poor.
One of the scripture verses that motivated McConnell was Psalm 115:16. He probably would have read it in the King James version: “The heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord’s; but the earth hath He given to the children of men.”
Here are two modern translations:
- “The heavens are the Lord’s heavens, but the earth he has given to human beings” (NRSV).
- “The heaven of heavens is for God, but he put us in charge of the earth” (The Message).
I so often get discouraged about caring for creation. The discouragement comes from several sources. How can my little efforts really make any difference when corporations and individuals elsewhere are polluting in much greater amounts? How can I know exactly what matters to do? Should I go on that vacation that involves a long plane flight, which burns so much carbon, even if part of the purpose is to connect with a family member? How important is it to eat organic all the time, even when the cost is much higher?
I love to think about people like John McConnell, who never stopped doing what he believed to be right, even though care for the environment was in its infancy for much of his life. I like that McConnell had a favorite verse he clung to, which helped him stay motivated.
McConnell was deeply moved by the beautiful photo of the earth taken by the crew of Apollo 17 on December 7, 1972. McConnell designed the Earth Day flag, which has an image of the earth from space on it. McConnell helps me remember that strong and vivid visual images can play a role in keeping us motivated.
My key verse for creation care is Genesis 2:15: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (NIV).
On this Equinox Earth Day, what is your key verse that helps you stay motivated to take care of the earth? Who are the people who help you stay inspired? What image or images are helpful to you?