Earth Day Reflections from Pastor Steven

In honor of Earth Day, I offer these words by Chief Seattle, “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors. We are borrowing earth from our children and their children.”

Scientist Gus Spieth said, “I used to think the top environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse and climate change. I thought with thirty years of good science we could solve these problems. I was wrong. The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed, and apathy. And to deal with these problems we need a spiritual and cultural transformation. And we scientists don’t know how to do that.”

We arrogantly assume what is good for us is good for the earth. There have been disastrous consequences to our arrogance. Earth Day invites us to recognize that living in a way that is healing for the earth will ultimately be good for us.

A growing number of experts are asking whether our great-grandchildren will inherit a sustainable planet. I can picture future generations sitting in history classes asking one of two questions. They will either scratch their heads asking, “Why didn’t they care? Why didn’t they act?” Or they will ask, “How did they find the moral and spiritual courage to rise and successfully resolve a crisis most said was impossible to solve?”

There are many theories as to why the Titanic sank and 1500 people died. One theory is that it was humanity’s hubris that sank the Titanic. Hubris is a word not used often enough as it gets to the heart of so many of the problems in our world. 

Hubris is an overinflated sense of our own importance. It is the ego masquerading as a god. Hubris is placing ourselves at the center with everyone and everything else existing to serve our needs. Hubris is making choices without consideration as to how those choices impact others.

The Hubris around the Titanic was that it was unsinkable. “Not even God could sink the Titanic” was the slogan. The tragic image of tiny lifeboats bobbing in the wake of a sinking Titanic is a vivid image of the danger of hubris.

You would think we would learn from examples like the Titanic. It seems human pride and arrogance are what is unsinkable. It is hubris that believes we can destroy our habitat without also destroying ourselves. It is hubris that believes the earth belongs to us and we can do anything we want for our own pleasure, convenience and comfort. It is hubris that views the earth and its resource as a commodity that can be consumed without limitation. It is hubris that places ourselves at the center assuming what’s good for us is good for everyone. It is hubris that leads us to be insatiable consumers ignorant of how our choices affect all living things. It is hubris to think the earth won’t sink.

Perhaps you’ve heard the story of a battleship trying to navigate rough seas on a foggy night. The ship’s radar picks up an object directly in its path. The ship’s captain sends a message, “We are on a collision course. Divert your course to avoid a collision.”

A response follows, “Negative. I recommend you divert your course.”

The captain of the ship sees the light fast approaching and communicates, “This is the captain of a battleship. Change your course now.”

“I’m a seaman second class,” comes the reply, “Advise you change course immediately.”

The captain is furious and says, “I am your superior. Change your course now.”

Back comes the reply, “This is a Lighthouse. It’s your call.”

The only thing we have to do be sure we will leave a destroyed and depleted earth for our great grandchildren is to stay the course continuing to do exactly what we are doing now in terms of our relationship with the earth.

It’s our call. Will we maintain our hubris or will we change course? What will the history classes of future generations say about how we responded to the crisis of our time?