What the World Needs Even More Than Earth Day
For almost half a century, Earth Day has focused on what we need to do to save our planet. But the most important thing anyone can do has already been done.
In April of 1970, roughly 100,000 people gathered on Fifth Avenue in New York to protest the end of the world.
Well, a potential end of the world at any rate.
The predictions surrounding the very first Earth Day were a special kind of grim. “It is already too late to avoid mass starvation,” ominously declared Denis Hayes, the chief organizer of the event. “By the year 2000, thirty years from now, the entire world, with the exception of Western Europe, North America, and Australia, will be in famine,” wrote Peter Gunter, a professor at North Texas State University.
But the doomsday predictions focused on more than famine. A chart in Scientific American predicted the earth would be depleted of copper shortly after the year 2000, with lead, zinc, tin, gold and silver running out before 1990. The secretary of the Smithsonian Institute believed that 75 to 80 percent of all living animals would be extinct before the turn of the 21st century. Ecologist Kenneth Watt foresaw a second ice age caused by global cooling. Life warned of air pollution so dire that city dwellers would require gas masks just to survive, while visible sunlight reaching the earth would be cut in half by smog and other pollutants.
The list goes on. You can read these and other failed predictions in Ronald Bailey’s 2000 retrospective, “Earth Day, Then and Now,” in which he notes, “The prophets of doom were not simply wrong, but spectacularly wrong.”
The Earth Day prognosticators of the 1970s painted a dark, dystopian picture of the future, based on limited information, misused science and sensationalism. Now nearly 50 years after the fact, it’s easy to laugh about just how spectacularly wrong they were.
When Bailey wrote his retrospective, in some places the environment was actually looking better than it had 30 years earlier. Life expectancy was increasing, farmland was producing more, air was cleaner, water was less polluted, and nonrenewable resources were being used more efficiently. Doomsday, it seemed, decided not to come after all. Many people came to the conclusion we could rest easy—for a while.
A coming tribulation
People have been predicting the end of the world for years—and so far, everyone’s been wrong. I’ve personally lived through Y2K, the “end” of the Mayan calendar and several proposed raptures and judgment days. With all these predictions falling flat, it’s easy to look down our noses at anyone who talks about the end of the world.
And yet, if we believe the Bible to be the inspired Word of God, we can be sure of one thing: an end is coming. Jesus Christ prophesied a “great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved” (Matthew 24:21-22).
The book of Revelation describes nightmarish prophecies of wars, famines, earthquakes and the widespread loss of millions of lives. It’s real and there’s nothing that we can do to stop it.
There is, however, something you can do about it.
What really needs saving is not the earth—it’s us.What really needs to be fixed
Jesus remarked that the condition of the world before this Great Tribulation would be similar to “the days of Noah” (Matthew 24:37)—days when “the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5).
The greatest problem facing humanity is not pollution, climate change or the depletion of nonrenewable resources.
Our greed. Our hate. Our lust. Our selfishness. Our misdirected desires and scrambled priorities. Look through the pages of history and you’ll find civilization after civilization that collapsed in on itself in a heap of moral depravity. It’s little wonder that in the days of Noah, “the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart” (Genesis 6:6).
What really needs saving is not the earth—it’s us. There is a brokenness in the human race—in you, in me—that we’re not equipped to fix on our own. The apostle Paul wrestled with that when he wrote to the church in Rome: “For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. … O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:15, 24).
Missing the root of the problem
Today Earth Day organizers are setting out to begin planting 7.8 billion trees across the planet in the hopes that their efforts “will make a significant and measurable impact on the Earth and will serve as the foundation of a cleaner, healthier and more sustainable planet for all.”
It’s a good goal. All those trees will absolutely make a positive impact on global air quality. But planting 7.8 billion trees isn’t going to stop what’s coming, because planting 7.8 billion trees won’t change us.
Thankfully, the only thing that can has already been done.
A better plan
Today over a billion people are slated to participate in Earth Day.
But last night, a much smaller number of people around the world were observing a much older tradition: The Passover.
For years Passover was a reminder of the night God shattered the hold of Egypt over the ancient Israelites. And then almost 2,000 years ago, it transitioned to a reminder of Jesus Christ shattering the power sin held over the whole human race. It’s a reminder of the price He paid to make it possible to have sin removed from those who repent. It’s a reminder of the road map that leads to real, lasting change, and it’s a recommitment to follow that map where it leads.
Passover is the pivotal moment in the plan of God—the one plan that truly will save the world. You can be a part of that plan now.
And that’s what you can do about all of this. You can be part of the plan that will save the world.
The people behind Earth Day are doing their best to bring about the change they think the world needs, but it isn’t going to be enough. More trees and cleaner air won’t fix the problems living deep within every human being.
But the plan of God will. And that plan begins with Passover.
Find out how Passover lays the foundation for the plan of God by reading “Why Jesus Had to Die,” an article from our free magazine, Discern.