Every year on April 22nd environmentalist groups observe what they call “Earth Day.” The purpose for this observance is to raise awareness on environmental issues such as, climate change, pollution of our air, water, and oceans, and the effects of mankind on the plants and animals of the earth. Originally the brainchild of a U.S. Senator in reaction to a massive oil spill near Santa Barbara, CA in 1969, the first Earth Day was celebrated on April 22, 1970. It has grown through the years to such an extent that it is now observed in nearly 200 nations worldwide.
One may justifiably argue in opposition to many of the positions taken by Earth Day proponents, whose premise seems to be that the world would be better off if there were no humans on it. One must certainly question a movement that in its earliest stages warned of the coming ice age, but which now claims that the earth is getting dangerously warmer. This is especially the case when we understand that both dangers are said to be the result of the activities of humans. In the late 70s and 80s, we were told that unless we changed our ways the world would freeze over. In the 90s and now in the 21st century, the story is we must change our ways so the world will not overheat. Both positions cannot be true, especially if attributed to the same causes.
More important than these issues, however, is the misplaced emphasis of the Earth Day crowd. All their efforts are pointed toward one goal: saving the earth. Whether it is a cessation of oil exploration and oil-based industrial output, or giving up incandescent light bulbs, or driving electric cars, the end purpose is the same. The earth must be preserved, as though it is our only hope.
Notably absent in most Earth Day rhetoric is any mention of God and His eternal purpose. Herein lies the major problem with environmentalism. It excludes God from any consideration. The most radical environmentalists speak of “Mother Earth” in terms that deify the planet, apparently unaware that in so doing they profess themselves to be wise, but become fools (Rom. 1:22). Whenever we replace God with something of our own devising, even the earth He created for us, we are guilty of an idolatry that God’s word calls foolish.
At the same time, thinking of the earth as our final destination is equally foolish. The scriptures are unquestionably clear that this world is not destined to last forever, no matter how mankind treats it. In 2 Pet. 3:10-13 Peter said that the entire physical realm will be destroyed by fire. This will not be the result of a man-made nuclear holocaust, or an environmental doomsday, but will happen in accordance with God’s divine will. All of the physical realm will cease to exist when God sends His Son, with the angels of heaven, in flaming fire, to deal out retribution to those who do not know God, and who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus (2 Th. 1:7, 8). At that time, the saved will be ushered into a new and spiritual heaven and earth, the glorious heavenly city where God manifests His presence, and where His Son has prepared a place for the saved (Jn. 14:1-3).
These things being true, should we not care what happens to our land, air, and water? No, not at all. No one wants to live in a dirty environment. We should be good stewards of the earth and all its resources, because these are the gift of our God for our benefit while we live on the earth. God has made the earth with sufficient resources to sustain life on it until time ends (Gen. 8:22). We should use all that He has given us in a responsible manner and not wastefully, but we should use it. At the same time, we must not worship “the creature rather than the creator who is blessed forever. Amen.” (Rom. 1:25).