50th Anniversary of Earth Day: A Reflection

by Rakmi Shaiza

“But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Amos 4:24.

 

I only came to hear about Earth Day after I moved to the USA. Back in 2002, I came across a small book in the library about it published by the United Nations. After reading the book, I was so inspired by the actions the UN had been taking to tackle the climate change crisis. Ever since, Earth Day has become an important day to remember, to self-reflect and take more actions to take care of our planet.

Because of my commitment to future generations and to the communities who are already suffering because of the climate crisis, I have taken some actions in my life. I buy things that I can reuse, that will last a long time, and that are second-hand. I try very hard to not take long showers so I don’t use up more water and energy than I need to. I have to drive, so I decided to buy a fuel-efficient small hybrid car. I try my best to not waste any food. All these are my daily actions.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, this week I’m learning how to repair and mend clothes as much as possible. According to research on fast fashion, the textile industry is one of the leading causes of the climate crisis (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41558-017-0058-9) they are contributing to air, soil and water pollution.  I love clothes, so the least I can do is to wear my clothes as long as possible and repair them instead of burying them in the landfill. Although we may talk about throwing things away, there is no such thing as ‘away.’

The climate crisis doesn’t affect me much directly now. The air and water quality where I live is fairly good. I eat local and organic food as much as I can. So why take time to recycle, compost food waste, take shorter showers and mend clothes?

Because my careless actions contribute to the pollution of air, water and soil. The climate crisis is already causing drought in many parts of the world, forcing many communities to become refugees and creating conflict over resources, which sometimes ends in violence. Many of the people living in these regions are suffering from food shortages and dying because of the lack of basic health care.

To meet the high demands of our fast fashion, workers in clothing factories in Bangladesh, India, Cambodia and many other places are working long hours in poor conditions without getting fair wages, and they sometimes face physical abuse. Of course, they need to make a living like all of us, but how can we help ensure they are paid fair living wages and able to sustain their health, family and community life?

This coronavirus pandemic affects all of us, but the most affected people are those who are living in lower-income neighborhoods where air quality is bad and there isn’t a lot of access to healthy food. For those of us who care deeply, our hearts sink watching and hearing the news of the number of people dying. How can I not reflect on how some of my actions might have contributed to this crisis?

If we are concerned about social justice and peace for all, we must deal with the climate crisis or it will be impossible to achieve the justice we all long to see: “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” Amos 4:24.

So where should we begin? To me, it starts by being open to learn from the experts and change our behavior. It involves supporting our local farmers and businesses, advocating for fair trade globally, and being conscious about how much and what we consume.

This pandemic has shown us that the world will go on with or without us. All over the world, air quality is getting better because people are staying at home more, and water is getting cleaner. Animals are roaming freely in now-empty streets. I believe the healing that is happening indicates that our old ways of doing things were not very helpful for the rest of the living world. It’s time we look deep into our hearts and make the necessary changes.

I pray that in the years to come, many of us will work really hard to make this world habitable for future generations and for all the living web!!

 

 

PictureRakmi Shaiza founded Stitching for Change in 2014 to help refugee women empower themselves, learn job skills for sustainable income, and create community.   Rakmi graduated from Central Baptist Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity degree and currently is a member of the Buttry Center for Peace and Nonviolence Advisory Group.

 

Posted April 22, 2020

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