Losing sight of the common good…

April 22, 2021
Earth Day

Today is Earth Day. In his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Pastor Freed used this quote today – “There is a great need, and growing support, for the introduction of new values in our society—where bigger is not necessarily better—where slower can be faster—and where less can be more.” (Gaylord Nelson, First Earth Day 1970) 

As I thought about Earth Day and how it has been marginalized over time, it came to my mind that, as a nation, we have lost sight of the concept of “The Common Good”. In fact, some politicians have demonized the common good by positioning things that are for the common good as socialism. Their political philosophies are more in tune with anarchy than with anything that is for “the common good”.

Yet there is a need to recognize that there are things that we need to do as a society that provide benefits for all – that promote the common good. Taking care of the planet upon which, we live is just one of those things, but certainly an important one. I know a local personal trainer who uses the motto, “Your body is the only place that you have to live.” Well, Earth is currently the only place that we all have to live. Someday, maybe we will be able to hop intro a spaceship and fly off to another planet, but for now, we are stuck here. Let’s not mess it up.

Self-centeredness has been around forever, but it came to the fore in the 1970’s. The 1970s were dubbed the “Me decade” by writer Tom Wolfe. Christopher Lasch was another writer who commented on the rise of a culture of narcissism among the younger generation of that era. But it wasn’t just narcissism that increased back in the 70’s; it was the rebellion against government and being governed. That rebellion, perhaps sparked by protests against an unpopular war (Viet Name) in the 1960’s and fanned by racism and the white backlash caused by the civil rights movement, gave rise to an anarchist movement disguised as conservatism. What was being “conserved” was an old, privileged way of life that had outlived its usefulness.

The shift from “what’s good for me” to “what’s good for us all”, was perceived as a threat because it  effectively disenfranchised the privileged people of the day (basically whites) and shifted both power and resources towards those who had been excluded from both. That gave rise to rear-guard actions that continue today, as the old, privileged class tries desperately to hold on to power. To those people, things done for the common good is just code for losing power and the ability to control things and people.

So, along came the scientists and environmentalists sounding alarms over the damage that mankind is doing to the planet. They created a day – Earth Day – to both celebrate the planet and to raise awareness of the bad things that are happening. From their foxholes the conservative rear-guard just saw it as another intrusion of government in their lives, another socialist movement of “them against us” and they fought back. They poo-pooed the scientists’ warnings about global warming, they resisted regulation on emissions or a shift away from fossil fuels for power, and they tried gut the enforcement of environmental protections by defunding the agencies responsible for enforcing them. They did not just lose sight of the common good, they fought against it. They believed that “what’s good for them is bad for us”.

It is a good thing to have an Earth Day once a year, although we should all be concerned about the Earth every day of the year. Perhaps we should have a Common Good Day also to focus upon the things that we need to do to make life better for all of us. It’s not socialism, it’s just common sense. Maybe we could call it Common Sense Day.

In the Old Testament we are told of the common good –

“But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you … for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” – Jeremiah 29:7

So, seek the welfare of the Earth, because there we shall also find (or lose) our own welfare. Happy Earth Day!

Make a Difference on Earth Day…

April 21, 2015

We celebrate Earth Day April 26th and earlier this year we celebrated Make A Difference Day. I think we should combine the two thoughts and Make a Difference on Earth Day. If on Earth Day everyone on the planet did one little things to help green earthpreserve our planet; that would be billions of little things that help. As they seem to say in Washington – a billion here and a billion there and pretty soon you’ve got something real.

There are lots of events going on around the country to celebrate Earth Day. Most of them have something to do with conservation of natural resources or lessening the impact of man on the planet through recycling or use of less polluting fuels. It is always sobering to read about or see on TV that entire species are about to be wiped out, but that is happening. The impact of global warming is finally being felt and realized by more people and the fact that the oceans are not limitless is now understood. Whether these revelations come soon enough to save what is left is still in doubt.

We are a throwaway society. We have become accustomed to just discarding something when it has been used for a while or when the “next big thing” comes along. Unfortunately we’ll not be able to see the next big thing once we have used up this planet that we live upon. Maybe a million years from now some space-roving explorers will discover a lifeless planet that shows signs that it once supported a primitive civilization that could only figure out how to make energy by burning things, with a people who had a penchant for killing things. They will wonder at the stupidity of a planet of people who committed such a slow and avoidable suicide. Of course, by that time the planet will be rules by the bugs that remained and not by the apes as their movies predicted.

So, maybe this coming Sunday you can begin the re-write of that scenario by making a difference, by doing something, anything to change your personal behavior towards the planet. It can be a simple as not rolling down your window and earth recyclingtossing your fast food bag out as you drive, or maybe planting a tree instead of burning a pile of leaves, or maybe walking to the store instead of getting in the car for the 3- block trip. Every little bit helps. You don’t have to go out and hug a tree (however, that might make you feel a little better) or find a whale to save; but, you don’t have to do a lot of other things that are causing harm to the planet either. Just think about things before you do them; then don’t do some of the bad things and do go ahead with the good one. This isn’t rocket science, it’s earth science and that’s the only rocket that we have to ride on.

If you’re in the Milford Michigan area, here’s a great way to spend a part of the day – Earth Friendly Family Fun Festival 2015 – noon until 4 PM at Carls Family YMCA, 300 Family Dr, Milford, MI  48381. Help celebrate the Earth with lots of activities for the whole family. Click here to view the event flyer.

Three little words that can change your life… Let’s talk trash!

April 21, 2014

Sometimes the simplest little things can have big impact on our lives. In this series of posts I examine very short sentences (each just three words long) that can make a difference in your life. If you have a three word sentence that changed your life somehow, share it with me and I will share it with the world.

From one of my favorite sources of inspiration – the blog Jack’s Winning Words – come today’s three little words –

“Let’s talk trash!”  (T-shirt Slogan)  A study has shown that each American creates 4.5# of garbage every day…close to a ton a year.  Tomorrow is Earth Day, and the suggestion has been made…to see if you of can go the whole day without creating any garbage.  I’m going to try; how about you?  Maybe we should put a reminder note by the waste basket.   There are many ways to protect the environment.  Do you have any ideas?      😉  Jack


OK, so it’s not talking trash like you might have initially imagined. Earth Day is tomorrow April 22. Earth Day is one of those days of celebration that can easily get lost in the calipee of daily life. It’s easy for some to dismiss it as a gathering of “tree huggers” or environmental busybodies; however, we are all along for the ride on planet Earth, so we all play a part on how our ride looks. Do you know someone whose ride looks more like a waste container on wheels  than a car – full of empty coffee cups and fast food bags? Maybe you live next to someone whose yard could serve as the set for a horror movie, with old cars up on blocks and junk lying around everywhere. Maybe you should intercede and say to them – let’s talk trash.

In your daily life do you spend any time at all thinking about how much waste and trash you contribute to the problem? Where does it all go? If you said, “to the curb in the trash bin”, then you are a part of the problem. It’s where it goes after that which is the issue that is one of the central themes of Earth Day. You’ve probably driven by those huge mounds of trash in land-fills and maybe you’ve wondered about what is going on under all of that trash and dirt. What chemical reactions are taking place and what toxins are being released and then where do they go? Those are all concerns on Earth Day and reason enough to raise the issue – let’s talk trash.

One of the other focuses on Earth Day is to create and promote the use of natural products or sustainable products as they might be called; these are products that are not artificially made, but which occur or grow in nature. Some of them are products that can be recycled and used more than once. Most of them are not harmful or certainly less harmful than many of the modern man-made products that have been created as substitutes. Most will also naturally break down and return to the earth in the some useful form; or at least not in a toxic form. Hopefully these are the substances in the things that are put out for recycling and which will not contribute to eh landfill; but if they do end up there at least they won’t add to the toxic mix – let’s talk trash.

Probably the most insidious thing that mankind has done with modern science is to develop the concept of “packaging”. Almost everything that we buy these days is sold in a package of some sort and it is that packaging that makes up the bulk of the mass in our landfills. In most so-called developing countries and indeed in the great majority of the world’s population things that are needed on a daily basis are purchased and consumed in some small quantity on a daily basis without any packaging. Then there is us – the so-called developed countries – the U.S, Europe, Japan and a few others – who have embraced the concept that everything that we buy should somehow come in a bag or a box or some other form of packaging. We have created our own trash monster in the name of personal convenience. That’s how we have come to create our average of 4.5 pounds of trash a day – by throwing away the containers that our stuff comes in. Let’s talk trash.

Earth Day is about more than just trash; it is about doing things to lessen your negative impact on the earth – to conserve or at least waste less, to cut the pollution that you personally create and hopefully even to contribute in some positive way, to give back to the earth. Here’s a link to a good article about 50 tips for making a difference on Earth Day. The Web site EarthDay.org also has a program going called a Billion Acts of Green which has collected over 1 Billion pledges from people of small things that they will do to help with the effort to create a more sustainable future on Earth. As they say in Washington, a billion here and a billion there and pretty soon you’re talking real numbers. So, go there and sign up to do your part. Just commit to do some small thing differently. Maybe for you it can be taking some action to reduce the amount that you transport toe the curb every week. Let’s make a difference – let’s talk trash.

What do you plan to do on Earth Day? Since it’s not a national holiday, most of us will have to get up and go to work. They probably won’t even observe a moment of silence at work in honor of the day; but that doesn’t mean that you can do something. Maybe you can bring a little plant to work to place in your office or cubicle or just on your desk. That tiny addition to the office environment will do two things – clean a little bit of air and remind a few people about nature. Maybe instead of wadding up and tossing the report that you just finished reading you can find the paper recycling box at your office (if your office doesn’t have one, start one), or maybe you can just read you emails and reports on-line, instead of printing them off to read. Every little bit helps and evety little bit that you don’t do helps too. So at work on Earth Day  – let’s talk trash.

If you live in the Milford, Michigan area here’s a link to our local Earth Day events.