Happy Earth Day to you — Statement from Annie Laurie Gaylor


Statement by
Annie Laurie Gaylor
Freedom From Religion Foundation

Here in Madison, Wis., where the national office of the Freedom From Religion Foundation is based, my tulips are finally popping open today — as if in honor of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. To celebrate our belated spring and Earth Day, FFRF is releasing a video of the song “One Sweet Morning,” with poignant words by atheist and lyricist Yip (“Over the Rainbow”) Harburg, music by Earl Robinson and performed by Dan Barker, FFRF co-president. I hope it may bring you solace in these difficult times.

There is much to celebrate on this Earth Day — and much to despair about.

Earth Day has Wisconsin roots, since it was the brainchild of Gaylord Nelson, who was known as Wisconsin’s “conservation governor” and also served as U.S. senator. Nelson intended April 22, 1970, to be “a day for Americans to speak out about the environmental crises they faced.” The public’s overwhelming response to Nelson’s call on that date galvanized Congress into passing landmark legislation, including the Clean Water Acts, the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Acts, the Federal Pesticides Act, the Clean Air Act and the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. DDT was banned and the Endangered Species Act, which now lists 1,700 plants and animals, was created. Wind and solar energy are mainstream.

But a fox is currently guarding the EPA chicken coop. A former coal industry lobbyist (Andrew Wheeler) is running the EPA and using the coronavirus crisis to attack the Clean Air Act. The EPA has loosened national standards intended to produce the cleaner, more efficient cars that are essential to help stop climate change and otherwise cut emissions controls of toxic pollutants.

As many Earth Day slogans note: Every day should be Earth Day. And every day we should be focused on mitigating human-made climate change to save our home and salvage our future. But political obstructionists in the United States, science deniers primarily fueled by biblical doctrine and hubris, are playing their fundamentalist fiddles while Rome is burning. Blind faith and wishful thinking is justifying ignorance and greed. Fundamentalists are concerned not with this world, but salvation leading to a fantasy afterlife, when science and evidence-based decision-making is what we need to save this world, our only world. As I have often said, the only afterlife that should concern any of us is leaving our planet a secure and pleasant future.

This same science denial is playing out in Washington, D.C., in many gubernatorial offices over the coronavirus pandemic and rogue churches. Willful denial, a refusal to face inconvenient facts, is greatly worsening the outcome here in the United States.

“Alternative facts” is the byword of American political reality. And millions and millions of gullible Americans are ready to swallow anything told to them by political authority because their credulity has been carefully groomed by religion. Religion rewards people for accepting outrageous claims without evidence, for turning off critical thinking skills, for believing something is true simply because they want it to be true. Religion has dummied down our nation and dummied down our politics, and, to (mis)quote the bible, we are reaping what religion has sown.

More particularly in terms of climate change, the biblical “be fruitful and multiply” edict has caused untold harm to women, families and our Earth. This edict is coupled with the Genesis verse giving humans dominion to “rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

If human beings are going to be stewards, it’s time to do a much better job. Earth Day should be every day. Happy Earth Day to you.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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