Earth Day: Reaching every corner of the globe for a brighter future

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Earth Day: Reaching every corner of the globe for a brighter futureThe President of the Earth Day Network speaks of the importance of the Day, for all members of society, and about how a true education on the matter could help to bring people out of poverty and into a green economy.

Earth Day, celebrated annually by billions of people all over the world, is both an entry point into the environment movement and a validating point for those that spend their Earth Day, (or Week or Month) working on environment issues.

Speaking to Vatican News, Kathleen Rogers, President of the Earth Day Network, highlights that for these (and other) reasons, their organisation is an “every day” one.

A Day for all

From lessons on the environment to community events, protests and petition writing, Earth Day forms a special time in people’s lives. Those involved, too, range from children in schools to mayors of towns and cities, and, as we know from Pope Francis' consistent involvement, to world leaders, all daily involved in the fight to protect our common home.

“So, it really is for everyone” says Ms Roberts, adding that the importance of the Day is precisely the beauty of being able to join a much bigger thing than yourself.

Pope Francis’ involvement

Pope Francis has dedicated a huge amount of his pontificate to fighting the climate crisis and, with his encyclical, Laudato si', which has been read and studied by Catholics, and non, worldwide, Kathleen Rogers stresses the massive contribution he has made, as leader of the Catholic Church, to the climate movement.

His contribution has been immeasurable, says Kathleen Rogers, noting that although Jorge Mario Bergoglio cared about the planet long before his election to the See of Peter, “once he was elevated to this important position, the entire world began to take notice”.

“He doesn't just have the policy or the interests. He has immeasurable opportunity to influence people, and for the close to 1.5 billion Catholics in the world, what he says and how he acts and lives has a message that's much more important than any global leader on the planet, and it has been this way since he became Pope”, says Kathleen Rogers

The power to spread

When speaking of the difference between Catholic environmentalism and secular environmental activism, Kathleen Rogers points out that the goal of Earth Day is to “reach everybody else”.

She explains that “we're not focused on the environmental community or the deep green living people”. Instead, the goal is to “really engage those communities that have themselves the power to reach more people”.

The mission

Catholics have influence because of the religion itself. "It's a powerful religion that talks about community values, about loving one's neighbour", and this human message has influene beyond just those members of the Catholic Church, "it always has", she stresses.

For this reason, Ms Rogers continues, we are particularly grateful to this Pope and to Catholics everywhere who are involved in the movement "because they carry that message both as a moral platform and as a doing platform".

The key is to educate

Kathleen Rogers stresses the importance of Earth Day being an opportunity to educate. She notes that if you look around, all the environmental groups in the world, “almost no one has an education department”.

Thanks to Pope Francis, she continues, climate education has become not just important as in to teach the science, "but more to teach about hope and about becoming engaged and profiting from innovation, invention and entrepreneurism".

In this regard, Kathleen Rogers explains that the green economy, juat like the Industrial Revolution did, "is about to flip everything on its head and change everything" - "except this is much bigger than the Industrial Revolution", she continues, "because it includes all energy".

"This is the lesson: that whatever the lesson be, it must allow the global south and other poor countries to really enjoy and benefit from Earth Day, as we strive for them to become healthy as a result of the growing green economy in their country”.

This, Kathleen Rogers stresses, can only happen if their populations are educated and ready to get involved in business, in government leadership, in civil society, in churches and faith groups.

Earth Day post-pandemic

Kathleen Rogers then goes on to discuss the evolution of Earth Day considering the harsh reality the celebration faced during the Covid-19 pandemic. “It has emerged incredibly strong this year”, she says, explaining that it is as though true environmentalism and understanding of the climate became concerns, whilst at the same time, “optimism emerged” through the many wonderful opportunities presented.

“This Earth Day seems to have been born out of a global society that has been unable to be in their communities”, and the re-emergence of the day feels like part of our rebirth from the pandemic.

Finally, she adds that this optimism, coupled with the progress that has been being made behind the scenes “to shift governments everywhere on climate change, Earth Day this year is bigger and better”, and this on a global lever, she concludes, is very rewarding.

Francesca Merlo