Too Bad It’s Earth Day.

by sherry mann
originally posted at

My children woke up excited to get ready for school. They put on their green shirts, old jeans, and tennis shoes. They packed their gloves, milk jugs (for watering the plants), hand shovels and weeding tools.

Today was like no other day of the year. It was Earth Day!

The first Earth Day (April 22, 1970) had some 20 million demonstrators involved. Today,, which seems to serve as the central hub of Earth Day events, lists “31,464,418 Acts of Green and counting.

Well, isn’t that nice.

Matthew Sleeth, an emergency room physician was asked by his wife Nancy, a question that would change his life forever. “What is the biggest problem facing the world?” After thinking of all the problems of war, disease, terrorism and poverty, he finally replied that “The world is dying.”

After much reflection and many life changing decisions, Dr. Sleeth released the Green Bible early in 2008. The Green Bible is bound in environmentally friendly materials: a cotton/linen cover, recycled paper, soy-based ink, and a water-based coating. It claims to highlight “over 1,000 references to the Earth in the Bible, (compared to 490 references to heaven and 530 references to love).”

There are many essays in the opening of the Bible by leading conservationists and theologians. In the sidebars, Wendell Berry and others are quoted to offer further encouragement for the stewardship of the Earth.

While the publication may have good intentions, there are some biblical scholars who (perhaps justifiably) criticize the Green Bible. Here is an excerpt from Laurence Vance’s article, “Is God Green?”

“The writer of the preface [of the Green Bible] claims that there are “over a thousand references to the earth and caring for creation in the Bible.” This statistic is meaningless. Actually, the words earth and land appear in the Bible almost three thousand times. There are very few times, however, when any of these instances actually refer to caring for creation.

“Some of the biblical passages highlighted in green mention pollution. For example:

If a man divorces his wife and she goes from him and becomes another man’s wife, will he return to her? Would not such a land be greatly polluted? You have played the whore with many lovers; and would you return to me? says the Lord (Jeremiah 3:1).

“The land here is polluted because of moral activity, not because someone put toxic waste in a dump. Examples could be multiplied to show that many of the “green” verses in The Green Bible are not green at all.

“What we are never told by any of the contributors to the Green Bible is that the two biggest environmental catastrophes in the history of the world – catastrophes that dwarf anything man has ever done – are both deliberate acts of God: Noah’s flood in the past (Genesis 7:4-10) and the burning up of the earth in the future (2 Peter 3:10).

“It is fitting that the New Revised Standard Version is the version of choice for The Green Bible. It is one of the few Bible versions that says the earth and everything in it will be ‘disclosed’ instead of ‘burned up’ (2 Peter 3:10).”

Many of the Green Bible‘s book reviews exalt the essays–which comprise nearly half of the 1440 pages–as the most powerful part of the book, which is troubling as the remainder is…the BIBLE!

Dr. Matthew Sleeth’s essay, entitled The Power of a Green God, describes the transformation of him and his family :

“…My answer [that the Earth was dying] did not come from abstract sources. Many changes had already taken place in my life and now readily apparent to anyone with eyes to see. The last majestic chestnut trees near my childhood home are now extinct. There are no chestnuts on Chestnut Lane, no elms on Elm St., no caribou in Caribou, Maine, and no buffalo in Buffalo, New York. Multiple states have had to change their official tree, animal or flower because of extinction.

“I grew up in the mid-Atlantic area. In just a single generation the fields that had supported three hundred years of inhabitants had been replanted with houses. The flocks of birds that migrated for hours over our back yard in spring and fall are gone . . .

“These changes in the health of the planet are mirrored in humans. A few months before vacation, I had admitted three women to the hospital. All three were in their thirties, all three had breast cancer, all three died. It is not easy to tell a man with one child on his hip and another in hand that he is on his own. There is only one response: to hug and cry with him.

“Later, I wondered about the lifetime risk of breast cancer, so I went and looked it up. When I started in medicine, one in nineteen women in America got breast cancer. When I saw the three women (in the winter of 1999), the same updated medical text said it was one in nine. Now (2008) it is one in seven. There is currently a pandemic of cancers and the most dramatic increases are in young people.

“Similarly, there have been increases in asthma, autoimmune diseases, autism and other maladies, which many believe have environmental links. No one can suppose that those trends in nature and in us can continue unchanged and everything will turn out all right.’’

(J. Matthew Sleeth, The Power of Green, The Green Bible, Harper One, San Francisco, 2008, pp. I18-I19)

His empirical observations are nearly beyond reproach, yet most of the newspaper articles you will read today about Earth day will focus on stories like the local Rotary club who planted 50 trees at the local park or about the school children who planted 15 trays of flowers donated by Yourtown Growers.

And that’s great, yet…

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child…

I’m sorry to spoil the celebration, but there seems to be one or two little things left out of our Earth Day stewardship conversation. I could let you off easy today, but I’m not going to.

“…When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.”

The Earth’s problems–our problems— are not going to be solved by taking one day of the year to exalt things like planting trees, recycling, buying a GREEN BIBLE or riding bikes.

While it is true that Earth Day should be celebrated every day and the Green Bible may not be theologically sound, I believe that Matthew Sleeth is right in that THE EARTH IS DYING.

Do we really think we can begin to address the following crises only 40 days out of the next 14,600 days (40 years) without a deeper understanding of the root causes?

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Albert Einstein

The top 12 of the most significant threats to OUR SURVIVAL:

12. Suburbia.

11. Death of morality.

10. Consolidation of Corporations.

9. Genetically Engineered Organisms–animals and even humans.

8. Consumerism.

7. Excessive use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers in farming. (See number 3).

6. Dead zones in the ocean.

5. Industrial Pollution. This article is a photographic essay on China’s pollution problems, but they can be translated to all areas of the globe.

4. The global food economy…our well traveled food.

3. Genetically Modified FoodsMonsanto, decrease of nutritional content of food, death of bees.

2. Corporate ownership of environmental “commons”–specifically, our water resources.

1. Department of DefenseRecycling” is the greatest threat to our survival.

It is unfortunate, to say the least, that the 40th celebration of Earth Day, will once again only touch upon the tip of the iceberg concerning our shared Titanic course. What I challenge you to do today is to do more than so many million green acts…These may be a nice exercise, but our problems require far more from ALL of us.

‘There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.’ ~ Thoreau


  1. Keren

    April 22, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    I am an estate gardener and am so blessed to spend my days tending to orchid’s in the greenhouse, planning and planting an organic vegetable garden, pushing a shovel, slinging plants and dripping dirt. On my way to the rubbish pile yesterday I spotted a wool sower gall growing on an oak sapling. How brilliant that everyday I get to discover, consider and enjoy such wonders and mysteries. How it hurts to see chem-trails overhead of this seemingly paradise. How it hurts to consider the many children even my own that have been physically compromised by the chemical pollutants which have been allowed into the food system, many only to be spiritually compromised by the pharmaceutical companies selling their snake oils. With all the artificial convenience our society has grown accustomed to it is hard to imagine a reversal of our apathetic tendencies. The I-pod has replaced the birds singing, Lean Cuisine has replaced real food, a microwave has replaced this relic called fire, television has replaced imagination and strip malls have replaced the empty fields where 20 years ago a group of kids would have had a pick-up game of ball . Dare I show my truly cynical nature and say that perhaps one day children may think this thing called ‘Earth’ is only a ride at Disney World. And yet…this past February as I was going to take pictures of a multitude of Red-Winged Blackbirds on the back lawn a team of Bufflehead ducks came in for a landing on the lake, a rafter of Wild Turkeys came strutting into the picture and then a King Fisher did a 90 degree expert dive to retrieve his supper. As I stood in utter wonder at how the previous 5 seconds had unfolded I smiled and began to laugh. I was not alone in my joy and amazement. The Creator so loves His creation. How I long for the days when “they shall build homes and inhabit them, and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them” and “they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks”. Until then may it be our mission to breed curiosity, appreciation and hope.

  2. sherry

    April 23, 2010 at 3:48 pm


    It shames me–or maybe humbles is a better word–that the comment was (so much) better than the post. May I reformat this and post it to “”? You may reply here or send me an e-mail if this is agreeable. As always, thank you.


  3. keren

    April 24, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    I am humbled that you would suggest so. Girlfriend your article has some slamming info and links. Thanks for the inspiration. I will e-mail you what you need soon.

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