By Jessica Brodie
COLUMBIA—Dominion over the earth does not mean dominate—or exploit. It’s about protecting and caring, about anticipating ways we can help our planet heal and thrive despite climate change, pollution and other toxic environmental issues.
That’s the message from a group of Christian environmentalists who are helping to plan a major awareness, education and action event at the South Carolina Statehouse to help people live into what it means to be good stewards of the earth in the way God intended.
Organized by the Columbia Circle of GreenFaith, Earth Day at the Dome is set for Wednesday, April 22, from 3-7 p.m. at the state government building on Gervais Street in downtown Columbia. The statewide nonpartisan event features speakers, teachings, youth involvement, tents and tables all designed to help people understand environmental concerns in what will be the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day.
“It’s all to give faithful expression to our responsibility to the earth, to one another and our species,” said the Rev. Marvin Lare, retired United Methodist elder who is helping to organize the interfaith event. “We know we are given stewardship of the earth and of the world, and the old phrase ‘dominion’ does not mean we dominate and exploit and extract like we have, but that we be stewards of the good earth.
“Without us acting, all creatures on the whole of our atmosphere, the whole of our world and earth, are facing disaster.”
Methodists, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Presbyterians and other denominations are involved with the event, plus people from other faiths. Local schools are having students design posters, plus people are encouraged to bring placards and church banners, as well as make posters at the event.
These will be displayed in a giant Earth Day parade that afternoon across the dais and grounds and at the corner of Gervais Street to spread the message of stewardship and earth-care for all to see.
“The Holy Spirit is moving among us to act in this,” Lare said, noting they will be exploring several major environmental themes: divestment in extractive industries, such as coal, oil and gas; alternative energy sources, such as wind, water and solar; and environmental justice, including how climate change has the greatest impact on the poor.
Fran Rametta, a retired park ranger from Congaree National Park who attends Shandon UMC, Columbia, is also on the planning team for Earth Day. He said it is critical that people understand the urgency of environmental awareness, education and action.
“In our faith and in most around the world, stewardship of the earth is one of the tenets, and good stewardship is taking care of the planet—not destroying it,” Rametta said. “But we’re in a crisis right now because we haven’t been good stewards.”
Rametta said everyone is at fault, but more importantly, it will take everyone to be part of the solution.
“We all need to get in this together,” Rametta said. “It takes all of us regardless of political persuasion. This is a humanitarian crisis right now.”
Lare felt the nudge about this event after he heard environmental author and activist Bill McKibbon, founder of 350.org, speak at the Chautauqua Institution last summer in New York. McKibbon’s bestselling 1989 book, “The End of Nature,” is regarded by many as the first book for a general audience about climate change and global warming, and McKibbon spoke at Chautauqua about how he’d expected that once people were made aware of the issue, things would begin to change. However, 20 years later, he and others have realized it will take more than awareness but also education and action, Lare said.
“It really touched my heart,” Lare said, and he brought an idea for a large event at the state capital to the GreenFaith group he, Rametta and others belong to in Columbia. They immediately said yes.
“We’re trying to provide the churches and community at-large a vehicle to really buy into the problems and issues of climate change with understanding about what science now tells us.”
Lare said the event will come 10 days after Easter, which is April 12.
“Following Easter, it’s is a good way to make the resurrection real,” Lare said.
Rametta agreed, noting the antidote to despair is action. Everything can be a step forward, both big actions and small.
He said one major thing people can do to help is to notify legislators they want clean energy in South Carolina, such as solar, wind power and geothermal.
Other actions include carpooling or using mass transit, using an electric vehicle that plugs into a solar energy source, not wasting food but donating leftovers to people in need, and eliminating or reducing your use of plastics.
“There are actually plastic islands in the Pacific because there is so much plastic floating in the ocean,” Rametta said. “Even Starbuck’s is stopping using plastic straws.
“This is a worldwide problem. We’re all involved in it, and we all need to take action.”
For more information on the event or how to help, email Lare at firstname.lastname@example.org.