Thousands of Churches to Join Earth Day Observance

This Earth Day as millions around the world show their concern for the planet's environment, church leaders are asking observers to keep the victims of the hurricanes in their hearts.

Today marks the 36th anniversary of Earth Day and local events all over the country have been planned to gather people to clean up the environment. First celebrated by 20 million people across the states and now celebrated by millions more worldwide, Earth Day has a different focus this year for the churches.

"It is critical that we do all that we can to keep the victims and survivors of the hurricanes in the hearts and minds of Americans and others around the world," said Casssandra Carmichael, director of Eco-Justice Programs for the National Council of Churches, in a released statement.

More than 2,000 congregations across the nation are celebrating Earth Day Sunday to raise awareness on environmental justice and remind churches about the urgent needs that still lay before the people recovering in the Gulf Coast. The NCC has provided nearly 2,500 worship resource materials, entitled Through the Eye of a Hurricane: Rebuilding Just Communities, to help congregations re-energize ongoing hurricane relief efforts.

So far, 2,984 individuals have sent 8,874 letters to their senators and representatives asking them to insist that toxic sediment be removed from the streets of New Orleans, to hold clean-up agencies responsible for fully informing the public of the health risks, and to ensure that there is full public participation in rebuilding the Gulf Coast in a way that is just for all people and God’s creation.

Additionally, the NCC joined an interfaith coalition this week in sending a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency, Center for Disease Control, and the Department of Homeland Security asking for more aggressive action on the New Orleans sediment issue.

The 36th Earth Day comes at a time evangelicals are showing serious concerns over social issues such as HIV/AIDS and global warming. The Evangelical Climate Initiative was signed earlier this year by 86 top evangelical leaders and representatives to help reduce carbon dioxide emissions and stop global warming.

Congregations typically observe Earth Day on the Sunday closest to Apr. 22.