Endangered Species ABC's
Fifty years ago, organizers were scrambling to pull together the first Earth Day demonstrations, inspired by (among other things) Rachel Carson’s work on human-made biocides in the environment; the first photographs taken of Earth from space; and a host of concerns about clean water, clean air, and species extinction.
When that first Earth Day arrived in April of 1970, it was a global phenomenon. In the United States alone, some 20 million people - 1 in 20 Americans! - took to the streets to march, many of them people of faith motivated by the vision in Genesis of humanity as guardian and gardener of creation.
The numbers were so large that political leaders immediately took notice: the Nixon administration and Congress swiftly got to work on bipartisan legislation, eventually leading to the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Environmental Protection Agency, to this day the four pillars of environmental safekeeping.
And now, as the fiftieth anniversary of Earth Day approaches, we find ourselves backsliding. Over the summer, the current administration gutted the Endangered Species Act: making it easier to remove a species from the endangered list, weakening safeguards for threatened species, and for the first time allowing economic arguments to influence whether a species warrants protection - all in the interests of clearing the way for new mining, oil and gas drilling, and development in areas where protected species live.
What’s more, this backsliding is happening in the context of disturbing new biological data about extinction today: if we continue on the path we’re on (never mind making things worse!), biologists say we stand to lose half of all animal and plant species by the end of this century.
This isn’t only bad for other creatures - it’s bad for humanity, too. The web of life connects us all, and what it means to be human, as Genesis describes it, is to care for creation’s many creatures as best we can. The Endangered Species Act has helped us bring back from the brink the bald eagle, the grizzly bear, and the American alligator, among others. Weakening the ESA weakens our humanity, even as it weakens the wider web of life in God’s creation.
Letting our political leaders know where we stand is indispensable in this fight - but so is the deeper educational, artistic work of building a culture of care and engagement with the natural world. Acts of creative resistance go hand-in-hand with acts of political resistance, just as they did 50 years ago.
In that spirit, SALT is delighted to introduce a brand-new printable: an “Endangered Animals ABC’s,” hand-drawn by illustrator extraordinaire Grace Habib. It’s perfect for every church nursery and Sunday School room, not to mention bedroom walls and refrigerator doors at home. Imagine going over the whole alphabet of faces together as a family, looking up the animals you don’t yet know, and finding out even more about the ones you do.
Little by little, one face at a time, we can help build the wider culture of care and wonder - from A to Z! - that God’s beautiful creation deserves.
And in the same vein, here’s a SALTy little bonus: “Noah’s Lullaby,” a song by Butterflyfish, SALT’s house band. It’s a lovely reminder of the essence of the Noah story: humanity’s role as the custodian of all creatures, sheltering them from the storm, “so that they may abound on the earth” (Gen 8:17).