I learned to love the earth from my mother. She is geographer by training and a climatologist by profession. We would spend days at the cottage marching over the Canadian shield marveling at its billion year-old age. Mom would point to a pine branch and say, “What’s its name, Kath?” I would count the needles and respond, “red pine!” Mom would point to a white vein in the rock and say, “that’s quarts!” She would point to the clouds and explain what they tell us about weather.
I learned to love the sky from my father. He has a lifelong love of astronomy. He would wake me up in the middle of the night, carry me outside, point at a dusty stream of stars and say, “What’s that Kath?” I’d say “the milky way.” Then I’d ask: how many stars are in the milky way? And how far away are they? And are there other earths circling those stars? When I was eight, he bravely attempted to explain to me what a black hole was. Black holes became the subject of my grade 3 school science fair project.
My parents taught me to love creation by learning about it and experiencing it.
I grew up in the church. My parents braved my incessant questions about faith and God and the meaning of things. I think my parents were bemused when I asked whether God made black holes, and the invariable follow-up question, why did God make them?
I grew up with big questions, and was encouraged, always, to ask them, and then to keep on asking them. I must have driven my parents crazy, but I was, and still am, an asker of big questions.
What I learned about the planet and the universe through science was never far away from my faith knowledge that God was the Creator of the universe. They were never separate things in my mind. So the Psalmist’s words make perfect sense to me: “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?” The vastness of God’s universal garden seems a fitting backyard for the Lord of all creation. It inspires awe, wonder, and gratitude: that with my eyes, my brain, and my heart, I can glimpse the wonder of God’s creation, and that I am a part of it.
My mom told we are all made of star dust. Heavy metals on our planet were first formed in the hearts of stars eons ago. Supernovas (exploding stars) spread these metals throughout the galaxies. The iron in my blood, and the iron in the Earth’s core, was first created in the heart of a star. I am, we all are, connected to the earth and to the stars. Where is God in this? Everywhere, and for all time, creating and re-creating.
Astronaut William Andrew’s 1968 photograph “Earthrise” has been called the “most influential environmental photo ever taken” and was the inspiration for the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. It seems fitting that the photo was taken on Christmas Eve: a time when the earth waits for the coming of Jesus, the one in whom all brokenness is reconciled.
In Christ, healing is possible. Climate change is a symptom (a potentially catastrophic one) of broken relationships between people. The poor of the world, who have contributed least to the problem, are faced with the worst and most painful consequences of climate change. Climate change is a also symptom of brokenness between humankind and everything else, where humankind has ceased to see itself as a part of God’s good and amazing creation. Our Christian calling is one of healing broken relationships, care for the vulnerable, and honoring creation as God does. It’s a steep task. But it’s a lot easier when you rejoice, love, and spend time in God’s creation. When we are in awe of God’s garden, the work to care for it becomes a little less daunting. When we seek to understand our personal connections to God’s creation, we catch a glimpse of God’s love for us, for our world, and for everything in it.
Happy Earth Day. Earth Day is Friday, May 22, 2016.
 Galen Rowell in Life’s “100 Photographs that Changed the World.”
 I am grateful to the Rev. E.M. Iona MacLean for pointing this out!