Earth Day in the Philippines will not be as lively, festive and jubilant this year. The annual commemoration of the day intended to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth's natural environment incidentally falls this year on the same day as Good Friday, which is observed primarily by Christians all over the world to remember the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and his death at Calvary.
I would like to believe that celebrating Earth Day at the same time with Good Friday serves as a relevant reminder to us of the value of life and the lives that have been sacrificed to the altar of social and environmental justice. It reminds us of those few who chose to step up to the challenges of our time to live up to our ideals, even if it entails offering their very lives so that the dream of a better world would be fulfilled.
For Greenpeace, it reminds us of people like Fernando Pereira, who drowned when French intelligence services used two underwater mines to sink our flagship, the Rainbow Warrior I, in order to stop it on its voyage to intervene in French nuclear bomb testing in the Pacific; the young Emily Craddock, who was then a crew of the MV Arctic Sunrise when she died while investigating illegal logging in the Amazon; Sister Dorothy Stang, who was murdered in the Amazon Basin of Brazil, for being an outspoken campaigner on behalf of the poor and the environment.
In the Philippines, we remember the Kalinga tribal leader, Macliing Dulag, who was killed in 1980 for his staunch opposition to the Chico dam project; Dr. Leonardo Co, one of the nation’s foremost botanists, who died a violent death amidst the indigenous trees of Leyte; Doc Jerry Ortega, who was shot and killed in Puerto Princesa City, for utilizing his capacity as a journalist to become a watchdog for environmental degradation in Palawan; as well as the many nameless, faceless environmentalists in the frontiers who chose to risk their lives, limbs and liberty to see that the Earth is healed and has a fighting chance to stand against the ravages of our unsustainable lifestyles that it can no longer support.
Remembering Earth Day, today in this season of Lent, reminds us of the significance of Christ’s Cross, which stands in solidarity with the other crosses endured by those who have chosen to commit their lives to something bigger than themselves.
The Cross stands as a sign of contradiction to the values and principles of the world. It summons us to change the way we see things. It urges us, challenges us, and demands us to look at the world with a different vision, and in a way that departs from perspectives we’re accustomed to. It calls us to look at our relationships with the natural world as well as with others, to look at life, and to see death in ways that are inside-out and upside-down from those who see the world merely as a resource that is at their disposal.
Thus, to celebrate Earth Day on Good Friday is a call to renew our hope and commitment by committing to memory the lives of those who gave their all in the struggle for a green and peaceful future, that in time will hopefully be realized.
Happy Earth Day.