What’s in a name? “Earth Day” on April 22 is a uniquely American invention, created by the US environmental movement in 1970. “International Mother Earth Day” gained UN recognition in 2009 through the efforts of Bolivian President Evo Morales, and is reaffirmed in Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s Mother Earth Day Message for 2014.
There are two good reasons for recognizing “Earth” as “Mother”. First of all, it’s scientifically true. We humans have evolved out of the earth just as surely as each of us was born from a biological mother. We tend to forget that the Indigenous concept of viewing animals, water, rocks and trees as “all our relations” is more than a figure of speech.
The second reason for recognizing earth as our mother is that we might behave a little better towards her. When earth is just “earth” we see ecosystem services as a category of resource. We talk about “balancing” the needs of the environment with the need for economic growth. When earth is our “Mother” we are more likely to feel a moral and ethical responsibility for her well-being.
We don’t “balance” our Mother’s needs with the need for global economic growth. We make sure our Mother is happy and healthy as a unique priority not contingent on anything else. When we act this way, our own needs get met as well. The economy we are so worried about actually does better when our Mother is healthy.
It’s not a very complicated concept, but sometimes we get distracted with our own concerns and forget to honor our Mother. Not to worry; she’ll be sure to remind us!
Rio Grande in southern Colorado