Since the introduction of bumper stickers calling for us to respect “Mother Earth,” we have been careening towards an all-out deification of nature. And as the last decade has witnessed an unprecedented push for green cars, green energy, and green government policies, it seems environmentalism has finally become less about saving the planet and more about worshiping it.
The mounting significance of environmentalism was evident when Ryan Seacrest welcomed viewers to American Idol‘s April 22 episode with these words: “We are coming to you live from Hollywood, and Happy Earth Day. To celebrate our finale we will once again use green power at the NOKIA theatre.” I was immediately struck by the irony that “Happy Earth Day” is in, while “Merry Christmas” and “ Happy Columbus Day” are out.
That the Fox network as a whole has taken the earth-first leap is evident not only to viewers of American Idol, but to those who watch 24 as well. At the end of the April 20 episode, Carlos Bernard (Tony Almeda) said, “Climate change is a real and gathering threat and one that we can no longer ignore. Luckily though, it’s not too late. With just a few small changes in our daily lives, we can all work together to stop global warming.”
Of course the earth-first sermons are not just directed towards older congregants; they are also crafted for children. For example, while flipping through Nickelodeon, Noggin, and Disney television channels on Earth Day with my kids, there were not only the basic “Happy Earth Day” graphics on the three channels, but a plethora of advice on how to protect the planet. Nickelodeon’s Earth Day programming included “Save the Raccoon,” “Olivia Helps Mother Nature,” and “iGo Green.”
Children were also informed that the Jonas Brothers “celebrated Earth Day on April 22 by planting a tree at the Ricardo Lizarraga Elementary School in Los Angeles and told the students how to be more ‘green.'” Kevin, one of the three brothers, “suggested turning lights out and turning off computers when they’re not in use, as well as writing on both sides of a piece of paper” to save the planet. And just as Seacrest’s America Idol prelude proved that the show was doing its part to be green, Kevin said that, “the packaging of the [Jonas Brothers’] next CD will be made of recyclable material.”
There is an undeniable infatuation with nature in our post-modern culture, and like all infatuations, this one causes people to rush to support solutions that are flatly outlandish in their claims. For example, John McCook (Eric Forrester) of The Bold and the Beautiful, delivered the following Earth Day message to the soap opera’s audience: “Utilize public transportation. … It saves 855,000,000 gallons of gasoline.” Never mind that McCook didn’t provide scientific evidence for the saving of “855,000,000 gallons of gasoline” via public transportation or give a time frame showing how such a tremendous amount of fuel could be saved.
This worship of nature often leads its followers on a pilgrimage that is more harmful than helpful to the environment. A case in point is the Disney channel’s longstanding attempt to persuade children to use compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) instead of standard light bulbs. Although presented by nature worshipers as the energy savers that could help save the environment, the Boston Globe reported over a year ago that CFLs “can pose a small risk of mercury poisoning to infants, young children, and pregnant women if they break.” Yet “the state of Maine and the Vermont-based Mercury Policy Project, urged homeowners to keep using compact fluorescent lamps because their energy-saving benefits far outweigh the risk posed by mercury released from a broken lamp.”
Just think where worshiping the planet has brought us. We now have bulbs that are going to save the planet, although in the process they may sicken or kill the people who inhabit that planet. But the people don’t matter, for people aren’t in the liturgy of the church of earth. All that matters is that we recognize our “mother,” and promise to have no other gods before her.