In the months leading up to last year’s Earth Day, a group of roughly 50 pagans gathered in a closed Facebook group to draft a collective call to action. On April 22, 2015, they published the “Pagan Community Statement on the Environment,” which framed climate change as a global moral dilemma to which pagans and other people of faith must respond.
A year later, the statement has garnered more than 8,000 signatures, and its creators hope it will reach 10,000 signees for this year’s Earth Day on Friday.
The statement outlines the dangers the planet is in if human beings continue to abuse its resources and see ourselves as somehow separate from the web of nature. …
The statement has been translated into 16 languages, from Dutch to Arabic, and has been signed by people from over 80 countries, including prominent pagans Starhawk, Selena Fox, Vivianne Crowley and others. The signatures also represent what John Halstead, founder of the statement’s working group, described as an “incredible diversity of pagans and pagan allies.”
“There are Witches, Wiccans, Druids, Shamans, Goddess Worshipers, Pantheists, Animists, Humanistic Pagans, Atheistic Pagans, Heathens, Polytheists, Reconstctionists, Buddho-Pagans, Christo-Pagans, Quaker Pagans, Unitarian Universalist Pagans, and many more,” Halstead told The Huffington Post. “If there is any issue on which we Pagans should be able to speak harmoniously, it is in response to the desecration of the Earth.”
Paganism is a broad umbrella term for the family of spiritual traditions that can include all the paths Halstead listed and many others. Most are considered nature religions, which means they honor the sacred essence and power of the Earth. The traditions don’t agree on everything and they don’t always get along, but the diversity of paths represented in the signees demonstrates the centrality of this issue for pagans as a whole.
“Speaking in harmony does not mean everyone being of one mind or agreeing on every point,” Halstead said. “It means temporarily setting aside our egos and prioritizing our individual disagreements when a collective voice is urgently needed, as it is now.”
“If there is any issue on which we Pagans should be able to speak harmoniously,” he added, “it is in response to the desecration of the Earth.”
Halstead admitted he was surprised by the large response the statement garnered. In the first day after it was published, he said, it received nearly 1,000 signatures. Now the statement is just shy of 10,000 signatures, a mark Halstead hopes to reach by Earth Day.
“I hope that this helps demonstrate to the interfaith activist community that Pagans are serious and worthy partners in the fight to turn the tide of global climate change,” he told HuffPost.
In 2014, blogger and former editor of Humanistic Paganism John Halstead was inspired to bring people together to create A Pagan Community Statement on the Environment. Critics said that it could not be done. But, less than one year later on Earth Day 2015, the diverse group of internationally-based Pagans, Heathens and polytheists launched that statement. It now has 8,173 signatories from over 80 different countries.
But, looking back, is it all just a bunch of words?
We asked Halstead about the statement and whether he’s seen any tangible results stemming from its creation. While being involved with the process was “transformative” for him personally, Halstead said, “I hope that it has awakened or helped focus an ecological consciousness for those who have signed it, and even for some who haven’t.” But more tangibly speaking, Halstead added, “I have also seen signs that the statement is already helping to increase the credibility of Pagans in the interfaith environmental community, as evidenced by the interest shown in the statement by the Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology and other interfaith groups.”
However, Halstead also said that he was disappointed by some in the interfaith community. “I had hoped that the Pagan Statement would be added to the collections of similar statements gathered by Interfaith Power & Light, GreenFaith.org, the Alliance of Religions & Conservation, and others, but so far we have not been successful. Unfortunately, some interfaith environmental groups are still only interested in working with certain religions. I think we Pagans still have work to do to improve our credibility with the interfaith environmental community.”
When asked what most surprised him about the statement project, Halstead noted the number of people who have signed the document over the past year, from well-known figures and organizations to “ordinary individuals” from every continent. The organizing group was hoping to reach 10,000 signatures by April 22, but Halstead said, “Even if we don’t meet that goal by Earth Day, we will soon.”
In conclusion, Halstead added, “Having said all that, [the statement] is just a statement of intention, and without corresponding action on our part, our words will be meaningless. It remains to be seen whether we Pagans will live up to the challenge the Statement sets before us.”
Let’s make one thing clear: Earth Day, an international awareness day for environmental causes, isn’t technically a Pagan holiday. First off, it isn’t one of the eight sabbats (the equinoxes, solstices, and festivals that Pagans celebrate on a yearly basis). And it’s certainly too young to be an O.G. Pagan celebration (the first Earth Day was held in 1970). But, that doesn’t mean it’s totally insignificant to people who subscribe to nature-based faiths. Despite its secular roots, Earth Day has come to be viewed as sacred by some.
As you probably already know, nature-based faiths, like Wiccanism and Paganism, worship, well, nature. So, in a sense, “every day is Earth Day,” says Pagan author Deborah Blake. Thinking about preserving the Earth and holding it in reverence is part of the regular Pagan lifestyle.
But, according to Blake, that doesn’t mean it can’t be a special day. Earth Day is a chance for Pagans to show gratitude to nature, which Blake refers to as Gaia. “I would go out of my way on that day in particular to thank her for the gifts that she has given us — trees, air, birds, critters, the food we eat, the water that we drink, and all the other things that we tend to take for granted because they seem like they’re just there, but they are a gift,” she says.
For some Pagans, Earth Day is just a small part of a larger commitment to environmentalism. On Earth Day in 2015, the Pagan Community Statement on the Environment was published. Those who signed it pledged to protect the Earth and honor the sacred relationship humans have with nature. “Pagans can aid in the repair of our environment by teaching how we are part of life on Earth, sharing rituals and ceremonies that foster bonds between ourselves and the rest of the web of life, and instilling a sense of responsibility for how we interact with the ecosystem,” the statement reads. As of writing, the statement has 9,219 signatures.
Blake recognizes that people who follow nature-based faiths may believe they have a special responsibility to take care of the environment, but that doesn’t have to be daunting. She says that anything you can do for the Earth — like cleaning up a park, starting a garden, or donating to an environmental organization — can make an impact. “I think people get frustrated about what they as individuals can do [for the environment], and Earth Day is a great reminder that it doesn’t have to be something big. It can be as little as using less water,” Blake says.
Of course, since practicing nature-based faiths tends to be pretty individualized and subjective, it’s up to each person to decide how to observe Earth Day. If you do anything that day, Blake says to take a moment to “say thank you to your mother.” And maybe it’s a good chance to recycle those jeans you haven’t worn since 2013? Just a suggestion.