And behold, all things have their likeness, and all things are created and made to bear record of me, both things which are temporal, and things which are spiritual; things which are in the heavens above, and things which are on the earth, and things which are in the earth, and things which are under the earth, both above and beneath: all things bear record of me. Moses 6:63
The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator. Alma 30:44
If all creation testifies of God, then perhaps we can utilize Earth Day as a sort of testimony meeting. A chance to look around and remember that not only was the Earth created for the temporal benefit of man and woman but also for man and woman to gain a testimony of the Supreme Creator. I think that this balance has been skewed far to the former at the expense of the latter, and Earth Day is a chance to try to reset our way of valuing creation.
As an example of this conflict, consider the sage grouse. This little fella makes his home in, if you can believe it, sagebrush habitat. It just so happens that much of the United States' sagebrush habitat is also oilman habitat, and the more oil wells we sink the less habitat the sage grouse can call home, and the more threatened it becomes. The Interior Department was petitioned to protect the sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act and recently made its dissonant decision: the sage grouse deserves protection, but we aren't giving it. Jason Chaffetz showed his lack of imagination in reaction to this decision--"The only good place for a sage grouse to be listed is on the menu of a French bistro"--a variation on a common theme among the anti-environmentalism crowd. (Why would the French eat a bird native to the American West? How about: "I get enough grouse at home from my wife and kids, I don't need it in my oil production facilities," or something?)
So anyway, is the sage grouse just an annoyance to brush aside in our thirst for more fossil fuels, or is it possible that this quirky bird that attracts potential mates by making a rubber-ball-bouncing sound with its chest is something to be valued as bearing record of a Creator? Is it fundamentally ridiculous to put so much emphasis on any single species, such as quirky bird which, seriously, attracts potential mates by making a rubber-ball-bouncing sound with its chest, which is, let's be honest, bizarre and a little gross?
First of all, let me state that the choice between humans and the environment is a false one. Humans can live in happiness and prosperity while at the same time protecting the environment. We would certainly have to live differently than we do now, we'd have to make some changes, but it is not either-or. We would have to dramatically reduce our consumption of just about everything and shift away from fossil fuels to renewable energy, which would increase costs, at least at first. We would have to decide as a society that just because some thing that we want, be it a huge SUV or a sprawling McMansion or a private jet or bananas from South America off season or big piece of beef for every meal, is theoretically available and a potential market exists to provide that thing, doesn't mean that we should sate that desire. It's called self-control and it's something we are not good at.
But we, as Mormons, profess self-control all over the place, and the goal is to elevate the spiritual over the temporal because true happiness, eternal happiness, comes with the spiritual. We forgo intoxicants which many people seem to really enjoy, we channel our sexual appetites in a way that the world finds increasingly quaint, we fast once a month, we give ten percent of our income to tithing, we generally give up a little of the temporal, what the scriptures call denying the flesh, to fully develop our spiritual selves.
We should transfer this way of thinking to the environment. If we truly believe that all things were created spiritually before physically and that all units of creation, from the universe itself to the disgustingly-chested sage grouse, are testaments to a divine Creator, then we should be willing to make sacrifices to protect them. All of them, no matter how weird or inconsequential or remote they seem. And who knows, maybe we will find more happiness in a simpler way of life, find more pleasure in the clean and biologically diverse world around us, and increase the number of people who believe in God.
So we should start making those decisions now, and Earth Day is as good a day as any to think through what are some practical first steps, or next steps, to achieve a goal of harmony and balance with creation.