The 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, April 22, 2020

Today is the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day. 50 years…so hard to believe! It seems like only yesterday that I gathered with hundreds (if not thousands) on the New Haven Green to advocate for our Mother Earth—and that was 30 years ago!

IPM, like so many of our friends and community partners around the world, will commemorate this important anniversary in a variety of physically appropriate and Earth-friendly ways. Most importantly, our Project Partners and Indigenous Regional Staff remind us daily of the deep connections between justice for the Earth and for all its Creatures.

For us, an inclusive focus on Environmental Justice began at our founding and was codified with a special Environmental Justice Project Partner category some two decades ago. As you will read below, the Environmental Justice focus of our Partners continues to grow as the connections between social and environmental justice deepen.

This year, Earth Day comes right on the heels of Passover & Easter. The proximity, in the midst of continued physical distancing from one another, reminds us in a truly Franciscan sense that justice and liberation (and I don’t mean of Virginia!) is a communal endeavor grounded in our care for one another and all that our Mother Earth, Father Sky, Sister Moon, and Brother Sun provide.[1]


During this time of deep sadness and decreased human activity we continue to witness acts of heroic human action. And as most of us keep our physical distance from one another, we have witnessed the Earth and its creatures springing back to life. Cormorants fishing in the canals of Venice, lions lazily lying on the roadsides in Kenya, pigeons taking over El Salvador’s plazas, and a smog-free blue sky in Delhi, are reminders of the resilience of the natural world if we will only commit to lessening our human impact through a depending of our shared commitment.

Earth Day—like Passover & Easter—is a reminder of what is possible if we are willing risk personal transformation. Risking to provide quality medical care for all our world’s citizens as created equal in God’s eyes. Risking to imagine what it means to spend more time at home with those we love than off at work chasing financial success. Risking to adopt sustainable practices that will ensure the Earth’s viability for our children and generations to come.

I hope you will take a moment to commemorate Earth Day in your own way this year. May you find time to nourish yourself in the midst of our Mother Earth, our Brother Air, and Our Sister Water while responding appropriately to the continued threat of COVID-19.

Earthly Yours,  Joe Cistone

1. Special thanks to my Franciscan Brother and IPM International Executive Board Member, Rodrigo de Castro Amede Peret OFM, for always reminding me of the prophetic nature of Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of Creation.

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