Ontario Conference’s Inaugural Earth Day Summit Inspires Thousands to Care for Our Planet

Thousands of people attended Ontario Conference’s first annual Earth Day Summit.

According to a UN report released on May 6, one million plant and animal species are now at risk of extinction.[1] Moreover, four decades after the first Earth Day in 1970, the global population has doubled. We’re emitting 2.4 times more CO2, causing sea levels to rise, and over 170 animal species have been declared extinct.[2] Only a “transformative change” in how we engage with nature will stall these trends.[3]

                  Enter the 2019 Earth Day Summit, an initiative realized by Mansfield Edwards, president of Ontario Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. In 2017, Edwards envisioned an Earth Day event that would offer practical ways to combat these devastating trends and speak to the nearly 50 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds who believe the church is anti-science.[i][4] There, leading scientists and theologians would share evidence for the biblical Creation account while emphasizing our responsibility to care for the earth that was created for us.

                  Two years later, at Ontario Conference’s inaugural Earth Day event, held April 21, 2019, in Mississauga, thousands of guests had the opportunity to interact with nearly 50 colourful booths on topics as varied as the incredible immune system, the marvel of the brain, the intelligently designed smile, pollution on campus, the creative complexity of the human body, the theology of recycling, gardening, and more. Themed “His Creation, Ours to Care For,” the event gathered a broad spectrum of visitors of all ages, religious backgrounds, ethnicities, and walks of life. 

                  The opening ceremony set the tone for the entire day by reconciling science with theology, with Daniel Lazich, retired aerospace engineer for the U.S. military, sharing proof of intelligent design in quantum mechanics, and Tim Standish, Geoscience Research Institute scientist, expanding on the stewardship implications of Creation. “For God, no creature is without significance. The Bible consistently directs believers to behaviours that preserve the environment and allow all creation to thrive.”

                  Whether they visited booths focused on intelligent design or on environmental stewardship, visitors were greatly impacted by this innovative event. Church member Oraine Swaby expressed, “I’ve always enjoyed the sciences, [but it was wonderful] to see so much here about the connection between science and the Bible and our faith and what that means for conservation and for the environment.”

                  The topics were presented in a clear, understandable way for all ages, including one young boy, who said, “It’s just amazing because you learn about science, technology, space, food and other things. I learned a lot. It impacted me a lot. It made me think differently about the world.” Beyond sparking thought, the event featured a commitment wall where attendees could pledge to make changes to care for the earth based on what they’d learned.

                  Among its successes, the Earth Day Summit was also a model of partnership with the community, including presentations by the City of Markham, teaching participants how to weave a mat from plastic bags, and Wilson Niblett Motors of Richmond Hill, Ont., displaying the Chevy Volt electric car. Jacqueline Tung, City of Markham representative, later shared that the city had connected with a local church to start up a milk bag program for their Vacation Bible School this summer.

                  In the end, the summit successfully positioned the Adventist Church as being relevant in the 21st century. Marcos Paseggi, Senior News Correspondent with Adventist Review, stated, “We’re moving from just apologetics, reacting to what science and the newspaper say, and being more proactive. We have a message to share and we are doing it. This is great.”

                  In the closing ceremony, Edwards assured visitors, to much applause and cheering, “We have made inroads into re-establishing and affirming God as Creator, and so therefore, . . . this evening, I have the privilege of declaring that this inaugural will become an annual, to the glory of God and to His name.”

-Christelle Agboka, Ontario Conference

[1] Matt McGrath, “Nature Loss: Report to Show Scale of ‘Silent Crisis,’ BBC News, May 6, 2019, https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-48160456

[2] American Museum of Natural History, “Earth Day 1970–2019: No Time to Waste,” April 2019, https://www.amnh.org/explore/videos/data-visualizations/earth-day-2019-food-waste-climate-change

[3] Matt McGrath.

4 Clint Jenkin, A. Allan Martin, “Engaging Adventist Millennials: A church that embraces relationships,” Ministry Magazine, May 2014