10 Groundbreaking Essays To Inspire You On Earth Day

Countless voices have spoken about the beauty, power, majesty of planet earth—and the danger of not respecting it.

April 21, 2017
planet earth
Chris Clor/Getty

The determination to preserve and protect our beautiful planet has driven people to march in protests, to make great conservation efforts, and to write beautiful (and terrifying) essays to make others understand the power of nature—and the danger inherent in not respecting that power. 

As Adlai Stevenson said in his 1965 speech to the United Nations: "We travel together, passengers on a little spaceship, dependent upon its vulnerable reserves of air and soil, all committed for our safety to its security and peace; preserved from annihilation only by the care, the work, and, I will say, the love we give our fragile craft."


(Whether you're starting your first garden or switching to organic, Rodale’s Basic Organic Gardening has all the answers and advice you need—get your copy today!)

Here, ten essays to stir your heart and fire up your brain as we travel together on spaceship earth this Earth Day.

1. Jo Chandler: "Grave Barrier Reef"

barrier reef
Daniel Osterkamp/Getty

Jo Chandler wrote in Australia's The Monthly, "Marshall was treading water at ground zero of a global coral bleaching event—only the third ever recorded and the worst by far, all since 1998. To evoke the scene, he guides me on an imaginary walk through the loveliest forest I can conjure. But all the trees have lost their leaves. They are dying or dead and will soon start to fall down. The grasses and flowers are gone. The birds have flown away. Animals desperately search for food. Marshall’s submerged Eden is Lizard Island’s Loomis Reef, 270 kilometres north of Cairns on the Great Barrier Reef." Read the entire essay here


For more on what people are doing to save the reefs: 
You’ll Never Believe How These Coral Reefs Were Made

Bonus: Check out this documentary from award-winning writer and environmentist Naomi Klein as she travels to the Great Barrier Reef with her son, Toma, to see the impact of coral bleaching. 

2. Robert Macfarlane: "Why We Need Nature Writing"

Macfarlane argues emphatically for the necessity of nature writing in The New Statesmen. He writes, "Literature has the ability to change us for good, in both senses of the phrase. Powerful writing can revise our ethical relations with the natural world, shaping our place consciousness and our place conscience. Roger Deakin’s Waterlog (1999) prompted the revival of lido culture in Britain and the founding of the “wild swimming” movement. Richard Mabey’s Nature Cure (2005) is recommended by mental health professionals. Chris Packham fell in love with wild cats and golden eagles because he read Lea MacNally’s Highland Deer Forest (1970), as a child growing up in suburban Southampton." Read the whole essay here.

For more on how nature can fix you: 
8 Amazing Ways Nature Can Heal You


3. Al Gore: "Climate of Denial"

Rodale Books published Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, and will be publishing his sequel in 2017 as well. Gore wrote in this essay, "We do have another choice. Renewable energy sources are coming into their own. Both solar and wind will soon produce power at costs that are competitive with fossil fuels; indications are that twice as many solar installations were erected worldwide last year as compared to 2009. The reductions in cost and the improvements in efficiency of photovoltaic cells over the past decade appear to be following an exponential curve that resembles a less dramatic but still startling version of what happened with computer chips over the past 50 years." Read the whole essay here


For more on fighting climate change through soil: 
Soil: The Secret Weapon Against Climate Change


yosemite sunset
Henryk Welle/getty

4. John Muir: "The Treasures of the Yosemite"

The famed conservationist, and the namesake of Muir Woods National Park, spoke often of the beauty and magnitude of nature. He wrote, "There at my feet lay the great central plain of California, level as a lake thirty or forty miles wide, four hundred long, one rich furred bed of golden Compositae. And along the eastern shore of this lake of gold rose the mighty Sierra, miles in height, in massive, tranquil grandeur, so gloriously colored and so radiant that it seemed not clothed with light, but wholly composed of it, like the wall of some celestial city. Along the top, and extending a good way down, was a rich pearl-gray belt of snow; then a belt of blue and dark purple, marking the extension of the forests; and stretching along the base of the range a broad belt of rose-purple, where lay the miners' gold and the open foothill gardens—all the colors smoothly blending, making a wall of light clear as crystal and ineffably fine, yet firm as adamant. Then it seemed to me the Sierra should be called, not the Nevada or Snowy Range, but the Range of Light.Read the whole essay here

For more on the power of the forest and parks: 
I Tried A 3-Day Forest-Bathing Trip, And Here's What It Was Like

5. Rachel Carson: excerpts from Silent Spring

The famed conservationist's book is required reading, but you can start with an excerpt. Carson writes, "The "control of nature" is a phrase conceived in arrogance, born of the Neanderthal age of biology and philosophy, when it was supposed that nature exists for the convenience of man. The concepts and practices of applied entomology for the most part date from that Stone Age of science. It is our alarming misfortune that so primitive a science has armed itself with the most modern and terrible weapons, and that in turning them against the insects it has also turned them against the earth." Read more of the excerpts here or buy the book here

For more on the dangers of pesticides: 
The Government Just Chose Not To Ban This Toxic Pesticide Linked To Brain Damage In Kids


6. Coral Davenport, Josh Haner, Larry Buchanan, and Derek Watkins: "Greenland is Melting Away"

In this collaborative and innovative New York Times story, we are able to see (literally: the video images are stunning) the slow disappearance of a country due to climate change. The story reads, “We scientists love to sit at our computers and use climate models to make those predictions,” said Laurence C. Smith, head of the geography department at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the leader of the team that worked in Greenland this summer. “But to really know what’s happening, that kind of understanding can only come about through empirical measurements in the field.” Read the whole story here

For more on fighting global warming:
Here's How Your Garden Should Change To Accommodate Global Warming


trees from above
Hero Images/Getty

7.  Henry Thoreau: excerpts from Walden

The famed piece on nature and solitude reads, "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was no life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion." Read more excerpts here

For more on the benefits of the outdoors:
5 Reasons To Go Outside And Play No Matter How Cold It Is


8. Piers Sellers: "Space, Climate Change, And The Real Meaning Of Theory"

Bonafide former NASA astronaut Sellers writes, "I used to be an astronaut, a spacewalker on the International Space Station. Naturally, most of my fifteen-year crew career was spent on the ground, working with engineers to get the Station built and fully crewed for scientific research, but the day-in, day-out flow of this ground work was punctuated by the occasional illuminating, even eye-shattering experience, when I was launched into orbit and saw Earth through my spacesuit visor. The Station goes around the world in an hour and a half, which means it flies through fifty minutes of day, followed by fifty minutes of night, endlessly repeating. This means that during a seven-hour spacewalk, you may see four sunrises and sunsets." Read the rest of the essay here

For more on the beauty of the sunrise: 
7 Most Beautiful Places In The World To Watch The Sunrise

9. Jonathan Chait: "The Sunniest Climate Change Story You've Ever Read"

In this New York Magazine piece, Chait explains that though the environmental situation is dire, there have been many positive environmental improvements over the years. He writes, "The energy revolution has rippled widely through the economy. In the first half of this year, renewable-energy installations accounted for 70 percent of new electrical power. As the energy mix has grown cleaner, people have found ways to use less of it, too. Incandescent bulbs have been replaced with efficient LEDs, in what Prajit Ghosh, director of power and renewables research at energy company Wood Mackenzie, refers to as a 'total bulb revolution.'" Read the rest of the piece here

For more on how to make positive changes: 
9 Little Things You Can Do To Fight Climate Change Every Single Day


10. Bill McKibben: "The New Battle Plan for the Planet's Climate Crisis"

Environmental writer McKibben fiercely outlines his action plan in Rolling Stone. He writes "All of which is to say: If you're a utility in the developing world, you're probably building a big solar farm. And if you're in a hut somewhere that's never been reached by fossil fuel, you're almost certainly better off buying a cheap solar panel than you are waiting for the central government to build the wires and poles to your house. The "moral argument" for fossil fuels has collapsed." Read the rest of McKibben's battle plan here

For more on how to use solar: 
5 Ways To Get Solar Power Without Putting Panels On Your Roof