Earth Day: love letters and tender meditations to our planet in peril

An apology, a declaration of love, a lament for times lost and a resolve to do better are among 11 letters to the planet to mark Earth Day

Letters to Earth, for Earth Day 2024. Illustration: iStock/Getty Images

To mark Earth Day on April 22nd, we asked a selection of people to write a love letter to the planet. Here are their missives.

Earth Day montage Zoe Devlin

Zoe Devlin

Author of The Wildflowers of Ireland: A Field Guide

Dear Earth,

I have loved you since the time I could say your name. In my childhood, you delighted me with the summer sound of grasshoppers; I made garlands of daisy chains, told the time with dandelion clocks, sang songs to ladybirds.

As I grew, so did my delight in your meadows, your hedgerows, especially your wildflowers. I’ve spent a lifetime crouching over them, honouring the soil that nourished their roots, hoping they could continue unhindered. I’ve loved the birds, the moths, the butterflies and the oceans, mountains and skies above.


Now, all I want is for future generations to inherit you, to find you healthy, undamaged, as I found you eight decades ago.

My pledge to you is that I shall tell the world that nature is never a commodity, leafy woodlands are not simply for forest bathers nor hedgerows for foragers. I shall strive to tell the world they must protect and preserve you before it is too late.

Earth Day montage Elaine McGoff

Dr Elaine McGoff

Head of advocacy, An Taisce

Dear Earth,

Do you remember how we used to be? Free range, heart happy, wild as the day was long. I knew you then. Your nettle sharp, blossom bright wonder.

Now you are commodified and politicised, diminished and tidy. And I am preoccupied with the battle for you, the grim reality of the rapidly diminishing splendour of you. But there are days where I still need your wild, untamed self, and I immerse myself in your rivers and fling myself in your seas.

I sometimes wish I was blind to the everyday diminution of life that many don’t see. But I do see, I will not look away, and there are ever more like me. We may feel powerless, but we are many.

Earth Day montage Catherine Cleary

Catherine Cleary

Co-founder of Pocket Forests and Irish Times contributor

Dear Mama Earth,

You made every breath of air I’ve ever taken, every drop of water and mouthful of food. This kind of generosity makes no sense to us. We worship billionaires. We’ve wriggled away from you and toddled off to chase a million shiny things. I know you’re waiting patiently for us to turn around, hunkered down, arms open, showing us that nurturing is power that is truly powerful.

My body remembers our bone-deep love. Barefoot on cold gritty sand, when the smallest bird fills the air with his biggest song, gnarly twigs pushing out impossibly green leaves, all the ignored everyday miracles. You continue to dazzle despite our inattention. We have to face the grief between us, the damage we, damaged people, have done to you. There is still time. We can remember, pay deep attention and make a dreamtime of reconnections, frayed ends mending, soft skin growing over wounds. We can reach back into our shared time together. All those legions of people gone before us who left lighter marks, made less mess, did less harm. Thank you for being our motherhome, waiting patiently for us to return.

Seán Ronayne

Seán Ronayne


Dear Earth,

I write to you to with love to thank you for everything you have given me. From the moment I arrived, you provided me with all of my needs and more. You’ve been so generous.

My earliest memories are of a total immersion in nature, with my father and grandfather. I soaked you up like a sponge. To this day, nothing has changed.

Every summer I look forward to the return of our swallows and whitethroats, regaling us with tales of adventure from their African winter breaks. I overflow with joy as I see the woodlands awaken from their winter slumbers. Each winter I await the trumpeting calls of regal white whooper swans, escaping the sharp colds of Iceland. And the great flocks of redwing from the forests of Scandinavia, who come here to feast on your hawthorn berries. You give me hope, warmth, reassurance, wonderment, structure, aim and life.

I must apologise for what we have done to you, though. You certainly have seen better times. I believe that most of us will fight for you, and I hope that more will join. We don’t have a future without you in it.

Earth Day montage Clare Heardman

Clare Heardman

Conservation manager, National Parks and Wildlife Service, Cork region

Dear Earth,

I work in one of your most special corners. Glengarriff, with its rugged mountains, wooded glen and sheltered marine harbour. A pair of white-tailed eagles incubate their eggs, a woodpecker drums: two species, once extinct from Ireland making a return. Seals are out on the rocks, replete. Rare Kerry slugs graze on mosses and lichens from fern-tangled oak. Lesser horseshoe bats wake up from a winter asleep, facing the world anew. A freshwater pearl mussel anchors itself a home for 100 years in clean river gravels. The woodland floor is studded with spring jewels of yellow celandine, white wood anemone and golden saxifrage.

Me? Another creature in the woods. Trying to tread lightly. There’s the sense of responsibility to ensure that the generations that follow me can have an even better relationship with you than I have. That your sheared surfaces can again be restored to woodland and repopulated. That people can embrace all your magnificent natural diversity, from the tiny zooplankton in deepest Bantry Bay to the eagles soaring over the Caha Mountains. I cannot live without you. No one can.

Earth Day montage Jack Rogers

Jack Rogers

Boyne Rivers Trust

Dear Mother Earth,

On Earth Day I wish I could be a spectator to see your formation over billions of years. From your rocky outcrops in the sea of blues and greens, it is easy to take for granted how special this thin layer of life is within the vacuum of the seemingly never-ending cosmos.

Our ancestors perhaps understood you more than we do: your seasons worshipped, your stones shaped into symbols that speak of your true mystery.

Now your thin blue layer heats at an astonishing pace and we grapple to mitigate against our own greed and mistakes. I truly hope we start to see ourselves as part of your wonder, as we travel in this vast void of space.

Earth Day montage Anja Murray

Anja Murray

Ecologist, broadcaster and author of Wild Embrace

Dear Earth

I wanted to let you know that, despite everything that has happened, I love you very much. I am in awe of how you made so much out of so little, right from the start.

How did you even come up with the idea of cajoling photons from the sun to energise chlorophyll molecules? And then to make woodlands and oceans filled with life to clothe your bare body? Did you even realise back then that trees and plankton would in turn give rise to a blanket of gasses to keep us all warm and steady?

You have given us everything we need to thrive. I think one of my favourite things about you is the dawn chorus among hazel trees and wood anemones. And maybe butterflies.

I love your sense of humour too. A puffin? You really know how to make me smile.

To say thank you seems paltry, but I’ll say it nonetheless. I’ll always love you, though it breaks my heart to witness the abuse you receive, mounting by the day. I wish your wonders weren’t so overlooked, then maybe you wouldn’t get such a hard time.

Earth Day montage Lisa O'Neill

Lisa O’Neill


Good morning Mother,

Have you had enough sleep? I thought I heard you wailing last night, but maybe that was the wind in the chimney. The wind gathers like an angry current trapped in a chamber when the stove is empty and the night is wild. You told me to do away with those briquettes and coals, that they were hurting us. So I did, but I don’t know if it’s making a difference.

I recently travelled all the way down to your left foot and back by aeroplane at your expense. I’m sorry, Mother, the temperature is so high down there that I am worried about you. It is no wonder that your feet are burning. Hard to believe that you can withstand walking through the fires. Your wisdom lies in the rivers that run through your veins, and they too are struggling.

Australia shoes your left foot and South America shoes your right. For a very long time your right foot was a rainforest. Each component in your body made sense to one and other and to all the other cells on the planet. They lived in a relationship of balance. You now have only two existing toes on your right foot and one large toe on your left which is pierced with mining holes.

Mother, who will lead us if we do not have your footprints to follow?

Earth Day montage Yvonne Buckley

Yvonne Buckley

Professor of zoology, Trinity College Dublin

Dear Earth,

Is there space for love in cold, hard science? I spend my time studying the bountiful nature of you, documenting blows and challenges, inventing solutions and communicating these to people who can make change happen. Does a doctor love her patient? Perhaps in the abstract, if not in the personal. I love the restorative peace of being in nature, the complexity of birdsong, the scent of wet grass, the tickle of a ladybird on my hand.

I love the way your ecosystems sustain my life by providing clean water and healthy food and maintaining a liveable climate. I know this is love because I feel relief when back in nature after a long absence and I feel pain when I see the damage being done to you, our planet.

Earth Day Matt Smith

Matt Smith

Chief executive of Hometree

Dear Earth,

The deepest love letter to you would be one of silence, one of deep listening, just being, witnessing and being witnessed. You’re the ocean, the mountain, the river without end. As a human right now it’s complicated, it’s layered and complex, but even through all that, small parts of me remember, and I see that a small part of you is being remembered by the people around me.

Earth Day montage Donagh Quigley

Donagh Quigley

Irish Handmade Soap Company

Dear Planet Earth,

I remember the days of my youth, accompanying my dad when he managed the salmon traps on the river Boyne. We regularly pulled out 3ft and longer fish, weighing 15lb or more.

Those fish are almost all gone.

I remember long road trips to visit relatives down the country. The windscreen of the Toyota Starlet blackened with a layer of squashed insects.

Those insects are almost all gone.

As I’ve grown up on this changing planet Earth, I always tried to uncover why you are changing so rapidly while also trying to cling to the planet I knew as a child.

And with the growing awareness, the knowledge learned and the wisdom of maturity came responsibility. Responsibility to balance the books for my existence, for the generations past who have created, sometimes for the better, many times for the worse, the state of the planet into which I was born.

And then my legacy for the future. So when one day my kids ask me, as they are going to, “Daddy, you knew the house was on fire, what did you do?” I need to have an answer for that question.

Because, Earth, you will carry on, with or without us.