JESSICA HETHERINGTON, Ecotheologian

Fireworks, Being a Good Mom, and Discipleship

I like to think that I am a good mom. Every day, I tell and show my kids that I love them. I feed them heathy and tasty food; I clothe them and give them a warm, safe home; I show interest in their activities and encourage them to get outside; I read to them every day, and find things to do together.

Fireworks Fun

And so, this past July 1st, Canada Day[1], I took them out to my small hometown for the day. We played at the park with aunts, uncles and cousins, ate a picnic lunch, cotton candy and ice cream. We had a family BBQ for supper, then ended the evening back at the park for fireworks. This was my younger kids’ first time seeing fireworks live outdoors, and they were excited.

The fireworks show, like years past, did not disappoint; a half-hour of bright lights and noise over the river, over our heads as we sat on the beach. Kids and adults alike ooh-ed and ahh-ed at the spectacle.

We got home late, tired and happy. I felt like a good mom.

The Problem with Fireworks

Then, as I scrolled through my phone the next morning, I came across articles about the fact that fireworks are bad for the environment, upsetting for dogs, and even traumatizing for veterans and citizens who have suffered from war in their home countries.[2]

Oof. Suddenly, I didn’t feel so good anymore. I might have been a good mom, but what about being a good citizen? A good neighbour to people and animals around me? To the Earth community of which I am a part? Did my participating in the display of fireworks (by watching, I am participating) contribute to the harm of both human and nature others?

What, exactly, is the problem with fireworks? They have been around for a very long time, since 2 BCE in China, when bamboo sticks would be thrown in a fire to create an explosion. Later, gunpowder was added to make them even more dramatic.

Modern Fireworks are Polluting

The fireworks of today, however, use a lot more chemicals, and create a lot more noise and pollution, than the early ones did. Today, they contain perchlorates, which pollute our waterways and cause thyroid problems in humans and other animals. They could possibly also be carcinogenic.

They also contain heavy metals, which have a negative cumulative effect on ecosystems. Carbon dioxide and ozone are released from igniting fireworks (and sparklers), contributing to fossil fuel emissions. Fireworks also release particulates into the air, leading to air pollution and consequent breathing problems.

Although fireworks can be wrapped in paper, most are wrapped in plastic, leaving behind litter on shorelines and other open areas. And, as is commonly known, they are a fire hazard. In a time when we are seeing increasing forest fires across North America due to global warming, surely we shouldn’t be adding to the problem.

Fireworks Cause Upset

In addition to the negative environmental effects of fireworks, there are other effects, too. As I mentioned, dogs can become extremely distressed at the noise they cause. Further, they can be traumatizing to those who suffer from PTSD related to war.

Learning about the negative effects of fireworks has made me reflect on what kinds of activities I can and should be doing with my kids, as a mom, a person of faith, and someone committed to ecological healing. Knowing what I do now, what should my discipleship response be, as a Christian?

Knowing that my participation in fireworks causes harm to the Earth community in which I live, the water and the air, the dogs and my human neighbours who suffer, it is my responsibility to take actions that are healing, not harmful. It is my responsibility to engage in a discipleship of healing, not harm.

Finding Alternatives to Fireworks

And so, next Canada Day, or at New Year’s, or on Victoria Day, it is time to find alternatives. There are personal alternatives, such as a bonfire with friends and family in a safe spot, camping out, or a movie night under the stars. And there are public alternatives, encouraging municipal organizations to choose to put on a laser light show, for example.

There are so many issues facing our world right now, ecological and social issues confronting us at every turn. Some seem overwhelming and beyond our capacity to respond. The issue of fireworks, however, is one that we can take on, if we choose. Next year, I am going to try to be a good mom by offering an alternative to my kids; some other way to celebrate the summer and being together with our family. There will still be plenty of cotton candy and ice cream, BBQs and beaches!


[1] As a settler Canadian, I am conscious of the challenges of recognizing Canada Day at the same time that we acknowledge the colonial past and present of this country. However we each choose to mark it, we must work together for healing and reconciliation.

[2] Two articles informed the writing of this post: Lauren Murphy, “Are Fireworks Bad for the Environment?” Dec 2, 2021, and Lloyd Alter, “9 Reasons to Rant About Fireworks,” Oct 11, 2018. Both found at: https://www.treehugger.com/. Accessed July 7, 2022.

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