The first version of the song ‘Johnny Appleseed‘ I learned was the secularized version, in which Appleseed thanks ‘the Earth’ for giving him the things he needs: “the sun, and the rain, and the appleseed.” He concludes that “the Earth is good to [him].”
Later, I learned that this is a stripped-down version of a Christian song about ‘the Lord’ being good to Appleseed. I can understand why this song wasn’t sung at the province-run Outdoor School I briefly visited, but I have to say in retrospect that it makes more sense. It is at least internally coherent to thank a conscious, benevolent entity for giving you things you need. By contrast, it makes very little sense to thank ‘the Earth’ for anything. The Earth is a 5.97 x 10^24 kg ball of iron that has existed for about 4.54 billion years. For most of its history, it would not have been at all hospitable to Appleseed, or any other human.
Indeed, for most of its remaining history, Earth is likely to be terribly hostile to human beings. The carbon cycle may cease, when erosion overcomes volcanoes, killing everything. The sun may become a red giant, burning away the oceans and atmosphere. Much sooner than either of those, human beings may kick off a runaway greenhouse effect, killing ourselves and maybe even all life.
That is the rub. In this day and age, we shouldn’t be thanking the uncaring Earth for bounty. We should be thanking other human beings for not quite killing us yet, often despite their best efforts to destabilize the climate, kill off species, and poison the air and water. The dangerous implication of the thin-soup version of Johnny Appleseed is that the planet itself somehow determines whether or not any particular person gets the things they need. This is demonstrably less and less true.
In conclusion, it is increasingly pointless to thank or condemn any abstract entity for what happens to people. To an ever-greater extent, what happens to people depends on what those people and other people decide to do. As a result, libertarianism is dead, and we really need to learn how to live together.