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Land grabs and role of the U.S. government

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Most of the world’s work is agricultural work. Most of that is done by smallholder farmers and most of those are women. Increasingly these farmers are finding their livelihoods at risk by the encroachment of foreign investors seeking to reap rewards for their own countries.

Saudi Arabia has invested in large scale leases and purchases of land for food production for its own country. South Korea has invested in Africa lands for biofuel production. Increasingly the United States has facilitated corporate investment in developing countries for private corporations. China has turned to other countries for mineral production as it seeks to grow its own economy.

As small farmers find their livelihoods at risk from these “land grabs,” international organizations like the World Bank, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, and other multi-lateral players have been developing guidelines for “responsible investment.”

The United States has agreed to chair the committee which is reviewing this investment agenda. It will lead a meeting on this in October just prior to World Food Day (Oct. 16) on Oct. 11 in Rome.

A note from Tom Fox, NCR editor

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It recently came to my attention that staff writer Rich Heffern, in the course of writing some of his columns, cut and pasted paragraphs from other Web sites, without proper attributions. Plain and simple, this is unacceptable journalism; it’s called plagiarism. We spoke together and went through some painful discernment before I accepted Heffern’s resignation. I offered him the opportunity to share some parting thoughts with NCR readers.

Under a lot of stress the last few years due to health reasons, I took careless shortcuts in some of my writing, and was not careful with attributions. I am deeply sorry and apologize to NCR’s board, to my colleagues and my readers. It’s been a joy to report on and present many of the efforts Catholics are making here and around the world in healing the Earth’s life-support systems for future generations, in caring for the poor and in exploring and re-imagining the church’s spiritual treasures and making them available to all. May our lives continue to be Spirit-filled and God-haunted.

Environmentalists on fracking

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Fracking, a relatively new drilling technology for bringing up natural gas from the earth, does not encourage feelings of neutrality.

People either hate or love the idea of this quick fix method for extracting unenvironmentally sustainable fossil fuels from the ground. Fracking has been banned by the French Assembly and the state of New Jersey. The government of South Africa has extended a moratorium on it for another six months.

Pennsylvania is another story entirely. Many residents there are alarmed by the plot line.

It goes like this: Fracking is one of the leading characters in this northeastern state's energy plans for the future.

Food and faith: possibilities for parishes (Part 2)

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In yesterday's blog I stated: As Catholic Christians, we are called to read the signs of the times and make, if necessary, a counter-cultural witness. It is the urban poor who have the least access to fresh and organic food. It is the poor who suffer the most from diet-based degenerative diseases such as obesity and diabetes.

In the United States the National Catholic Rural Life Conference (NCRLC) has been a fierce advocate for the rights of the small farmer and a more just food system. I have been active for a number of years with the Michigan Catholic Rural Life Coalition. The NCRLC has wonderful material for small faith sharing groups on the church's teaching on food and faith and sustainable living.

Beyond study, parishes are called to be living witnesses of the Gospel in our local communities. As I have discovered, during my years I served as pastor of St. Elizabeth Parish in Wyandotte, Mich., models abound that can enhance our witness of a more just and sustainable world through the promotion of local and organic methods of food production:

Food and faith: possibilities for parishes (Part 1)

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One need not have read The Omnivore's Dilemma or have seen the movie "Food, Inc." to know that something is seriously out of kilter with the American food system. With the dominance of agri-business, the quaint image of the family farmer with cows out in the pasture who is growing a cornucopia of crop varieties has, in recent years, become something of an anachronism.

Rather, with the rise of agri-business our food production system has several disturbing characteristics:

Big Questions for Science

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Historians John O’Malley, SJ, of Georgetown University, and Mordechai Feingold, of the California Institute of Technology, will speak tomorrow, Sept. 14, at Georgetown University, during the first of Woodstock Theological Center’s three discussions titled “Georgetown, Jesuits, and the Sciences.”

Here is the press release:

Morphic resonance, oil pipeline arrests, and Dr. Suess

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Dr. Seuss , beloved children’s author, penned The Lorax over 40 years ago, soon after the first Earth day, but its theme of ecological ruin, greed, and implied regeneration of the Earth is as timely as ever.

The story relates the tragic account of a character called Once-ler, who discovered a land “where the grass was still green, and the pond was still wet, and the clouds were still clean and the brightly colored Truffula Trees swayed mile after mile in the fresh morning breeze.”

Would you like a test tube with that?

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Just imagine it. Someday soon, you sidle up to your favorite, old-fashioned burger joint -- one of those that still cooks everything in-house -- and order yourself a big, juicy burger.

You take the first bite, enjoying the hints of charcoal and the flavor of grease. In a moment of introspection, you think to yourself, 'Where did this cow come from? What kind of life did it have?'

Answer: It didn't. There was no cow involved at all in that slab of meat entering your digestive system.

It's a future that isn't too far away. Mother Jones magazine's Blue Marble blog has a post today about a possible coming revolution in laboratory-grown meat products.

From the post:

Growing carrots in wading pools

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Job Ebenezer, a retired engineer living in Columbus, Ohio, has words of empowerment and comfort for folks who worry about famines, food shortages and overpopulation.

Recycle those worries.

Compost them.

Begin growing vegetables.

Lots of them.

Grow them in kiddie wading pools, plastic grocery bags, and milk containers. See them thriving in abandoned playground sites, apartment rooftops, unused portions of parking lots, balconies and even on concrete sidewalks.

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August 15-28, 2014

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