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Thirsty for answers: Preparing for the water-related impacts of climate disruption

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U. S. cities should anticipate significant water-related vulnerabilities based on current carbon emission trends because of climate change, ranging from water shortages to more intense storms and floods to sea-level rise, according to a report just released by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

To help cities become more resilient to the rising threats of climate change, NRDC reviewed more than 75 scientific studies and other reports to summarize the water-related vulnerabilities in 12 cities across the United States.

Lament, hurrah, call to action: An historic gathering of Christian ecologists -- Part 1

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In August, the summer of 1987, I covered an important conference for Praying, the bimonthly magazine on spirituality NCR once published. It’s nearly 25 years ago now. It was the first gathering of people from Christian churches all around the country who were interested in exploring the links between Christianity and the growing tide of ecological awareness and concerns.

On the shores of Lake Webster in north-central Indiana, the homely yellow flowers of the jewelweed nodded quietly in the humid summer breezes while lively chickadees foraged overhead in the red oak branches like shoppers at a garage sale. Goldfinches nearby, dazzling in their bright yellow and black feathers, uttered their rhythmic call as they moved among the rough leaves of the asters searching for seeds. Winds off the lake fluttered the leaves of redbuds and sumacs in the late summer afternoon. Bright sunlight gilded and fired the intricate edges on the long banners of cloud overhead. The reflection shimmered on the ruffled surface of the waters.

East Africa drought solution runs deep

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By Bekele Abaire and Sara A. Fajardo (Catholic Relief Services)

Ethiopians remember keenly the devastating losses of the drought in 1984 and the more recent one in 2000. The numerous pastoralist communities in Ethiopia know that lack of access to water will kill their livestock and destroy the very fabric of their culture.

The East African drought of 2011 that is hitting Kenya and Somalia so hard is also proving to be one of the worst that Ethiopia has faced in 50 years. Currently more than 4.5 million people in Ethiopia alone are facing severe hunger due to the La Niña-induced rainfall shortage. The work that CRS has been carrying out in Ethiopia for more than 50 years is paying off in this drought.

The redemptive connection with nature

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In 1958, as a 27-year-old science teacher in Mesa, Ariz., Ken Lamberton was given the district’s teacher of the year award. He taught biology at a junior high school. A few months after he was honored, though, he ran off with a 14-year-old former student. The two were caught in a ski town in Colorado. Lamberton was convicted of child molestation and sentenced to 12 years.

Lamberton said he knew right from wrong but didn’t care at the time. “What I did was despicable, no doubt about it,” he said. “Arrogance, selfishness and stupidity led to my crime and my family’s terrible anguish and humiliation. I had no boundaries.”

In prison, Lamberton found boundaries, of course, but also an unexpected new sense of the world. The natural world served as his guide, he says.

Lamberton began noticing the limited amount of land around the prison, located in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert. He watched the hawkmoths circling the floodlights and found Sonoran Desert toads in the sandbox used by the children of prisoners. He listed to and began to identify the wild birds that perched over the exercise yard.

Monarch butterflies in steep decline across North America

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You see them especially in late summer, the elegant monarch butterflies, with their large vari-colored orange and black wings fluttering by on their way south. They’re a fixture of the North American ecology, a common sight that's becoming less and less common, as it happens.

Researchers say that in recent years their numbers have been cut in half, due to habitat destruction both here on their summer ground and in Mexico where they overwinter.

Monarchs lay their eggs on milkweed plants, Only that species will do for this purpose. And the milkweed is in decline because of genetically-modified field crops. Farmers spray these field with herbicides that the crops are resistant to. Weeds, among them the milkweed plants that were once common in such fields, are wiped out.

On their winter ground, in central Mexico the trees on which they perch in great clusters are being cut down.

“It’s clear we’ve lost an awful lot of habitat, mostly over the last ten years,” says Orley Taylor, who heads “Monarch Watch,” based in Lawrence, Kans. “The population has declined significantly.”

2011 Gulf of Mexico \"dead zone\" could be the biggest ever

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Researchers from Texas A&M University have returned from a trip to examine the scope and size of this year's "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico and have measured it currently to be about 3,300 square miles, or roughly the size of Delaware and Rhode Island combined, but some researchers anticipate it becoming much larger.

Read more about this year's "dead zone."

Mary Magdalene: The path of the heart

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July 22 is the feast day of Mary Magdalene.

When Mary Busby, co-founder of Sagrada Sacred Arts, an interfaith book store in Oakland California, tried to a find a children’s story about Mary Magdalene, she discovered that young readers’ collections “just didn’t include her at all.”

So Busby wrote one herself. Magdalene, the Path of the Heart is a saga based on traditional scripture accounts, oral tradition, the Gospel of Mary and other Gnostic texts. Beautifully illustrated by Holly Sierra, a Vermont artist, its sweet message will captivate both children and the adults in their lives. Magdalene,Path of the Heart weaves the simple tale of a little girl who would come to be known the world over as “the apostle to the apostles”, -- a strong compassionate woman who clearly articulates the teachings of her beloved friend, Jesus, for all times and places.

The Russian Orthodox Church, progressive Catholics and other Christians with feminist leanings view her this way, while traditionalists tend to dismiss Magdalene as the penitent prostitute, Busby noted.

Questions to ask at your local farmers' market

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Farmers’ markets are open-air outlets where anywhere from a few to dozens of [img_assist|nid=25795||desc=|link=none|align=left|width=225|height=169]farmers/producers regularly gather throughout the growing season to sell their fruits, vegetables, meat, eggs, dairy foods and other items. They are currently in peak season. Their bins and tables overflow with fresh offerings.

One of the most important ways to get the most out of the market and all it has to offer is to ask questions, lots of questions. Farmers' markets and sustainable agriculture in general are all about establishing relationships between eaters and producers.

Instead of yes or no questions like - Do you use pesticides? Or, Is your beef grass-fed? -- you can ask open-ended questions: How do you grow your strawberries (or corn, or tomatoes)? Or, How do you raise your beef (or chicken, or lamb)? Let the farmer/rancher tell you about what he or she does. Most of them are more than happy to tell you all about what they do.

The Catholic love of nature

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By Katherine Reynolds Abbott

About two miles from my parish in New Jersey, there is a place where on these blazing hot summer days, you can enter a green lawn under an enclosure of towering oak trees and feel ten degrees cooler. The oaks surround an ancient spring-fed pond, which has been enlarged and adapted over the years into a pond/swimming pool hybrid. In the 1930s children dove off a floating dock in the middle of the pond, but now they use diving boards and tubular plastic slides along a straight cement wall at the deep end.

Color to match the July sky

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This was written by Hal Borland, nature columnist for many years for The New York Times.

Chicory is in blossom at the roadsides and in neglected fields, in vacant city lots everywhere. It's one of the few wildlings of the season that have a color to match the July sky. Chicory bloom is one of the warmest blues on the rural landscape, and the individual flowers are as big as silver dollars, big as the field daisies that always seem to be near neighbors. In fact, some call it the blue daisy. Others know it as blue sailors, or succory, or coffee weed.

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July 4-17, 2014

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