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School Sisters of Notre Dame present eco-education in the Milwaukee area

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We are in the midst of a massive up-welling of human potential, creativity, anger, and frustration." -- Barbara Marx Hubbard, futurist

You know about rising food and gas prices, eccentric weather and a global food emergency. You may even know about debt, corporate scandals and the increase of asthma cases. What seemed to work before in an industrialized economy, now seems, in part, to be backfiring with pollution, toxic chemicals, lessening resources, global warming.

It is time to create new perspectives in relationship to our planetary home. This is where Sunseed Eco-Education Ministries comes into the picture.

Nestled originally in the farming village of Mount Calvary, Wisconsin, Sunseed Eco-Education Ministries was created by the School Sisters of Notre Dame of the Milwaukee province who knew in 2007 that the future was calling forth their well-honed education skills to help raise planetary consciousness.

Lament, hurrah, call to action: An historic gathering of Christian ecologists -- Part 2

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At an evening prayer service toward the end of the conference, many of those attending circled around a bonfire out in the dark to pray. For an hour or more, petitions were voiced, reflections were made, thanksgivings were given.

One person prayed, “Oh Father and Mother God, send us all your strength. We must not fail.”

Sparks from the fire ascended briskly up through the outspreading oak branches into the soft velvet of the skies. Slowly the circle dispersed back to the dormitories and tents through the dew-washed grass. In the distance the sad, faraway call of a screech owl could be heard.

Almost immediately it became apparent that there were two points of view present and active in the gathered conference-goers.

The first was the stewardship view, which proposes that humanity is charged by God to take care of the natural world but that we humans are in significant ways separate from it and superior to it.

\"Jump into Love's deep river' -- Open-handed generosity and the environment

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There is cause this week for both joy and grief on the environmental front. For every two steps forward, it seems, there is one going backward.

The joy: Lego, the fourth largest toy company in the world has announced that it will no longer buy its paper packaging supplies from Asia Pulp & Paper, (APP) a logging company cited by Greenpeace International for its role in Indonesian rainforest destruction. Instead, Lego will reduce its packaging, make more use of recycled paper contract and source sustainable wood only for any virgin tree fiber it uses. Their decision follows a massive letter writing campaign spearheaded by Greenpeace. Last month more than 60,000 individuals demanded that large toy companies, including Lego and Mattel cease their business dealings with APP and adopt sustainable packaging practices.

Lego is the first to respond proactively. Mattel, manufacturer of Barbie dolls, has said publically they will drop APP but as yet has made no real changes, according to Greenpeace’s website.

Violence over land rights in northern Honduras challenges diocese

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By Madeline Watkins, Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A fertile region in northern Honduras has been gaining international attention because of human rights abuses and escalating violence over land reform.

"It has been very difficult for us," said Fr. Felipe Lopez, pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish in Trujillo. Of the 10 parishes in the Diocese of Trujillo, St. John the Baptist is one of the closest to the conflict, centered in the disputed territory known as the Bajo Aguan.

"The violence has lessened in the last three to four weeks," Fr. Lopez told Catholic News Service in mid-July, "but June was very violent, almost as if we were in the midst of a war."

Most of the fighting is taking place on the large palm plantations in dispute. Fr. Lopez said at least 40 to 50 people have been killed in the conflict over land claimed by both peasant farmers and three wealthy landowners in the region.

"Sadly, those who are suffering the most are the very poor," Fr. Lopez said. The increased levels of violence have caused greater poverty in the region because most of the peasants work on the palm plantations in dispute, he said.

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."

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July 18-31, 2014

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