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'The Butterfly's Daughter' a tale for enthusiasts

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For readers who are fascinated by monarch butterflies and their migration from the United States to Mexico each fall, Mary Alice Monroe's new novel is a precious gem of a story.

The Butterfly's Daughter parallels the personal pilgrimage of Luz Avila, a 21-year-old Mexican-American woman from Milwaukee, with the flight path of these wondrous orange and black winged ones.

Monroe is an impassioned environmentalist. During her May 2011 book tour, she gave away 10,000 milkweed seeds to readers. Milkweed is the only food source for monarch caterpillars.

To read more about Monroe, go to her website.

Toy giant Mattel drops Asian supplier after environmentalists voice concerns

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Mattel, the California manufacturer of Barbie dolls, has backed down.

According to Greenpeace International, the company is disassociating itself from Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), the chief supplier of wood fiber used in Mattel's toy packaging. Mattel's decision came earlier this month after being deluged with 500,000 emails from environmentalists who were concerned about APP's destruction of the Sumatran rainforest in Indonesia, the habitat for tigers and other endangered species.

Mattel, the largest toy manufacturer in the world, has instructed its suppliers to avoid wood fiber from controversial sources, including companies known for participation in deforestation. Its new policy will also increase the amount of recycled papers used in their business, as well as the use of wood products certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. (FSC)

For more information, go to Greenpeace's website.

Contemporary earth saints

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St. Francis of Assisi's spirit is vibrantly alive within the hearts of compassionate people who advocate for the welfare of animals everywhere on our planet. Allow me to introduce you to four of these contemporary earth saints.

One of them, Sr. Mary Ethel Tinnemann, a Sister of the Holy Names, died three years ago at age 97. The other individuals -- Sr. Mary Liam Brock, Sr. Ann Ronin, and Tony Maurovich -- continue to make the lives of homeless cats free from misery and hunger in the Oakland/San Francisco Bay Areas.

Wangari Maathai helped us to 'rise up and walk'

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Nowhere in Wangari Maathai’s official biography as founder of the Green Belt Movement is there mention of a song written to honor her environmental work. But there is one. In late October of 2006, when the Nobel Prize laureate visited Berkeley, California to give a talk at First Congregational Church, she was welcomed on stage by Orcas Island composer and singer Sharon Abreau. “Wangari,” Abreau serenaded, “You shine bright as the morning star. You have helped us to understand that peace on earth needs a living hand.”

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.

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