National Catholic Reporter

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Eco Catholic

Today's message is from
Contributor Heidi Schlumpf

A literal rags-to-riches story and hope for the environment

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This is literally a rags-to-riches story -- a group of poor women living on the fringes of one of the largest dumpsites in the Philippines now support their families by weaving high-fashion purses, rugs and wine bottle holders from garment factory leftovers, organic materials and indigenous fabrics. Writer Simone Orendain provides details in an April 11 story appearing on the Catholic News Service website.

Filipinos protest monstrous impact of mall expansion

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MANILA, Philippines -- Bishop Carlito Cenzon of Baguio on Wednesday accused a Philippines shopping mall giant of defying the law and called people to boycott the shopping center in his northern mountain city to protest its expansion project, which requires the transplanting of trees.

Cenzon said when people give SM Mall their business, they continue to "patronize a monster" because the mall's project "destroys our oxygen tank."

The regional court Tuesday ordered the mall to halt the transplant of 182 alnus and pine trees from Luneta Hill compound as part of its expansion project, but the mall proceeded with digging up trees, citing consultations it had already conducted with the environment and natural resources department. Cenzon of the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary said mall officials refused to receive the court order.

Interfaith group to rally in D.C. for moral response to climate change

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In an effort to “awaken our nation’s elected officials … to the urgent need for immediate and effective action to address the climate emergency,” an interfaith group has called for rallies across the country during the week of Earth Day to bring attention to climate change.

The Interfaith Moral Action on Climate describes itself as “deeply concerned about the effects of climate change ravaging our planet, and are compelled by our faith traditions and collective conscience to speak out on this deeply moral challenge,” according to their website.

Where is Easter for those on the cross?

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Were you among the more than 1 million viewers who went to YouTube last week to see the story of Fiona, a blind, stray mixed-breed poodle whose owner abandoned her at a garbage heap in south Los Angeles? If so, you probably wept and rejoiced, just as I did.

Eldad and Audrey Hagar, directors of Paws for Hope, a local 8-year-old humane group, learned of the pup's plight last June through a friend's phone alert. A video made that day shows them rescuing the pitiful, trembling animal. She is starving, scraggily, flea-infested and covered in filth. The couple bathes and feeds her. They seek veterinary help. Can her vision be restored? Dr. Michael Chang, an ophthalmic veterinarian, assures them he can fix one of her eyes so she can have partial sight.

The Hagars post a plea for help from their supporters. Within four days, good-hearted people contributed $4,000 for the surgery. A follow-up video shows a transformed Fiona. She has turned into a happy puppy, cuddling with her new adoptive family -- the family she can actually see.

Eco-Palms: a sustainable witness for Holy Week

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Fair Trade coffee, the installation of recycling bins and community gardens are becoming part of the fabric of Catholic parish life. The rubber meets the road in the call to poverty of spirit not just in the reading of papal encyclicals or in good homilies, but particularly in the priorities parishes make both in programming and purchasing.

Eco-Palms represents one such opportunity for parishes to be the sermon they preach, particularly at the beginning of Holy Week. Eco-Palms represent palms used at Palm Sunday services that are sustainably harvested, and members of the local communities who harvest the palms are guaranteed a fair wage.

Early spring brings back climate change fears

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Spring made her abrupt, untimely appearance here in Columbus, Ohio, recently. For a few days, we exchanged 40-degree weather and winter clothing for temperatures in the 80s. Think shorts, short-sleeved shirts, sandals, air conditioning and an explosion of purple, pink and white blossoms.

Some of our neighbors rejoiced. They rushed out to buy flowers for their yards. Others fretted. It was all just too much, too soon. We still had leftovers from St. Patrick's Day in the refrigerator. The beauty around us, while certainly welcome at one level after the chilly grayness, held an aura of bizarre eeriness. We asked ourselves with dread, "Is this another sign of climate change?"

As we worried about our yo-yo weather, a timely column by Ohio State University biology professor Steven Rissing appeared in the March 25 Insight/Science Section of The Columbus Dispatch newspaper.

"Are we there yet?" he asked. "If we haven't entered a period of human-caused climate change yet, what will it take for us to agree that we have?"

He supplies us with a list of events pointing to global warming. Here are a few of them.

EPA carbon standards push plants toward clean energy

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In a move to address the harmful effects of greenhouse gas emissions on public health and their threat to climate change, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed Tuesday carbon pollution standards for newly constructed power plants.

Fossil-fuel-fired power plants are the largest sources of carbon pollution and have long operated without emissions regulations.

"Right now there are no limits to the amount of carbon pollution that future power plants will be able to put into our skies – and the health and economic threats of a changing climate continue to grow," said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson in a press release.

"We’re putting in place a standard that relies on the use of clean, American-made technology to tackle a challenge that we can’t leave to our kids and grandkids," she said.

The proposed standards, to be enforced through the Clean Air Act, would require plants to limit carbon pollution to 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour.

The standard is based primarily on natural gas performance, the rule states, since it has become increasingly more available and at lower costs, leading to an industry trend toward new plants powered by natural gas, not coal.

Gas pump prices not the real issue, says editorial

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Worrying over a dollar increase in gas prices makes but only a drop in America’s larger pool of energy concerns, according to a prominent national newspaper.

Over the weekend, the editorial board of the Washington Post expressed their frustrations over the ongoing debate and blame game for rising gas prices. They wrote:

"Rising sea levels threaten to inundate low-lying roads in Louisiana, costing billions in port activity, The Post’s Juliet Eilperin reports. Northrop Grumman sees potential damage to billions in shoreline defense infrastructure, such as the imperiled drydock in Hampton Roads built to construct the next generation of aircraft carriers. Other factors are also at work in these examples of rapid coastline loss. But Louisiana and Virginia offer a picture of how further sea-level rise and higher storm surges — just one set of climate-related risks — could seriously disrupt human activity.

America, meanwhile, is fixated on .?.?. paying an extra buck per gallon at the gas pump."

Caritas seeks aid for West African food crises

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Caritas International has launched campaigns the past two days to help alleviate the food crises in the African nations of Niger and Burkina Faso.

People of both countries in West Africa’s Sahel region face rising food costs amid growing shortages.

“Niger and the Sahel face an alarming food emergency that is getting worse day-by-day,” said Raymond Yoro, the executive secretary of Caritas Niger, in a press release.

Caritas says that the food shortage affects a third of the Nigerien population. The shortage dates back to 2010, when 7.8 million people – or three-fifths of the population – faced moderate to severe food insecurity, following a 2009 drought that depleted food stocks. With food already limited today, an increasing number of Malian refugees have further strained supplies.

Famines are nothing new in Niger. In 2010, the New York Times detailed the long struggle, dating back to 1974, the country has had battling food shortages amidst increasing birthrates and a basic agricultural system.

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