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Dry bones, prophets, and fluttering wings

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Wings, dry bones, and prophets. Exhilaration, hunger and exhaustion. All of them were with us at the American Catholic Council in Detroit last weekend.

Since Friday night we had celebrated the messages of our modern day progressive Catholic prophets – Fr. Hans Kung, Jeanette Rodriguez, Anthony Padavano, James Carroll, Sr. Chris Schenk, Matthew Fox, and Sr. Joan Chittister -- as they encouraged each of us to acknowledge our unique gifts as baptized priestly Christians and midwife the fruits of Vatican II.

Their presence reminded me of my favorite Sufi meditation. It is one where we picture ourselves riding on camels in a long caravan behind the ancestors – Moses, Ezekiel, Jesus, Dorothy Day, Oscar Romero – as well as other spiritual teachers who might have inspired each of us along the way. And now there they are these new guides directly in front of us in this caravan of Spirit: Fr. Kung, Jeanette, Anthony, James, Sr. Chris, Matt and Sr. Joan.

The Big Here: an education in place

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Bioregionalist Kevin Kelly writes about The Big Here.

"You live in the big here. Wherever you live, your tiny spot is deeply intertwined within a larger place, imbedded fractal-like into a whole system called a watershed, which is itself integrated with other watersheds into a tightly interdependent biome. At the ultimate level, your home is a cell in an organism called a planet. All these levels interconnect. What do you know about the dynamics of this larger system around you? Most of us are ignorant of this matrix. But it is the biggest interactive game there is. Hacking it is both fun and vital."

David Suzuki: Studies show small farms better for biodiversity and food security

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We largely assume the only way to feed the world's rapidly growing human population is with big-scale industrial agriculture. Also, there is much support for genetically altering food crops to produce large enough quantities on smaller areas to feed the world's people.

But, according to a piece by David Suzuki on The Huffington Post Green blog, recent scientific research challenges those assumptions. "Our global approaches to agriculture are critical. To begin, close to one billion people are malnourished and many more are finding it difficult to feed their families as food prices increase. But is large-scale industrial farming the answer?"

Suzuki is a respected Canadian author and environmental scientist who received the Right Livelihood Award in 2009.

Matthew Fox speaks at American Catholic Council gathering

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DETROIT, MICH. -- Addressing the first American Catholic Council, Fr. Matthew Fox encouraged the nearly 2,000 participants attending to “adapt a different way of being church. Travel lightly. Carry a backpack filled with the words of Jesus, the mystics and the prophets. Be faithful to Matthew 25’s vision of compassion and remain true to the collegiality of Vatican II” rather than to “an institution that Jesus never heard of,” he said.

The American Catholic Council was organized by progressive Catholics to implement Second Vatican Council reforms. Its agenda for the weekend – reclaiming the Spirit, vision, freedom and joy of the People of God – grew out of 100 Listening Assemblies involving 5,000 Catholics from across the United States.

Speaking on the eve of Pentecost, Fox highlighted a theology of Christian vocation as inspired by the Holy Spirit. “Every Christian’s vocation is to be a mystic and a prophet who falls in love with life and beauty, cherishes friendship, the Earth and those different from themselves.”

The first week of the Bonn climate conference

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At the end of the first week of the Bonn Conference on Climate Change, the first thing which comes to mind is how little coverage this vitally important negotiation session is receiving the world media. A favorable outcome from the Bonn Conference is essential if the UN Framework Conference on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which is to meet later in the year in Durban, South Africa, is to succeed.

Water fight: A new Catholic environmental issue emerges in Italy

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By John Thavis, Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A referendum in Italy has spotlighted an emerging social justice issue for the Catholic church: access to safe water as a basic human right.

Italians were going to the polls June 12-13 to decide whether to revoke a decree that imposed the privatization of water resources. The issue has stirred an unusually intense debate, with church leaders arguing that water is the archetypal "gift from God" that should not be polluted by the profit motive.

On June 9, a group of more than 100 missionary priests and nuns fasted and prayed in St. Peter's Square to underline their support for the referendum and their opposition to the privatization of water. Beneath Pope Benedict XVI's windows, they unfurled a giant banner reading: "Lord, help us save the water!"

The next day, the Vatican's Cardinal Peter Turkson weighed in. Cardinal Turkson, head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said water distribution should be a service provided by governments to their citizens as part of their role in protecting the common good.

Some Earth-friendly recipes

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There are many conscious ways to keep from harming Mother Earth. Our food choices rank high on the list.

Cooking with nutritional yeast is a tasty way to move away from a meat-heavy diet. This wondrous ingredient is an inactive form of yeast. Available in bulk at organic groceries, nutritional yeast is yellow in color with a nutty, cheesy flavor. It works as a coating for tofu, for making gravy, for flavoring veggie stir frys, and even for sprinkling on popcorn. I discovered nutritional yeast about 15 years ago through a vegetarian housemate.

One night, Mary created a delicious supper consisting of buckwheat groats, gravy, steamed summer squash and salad.

Shirley Rhodes Patterson, a longtime friend now living in Fox, Arkansas, clued me in to using nutritional yeast as a breading for tofu. Shirley has been cooking vegetarian for many years, since her marriage.

Climate change talks began in Germany

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The UN sponsored climate change talks began in Bonn, Germany on June 6th 2011 and will run until June 17th 2011. These talks will attempt to revive negotiations on various aspect of climate change so that a fair, ambitious and legally binding treaty, a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, can be signed at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Durban, South Africa, later in the year.

While the UN negotiation process on climate change was revived and strengthened at the Climate Conference in Cancun, Mexico in December 2010, none of the hard decisions were taken, especially when it came to pledging serious cuts in CO2 levels from economically rich countries. There was general agreement among the participants at Cancun that deep cuts in emissions “are required ….. so as to hold the increase in global average temperatures below two degrees Celsius.”

Br. David Andrews: The morality of fracking

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Holy Cross Br. David Andrews is a senior representative at Food and Water Watch, a consumer group based in Washington. He is former director of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference.

Human illness, environmental contamination, serious animal illnesses, a danger to our food system: these are some of the discovered effects of hydraulic fracking, a now growing method of releasing natural gas for energy production.

Fracking involves injecting millions of gallons of pressurized water, chemicals, and sand into the earth to loosen shale to release natural gas. Headaches, dizziness, endocrine disruption, cancer, memory loss, complaints about gastrointestinal problems have been among the illnesses resulting from contact with fracking’s contaminated water. Evidence has mounted that earthquakes in Arkansas have resulted from using this method of gas recovery. Polluted water has harmed animals as well as humans. Some fracking has caused exploding wells.

Book review: The Environmental Vision of Thomas Merton

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THE ENVIRONMENTAL VISION OF THOMAS MERTON
By Monica Weis, SSJ
Published by the University Press of Kentucky, $32

Trappist monk Thomas Merton wrote in his journal: “I myself am part of the weather and part of the climate and part of the place … It is certainly part of my life of prayer.”

Author and Merton scholar Sr. Monica Weis, after reading Merton’s journals carefully, says she suddenly realized how profoundly weather had been shaping Merton’s spirituality over the years:

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