National Catholic Reporter

The Independent News Source

Eco Catholic

Small family farms not benefitting from rising crop prices, according to new study

 | 

Since 2006, farm crop prices have risen dramatically, reversing a decades-long trend that saw persistent declines in agricultural commodities prices. U.S. Department of Agriculture officials talk about boom times for U.S. farmers, citing their most recent figures on the economic performance of the farm sector. Recent reports point to records in net farm income.

But are small-to-mid-scale family farmers really benefiting from the boom? No, according to the latest of three studies by Tufts University professor Timothy A. Wise, who has looked behind the glowing headlines on the farm sector as a whole to examine how family farmers have fared in this high-price environment, using readily available USDA data that breaks down the widely diverse range of working and non-working farms included in aggregate statistics,

EPA creates Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnership Initiative

 | 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has launched a Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships (FBNP) initiative. According to their press announcement, "strong relationships with faith and neighborhood organizations will help promote environmental stewardship that will lead to cleaner communities, encourage healthier families and build a stronger America. These relationships will also help EPA assist communities during times of environmental crisis."

EPA also pledges to work to expand the environmental conversation and continue the fight for environmental justice to relieve the burdens of pollution in poor and minority communities. In addition, EPA will work with participating institutions to bring Green jobs to these communities, increase energy efficiency through EPA's Energy Star for Congregations program, and improve environmental education and communications.

One record-breaking month after another

 | 

I spent last week in a small house on my brother’s land in the southern Missouri forest working on a book I am writing for Orbis. My wife and I arrived at the end of a four-day long torrential rainstorm, the worst they had experienced there in anyone’s memory.

Thirteen to 14 inches of rain in a few days sent creeks and rivers 20 feet or more over their normal levels. Lakes overflowed. Dams were threatened. Ponds quadrupled in size.

All of the county roads were closed due to flooding. A friend of my brother’s, the prosecuting attorney for the county, was marooned for the duration in his house with guests who were visiting from the city, unable to navigate past the low-water bridge that was submerged and was their only way out.

Meanwhile to the south of us, across the Arkansas line, potent storms were formed there that then stalked through the South resulting in the worst tornado outbreak in U. S. history.

The new stage of psychic evolution

 | 

Many years ago, The Jesuit scholar Teilhard de Chardin claimed that the biological (physical) evolution of our species had probably reached its climax; in biological terms, we could not evolve much further.

Consequently, he suggested that we are rapidly approaching a new evolutionary threshold, in which mind and spirit, rather than biology, will provide the context for evolutionary emergence. This new stage he named as psychic evolution.

The exponential growth of information, evidenced throughout the closing decades of the 20th century, supports this claim. Processing information provides the primary work-outlet in the world of our time. And the communication of information continues to rise with greater speed, accuracy, and efficiency.

Central to this explosion is the computer with its technology now doubling every five years. Computational skills which might take the human brain several hours, can be achieved by modern computers in a matter of seconds. In fact, computer technology measures its speed not in hours, minutes or even seconds, but in terms of the nanosecond -- which literally means one-billionth of a second.

What does ësustainability' mean?

 | 

The following was written by Holy Cross Br. David Andrews, a senior representative at the Washington-based Food & Water Watch, a consumer lobbying organization.

The word “sustainable” is being used in so many ways today that it is hard to know what it means. It came into increasing use after the 1987 report “Our Common Future” published by the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development -- also known as the Brundtland Report, named after the Chair of that Commission.

Its fundamental insight is now well known: “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

It has frequently been asserted that sustainable development rests on a three legged stool: social justice, environmental protection and economic well being. In other words it sees three elements: the planet, profit and people as interrelated in any holistic view of sustainable development.

Advocates of sustainable agriculture typically utilize these elements in their vision of sustainability.

Widening our practice of mercy

 | 

When I get stopped for speeding and the cop is sauntering to my car, I always pray like the dickens -- God, please let him have mercy on me and give me a warning instead of a ticket! In my powerlessness, every part of my distressed being pleads for leniency, which I usually don’t get, but I can’t help trying.

We all know what it’s like to be the one asking for mercy, the feelings of fear and desperation and the humbling bargaining and begging. And we know what it’s like being asked for a break. (If we’re parents, we’re probably on that side of the fence fairly often!) We know the feeling of a hard-hearted refusal to an anguished request, and also the grace of softening our stance and granting an undeserved favor.

The idea of mercy is not simple. It’s similar to pity, compassion, and forgiveness, but not quite the same. It has its own depth, nuances and flavor. I think it is clear, though, that it is a virtue to be courted. The scriptures state that God’s mercy reaches to the heavens, recount how Jesus granted mercy to sick and sinner alike, and admonish us to be unstinting in showing mercy.

Beauty at a price: Another look at personal care products

 | 

Movie stars with flawless complexions, populating magazine pages and TV ads, lure the unsuspecting into buying numerous beauty products that promise miracles. The hope is that the creams, lotions, scents, and make-up will compensate for the Creator’s flaw in making them lacking and imperfect.

Most of us, women and men alike, succumb to this advertising pressure without a thought about whether these endless products are necessary or good for us and the Earth.

This issue really hit home to me when a health practitioner once asked me, “Aside from the bad taste, would you be willing to ingest these products that you put on your body?” I was repulsed, instinctively knowing they were not made from natural, harmless food sources

Most of us don’t realize that whatever is put on our skin is fully absorbed into our bodies. It ends up in our blood stream, cells, and organs, and eventually in the larger ecosystems, as a benign or malign presence.

As stewards of our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit and of the Earth as the numinous home of God, we would do well to re-evaluate our choices in regard to these personal products. So let’s look beneath the surface a little.

Book: Judgment Day: The Struggle for Life on Earth

 | 

JUDGMENT DAY
THE STRUGGLE FOR LIFE ON EARTH
By Paul Collins
Published by Orbis Books, $22.50

The Gulf oil spill of a year ago is just the latest depredation against the planet. From every direction come signs of global warming and other forms of ecological disaster that threaten the future of all living beings. In this sobering assessment of our condition, Paul Collins examines the nature of this crisis and how we got here including a review of the mental habits of thought, including religious worldviews, that have contributed to our dilemma and continue to inhibit effective action.

“It is no use kidding ourselves,” he writes, “that it is just bad luck for people in the future or that they will somehow find a technological fix for the damage we have wrought. Our exploitation of the natural world is inescapably a moral and ethical issue. By destroying the earth, consuming resources and wiping out thousands of species we involve ourselves in a profoundly sinful situation.”

The paschal mystery: The creativity of emptiness

 | 

In 2008 Catholic astronaut Heidemarie Stefnyshyn-Piper, while on an extravehicular walk outside the international space station, lost her $100,000 tool bag into the vacuum of space. It got a lot of press.

Well … it’s actually not a pure vacuum. Even in the deepest outposts of space a few atoms float around together with photons of energy flying through at the speed of light continuously.

Scientists remind us there is also what’s called a “quantum potential,” which exists at every point in the vacuum of our three-dimensional physical space. In it, under the proper conditions, matter and energy can literally materialize out of what we used to think of as absolutely nothing. The vacuum state is not truly empty but instead contains fleeting electromagnetic waves and particles that pop into and out of existence.

Scientists take this bizarre physical phenomenon quite seriously. It has actually been observed routinely in particle accelerators, but the conditions to create anything more than a scattering of subatomic particles would require extremely high energies and a control of the process far beyond any ability we now have.

Haiku for Good Friday and Earth Day

 | 

These were written by my friend Vic Hummert who lives with his wife Rose in Lafayette, Louisiana. He is author of Breath of Life for All: Haiku Poetry in Defense of Nature. For more of his fine work, go to vichummert.org.

Jesus is reborn
Always in each one open
To God's compassion

To live or to die
Even fierce alligators
Wait on our consent

Share what you have now
Opportunities to give
Might not come again

Every moment God elects
To give us life
Through air, water and Earth

Of Earth we can say
"Late have I learned to love you”
Then hope we may grow

Preachers talk of God
Those in deep prayer go straight to
Our Source of all Love

Alone on a beach
Resting deep in a forest
We feel the Divine

What our future holds
Worry not so long as we
View life as sacred

By Divine consent
And the Breath of God
We continue in this life

We are faced with changes
Which must be made if we wish
To have a future

Pages

Subscribe to Eco Catholic

Feature-flag_GSR_start-reading.jpg

NCR Email Alerts

 

In This Issue

July 18-31, 2014

07-18-2014_0.jpg

Not all of our content is online. Subscribe to receive all the news and features you won't find anywhere else.