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Eco Catholic

Green burials offer ecological, ancient way to say goodbye to loved ones

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On Oct. 17, 2009, I received a call from my maintenance man at St. Elizabeth in Wyandotte, Mich. A woman wanted to talk with me. Since I was on my way to a wedding rehearsal at a parish 30 miles away, I told myself that I had a few minutes. Little did I realize how powerful that encounter with Jeanne Ingram would become. Jeanne's mother, Bereth, had just died and Jeanne was literally searching high and low for a cemetery that would honor her mother's wishes to be interred without any kind of chemicals or vaults.

'Deep ecologist' finds laughter and beauty in nature

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The late Fr. Thomas Berry, renowned geologist, was not the only environmentalist who believed we need a new creation story. Brenda Peterson, novelist and essayist, is of like mind.

While Berry believes we must regain our sense of gratitude and courtesy toward the earth and its inhabitants and recognize the sacred character of habitat, Peterson proposes that we also need large doses of humor and hope to neutralize the often fundamental, tragic doom-gloom-guilt and shame attitudes from some environmentalists who cast the earth in a crucifixion mode.

"I never saw a stand up environmental comic," Peterson, a fallen-away Southern Baptist who became a deep ecologist, writes in her delightfully funny and affectionate 2010 family memoir, I Want to Be Left Behind: Finding Rapture Here on Earth.

Even as a kid, Brenda Peterson was deemed "lost" by her Southern Baptist kin. By the time she had reached the ripe old age of 9 or 10, Peterson had carved out a permanent place for herself at the top of their prayer list.

Those who govern should be required to be eco-literate

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Political candidates, economists and business school graduates should be required to take eco-literacy tests to determine if they are qualified to govern and make earth-friendly policy decisions, recommends The World Future Council, an international public advocacy organization based in Hamburg, Germany.

"Ecological literacy is vital for those in positions of power and influence," states the council's founder and chair, Jakob von Uexküll.

The island president: real consequences to climate change

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After years of torture and imprisonment, Mohamed Nasheed was, at 41, democratically elected to the presidency of the Maldives. The critically acclaimed documentary "The Island President" (98 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) tells that story. More centrally, it tells President Nasheed's heroic story of putting a human face on this low-lying island nation, which faces inundation through climate change. The Maldives lie in the middle of the Indian Ocean and represent more than 1,200 coral islands, of which about 200 are inhabited. The Maldives' people have developed their culture over centuries. The challenge is that the elevation is at most a few feet above sea level.

Flight over Canada's destruction of nature inspires environmental musician

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In 2009, Jennifer Berezan took a plane ride with two friends over Edmondton, Alberta, Canada, the place where she grew up. Vast expanses of the area she loved so very much had once thrived as an ancient green boreal forest. But now it had been industrially raped and turned into a wasteland.

Berezan, an environmental musician, composer and social justice activist living in Berkeley, Calif., thought she had braced herself to withstand emotionally the ruinous devastation she would see, but the reality was soul-chilling. Remembering the ancient trees that used to roll "in green waves of motion," she now looked down at "a world on fire. No light. No land. Just black tar and sand."

Berezan was viewing the Canada's Athabasca tar sands operation in Fort McMurray, which help make Canada's oil reserves the second-largest in the world after Saudi Arabia's. Almost as large as the state of Florida, the area supplies approximately 1 million barrels of oil to the United States every day.

Biophilia and the barcode of life

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Last month, I had the privilege of attending a Wege lecture at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Mich., where Daniel Janzen, the world-renowned biologist, was the presenter.

Professor Janzen, of the University of Pennsylvania and the Guanacaste Conservation Area in Costa Rica, and his wife, biologist Winnie Hallwachs, have witnessed how the incredibly biologically diverse area of Costa Rica was becoming gobbled up to development. Rather than lament and throw up their hands, Daniel and Winnie acted.

They partnered with the Costa Rican government, other governments and friendly foundations to launch the Guanacaste National Park Project. The restoration of this northwestern part of Costa Rica, known as the Area de Conservación Guanacaste, has been one of the great miracles of modern-day biology. There are now 190,000 hectares of restored land in this region. (The entire country is about 151,000 square kilometers, about the same size as the state of Michigan.)

Rio+20 to seek a sustainable, global future

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Rio+20: Still trying to map a sustainable future for the world
By Catholic News Service
LIMA, Peru (CNS) -- Twenty years ago, a 12-year-old girl stood before government officials from most of the world's countries and pleaded for her future. Worried about pollution and overuse of natural resources on her finite planet, she begged, "If you don't know how to fix it, please don't break it."

The occasion was the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, which ended with the world's countries committing -- at least on paper -- to make environmental concerns a priority and eliminate unsustainable forms of production and consumption. Above all, delegates agreed that development must not jeopardize the welfare of future generations.

Free tool helps congregations save money, reduce emissions

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In my previous blog, I shared an interview I recently had with Jerry Lawson, the national manager of the EPA's ENERGY STAR for Congregations program, and with Steve Bell, a consultant who works with the EPA's Portfolio Manager energy performance tool. In part II of our conversation, we address the issue of this powerful, free tool available to congregations that enables them to save money and energy and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

Pennsylvania farmer speaks out against fracking at memorial for wife

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Stephen Cleghorn's roots are Catholic, but he led a powerfully personalized and wonderfully unorthodox ritual and public gathering honoring his late wife, Lucinda Hart-Gonzalez, on May 10. The energy of it combined his fierce undying love for her with an equally passionate element of rebellion against gas companies that are eyeing a part of his 50-acre Pennsylvania organic farm for hydraulic fracturing and against the politicians who support it.

Parish's solar panels renew energy, commitment to creation

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As spring gave way to winter, more than flowers were found sprouting up on the grounds at a Catholic parish and school in Holmdel, N.J.

For St. Benedict Parish and School, the sun’s rays not only give life to their plants and shrubbery, but they now bring power to its buildings.

On April 22, Earth Day, the parish community gathered, amid heavy rain showers, to bless the nearly 1,000 solar panels installed on their property. The panels – set up in two arrangements, one behind the school and one on top of a school building’s roof – will generate enough electricity to power the entire parish campus, as well as symbolize their stewardship to the earth.

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