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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.

Farmers, protestors struggle against GMO giant Monsanto

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When environmental writer and entrepreneur Paul Hawken wrote Blessed Unrest in 2007, he estimated that there were close to 2 million activist organizations, secular and religious, working worldwide to heal the wounds of the earth.

Five years later, given social media and growing consciousness, it is probably safe to guess the 2 million is expanding outward to include even more willing, generous hearts. We need them badly.

Vatican: Water is human right, not for-profit commodity

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Water is human right, not a for-profit commodity, says Vatican council

By Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Clean and potable water is a human right, not a for-profit commodity dependent on market logic, said the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in a recent document.

Unfortunately, "there persists an excessively commercial conception of water which runs the risk of mistaking it for just another kind of merchandise, and making investments for the sake of profit alone, without taking into account water's worth" as a public good, it said.

"There is a risk of not seeing one's brothers and sisters as human beings possessing the right to a dignified existence, but rather seeing them as simply customers," which leads to making water and sanitation available only to those who can pay, it added.

The document, "Water, an Essential Element for Life," is an update to previous documents of the same title by the council.

Essay ponders Santorum's environmental theology

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Last week, former Republican Sen. Rick Santorum suggested that President Barack Obama is espousing a "radical environmental theology" not found in Christian or biblical teachings. But Patrick Carolan, executive director of the Franciscan Action Network, wonders what Santorum's own environmental theology is all about and why no one has asked him to explain it.

Carolan's essay has been posted on the Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good's website. He writes, "The radical environmental theology that Senator Santorum is accusing the president of practicing is the creation theology that recent Popes have supported in their preaching and writing ... the theology that the Catholic Conference of Catholic Bishops supports. It is also the theology that St. Francis of Assisi taught."

Catholic leaders support Senate Farm Bill

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Catholic leaders: Farm bill can help hungry, farmers, rural US

By Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Five U.S. Catholic clergy and lay leaders said they want to work with lawmakers for a new farm bill that "provides for poor and hungry people both at home and abroad, offers effective support for those who grow our food, ensures fairness to family farmers and ranchers, and promotes stewardship of the land."

"The farm bill affects us all, but most significantly, those who are hungry, living in poverty and struggling to keep farming a viable way of life," they said in a March 6 letter to key members of a Senate committee that works on agricultural issues.

The farm bill is a reauthorization package that generally comes up for renewal every five or six years.

BP, Gulf Coast victims settle for $7.8 billion

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The Associated Press is reporting that BP has settled with Gulf Coast residents and businesses for $7.8 billion. Some reports say the amount is uncapped, and will be overseen by the courts.

More than 120,000 individuals and businesses had filed suits, consolidated in federal court, against the oil company for the damages caused by the 2010 oil spill that killed 11 people and spewed 200-plus million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Read the full AP story here, and check out an analysis of the settlement at Time.com.

For the perspective from New Orleans, read this piece in the Times-Picayune.

Keystone XL pipeline brings together unlikely allies

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"Keystone Fight is Uniting Tea Partiers with Environmentalists." No, it's not a mirage. This good news headline actually appeared Monday on the Talking Points Memo website.

According to TPM journalist Brian Beutler, TransCanada, the company that wants to connect the tar sands in Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf of Mexico, is preparing to build in spite of the Obama administration's delay in approving the Keystone XL pipeline. TransCanada is circumventing the roadblock by moving ahead with the southern section of the pipeline that would link Nebraska to Texas. Its tactic? Going to court.

"TransCanada has threatened to use disputed eminent domain powers to condemn privately held land over the owners' objections," Beutler's article reads. "By taking this route, TransCanada avoids a review by U.S. authorities and the requirement for a presidential permit required to build the entire length."

Life Lab introduces the wonder of Mother Nature to Ohio students

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The dedication to environmental causes of the Sisters of St. Francis' in Sylvania, Ohio, gives their saintly founder every reason to be proud.

In 2009, Srs. Jeremias Stinson and Grace Ellen Urban built a polyhouse, a plastic greenhouse-type garden that produces vegetables year-round, and give their harvests to a Toledo soup kitchen.

With sights on settlement, BP oil spill trial delayed

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Set to begin today, the trial for the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history will have to wait until March 5, as the judge in the case delayed the trial a week to allow more time for a potential settlement.

Reports this afternoon suggest the that BP and the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee – who represent more than 120,000 victims, from individuals to businesses – could be close to a $14 billion settlement, though nothing has been confirmed. Such a settlement would not include governmental fines and lawsuits.

We will update this post throughout the day as the story develops.

To the [eco] links: The Lorax, Santorum and a wondrous waterfall

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The weekend is near, and while the weather may be nice enough for the golf links in some areas, here's a schmorgesborg of links to a variety of environmental stories making the news in recent weeks. There’s climate change, recycling, politics, pro-life, movies, a miraculous waterfall and even the Girl Scouts. Certainly, there’s something for all. Enjoy. And enjoy the weekend.

The Lorax has finally returned … to theaters, at least. And he’s coming with plenty of friends - the EPA, Hilton Hotels, Whole Foods, Madza, Pottery Barn Kids and IHOP - in a new approach toward movie tie-ins – focusing on planet-saving activities rather than plastic toys in kid’s meals. [USAToday.com]

Presidential candidate Rick Santorum created a lot of buzz with his recent “man above earth” remarks. James Woods of the New Yorker decided to take a closer look at Santorum’s planet, and the theology – which he argues sounds more Protestant than Catholic – driving his viewpoint. [Newyorker.com]

Public Radio International examined the void of climate change talk among this year’s presidential candidates, a stark contrast to the last election when then-candidate Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said, “It’s real. It’s a danger to our planet, it’s a danger to the future of these young people who are in front of me and their children. And it’s got to be stopped.” [Pri.org]

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August 28-September 10, 2015

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