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How I came to make Earth my life's work

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To give you a better understanding of what has shaped my views expressed here, I would like to tell you more about myself and my passion for the Earth.

My childhood was lived on a farm close to nature and to the Catholic church. At age 20, I joined the Adorers of the Blood of Christ in Wichita, finished my education degree and began elementary teaching. After four years, I became a DRE and eventually a Pastoral Associate. I completed an MA in Theology from St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota.

Feeling called to other ministry, I left the community after 15 years, got married, adopted 3 children all at once (ages 3,4 and 6), worked for National Catholic Reporter Publishing Co., started a women’s center for personal and spiritual growth, was Director of Christian Formation for an Episcopal church, and was self-employed for the past 13 years doing education, spiritual direction, and massage.

The modern dilemma -- paper or plastic?

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I’m wondering what our forebears did long before plastic and paper bags were created. My educated guess is that they only bought a tenth as many things. And when they did, baskets, buckets, grain sacks, and aprons all made good totes with minimal environmental impact. Creative use of what was at hand seemed to be the order of the day. I have a feeling that determined shoppers have always found a way to get their purchases home!

So what are we moderns who care about the health of the Earth supposed to do? Here are my solutions in order of preference: 1) Take neither paper nor plastic bag if possible and put your hands and arms to good use 2) Use a durable cloth bag 3) Drop those purchases into a second-hand paper or plastic bag and 4) Ask for plastic. Let me comment on each choice.

Most people have never considered that they don’t need a bag for most purchases. Store clerks routinely chuck even the smallest or largest of items into an unnecessary plastic bag, but you can simply tell them you don’t need one. I’ve been doing this for several years and so far no one has forced a bag on me, nor has any over-zealous guard tackled me on suspicion of shop-lifting.

Hal Borland: March dusk

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"The March full moon has emphasized the lengthening daylight most of the past week, but it is the day-end glow not the moonlight that now tells the true time of year. Dusk has begun to linger and the long nights are slowly retreating. We have a softening light at sunset, no longer the cold winter light that winked out abruptly and left the world to brittle stars. Winter dusk has a sharp and icy edge, but the dusk of March begins to soften the rim of darkness.

"No season ends overnight. Change comes slowly. Winter must be melted and blown and washed away, just as spign must be leafed and blossomed and grudally grown into summer. But the hard blue shadows and the ice-green sky of January and February have now relaxed into an afterglow that gentles the hilltops and eases the valleys with tones of pink and rose. Even the blustery winds of March tend to fall away at sunset. The winter night's dark fang is somewhat dulled.

Stewardship versus deep ecology

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In 1987 church environmental activists convened a nationwide ecumenical gathering in Indiana, the first Conference on Christianity and Ecology. Their aim was to bring together people from Christian churches around the country to discuss what could be done to bring a more active environmental awareness to the forefront in both preaching and praxis.

The conference was held on the shores of Lake Webster. Hundreds came from every corner of the United States.

The Black Madonna: 'We come from, and are contained somehow, by this darkness'

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A statue or painting of Mary in which she is depicted with dark or black skin, the Black Madonna images are among the oldest Madonna images in the world. In Sue Monk Kidd’s best-selling novel The Secret Life of Bees, an image of the Black Madonna adorns honey jars and becomes almost a major character. China Galland’s 1991 novel, Longing for Darkness, describes a pilgrimage in search of the same figure.

Japan's nuclear crisis sparks conversation on energy safety

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"The ongoing nuclear crisis in Japan as a result of the devastating 9.0 magnitude earthquake and massive tsunami on March 11, has touched off renewed discussions about managing the risks and benefits of nuclear power in the United States." writes Andrew Freedman on the Natural Resources Defense Council On Earth blog.

"With 104 nuclear reactors currently providing about 20 percent of America's electricity, and a coalition of Republicans and Democrats -- including President Obama -- pushing for the construction of multiple new facilities, the prospect of a significant change in public support for this renewable form of energy carries with it significant implications for how the U.S. can reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to fight global climate change."

His article also contains many useful links to other sites with good information about the ongoing situation in Japan's nuclear power sites.

'Too cheap to meter': The top 10 myths of nuclear power

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Documentary filmmaker Michael Rose lists the top ten myths about nuclear power generation on the Huffington Post Green blog.

"Lewis Strauss who chaired the Atomic Energy Commission in 1954, the predecessor of today's Nuclear Regulatory Agency (NRC), spoke of an era when "atomic furnaces" from fission and fusion reactors would provide clean, safe, reliable, abundant and cheap power for generations to come. Such power would be 'too cheap to meter.' It hasn't been the panacea he foretold. In fact, it's been a train wreck of accidents, cost overruns, nuclear weapons proliferation and an ever-growing waste problem that is always on the verge of being solved."

A glimpse into our own future

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Steve Hallett and John Wright, authors of Life Without Oil: Why We Must Shift to a New Energy Future write on the Huffington Post Green blog about Japan's nuclear disaster as a glimpse into our own future.

"When a confluence of events line up to expose an irrefutable but wickedly ugly truth, the phenomenon comes to be known as a perfect storm. Japan's devastating March 11 earthquake, tsunami, nuclear emergency and humanitarian crisis would better be described as a series of ever-worsening perfect storms.

"Though few people yet realize it, these events are a clear but frightening glimpse into the future of our world as carbon fuels upon which we have relied for the past two centuries dwindle. These incidents have already exposed the world's energy vulnerability.

"The sooner people and policy makers realize it, the faster and more effective we can be at implementing clear-headed, sensible plans for our energy future. No country is anywhere close to being prepared."

Celibacy and androgyny

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Celibacy is popularly understood as a rejection of anything to do with sex because we assume that God is asexual, and that sex is a gross distraction from an authentic spiritual life. In more positive terms, celibacy is seen as an option to forego sexual pleasure and intimacy in order to dedicate one self more fully to God and to God’s mission of love and service to others. Despite the positive meaning, the anti-sexual asceticism prevails, inhibiting a more informed understanding of this life-option. The call to celibacy needs a fresh appraisal.

Catholic Relief Services project in the Philippines links small farmers to restaurants

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Business World, a newspaper published in the Philippines, referenced Catholic Relief Services’ successful agroenterprise program there recently. The program trains poor farmers to produce and market specific vegetables needed by the country’s leading fast-food chain.

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July 4-17, 2014

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