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British astrophysicist wins Templeton Prize

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By CHRIS HERLINGER
c. 2011 Religion News Service

A British theoretical astrophysicist who has achieved renown for
his study of the cosmos and for sounding warnings about the future of humanity has won the $1.6 million 2011 Templeton Prize.

Martin J. Rees of Cambridge University, a former president of
Britain's prestigious Royal Society, was announced the winner on
Wednesday (April 6) by the John Templeton Foundation.

The annual prize honors an individual who has made "exceptional
contributions to affirming life's spiritual dimension." Rees is a
somewhat unorthodox choice because he holds no formal religious beliefs.

Rees, 68, has long studied questions surrounding black holes, the
big bang and what some call the "dark age" of the early universe. Rees
has also speculated on the idea of infinite universes, sometimes called
"multiverses," and has pondered how large physical reality actually is.

Rees has helped reshape "crucial philosophical and theological
considerations that strike at the core of life, fostering the spiritual
progress that the Templeton Prize has long sought to recognize," the
Templeton Foundation said in announcing the prize.

A long, loving look at where you are

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Beauty is commonplace in our world, part and parcel of every bioregion. Beauty is bestowed on all of us – especially in springtime. Some take the time to wonder. We know it when we see it, but how exactly does beauty work?

Are its complex theorems within our grasp? Is there some kind of prism lens which can reverse this varied spectrum of our experience and reveal the burning orb of its origin?

New comprehensive report looks at America's farm workers

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More and more Americans are asking questions about where their food comes from, but few are going so far as to think about who picked it. Farmworkers remain in the shadows. A new report released on Cesar Chavez Day (March 31) shines a light into these dark corners of our nation's food system.

The Inventory of Farmworker Issues and Protections in the United States is the product of a unique for-profit/NGO joint venture of the Bon Appetit Management Company Foundation and United Farm Workers. By compiling and analyzing data from multiple federal, state, and private sources, it renders a comprehensive picture of the reality faced by America's least-valued yet critically important workforce.

High Gas Prices: Supply and Demand: Efficiency and better cars will fuel America faster than drilling

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The following article from the Natural Resources Defense Council outlines a better strategy for fueling our transportation than increased offshore drilling -- and a way out of high gas prices.

The United States consumes 19 million barrels of oil a day, 25 percent of the global supply, but we have less than 2 percent of the world’s proved oil reserves. That means no amount of domestic drilling will reduce gas prices or provide enough to meet America’s daily demand for oil. The only solution: develop better cars and cleaner, safer sources of fuel. By 2025, we can reduce our reliance on oil through increased efficiency, transit, and alternative fuels, saving more oil than we can drill.

The United States will never control world oil supplies or gas prices…we don’t have the oil.

The United States has been drilling aggressively for the past century, with more active wells than the rest of the world combined. But even if we were to drill a hole everywhere in the country we know to have oil, and drain out every drop of proved reserves, we'd have enough to last us 1,094 days – just three years.

Adverse health effects from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill

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The Web site of the Lousiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN) features an interview with Clayton Matherne, who has been suffering serious health problems as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill which happened a year ago this month.

The videos are the personal testimony of Mr. Clayton Matherne. Mr. Matherne has asked LEAN to publish his story "in hopes that it will help others who are suffering know that they are not alone and for those who are not aware of their plight that assistance is greatly needed."

Also on the LEAN page is an address by Dr. Michael Robicheaux who spoke last week at the Baton Rouge Press Club. He spoke in-depth about the large number of sick people that he has been treating since the BP oil disaster occurred. The sick include workers who worked on the response to the disaster as well as divers, fishermen and coastal residents.

10 compelling reasons for frequenting farmers' markets

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Sipping coffee and leisurely reading the paper are nice, but what’s a Saturday morning without a visit to the local farmers’ market? It is THE place to be these days. If you aren’t in the habit of regular shopping at a farmers’ market, here’s a reminder of why, as an ecology-minded Catholic, you might want to do so.

1) The locally-grown food has come to your table from probably less than a 50-mile radius. This saves a lot of precious energy normally used to ship grocery-store produce halfway across the country.

2) You are supporting local farmers rather than corporate food conglomerateswho care little for the welfare of the land and greatly for profit at any price. You can feel good knowing you are helping some industrious family stay on their farm and earn a decent living.

3) The food is much healthier, retaining its nutrients since it was picked fresh, so you are nourishing your body as a temple of the Spirit, which enables you to have more energy to work for justice and sustainability.

Would Jesus be an environmentalist?

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The bracelet slogan, WWJD, popularized the notion of asking what Jesus would do in various situations. I think it’s worth pondering what his response might be to the critical issue of Earth care were he in the flesh today.
Because environmental degradation wasn’t a problem in his day, Jesus said very little about the human relationship to the natural world. But we can certainly make some assumptions based on his values, teachings, and actions. And since the church seeks to act in his name under the guidance of his Spirit, I would like to think we are listening to Christ as our church leaders make pronouncements about the urgency of caring for the Earth.

Unfortunately, many Christians see little connection between the health of the Earth and the mission of Christ. Historically, much theological and spiritual emphasis was given to fleeing the world and putting one’s sole hope in life after death. Thus the world had little value in itself. It was merely the backdrop for the great drama of personal salvation, a purely spiritual endeavor.

Arctic exploration for climate science

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In recent years, there have been many indications that the Arctic is suffering the effects of climate change more rapidly and seriously than almost any other region of the world. In particular, temperatures at the top of the planet have been rising much faster than the global average, and all that additional heat has melted vast quantities of Arctic sea ice.

Scientists have spotted these trends thanks to satellite data and other techniques, but there is still an awful lot that researchers don’t know about how the Arctic is responding to global warming. Data gathered in the actual locations is needed for solid evidence.

The quest for such data underpins a unique collaboration between scientists and explorers, known as the Catlin Arctic Survey, which just kicked off its third year. The survey is sponsored by Catlin Group Limited, an international insurance company.

Read more on the Natural Resources Defense Council's On Earth blog.

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