More than 100 Catholic colleges and universities will walk in the footsteps of the first climate change refugees in early October. They will watch "Sun Come Up," a 2011 Academy Award-nominated documentary that presents the plight of 2,500 inhabitants of the Carteret Islands, an island paradise 50 miles north of Bougainville, Papua, New Guinea.
Yes is a vulnerable word.
It leaves you wide open like a tree.
Susan Windle, a Sufi poet living in Philadelphia, composed these words in her 2005 book, Between the Doors. Today, I thought about Susan's poem, "Ode to Yes," one of the works in her collection, because so much is happening environmentally that speak to vulnerability and its willingness to risk being wide open.
Being vulnerable can trigger both silent unexpressed pain as well as active out-loud and often outrageous action in the name of compassion. It can mean asking a simple but unpopular question, like "Why?", to the cutting down of a few neighborhood trees. It can mean taking major action to protect baby seals in Seattle or organizing to protect an endangered ecosystem in the Philippines.
Being vulnerable takes courage.
At the most literal level of "Ode to Yes," there is this recent situation of six vulnerable trees in front of my senior apartment building. They fell to earth a couple of days ago. Trunks and limbs are already chopped and stacked neatly, waiting for a truck to carry them off tomorrow.
Two recent thought-provoking articles regarding climate change are well worth reading and pondering, so I am posting them here. Both see the crisis as being fundamentally a moral issue.
The first is by Bill McKibben, a longtime environmental writer and founder of 350.org, the activist group working to stop the Keystone XL Pipeline. He examines "the terrifying new math around global warming" in the latest issue of Rolling Stone in a 6,000-word article that looks at the greed and crookedness of fossil-fuel corporations and how their stranglehold on the economy continues to rule despite environmental activists' efforts.
A little hot for you lately? I've been in both Washington, D.C., and St. Louis in the last couple weeks, and the temperatures in both places were well above 100 degrees most days. There is drought in the Midwest. There have been devastating fires in the dried forests of Colorado. Yes, some of these events may be short-term "weather." But the patterns of a warming planet are unmistakable. We are experiencing the signs of a trend.
Invisible Excursions: A Compass for the Journey by Jim Conlon (Wyndham Hall Press) brings to mind intense "Where were you then?" memories, especially for those of us who were born into Catholic environments during the late 1930s and early 1940s.
Waking up to the enormity of environmental devastation can take a very long time. Mathematical cosmologist Brian Swimme spent 17 years passing through the stages of shock, annoyance, sadness and numbness before the truth reached him at the levels of heart and gut.
"I was humiliated that it had taken me so long," he said.
MANILA, Philippines -- Advocates of responsible mining, including bishops, are not relying solely on a recent executive order issued by President Benigno Aquino III to reform the mining industry in the Philippines.
Even before Aquino issued his Executive Order No. 79 on Monday afternoon, 72 of the 98 members of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines threw their support behind a petition from advocates of responsible mining titled, "A Call for the Passage of Alternative Minerals Management Bill."
The dioceses of Cleveland and Youngstown, Ohio, sponsored a daylong seminar on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) June 27, reports Catholic Climate Covenant on its website.
More than 100 concerned Catholics turned out to hear pros and cons on the topic from Peter MacKenzie of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, a trade group representing oil and gas producers around the state; John Stolz, a professor of environmental microbiology at Duquesne University in Pennsylvania; and Dr. Jame Schaefer, associate professor of theology at Marquette University and author of Theological Foundations for Environmental Ethics: Reconstructing Patristic and Medieval Concepts.
The Catholic Climate Covenant website also features two comprehensive reports on the meeting -- a Vindy.com news story account and an in-depth essay penned by Catholic blogger Bill Patenaude. In "Cracking Open the Depths," Patenaude lays out the dangers of the technology and his own ecologically positive experiences as a regulator for the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management.
When today's children grow up, will they be more effective than we grown-ups have been in transforming this current earth-unfriendly paradigm into one that is more positive, sustainable and beautiful?
Awakening the Dreamer, an international environmental education project sponsored by The Pachamama Alliance in San Francisco, believes it is possible. Heidi Pohl, a workshop facilitator in Colombia, has posted a letter on the organization's website describing how certified coaches there are adapting Dreamer workshop material for the kindergarten set.
Pohl said a group of 4- and 5-year-olds who have gone through the process are quite aware of the earth's plight.
"They know that animals are dying, that woods are disappearing, that big environmental disasters are happening, that people are suffering -- and somehow they have the sense that everything is connected," she writes.
Coaches worked with the kids using three concepts:
- Pachamama is our mother, who is worthy of love, who is ill right now and who needs us.
A recent government study showed that about 75 percent of the polluting nitrates in the Gulf of Mexico come from manure runoff that travels down the Mississippi River from farms in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
These pollutants make it economically difficult for people who make their living by fishing in the gulf, especially those who gather things such as shrimp and only make enough money to live on the margin. These people were already reeling from the effects of the British Petroleum oil spill in 2010.