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Mexico climate talks reach the final day

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The world’s environment representatives worked through the night Thursday at the U.N. climate change summit in Mexico as they raced to overcome deep divides by the end of Friday over how to tackle the growing threat of global warming.

Ministers reported progress on many new mitigation and support mechanisms to help poor countries deal with global warming but by contrast much less success on how to cooperate on cutting global greenhouse-gas emissions.

“Time is running out, and we still have much work ahead of us,” said Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa, who is chairing the Cancun summit. But she added, “A broad and balanced package of decisions is indeed within our grasp.” Chairs of various working groups reported a “consensus” on initiatives that would help poor countries adapt to climate change, and “convergence” on the creation of a global climate fund to channel money from wealthy to poor countries. Deals were less certain on protecting forests and improving technology cooperation.

Brazilian bishop wins the Right Livelihood Award

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On Dec. 6 Bishop Erwin Kräutler received the Right Livelihood Award, often referred to as the Alternative Nobel Prize. The International Rivers blog reports on his award and the work he has done to oppose the Belo Monte Dam on the Xingu River in the Amazon.

Austrian-born Bishop Erwin Krautler was one of four recipients of the Right Livelihood Award. He is the bishop of Xingu and oversees the largest diocese in Brazil, encompassing about 142,000 square miles (367,780 sq. kilometres) with vast swaths of jungle. He was chosen "for a lifetime of work for the human and environmental rights of indigenous peoples and for his tireless efforts to save the Amazon forest from destruction," according to the Right Livelihood Award Foundation.

Fr. Sean McDonagh: Worldwide climate migration

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Columban Fr. Sean McDonagh is an ecologist, theologian and author. He writes and lectures on the relationship between faith, justice and ecology. He became involved in tackling global poverty and environmental degradation during his missionary years in the Philippines.

Even though the displacement of people, often on a permanent basis, always appears on any list of the consequences of climate change, little has been done to address their plight. The first assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC AR1), stated that the single greatest impact of climate change may well be the mass migration of humans, a phenomenon which is now being called –“climigration.”

Four spiritual ways to reduce stress

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I look out my window and see the squirrels bustle and the leaves fall, but I don’t see stress in the natural world. The energy there is calm and pure. How did we go so astray? Author Wayne Dyer says stress is just another word for fear. So perhaps the solution to reducing stress lies in less fear and learning from creation. Here are a few suggestions for doing that.

Meditate regularly. I have been meditating for years and I am convinced that it is the key to all of our ills. How does it reduce stress? By allowing us the space to sit quietly in God’s presence, focus on our breathing or a word/phrase, and observe and let go of our thoughts. Whatever we focus on, increases, and whatever we don’t focus on, decreases. So in meditation, we center on God, trust, peacefulness, openness, and the moment. We let go of obsessive thoughts and worry, the imperfect past, and the fearful future. We make room for the innate peace and perfection of the Holy Spirit within to emerge.

Excerpt from Wes Jackson's new book, Consulting the Genius of the Place

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The following excerpt is from Consulting the Genius of the Place: An Ecological Approach to a New Agriculture, by Wes Jackson, published by Counterpoint Books.

We learned from a study by a graduate student named William Noll at the University of Nebraska. In the 1930s he did a master's thesis that compared a never-plowed native prairie with an adjacent wheat field on common soil. He looked at several things, but the water part of it was particularly interesting.

The native prairie allocated the rain water over the course of the year - what turned out to be the driest year on record. Even though there were plants that died, essentially all the perennial species survived. In contrast, the adjacent wheat field completely died. The prairie is a "system" that has evolved to receive and allocate water over the course of a year - it uses a natural water conservation program.

Book review: Consulting the Genius of the Place, by Wes Jackson

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CONSULTING THE GENIUS OF THE PLACE
AN ECOLOGICAL APPROACH TO A NEW AGRICULTURE
By Wes Jackson
Published by Counterpoint Books, $26

Wes Jackson, founder of The Land Institute in Salina, Kansas, has been a leading voice of the agrarian movement over the last four decades. The themes of place, biodiversity and the virtues of perennial plants that have figured in his previous books converge in Jackson’s thorough argument for a new approach to agriculture that is dictated not by market economies or agribusiness but rather by the land and ecology of a given place.

Fr. Sean McDonagh reports from the climate change conference in Mexico

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Columban Fr. Sean McDonagh is an ecologist, theologian and author. He writes and lectures on the relationship between faith, justice and ecology. He became involved in tackling global poverty and environmental degradation during his missionary years in the Philippines. He reports from the U. N. Climate Change Conference in Mexico.

In racing terms we have rounded the last bend are on to the home straight. On some courses, I am told, the final furlong or two involves climbing a steep incline, so a lot more will happen here between now and Friday, Dec. 10, when COP 16 ends. In this report I will try and give a flavor of what has taken place here since Nov. 29.

Spirit of compromise has settled over climate conference, AP reports

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Reporting from the climate conference in Mexico during the second week, Associated Press correspondent Charles Hanley says a spirit of compromise seems to have settled over the conference, as negotiators look for agreement on secondary tools for coping with global warming. His full report is available on Yahoo News.

5 big lies that underlie consumerism

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Mindless consumption may be the greatest underlying cause of the planet’s environmental woes. Think about it. Can’t you trace every environmental ill back to greedy humans wanting more and more of everything?

Consumerism is escalating out of control with no end in sight. And it’s a vicious cycle — as we lose touch with the natural world, emptiness engulfs our souls that we seek to fill with things. The more consumption, the more harming of nature and the less it has to offer us.

We’ll never overcome our consumption addiction unless we become aware of the unexamined assumptions that underlie it.

1) My worth is in what I own or how much money I have. A friend told me he had five guns in his home. I asked him why, because I knew he never used them. He said, “Pride of ownership.” What is there to be proud of in having just for the sake of having? As Catholics, we know our worth is in being children of God. When did we cast that aside to join the throngs deluded by the notion that things outside of us can give us worth?

Can scary environmental stories get us moving?

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One thing I know that WON’T move us into environmental action is believing that everything is okay. We simply must face the horrible truth of what we are doing to our planet, even if it’s excruciatingly painful or provokes despair.

I often hear environmentalists say we have to soft pedal the bad news because otherwise people won’t listen to us. I understand that reasoning if that’s ALL we focus on, but I don’t see how anything constructive can come out of denial about the awful truth and the seriousness of the situation.

I know that every time I learn of some new environmental horror, I become more motivated to make Earth care a priority in my life. Sometimes it’s one little image — a beautiful polar bear stranded on a single ice floe in an expanse of arctic water — that can touch my heart and move me into action. I find that facing the truth is good for the soul. A sense of aliveness emerges even in the pain, whereas refusing to face reality only dulls the soul and makes for superficial living.

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April 11-24, 2014

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