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Cool the Earth school program tackles climate change


They did it for smoking. Now they’re doing it for pollution. Kids are confronting their parents’ destructive behavior and showing them how to live cool, in an earth-saving sort of way that is.

A new school program called Cool the Earth is teaching kids in kindergarten through grade 8 how and why it’s important to reduce their carbon emissions. It’s a free and adaptable extra-curricular program. Since launching in 2007 Cool the Earth has reached 59,654 students in 297 schools and Girl Scout troops across the U.S. and saved close to a billion pounds of heat-trapping carbon from being emitted.

Cool the Earth is a grassroots nonprofit based in Marin County, California that was created by Carleen and Jeff Cullen, two concerned parents eager to find practical ways to tackle climate change and encourage others to do the same.

Holy altruism: An instinct for self-sacrifice is evident in animal evolution


One day years ago in early spring I took a walk with my 10-year-old niece through the forest and pastures surrounding our houses. At one point, we surprised a whippoorwill that was nesting on the ground in the midst of a grove of wild plum trees. Abandoning its lone nestling, the bird flew around us in circles, then landed on a nearby sapling. We could see that it was dragging one wing, trying to make us think it had been injured so that, if we happened to be hungry predators, we would go after the “easy prey” that was the parent rather than the newly hatched, more vulnerable child.

It gave us the opportunity to get a close look at a mysterious neighbor, often heard in the early evenings but seldom seen. About the size of a robin, the bird wore mottled feathers of about a dozen shades of grey, brown and black. Its oversized mouth bordered by whiskers, one could see it was well equipped for night hawking in the forest for moths. It perched on weak, spindly feet on the branch, teetering back and forth in uneasy equilibrium.

Two Catholic colleges leading the way


Seattle University has removed all bottled water from their campus. Instead students obtain reusable bottles in the campus bookstore. To duplicate this action in your locale, contact Corporate Accountability International

Siena College in Loudonville, N.Y. is the first Catholic college to become a certified Fair Trade College, meaning fair trade products replace their counterparts in all the school's dining areas in order to promote decent conditions for agricultural workers in Latin America and Africa. Other schools and parishes interested in this endeavor can contact Catholic Relief Services,

Give the gift of going offline


We've all been there: At the dinner table with family, grabbing a cup of coffee with a friend, when, in an instant, your companion's attention is diverted to their device of choice. "How many times has it happened to you," asks Eric Yaverbaum, "when you're in a conversation with someone and suddenly you want to ask, 'How many of us are there here? Me, you, and who else?"

Yaverbaum and his business partner, Mark DiMassimo, are the founders of Offlining, a site devoted to getting people to unplug at least once in a while in favor of interacting with the world right in front of them. The duo uses clever ad campaigns and online pledges to encourage people to put devices and screens aside.

Are we hardwired for extinction?


Are our brains -- specifically our physiological fear responses -- wired in ways that will lead to our extinction as a species? Natural Resources Defense Council columnist George Black explores this question, looking at the reasons why Americans aren't more alarmed about the climate change news. His column is titled "Humans with Antlers."

"Our evolutionary development," Black writes, "has not yet caught up with the change in our circumstances. More specifically, the problem is our brain’s fear triggers. Our instincts are still paleolithic; our fear reflexes respond to all the wrong things. They lie dormant in the face of climate change, no matter how ominously scientists predict its probable consequences. But we’re programmed to pump adrenalin at the sight of spiders, snakes, and other mortal threats slithering into our caves."

More about the 'holy fool'


Iurodstvo is the Russian word for the idea of “holy foolishness” for Christ’s sake. It’s a form of asceticism that has been practiced within the Russian Orthodox church for centuries.

Its practitioners feign madness in order to provide the public with spiritual guidance. The aim too is to avoid praise and acclaim for perceived holiness. It’s a radical form of humility as well.

According to Russian Orthodox scholar Svetlana Kobets: “The holy fool’s exploit is that of secret sanctity, which above all promotes the non-ontological understanding that all of God’s created world is a sacred place. By his feigned madness the holy fool opts to say that the lowliest of the low can be not the poor wretch he appears to be, but a holy one and God’s prophet. He shares his power and authority with all the weak, mocked and despised thus symbolically destroying clear-cut distinctions between the profane and the sacred.”

In the Russian church it is regarded as the most difficult and controversial of all spiritual practices. Thirty-six holy fools have been canonized by the Orthodox church.

Storms of My Grandchildren, by James Hansen


By James Hansen
Published by Bloomsbury Books, $16

Several years ago I volunteered my Honda Civic Hybrid for a local EPA project that measured the exhaust gasses from its tailpipe. A team of technicians installed a measuring device in the trunk with a tube leading out to the exhaust pipe. I drove the car for a week with this gizmo in place as it qualified and quantified the emissions.

The statistic you most often hear from reputable sources is that, for the average car, every mile driven produces about a pound of carbon dioxide through engine combustion processes. I’ve got 79,000 miles on my car, so I’ve contributed that many pounds to the atmosphere – almost 400 tons -- in the last 7 years. Muliply me by millions and millions. The science -- at least at the tailpipe -- is pretty straightforward.

Nasruddin and his donkey: Tales of the holy fool


The holy fool, or the fool as wise soul, is a figure in many wisdom traditions, including the Russian Orthodox spirituality tradition, the Sufis of Islam, Zen Buddhism, Christianity and the inheritors of the Hasidic movement of Judaism. Such fools amuse, confuse, sometimes speak in simile or circuitous riddles, are often ridiculed. They are trickster figures. They are, after all, intentionally ridiculous but can succeed by that very character in breaking through a crust of resistance or disbelief. Holy fools turn our spiritual traditions upside down and inside out -- just as Jesus' parables do -- so that we can more readily see the truth within them.

“There is an enigmatic quality to the fool’s cloak of madness or nonsense that provokes attention, response, reflection, as well as laughter. The fool's inherent humility, too, may loosen the defensive, ego-inflated character of those who make too much of themselves and thus lose touch with a deeper reality,” writes John Boettinger.

The great holy fool from the Sufis is Mullah Nasruddin. Here are some of the tales told about him:

Opt out of animal cruelty in factory farms -- Go vegan!


I doubt if any of you readers are inherently cruel or approve of cruelty. I’m sure you would intervene if you saw someone being cruel to another person or to an animal. And if you did nothing out of cowardice, indifference, or selfishness—and you easily could have—I’m sure you would consider this wrong, a sin of omission. What if I were to tell you that you have just such a choice right now?

As I write this, billions of animals on U.S. factory farms are suffering physical and mental pain. Considered mere commodities and “things” to satisfy the palate of meat-loving Americans, they receive no humane treatment (no matter how much smooth-talking PR agents of the industry deny this). Never mind that they too are created in the image and likeness of God, that they feel pain just as much as we do, or that they suffer mental anguish over separation from their offspring or never being able to romp freely.


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