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America's good food fight

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It's agribusiness vs. the sustainable food movement. And reform advocates say it's possible to make delicious, nutritious, safe food available to all people of all income levels.

By Nicolette Hahn Niman
Op Ed in the L.A Times, Jan. 9, 2010

Our holiday table got quite tense. We are a mixed family — Jewish, Christian, Republican, Democrat –— but the tension wasn't from differences over religion or politics. It was about food.

At one end of the table sat my husband's nephew, who runs a food bank. He's an earnest man who spends his days seeking nourishment for the hungry, and favors almost anything that increases food's availability or lowers its price. My husband and I occupied the other end. We operate a pasture-based ranch, and spend much of our time advocating for farming grounded in ecology and stewardship. The food we raise is less readily available and more expensive than most of what's found at typical grocery stores.

Other family members sat between us. They enjoy eating well but, especially in these tough economic times, want their meals as cheap as possible.

God's not in a hurry: Theology can be less parochial

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Last year we celebrated the 400th anniversary of Galileo first pointing a telescope at the heavens. He did not invent the telescope. Rather the significance of what he did lies in four things.

In his day it was commonly believed that the Earth was obviously the center of the universe and that celestial bodies like the sun, moon and stars were “mystical” realms that orbited us. Galileo first observed that the moon, for example, was an actual place with some of the same features – valleys, volcanoes, mountains – that existed in his own native Italy.

Secondly, he observed that the planet Venus went through phases. Sometimes it was seen in its full glory, other times as a crescent and still other times it could not be seen. This was proof positive that the Copernican idea, introduced before Galileo’s exploration, that all the planets including Earth did in fact revolve around the Sun was correct.

Third, he pointed his telescope at the Milky Way overhead and determined for the first time that the vast light cloud is actually made of individual stars massed together.

Shepherd's Corner Ecology Center: Careful stewards of God's creation

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Shepherd's Corner, an ecology ministry in Blacklick, Ohio, is a ministry of the Dominican Sisters of Peace. Its director Dominican Sr. Diane Kozlowski introduces Shepherd's Corner and its work.

Shepherd’s Corner is an ecology ministry of the Dominican Sisters of Peace located in Blacklick, Ohio. The 160 acres of land provide a natural oasis in the midst of recent development. The land’s diverse range of habitats offers a haven for wildlife and native flora and a place of peace, beauty, and spiritual refreshment for humans. Our vision statement expresses our hopes: Shepherd’s Corner Ecology Center is a small corner of creation seeking to recreate the land’s wholeness by rediscovering the life-giving harmony between the people and the land. Here, people of all backgrounds can learn to reconnect with the natural environment, themselves, one another, and the Creator who made them all.

A feather on God's breath: Recovering our hearts

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A memory: I was 21, in Vietnam-era military police school, with 40 others in the hill country of central Texas. We were all exhausted, dirty and dispirited on a long march back from the pistol range. Suddenly one of our squad leaders started loudly singing, "Monday, Monday," a then-current hit from the folk-rock group The Mamas and the Papas.

To a man, we all took up the lyrics. Our drudgery shape-shifted into a make-it-up-as-you-go bugaloo down the gravel road. In a moment, fatigue-clad automatons were transformed into a spunky, badly harmonizing, ragtag assembly of uniquely peppy spirits with a whole new lease on life that day.

Another memory: While living on the West Coast, I was driving home in my battered little convertible across the Golden Gate Bridge The siren blast of a freighter outward bound for Capetown or Singapore duetted with the foghorns on the bridge's towers. Past the glittery bay-reflected lights of Sausalito, I saw ahead the pastel tiers of fog-stalked San Francisco looking ever so bedazzling like the Emerald City of Oz. Off to the right, the titanic, heaving mystery of the Pacific Ocean brooded in distant, cloud-shrouded darkness.

Chop, fry boil: Eating for one or for six billion

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Learning a cooking repertoire of three basic recipes can get anyone into the kitchen and beyond the realm of takeout food, microwaved popcorn and bologna sandwiches in a few days.

"Chop, Fry, Boil: Eating for One, or 6 Billion" is the latest entry in the Sustainable Living series in the New York Times, outlining three basic cooking recipes that can provide the basis for sustainable eating in the home.

The puppet and the cricket: the value of silence

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I once interviewed Jay Taylor, director of spiritual formation for the Pentecostal Assemblies of God seminary in Springfield, Mo. His students had been spending some weekends at a remote Trappist monastery 70 miles from Springfield. Taylor said the formation team was not interested in creating monks but wanted its students to learn the importance of inward-directed spiritual disciplines.

The monastery’s Catholicism, its chanting, statues, icons, woolen robes, scapulars and incense, he said, were not as alien to the Pentecostal seminarians as the hushed quiet encountered there.

“It’s more than a little intimidating. It’s a shock when they experience their mind flying all over the place, hearing their inside chatter for what it is.”

Most of us live in a cacophonous world, and suffer for it in ways we’re not even aware of. Since the desert fathers and mothers in the early centuries, silence and a quiet mind have held an important place in the Catholic spiritual tradition.

Buddhists say the silence behind creation has a density to it, a physical-ness. It is teeming with possibility and potential. Silence is creative, healing and, most important, gives us wise counsel.

GM crops breed economic dependence, new form of slavery, says cardinal

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By Carol Glatz Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- If farmers in Africa had greater access to fertile, arable land safe from armed conflict and pollutants, they would not need genetically modified crops to produce food, said the head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

Making growers reliant on proprietary, genetically modified seeds smacks of "the usual game of economic dependence," which in turn, "stands out like a new form of slavery," said Cardinal Peter Turkson.

The Ghanaian cardinal's comments came in an interview with the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano Jan. 5.

It is "a scandal" that nearly 1 billion people suffer from hunger, Cardinal Turkson said, especially since there is more than enough food to feed the whole world.

Crops and livestock are destroyed because of strict trade restraints or in order to keep food prices high and, in wealthier countries, edible food "is thrown in the garbage," he said.

"All it would take is a little bit more solidarity and much less egoism" and there would be enough food to nourish even twice the current world population, he said.

Suggested Lenten actions to benefit the Earth

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Cut down on electricity use:
a) Turn off lights when not in use.
b) Unplug things seldom used.
c) Turn off the TV and radio that are just background noise.
d) Turn off the computer if you won’t be using it for several hours.
e) Use lower wattage bulbs in places that don’t need bright light.
f) Replace your current light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs that use 75 percent less energy.
g) Have a day a week of no TV, radio, computer, video games, and other electronics use.

Make earth-beneficial changes in your eating habits:
a) Eat out less at fast-food restaurants
b) Eat more organic and locally-grown foods
c) Eat less or no meat. Eat beans, grains, brown rice, nuts, seeds, tofu and more vegetables and fruits.
d) Cut back on highly packaged foods and snacks.
e) Eliminate or decrease consumption of soda, bottled water, and drinks purchased in styrofoam or plastic cups/bottles
f) Use canvas bags for your groceries and other purchases

Make changes in purchases and consumption:
a) For a certain time period, decide that you will purchase only what is NECESSARY. Have a buying moratorium.

Get creative this Lent: A parish program for Earth care

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I know it’s not fair. You just came out of the busy Christmas liturgical season, and here I am asking you to be thinking about Lent already. It’s just that I wanted to put my two-cents in early before all the Lenten plans were made. I’m aware that many parishes have certain Lenten traditions that they stick to, but if you’re a little tried of the status quo and want a fresh idea for a Lent, I’d like to share what our parish did a couple of years ago.

Our Green Team is always looking for ways to educate our parishioners on connections between faith and caring for the Earth, so Lent seemed like an ideal time for this. We wanted ecology to be a total parish theme, so got buy-in and approval from the pastor and parish council. This was easy, because I think most church leaders are happy to have a parish group take the initiative on a new project.

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