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Contemporary earth saints


St. Francis of Assisi's spirit is vibrantly alive within the hearts of compassionate people who advocate for the welfare of animals everywhere on our planet. Allow me to introduce you to four of these contemporary earth saints.

One of them, Sr. Mary Ethel Tinnemann, a Sister of the Holy Names, died three years ago at age 97. The other individuals -- Sr. Mary Liam Brock, Sr. Ann Ronin, and Tony Maurovich -- continue to make the lives of homeless cats free from misery and hunger in the Oakland/San Francisco Bay Areas.

Wangari Maathai helped us to 'rise up and walk'


Nowhere in Wangari Maathai’s official biography as founder of the Green Belt Movement is there mention of a song written to honor her environmental work. But there is one. In late October of 2006, when the Nobel Prize laureate visited Berkeley, California to give a talk at First Congregational Church, she was welcomed on stage by Orcas Island composer and singer Sharon Abreau. “Wangari,” Abreau serenaded, “You shine bright as the morning star. You have helped us to understand that peace on earth needs a living hand.”

Land grabs and role of the U.S. government


Most of the world’s work is agricultural work. Most of that is done by smallholder farmers and most of those are women. Increasingly these farmers are finding their livelihoods at risk by the encroachment of foreign investors seeking to reap rewards for their own countries.

Saudi Arabia has invested in large scale leases and purchases of land for food production for its own country. South Korea has invested in Africa lands for biofuel production. Increasingly the United States has facilitated corporate investment in developing countries for private corporations. China has turned to other countries for mineral production as it seeks to grow its own economy.

As small farmers find their livelihoods at risk from these “land grabs,” international organizations like the World Bank, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, and other multi-lateral players have been developing guidelines for “responsible investment.”

The United States has agreed to chair the committee which is reviewing this investment agenda. It will lead a meeting on this in October just prior to World Food Day (Oct. 16) on Oct. 11 in Rome.

A note from Tom Fox, NCR editor


It recently came to my attention that staff writer Rich Heffern, in the course of writing some of his columns, cut and pasted paragraphs from other Web sites, without proper attributions. Plain and simple, this is unacceptable journalism; it’s called plagiarism. We spoke together and went through some painful discernment before I accepted Heffern’s resignation. I offered him the opportunity to share some parting thoughts with NCR readers.

Under a lot of stress the last few years due to health reasons, I took careless shortcuts in some of my writing, and was not careful with attributions. I am deeply sorry and apologize to NCR’s board, to my colleagues and my readers. It’s been a joy to report on and present many of the efforts Catholics are making here and around the world in healing the Earth’s life-support systems for future generations, in caring for the poor and in exploring and re-imagining the church’s spiritual treasures and making them available to all. May our lives continue to be Spirit-filled and God-haunted.

Environmentalists on fracking


Fracking, a relatively new drilling technology for bringing up natural gas from the earth, does not encourage feelings of neutrality.

People either hate or love the idea of this quick fix method for extracting unenvironmentally sustainable fossil fuels from the ground. Fracking has been banned by the French Assembly and the state of New Jersey. The government of South Africa has extended a moratorium on it for another six months.

Pennsylvania is another story entirely. Many residents there are alarmed by the plot line.

It goes like this: Fracking is one of the leading characters in this northeastern state's energy plans for the future.

Food and faith: possibilities for parishes (Part 2)


In yesterday's blog I stated: As Catholic Christians, we are called to read the signs of the times and make, if necessary, a counter-cultural witness. It is the urban poor who have the least access to fresh and organic food. It is the poor who suffer the most from diet-based degenerative diseases such as obesity and diabetes.

In the United States the National Catholic Rural Life Conference (NCRLC) has been a fierce advocate for the rights of the small farmer and a more just food system. I have been active for a number of years with the Michigan Catholic Rural Life Coalition. The NCRLC has wonderful material for small faith sharing groups on the church's teaching on food and faith and sustainable living.

Beyond study, parishes are called to be living witnesses of the Gospel in our local communities. As I have discovered, during my years I served as pastor of St. Elizabeth Parish in Wyandotte, Mich., models abound that can enhance our witness of a more just and sustainable world through the promotion of local and organic methods of food production:

Food and faith: possibilities for parishes (Part 1)


One need not have read The Omnivore's Dilemma or have seen the movie "Food, Inc." to know that something is seriously out of kilter with the American food system. With the dominance of agri-business, the quaint image of the family farmer with cows out in the pasture who is growing a cornucopia of crop varieties has, in recent years, become something of an anachronism.

Rather, with the rise of agri-business our food production system has several disturbing characteristics:


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