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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.

Fr. Sean McDonagh: The acidification of the oceans

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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.

The wonder of the oceans
The oceans have a very special place in the story of the universe. To many of us, they are just there and seem ordinary and common place. But we can truly appreciate their significance when we view them as a special aspect of the unfolding of the universe itself. As far as we know, liquid water is found nowhere else in the Universe. Water vapor and ice has been found on other planets, but only on planet Earth have the oceans been created and maintained in their liquid form for four billion years. Oceans were probably on the Red planet (Mars), but they have long since vanished.

The bioregional quiz

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Whether you live near the rainforests of the Pacific Northwest, the deserts of the Southwest, the Midwestern prairies, the Eastern oak-hickory or Southeastern pine forests, the marshlands and swamps of the Gulf Coast, how well do you know your region? Take the quiz and find out.

Describe the way your drinking water goes from its point of origin to your faucet.

How many days until full moon? (errors of up to two days allowed)

Describe the basic geology of the place you are living. What type of natural ground is there?

Approximately how much rain does your region get in a year?

When was the last great fire in your region?

What kind of food was usually consumed by the ancient cultures in your region?

Name five local edible wild plants or herbs and the best time when they can be gathered.

From which direction do the storms come during winter in your region?

Where is your garbage deposition?

How long is the tillage and the harvest period in your region?

On which day in the year are the shadows shortest in your region?

The bioregional vision: Living in and loving your own place

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Leroy Hollow is a forested valley in southern Missouri near the Trappist Assumption Abbey. It winds several miles from Hilo Ridge down to Bryant Creek, a clear-flowing, rock-bottomed Ozark waterway.

A spring-fed stream shaded by spicebush and pawpaw trees runs down the hollow’s center. Its banks are carpeted with bloodroot, trillium and other wildflowers. In autumn the tinted leaves in the forest canopy filter the sun overhead like stained glass.

Draft decisions agreed upon in Canc˙n bode well for strong outcome of Mexico gathering

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At the UN climate change conference in Cancún, the two bodies under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which advise and implement decisions on climate action successfully concluded their work on Saturday with a number of significant draft decisions that will be put forward for adoption in the final plenary of the conference on 10 December.

The two groups are the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) and the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI).
The draft decisions included decisions on continued, strengthened support to developing countries efforts in adaptation and mitigation, including concrete technology transfer projects.

These advances form an important part of the groundwork for strengthened global climate change action. They also clearly show that countries have come to Cancún in good faith to show the world that the multilateral process can deliver as long as a spirit of compromise, cooperation and transparency prevails,. said Patricia Espinosa, President of the Conference and Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Mexico.

The world prays for success in Cancun

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Fr. Shay Cullen writes from the Preda Center, Olongapo City, Philippines, about the need for the Mexico Climate Change Conference to succeed. The Preda Center mission is to promote sustainable developement through fair trade and poverty alleviation.


"As the representatives of 120 nations and thousands of climate change experts and campaigners work in Cancun, Mexico, to try once again to avert the pending disaster that is coming to the world, I add my voice to those of hundreds of thousands and if not millions crying out for the conference to succeed.

It's vitally urgent for humanity that progress be made in reducing world levels of carbon dioxide, methane emissions, and deforestation. The greenhouse gasses emitted when we burn coal, oil, wood, garbage in power plants all over the world in ever increasing amounts are called that the gasses, especially co2, rise into the earth's stratosphere and form an insulation blanket that traps the earth's heat leading to an overheated planet causing the climate to be affected, violently at times. The most direct impact this has is seen in the retreating ice glaciers of the Arctic.

NASA discovers arsenic-fed life form

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NASA has discovered a new life form that can grow by substituting arsenic for phosphorus, redefining the agency’s search for different life forms other than the ones known on Earth.

The discovery was made by astrobiologists who performed tests by taking mud from Mono Lake -- a body of water in Northern California three times as salty as the ocean -- which has high arsenic content, said Felisa Wolfe-Simon, a NASA astrobiology research fellow with the U.S. Geological Survey, during a press conference Dec 2.

“(The microbe) is building itself out of arsenic, she said "All life we know is the same biochemically, and this is a little different. It is suggesting there is another way to be alive.”

Felisa Wolfe-Simon led researchers from eight federal and university laboratories conducting the experiment.’The researchers conceded that the odd microbes, in and of themselves, don't prove yet that there is a fundamentally different basis for life on Earth. "It is beginning to open the door a crack to possibilities," Wolfe-Simon said.

Fr. Charles Brandt: The land as sacred commons, sacramental commons

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Fr. Charles Brandt lives as a hermit on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. He is active in the bioregional movement and in work that is underway to preserve the landscape in his Pacific Northwest location.

“It’s the right thing to do.” In the past several years this has been a favorite statement of intent by politicians, environmentalists, etc. Recently, President Obama used these words in addressing a group in Indonesia. What does "it’s the right thing mean?" The statement has ethical if not moral implications.

As our community and other communities grapple with environmental issues that effect us as a community, and by extension the very land itself (which includes the soil, water, plants, and animal life and the atmosphere as well), we look for solutions to these issues. We seek a way to resolve them, whether it be politically, scientifically, socially or philosophically – or a combination of the above. In these discussions, Watersheds are a common concern.

The philosophical or Zen approach in resolving these issues is worth considering. It is helpful to understand that the land, a watershed, is a sacramental commons, a sacred commons.

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August 15-28, 2014

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