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'Subdued by what we conquered': Pope Benedict's understanding of nature disappointingly inert


By David DeCosse
David DeCosse is director of campus ethics programs at Santa Clara University in California.

The whale flashed its bulk, like an island in the brilliant sun. The wind whipped away the spray from the spout in a steady gust. I watched in joy and awe from the bluff trail as the majestic, shimmering creature — no more than a half-mile offshore — pushed north through the white froth in submerged, half-hidden power.

I treasure that recent moment on the Central Coast of California because it points to what the American writer Wallace Stegner has called nature’s capacity for bringing “spiritual renewal, the recognition of identity, the birth of awe.” I also recall that moment because it points to a profound flaw in the green theology of Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical Caritas in Veritate.

In short, there’s too little room for the dynamic power of the whale in the contemplative sea that is Benedict’s view of nature.

Richard Rohr and the 12 Steps: Going out to 'the inner room'


By Richard Rohr
Published by St. Anthony Messenger Press, $15.99

A quarter century ago, Franciscan Fr. Richard Rohr gave a series of talks in Cincinnati that linked the wisdom of the Twelve Steps Program to what St. Francis called “the marrow of the gospel.” “I was amazed at how obvious and easy a task it was,” he said.

Now he’s updated those talks in his new book. Breathing Under Water.

He reflects about his earliest experiences with such programs, when "the people dealing with their addictions in the church basement thought they had left the church for the Wednesay night meetings in the basement, while many upstairs in the sanctuary presumed that their ‘higher’ concerns were something different from ‘those people with problems’ down below."

The reality, he says, was that we were dealing with a common inspiration from the Holy Spirit and from the collective unconscious of the human race.

How Christian and secular ecologists have moved from criticism to common ground


Fr. Bud Grant's regular column on the National Catholic Rural Life Network Web site discusses the relationship between Christian and secular ecologists over the last half century.

"Secular ecologists," he writes, "have long been suspicious of Christianity. It is worth explaining why people of faith have been mistrusted by environmentalists and from there to locate the common ground that can be used to overcome that wariness for the sake of advancing our common objectives.... The most famous accusation made against Christianity was thrown by historian Lynn White Jr. in 1967 with a bombshell article in Science Magazine. He makes a succinct charge: The 'subdue and dominate' language of Genesis 1:27 'established a dualism of man and nature but also insisted that it is God’s will that man exploit nature for his proper ends.' Christian focus on the spiritual world means we insist on 'transcendence of and mastery over nature.' 'Christianity,' he adds, 'bears a huge burden of guilt.' Ouch."

Read Fr. Grant's entire article on the Web site. It's a very interesting discussion on important issues in religion and ecology.

A more supple notion of who God is


As a kid raised in a large family with what he calls “healthy neglect,” the late Passionist Fr. Thomas Berry roamed the woods and fields around his home in Greensboro, N.C. At the age of 11, he said, his sense of “the natural world in its numinous presence” came to him when he discovered a new meadow on the edge of town.

“The field was covered with white lilies rising above the thick grass. A magic moment, this experience gave to my life something that seems to explain my thinking at a more profound level than almost any other experience I can remember.”

It was not only the lilies, he said. “It was the singing of the crickets and the woodlands in the distance and the clouds in the clear sky. … This early experience has remained with me ever since as the basic determinant of my sense of reality and values. Whatever fosters this meadow is good. What does harm to this meadow is not good.”

By extension, he said, “a good economic, or political, or educational system is one that would preserve that meadow and a good religion would reveal the deeper experience of that meadow and how it came into being.”

The world's only living paper mills


I Am Mr. Ellie Pooh, The World’s Only Living Paper Mill is a cheery, orange-colored children’s book which I discovered during a recent visit to The Global Gallery, a small,funky, charming Fair Trade shop in Columbus. Ohio. The illustrated story was displayed next to a refrigerator, decorated with a busy variety of endearing elephant magnets in different colors.

What was this corner patch of pachederms all about?

Mr. Ellie Pooh explained. Instead of viewing the gray giants as crop-gobbling farming pests needing to be killed, some Sri Lankans are welcoming them instead --- as equal partners in a paper making business venture. And guess what the paper is made from? Elephant dung. There is plenty of this raw material to transform into story books, scrapbooking materials, greeting cards, eco-friendly envelopes, picture frames, business cards, notebooks and other children’s educational materials.

School Sisters of Notre Dame present eco-education in the Milwaukee area


We are in the midst of a massive up-welling of human potential, creativity, anger, and frustration." -- Barbara Marx Hubbard, futurist

You know about rising food and gas prices, eccentric weather and a global food emergency. You may even know about debt, corporate scandals and the increase of asthma cases. What seemed to work before in an industrialized economy, now seems, in part, to be backfiring with pollution, toxic chemicals, lessening resources, global warming.

It is time to create new perspectives in relationship to our planetary home. This is where Sunseed Eco-Education Ministries comes into the picture.

Nestled originally in the farming village of Mount Calvary, Wisconsin, Sunseed Eco-Education Ministries was created by the School Sisters of Notre Dame of the Milwaukee province who knew in 2007 that the future was calling forth their well-honed education skills to help raise planetary consciousness.

Lament, hurrah, call to action: An historic gathering of Christian ecologists -- Part 2


At an evening prayer service toward the end of the conference, many of those attending circled around a bonfire out in the dark to pray. For an hour or more, petitions were voiced, reflections were made, thanksgivings were given.

One person prayed, “Oh Father and Mother God, send us all your strength. We must not fail.”

Sparks from the fire ascended briskly up through the outspreading oak branches into the soft velvet of the skies. Slowly the circle dispersed back to the dormitories and tents through the dew-washed grass. In the distance the sad, faraway call of a screech owl could be heard.

Almost immediately it became apparent that there were two points of view present and active in the gathered conference-goers.

The first was the stewardship view, which proposes that humanity is charged by God to take care of the natural world but that we humans are in significant ways separate from it and superior to it.

\"Jump into Love's deep river' -- Open-handed generosity and the environment


There is cause this week for both joy and grief on the environmental front. For every two steps forward, it seems, there is one going backward.

The joy: Lego, the fourth largest toy company in the world has announced that it will no longer buy its paper packaging supplies from Asia Pulp & Paper, (APP) a logging company cited by Greenpeace International for its role in Indonesian rainforest destruction. Instead, Lego will reduce its packaging, make more use of recycled paper contract and source sustainable wood only for any virgin tree fiber it uses. Their decision follows a massive letter writing campaign spearheaded by Greenpeace. Last month more than 60,000 individuals demanded that large toy companies, including Lego and Mattel cease their business dealings with APP and adopt sustainable packaging practices.

Lego is the first to respond proactively. Mattel, manufacturer of Barbie dolls, has said publically they will drop APP but as yet has made no real changes, according to Greenpeace’s website.

Violence over land rights in northern Honduras challenges diocese


By Madeline Watkins, Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A fertile region in northern Honduras has been gaining international attention because of human rights abuses and escalating violence over land reform.

"It has been very difficult for us," said Fr. Felipe Lopez, pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish in Trujillo. Of the 10 parishes in the Diocese of Trujillo, St. John the Baptist is one of the closest to the conflict, centered in the disputed territory known as the Bajo Aguan.

"The violence has lessened in the last three to four weeks," Fr. Lopez told Catholic News Service in mid-July, "but June was very violent, almost as if we were in the midst of a war."

Most of the fighting is taking place on the large palm plantations in dispute. Fr. Lopez said at least 40 to 50 people have been killed in the conflict over land claimed by both peasant farmers and three wealthy landowners in the region.

"Sadly, those who are suffering the most are the very poor," Fr. Lopez said. The increased levels of violence have caused greater poverty in the region because most of the peasants work on the palm plantations in dispute, he said.

Thirsty for answers: Preparing for the water-related impacts of climate disruption


U. S. cities should anticipate significant water-related vulnerabilities based on current carbon emission trends because of climate change, ranging from water shortages to more intense storms and floods to sea-level rise, according to a report just released by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

To help cities become more resilient to the rising threats of climate change, NRDC reviewed more than 75 scientific studies and other reports to summarize the water-related vulnerabilities in 12 cities across the United States.


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