Eco Catholic

Excerpt from Wes Jackson's new book, Consulting the Genius of the Place


The following excerpt is from Consulting the Genius of the Place: An Ecological Approach to a New Agriculture, by Wes Jackson, published by Counterpoint Books.

We learned from a study by a graduate student named William Noll at the University of Nebraska. In the 1930s he did a master's thesis that compared a never-plowed native prairie with an adjacent wheat field on common soil. He looked at several things, but the water part of it was particularly interesting.

The native prairie allocated the rain water over the course of the year - what turned out to be the driest year on record. Even though there were plants that died, essentially all the perennial species survived. In contrast, the adjacent wheat field completely died. The prairie is a "system" that has evolved to receive and allocate water over the course of a year - it uses a natural water conservation program.

Book review: Consulting the Genius of the Place, by Wes Jackson


By Wes Jackson
Published by Counterpoint Books, $26

Wes Jackson, founder of The Land Institute in Salina, Kansas, has been a leading voice of the agrarian movement over the last four decades. The themes of place, biodiversity and the virtues of perennial plants that have figured in his previous books converge in Jackson’s thorough argument for a new approach to agriculture that is dictated not by market economies or agribusiness but rather by the land and ecology of a given place.

Fr. Sean McDonagh reports from the climate change conference in Mexico


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. He reports from the U. N. Climate Change Conference in Mexico.

In racing terms we have rounded the last bend are on to the home straight. On some courses, I am told, the final furlong or two involves climbing a steep incline, so a lot more will happen here between now and Friday, Dec. 10, when COP 16 ends. In this report I will try and give a flavor of what has taken place here since Nov. 29.

Spirit of compromise has settled over climate conference, AP reports


Reporting from the climate conference in Mexico during the second week, Associated Press correspondent Charles Hanley says a spirit of compromise seems to have settled over the conference, as negotiators look for agreement on secondary tools for coping with global warming. His full report is available on Yahoo News.

5 big lies that underlie consumerism


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?


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


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


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


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.


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In This Issue

June 16-29, 2017