Eco Catholic

Flight over Canada's destruction of nature inspires environmental musician


In 2009, Jennifer Berezan took a plane ride with two friends over Edmondton, Alberta, Canada, the place where she grew up. Vast expanses of the area she loved so very much had once thrived as an ancient green boreal forest. But now it had been industrially raped and turned into a wasteland.

Berezan, an environmental musician, composer and social justice activist living in Berkeley, Calif., thought she had braced herself to withstand emotionally the ruinous devastation she would see, but the reality was soul-chilling. Remembering the ancient trees that used to roll "in green waves of motion," she now looked down at "a world on fire. No light. No land. Just black tar and sand."

Berezan was viewing the Canada's Athabasca tar sands operation in Fort McMurray, which help make Canada's oil reserves the second-largest in the world after Saudi Arabia's. Almost as large as the state of Florida, the area supplies approximately 1 million barrels of oil to the United States every day.

Biophilia and the barcode of life


Last month, I had the privilege of attending a Wege lecture at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Mich., where Daniel Janzen, the world-renowned biologist, was the presenter.

Professor Janzen, of the University of Pennsylvania and the Guanacaste Conservation Area in Costa Rica, and his wife, biologist Winnie Hallwachs, have witnessed how the incredibly biologically diverse area of Costa Rica was becoming gobbled up to development. Rather than lament and throw up their hands, Daniel and Winnie acted.

They partnered with the Costa Rican government, other governments and friendly foundations to launch the Guanacaste National Park Project. The restoration of this northwestern part of Costa Rica, known as the Area de Conservación Guanacaste, has been one of the great miracles of modern-day biology. There are now 190,000 hectares of restored land in this region. (The entire country is about 151,000 square kilometers, about the same size as the state of Michigan.)

Rio+20 to seek a sustainable, global future


Rio+20: Still trying to map a sustainable future for the world
By Catholic News Service
LIMA, Peru (CNS) -- Twenty years ago, a 12-year-old girl stood before government officials from most of the world's countries and pleaded for her future. Worried about pollution and overuse of natural resources on her finite planet, she begged, "If you don't know how to fix it, please don't break it."

The occasion was the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, which ended with the world's countries committing -- at least on paper -- to make environmental concerns a priority and eliminate unsustainable forms of production and consumption. Above all, delegates agreed that development must not jeopardize the welfare of future generations.

Free tool helps congregations save money, reduce emissions


In my previous blog, I shared an interview I recently had with Jerry Lawson, the national manager of the EPA's ENERGY STAR for Congregations program, and with Steve Bell, a consultant who works with the EPA's Portfolio Manager energy performance tool. In part II of our conversation, we address the issue of this powerful, free tool available to congregations that enables them to save money and energy and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

Pennsylvania farmer speaks out against fracking at memorial for wife


Stephen Cleghorn's roots are Catholic, but he led a powerfully personalized and wonderfully unorthodox ritual and public gathering honoring his late wife, Lucinda Hart-Gonzalez, on May 10. The energy of it combined his fierce undying love for her with an equally passionate element of rebellion against gas companies that are eyeing a part of his 50-acre Pennsylvania organic farm for hydraulic fracturing and against the politicians who support it.

Parish's solar panels renew energy, commitment to creation


As spring gave way to winter, more than flowers were found sprouting up on the grounds at a Catholic parish and school in Holmdel, N.J.

For St. Benedict Parish and School, the sun’s rays not only give life to their plants and shrubbery, but they now bring power to its buildings.

On April 22, Earth Day, the parish community gathered, amid heavy rain showers, to bless the nearly 1,000 solar panels installed on their property. The panels – set up in two arrangements, one behind the school and one on top of a school building’s roof – will generate enough electricity to power the entire parish campus, as well as symbolize their stewardship to the earth.

Energy Star helps faithful witness energy stewardship, save money


Too often parishes can feel a pull between witnessing to their mission while dealing with practical matters such as paying their bills. Fortunately, a wonderful partnership has emerged between the faith community, the business community and the federal government where congregations can realize savings while exercising Gospel stewardship, particularly in the area of energy.

Since I began Michigan Interfaith Power & Light back in late 2002, a key resource and partner in helping communities of faith achieve pollution prevention is the EPA’s Energy Star for Congregations program.

Great Pacific Garbage Patch keeps growing ... and growing ... and ...


A story in the UK's Telegraph today reports that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch -- a swirling mass of marine litter -- has grown to "roughly the size of Texas."

According to the Telegraph:

"The abundance of small human-produced plastic particles in the NPSG has increased by 100 times over the last four decades," said a statement on the findings of researchers from the University of California.

Two years later, BP oil spill still affects Gulf way of life


Two years after the massive BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the news remains grim on numerous fronts, reports Mother Jones in an April 2012 series of environmental impact articles. Besides eyeless shrimp, toxic beaches and dead dolphins, Gulf oysters are now in trouble, and people who swim in the Gulf are picking up carcinogenic PAH compounds on their skin.

A team of scientists, led by Dr. Peter Roopnarine of the California Academy of Sciences, has learned that oysters now have higher concentrations of the heavy metals found in crude oil than they did before the spill. Roopnarine also discovered signs of metaplasia, a condition that occurs when tissues are transformed in response to stress, in the mollusks. The scientists don't yet know what these effects could have on high-level consumers in the food chain, which includes people who love Louisiana's famous Po' Boy sandwiches, but previous studies show heavy metal pollution combined with warmer temperatures are especially deadly in oysters.

Global community connects the dots about climate change


Saturday, May 5 was somewhat of a marquee day on the calendar for many Americans.

For some, it meant partaking in Cinco de Mayo festivities; for others, gathering at their local racetrack or in front of their televisions to watch three-year-old colt I’ll Have Another overtake Bodemeister in the last legs of the 138th Kentucky Derby.

But for a third group, the day had far more significance — it was a day for connecting the dots.

Americans across the country joined thousands of people across the globe to gather in their local communities, with a dot in tow, to bring attention to the connections between extreme weather and climate change.


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In This Issue

February 10-23, 2017