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'Tipping Point': A primer on the Alberta tar sands


As more attention is brought to the proposed Keystone Pipeline that would bring Alberta Tar Sands Oil from Canada through the central United States to refineries in Texas, people of faith are looking for resources to help them understand the issues involved and who will be affected. Tipping Point: The End of Oil is a powerful new documentary produced by Clearwater Media. It serves as a primer for parish adult education, and justice and peace groups.

Tipping Point, first shown on CBC's Nature of Things in January, introduces us to the real stories of real people whose health and way of life have been tragically upended by the "biggest construction project on the planet." The movie begins with the story of the indigenous people of Fort Chipewyan, who live downstream from the Tar Sands and have been dying in disproportionate numbers from rare forms of cancers.

Bioneers: A new vision of reality


The experience of liturgy, I believe, should impact us in two ways.

First, good liturgy paints an alternative vision of reality. Good liturgy (and good preaching) wakes us up to the sinful condition of the status quo, presents the way the world could be and hints at pathways toward that future. It inspires us toward a different way in which our future might be created.

Second, good liturgy presents a gathering of the community of communities. Folks who have been shaping in their day-to-day reality something of that world to come gather together.

In sharing their stories, their common wisdom of what has happened and how they have experienced the sense of the sacred, my own eyes are opened. I am encouraged and inspired by the stories of others to approach the coming week with a freshness of spirit and new eyes. In so doing, I forge allies for the work ahead.

Global governance of food security


The Committee on World Food Security (CFS) met in Rome from Oct. 17-22 at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. One hundred and twenty countries of the world belong to the FAO. This was the 37th annual meeting of the committee.

It was the first time that civil society (nongovernmental organizations and grassroots organizations) had a voice at the meeting.

California high school receives science partnership


Bishop O'Dowd High School in Oakland, Calif., has been a pioneer in environmental education for more than a decade. Its Living Lab, a core part of the student curriculum, has inspired graduates to pursue degrees as environmental engineers and lawyers.

A new partnership with the National Science Foundation will now enable the school to train even more students.

For an update, go to The article appears in the Oct. 3 edition.

World leaders need to think like a planet


Envision for a moment the healing that could wash over our suffering planet if the entrenched ruling establishment were to come together for a very special one-day gathering at a retreat center deep within the California redwoods.

These retreatants would be comprised of an assortment of political leaders, lobbyists, bankers, CEOs of GMO research facilities, the military, and members of the oil, natural gas, nuclear weapons , timber and coal mining industries. Factory farm corporations would be there, too.

Imagine them shedding their initial sheepishness, contempt and self-consciousness at being invited "to do WHAT KIND OF STUFF?" Watch as they sink into a numinous space where the agenda includes drumming, chanting, meditating and mask making.

Ohio animal massacre a devastating waste of life


A heartbreaking waste of life at both the human and animal levels took place in Zanesville, Ohio, last week. On Tuesday, Oct. 18, Terry W. Thompson, an exotic animal owner, unlocked the cage doors of more than 18 endangered Bengal tigers, 17 lions, eight bears and an assortment of wolves and monkeys. Then he committed suicide.

Deputies responding to a neighbor's phone call had no choice but to kill the aggressive, disoriented animals as they roamed the countryside in the rainy dusk near a major freeway interchange. Six members of the menagerie -- a grizzly bear, three leopards and two monkeys -- stayed in their cages. They were captured by Columbus, Ohio, zoo staff and taken to the facility for safe keeping. At this writing, one of the escaped monkeys remains at large.

"It's like Noah wrecking his ark right here in Zanesville," said Jack Hanna, director emeritus for the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, after surveying the scene.

Hanna told a Columbus Dispatch reporter that conditions at Thompson's 45-acre farm were "absolutely horrific and filthy." In 2005, Thompson was convicted of animal cruelty and two other related convictions.

Pope: International community should ensure food for all


Renewed compassion and humanity towards one another as well as "the duty of solidarity and commitment to justice" must become the international community's goals to ensure that there is daily bread for all, Pope Benedict XVI said in a recent message to Jacques Diouf, director general of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The Pontiff's letter was issued in honor of World Food Day, Oct. 16.

He said: "The future of the human family is in need of a new impulse to overcome present fragilities and uncertainties. Although we live in a global dimension, there are evident signs of the profound division between those who lack daily sustenance and those who have many resources, using them often for ends other than food and even destroying them."

The Pontiff stressed that agricultural work must not be considered a secondary activity, but as the objective of every strategy of growth and integral development.

He continues: "This is still more important if we keep in mind that the availability of foods is increasingly conditioned by the volatility of prices and sudden climatic changes."

Nonviolent protest planned against fracking on Delaware River


The Delaware River, the primary drinking water source for 15.6 million people in the northeastern part of the United States, is in danger of being invaded by the drilling or "fracking" of 20,000 gas wells.

The Delaware River Basin Commission will vote on a plan that would open up this precious waterway to the fossil fuel industry at a special meeting 10 a.m. Nov. 21. The vote had originally been set for Oct. 21.

Two environmental groups – Save the Delaware River and the Delaware River Keepers – are organizing a peaceful, nonviolent rally at 8 a.m. Nov. 21 in Trenton, N.J., at the commission meeting.

Josh Fox, creator of the documentary Gasland, is asking people from the region to show up if they can or to contact the Obama administration to express concerns about fracking.

For more information, go to or

The role of the person of faith in the 21st century


What does a talk entitled The Role of the Corporation in the 21st Century have to do with communities of faith who wrestle with the issue of sustainability and energy? On Oct. 5, participants in the Leaps Of Faith sustainability conference at Aquinas College had the opportunity to hear a powerful talk by Andrew Hoffman, director of the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Michigan as keynote.

Unprecedented change and challenges

Some of Hoffman's points were as follows:

  • We are currently living in a time of unprecedented change.

  • There is a growing disparity in the world between the haves and the have-nots (e.g., The richest 20 percent of the world's population consume 86 percent of all goods and services while the poorest 20 percent consume just 1.3 percent).

  • The earth's ecosystems are under more stress than at any time in recorded history.

'The Butterfly's Daughter' a tale for enthusiasts


For readers who are fascinated by monarch butterflies and their migration from the United States to Mexico each fall, Mary Alice Monroe's new novel is a precious gem of a story.

The Butterfly's Daughter parallels the personal pilgrimage of Luz Avila, a 21-year-old Mexican-American woman from Milwaukee, with the flight path of these wondrous orange and black winged ones.

Monroe is an impassioned environmentalist. During her May 2011 book tour, she gave away 10,000 milkweed seeds to readers. Milkweed is the only food source for monarch caterpillars.

To read more about Monroe, go to her website.


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