“Who art God, glorified in all and by all. . . .” These words from a prayer of St. Basil (b. 329 AD), are said every morning in the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church of North America. They lead us to reflect on the fact that God is not merely the God of us humans, but God of all, and in all, and worshipped by all in their fashion. Fr. Thomas Merton said the trees worship God just by being perfectly what He made them. And it is true, too, for the little red squirrel sitting up on her haunches in the snow eating sunflower seeds outside my window. It is a glorious, God-imbued
by Kent Shifferd
Caring for the miracle of Creation does not only mean caring for the birds, the trees, the land, and the seas. It means seeing everything as community and that includes us humans because the ways in which we make use of Creation impact one another for good or ill. To do so for the good of all, to focus on community, rises out of a strain of conservative philosophy that unfortunately has been ignored in this past century in favor of the other strain of conservative philosophy that argues there is no such thing as community and posits a war of all against all in the so-called “free market” economy. It preaches a doctrine of competitive individualism and consumption. The only value that matters is monetary gain or loss. Hardly conservative, it is in fact a radical departure from the morality of the past. While it claims Adam Smith as its parent, it is based on a misreading of Smith and relies far more on the Hobbes (the “war of all against all”) and Social Darwinism. The older conservative philosophy, rising out of the English philosopher Edmund Burke and, in our century, the writer Russell Kirk, has its focus on community. Community is another way of saying interdependence and is the essential truth of ecology and of Franciscan spirituality. I am because you are.” And that “you” includes all of Creation and the Creator. (Try breathing without trees to make your oxygen!) Conservation is conservative by definition. Therefore it is not surprising that one of the most prolific of Christian writers on the environment is also focused on the larger “man-land community” (Aldo Leopold’s term.)
The writer is Wendell Berry. He is not just a writer/poet/preacher but is also a farmer. Much of what he writes pertains to rural communities but I am intrigued at how it might be applied, indeed is being applied in urban neighborhoods in the form of urban farms and neighborhood cooperatives and the development of local currencies to keep the money from being siphoned out into multi-national corporations. Below are his Seventeen Rules For A Sustainable Community. They are excerpted from a 1995 essay, “Conserving Communities.” (You may get a poster of these rules from Yes! Magazine online at www.yesmagazine.org.
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Seventeen Rules For A Sustainable Community
- Always ask of any proposed change or innovation: What will this do to our community? How will this affect our common wealth?
- Always include local nature—the land, the water, the air, the native creatures—within the membership of the community.
- Always ask how local needs might be supplied from local sources, including the mutual help of neighbors.
- Always supply local needs first. (And only then, think of exporting their products, first to nearby cities, and then to others.)
- Understand the unsoundness of the industrial doctrine of “labor saving” if that implies poor work, unemployment or any kind of pollution or contamination.
- Develop properly scaled valued-adding industries for local products to ensure that the community does not become merely a colony of the national or global economy.
- Develop small-scale industries and businesses to support the local farm and/or forest economy…
- Strive to produce as much of the community’s own energy as possible.
- Strive to increase earnings (in whatever form) within the community and decrease expenditures outside the community.
- Make sure that the money paid into the local economy circulates within the community for as long as possible before it is paid out.
- Make the community able to invest in itself by maintaining its properties, keeping itself clean (without dirtying some other place), caring for its old people, teaching its children.
- See that the old and the young take care of one another. The young must learn from the old, not necessarily and not always in school. There must be no institutionalized “child care” and “homes for the aged.” The community knows and remembers itself by the association of the old and the young.
- Account for costs now conventionally hidden or “externalized.” Whenever possible, these costs must be debited against monetary income.
- Look into the possible uses of local currency, community-funded loan programs, systems of barter, and the like.
- Always be aware of the economic value of neighborly acts. In our time the costs of living are greatly increased by the loss of neighborhood, leaving people to face their calamities alone.
- A rural community should always be acquainted with, and complexly connected with, community-minded people in nearby towns and cities.
- A sustainable rural economy will be dependent on urban consumers loyal to local products. Therefore, we are talking about an economy that will always be more cooperative than competitive.
Ban Ki-Moon; Unlimited Growth is “global Suicide.”
Excerpted from “The Daly News, published by the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy, at firstname.lastname@example.org , Jan 3, 2012, email edition
Early in 2011 UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon issued a profound condemnation of the global economy’s ill-conceived pattern of growth: “For most of the past century, economic growth was fueled by what seemed to be a certain truth: the abundance of natural resources. We mined our way to growth. We burned our way to prosperity. We believed in consumption without consequences. These days are gone… Over time, that model is a recipe for national disaster. It is a global suicide pact.” (Spoken at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 2011).
Statistics give us another hint that we’re headed in the right direction toward a steady state economy in 2012. Despite efforts by the Republican Congressional Leadership to undermine environmental protections (e.g., ongoing denial of climate change and attempts to gut EPA regulations), U.S. emissions have dropped by 7% in the last four years and are in line to drop further. Vehicle miles driven have declined, and ridership of public transportation is up 2%.
A cynic might say that the reason is simply the recession, but that’s only a small part of the story. Important actions such as renewable energy standards at the city and state levels are helping. Religious congregations participating in the Interfaith Power and Light initiative are reducing their carbon footprints. The campaign to shut down coal power plants and the substitution of natural gas for coal are also significant. Coal used to be the source of over half of U.S. electricity, but its share dropped to 43% in the first half of 2011 and is scheduled to drop even further.
John, Francis, and Saving the Creation
by Kent Shifferd
The Gospel of John opens, saying: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God from Whom all things were made and without Whom nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of all, and the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it.”
Jesus, the Word Incarnate from Whom all things were made and from Whom all life came—abundant, verdant, diverse–the miraculous community of living beings on a dead rock–then became one of us and commanded us: “Love one another as I have loved you.” Love is the foundational cement of community. Francis, who took Him seriously, embodied how we are embedded in the community of all life and indeed, all being: “Brother Sun and Sister Moon,” he sang, and he preached to the animals and made peace between the rampaging wolf and the terrified people of Gubbio. “O Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,” he cried. “Where there is hatred, let me sow love, where there is injury pardon.” No one came closer to living out a Christ-like life. No one loved the creation more than Francis not because he saw himself as merely a steward of it, as we are commanded in Genesis, but even more because he realized he was kin with all of it, part and parcel of the miraculous web created by the Word. This web of life that reveals God’s love. This temple of Creation in which we have our lives.
Now the apostles of greed and consumerism and the competitive war of all against all, the new money-changers, are despoiling God’s Temple; polluting, depleting, extincting, deforesting, ravaging. They are unraveling the Creation with false doctrine. We who love God, who love God’s great whales and all His creatures are called to rise to its defense. As St. Theresa instructed us: “Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes with which Christ must look out with compassion on the world, yours are the feet with which he must go about doing good, yours are the hands with which he must bless humans now.” And humans cannot be blest without that the whole creation in which we are embedded and from which we derive our lives is blest. And so we are called to live simply that others may simply live.
It is we who must rise up—not with violence, but with love even for the despoilers. We must take them by the hand and lead them out of confusion and into the light, believing that the light of life shining even now in the darkness will overcome it.
Cities Take Up the “Ban the Bag” Fight
[Taken from Yes This Week Top Pics: Dec. 16-23, an e-letter from Yes! Magazine and used with permission.]
Why new policies across the nation could mean the end of plastic bags.
Environmental activists are reducing plastic waste pollution by tackling disposable plastic bags, one city at a time. About 20 U.S. cities and towns have passed disposable bag reduction laws, including San Francisco and Washington, D.C.
Whether they impose a nominal fee for single-use, disposable bags, or ban them altogether, the laws encourage consumers to develop habits to replace disposable bags, particularly those made from plastic.
The most recent city to join the effort to ban the bag is Portland, Ore., which has banned single-use plastic bags at the checkouts of large retailers. The change was met with overwhelming support from most Portlanders, says Stiv Wilson of 5 Gyres Institute, who helped give out free reusable bags at grocery stores to ease the transition for shoppers on October 15, when the ban took effect.
The Portland ordinance, unanimously approved by Portland City Council, was the culmination of a four-year campaign by the Surfrider Foundation Portland Chapter, 5 Gyres Institute, and the Oregon League of Conservation Voters. It reflects growing public concern about the environmental impact of disposable plastic.
“Plastic bags typically have a low recycling rate, seem to be littered often and have an easy alternative in reusable bags,” says Bill Hickman, coordinator of the Surfrider Foundation’s “Rise Above Plastics” program. “We hope that people understand some of the unintended consequences that go along with a disposable lifestyle.”
Disposable shopping bags are a significant source of plastic pollution in the oceans, where scientists have identified five huge gyres of “plastic soup.” “We’ve reached a tipping point where we can’t keep up with the stuff that’s in the ocean,” says Wilson, who has visited three of the gyres for research. “I’ve seen it firsthand, and it’s startling.”
Proponents of ban-the-bag ordinances have faced powerful industry-backed counter-campaigns. The American Chemistry Council, a trade group representing plastics manufacturers, defeated legislation for a statewide ban on single-use bags in California, and spent $1.4 million in Seattle in 2008 to defeat a referendum that would have imposed a 20-cent fee on disposable grocery bags. Plastic bag manufacturer and recycler Hilex Poly Company funded a campaign that defeated Oregon’s proposed statewide ban earlier this year.
Campaigners hope the success of municipal ordinances will motivate grocers to support statewide bans in the near future.
Rebecca Leisher wrote this article for The YES! Breakthrough 15, the Winter 2012 issue of YES! Magazine. Rebecca is a former YES! intern.
According to a recent article in the New York Times, the mercury emitted by coal burning power plants is causing neurological disorders in birds, just as it does in humans. Author Anthony DePalma writes: “Methyl mercury, the most toxic form of the heavy metal, was found to be widespread throughout the Northeast — not just in lakes and rivers, as had already been known, but also in forests, on mountaintops and in bogs and marshes that are home to birds long thought to be at minimal risk. “
Blackbirds, sparrows, wood thrushes, sparrows, loons and bald eagles are affected. So, too are otters and panthers.
Mercury occurs naturally in coal and is released into the atmosphere when burned, drifting hundreds of miles before settling back on the earth. Absorbed by tree leaves which then fall to the ground at the end of the growing season, it is turned into methylmercury by decomposer organisms. It then enters the food chain. Newly discovered evidence indicates that the threshold level at which negative effects are felt is lower than previously thought; causing fewer eggs to hatch, nest abandonment, sickly chicks. Little Brown Bats, already dying by a fungus called White Nose Syndrome, are also adversely affected by the mercury causing them to act erratically and fly into wind turbine blades.
Dr. Timothy Tear, director of science for the Nature Conservancy in New York, was quoted saying: “What people don’t realize is that our rain isn’t just acidic,” “It is neurotoxic.” He also explained that the effects of mercury can lead to the degradation of entire ecosystems.
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