Pope Francis: The Cry of the Earth

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Bill McKibben has written a short response to the Pope’s encyclical on climate change, the environment, and economics. For most of us, what the Pope says is more or less obviously true, but as McKibben notes, few people in power are willing to truly take it on. Here are a few of McKibben’s thoughts on the Pope:

“…he’s [the Pope] brought the full weight of the spiritual order to bear on the global threat posed by climate change, and in so doing joined its power with the scientific order. Stephen Jay Gould had the idea that these two spheres were “non-overlapping magisteria,” but in this case he appears to have been wrong. Pope Francis draws heavily on science—sections of the encyclical are very nearly wonky, with accurate and sensible discussions of everything from genetic modification to aquifer depletion—but he goes beyond science as well. Science by itself has proven empirically impotent to force action on this greatest of crises; now, at last, someone with authority is explaining precisely why it matters that we’re overheating the planet.

“It matters in the first place, says Francis, because of its effect on the poorest among us, which is to say on most of the population of the earth. The encyclical is saturated with concern for the most vulnerable—those who, often in underdeveloped countries, are breathing carcinogenic air, or are being forced from their land by spreading deserts and rampant agribusiness. This comes as no surprise, for concern—rhetorical and practical—for those at the bottom of the heap has been the hallmark of his papacy from the start. “A true ecological approach,” he writes, “always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”…..

“But the heart of the encyclical is less an account of environmental or social destruction than a remarkable attack on the way our world runs: on the “rapidification” of modern life, on the way that economic growth and technology trump all other concerns, on a culture that can waste billions of people. These are neither liberal nor conservative themes, and they are not new for popes: what is new is that the ecological crisis makes them inescapable. Continual economic and technological development may have long been isolating, deadening, spiritually unfulfilling—but it has swept all before it anyway, despite theological protest, because it has delivered the goods. But now, the rapidly rising temperature (and new data also released Thursday showed we’ve just lived through the hottest May since record-keeping began) gives the criticism bite. Our way of life literally doesn’t work. It’s breaking the planet. Given the severity of the situation, Francis writes, we can finally leave behind the modern myth of unlimited material progress. A fragile world, entrusted by God to human care, challenges us to devise intelligent ways of directing, developing, and limiting our power.…..”

Amen.

via Pope Francis: The Cry of the Earth by Bill McKibben | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books.

Five Things Christianity Can Learn From Buddhism – Christian Piatt | Sojourners

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Interesting article written by a Christian whose encounter with Buddhism actually softened him to religion, leading him back to Christianity. That’s a similar story  to my own.

Quote: “The notion of dominionism falsely teaches within some Christian circles that the planet is ours to use as we please. And some even go so far as to suggest that anything we can do to help hasten the end-times gets us that much closer to heralding God’s kingdom on earth.

Buddhism, however, teaches simplicity, humility and intentional care for all of creation. Practices of mindfulness and humility help us loosen our grasp on personal desire and avail ourselves to the excesses and insensitivity of our habits. When we regain a healthier sense of our own places within a much larger, very delicate ecosystem, we not only treat our surroundings with more care; we treat ourselves with greater care as well.”

http://sojo.net/blogs/2015/04/16/five-things-christianity-can-learn-buddhism

Photo is mine, from my recent trip to the Nizina River, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.

Pope Francis and a bit of good news

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Pope Francis will be issuing an edict on climate change. That’s great news in itself, but there’s more. Listen to this quote, as Pope Francis gets to the heart of the matter:

“An economic system centred n the god of money needs to plunder nature to sustain the frenetic rhythm of consumption that is inherent to it.

“The system continues unchaned, since what dominates are the dynamics of an economy and a finance that are lacking in ethics. It is no longer man who commands, but money. Cash commands.

“The monopolising of lands, deforestation, the appropriation of water, inadequate agro-toxics are some of the evils that tear man from the land of his birth. Climate change, the loss of biodiversity and deforestation are already showing their devastating effects in the great cataclysms we witness.”

Truth. Climate change is part of a much bigger issue, an economy that lacks moral accountability and spiritual grounding. The result is greed and destruction. This is why the environment is a religious issue. Pope Francis is right on.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/dec/27/pope-francis-edict-climate-change-us-rightwing

U.S. and China Strike Historic Agreement on Climate Change | Alternet

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Here is a link to an article on the deal between China and the U.S. to reduce carbon emissions. Despite how modest it is, some politicians have found a way to oppose even this small step toward being environmentally responsible. Unreal.

http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/us-and-china-strike-historic-agreement-climate-change?akid=12462.1071777.TUY8mt&rd=1&src=newsletter1026962&t=5&paging=off&current_page=1#bookmark

Earth lost 50% of its wildlife in the past 40 years

This is one of the things that motivates me to work for change:

Currently, the global population is cutting down trees faster than they regrow, catching fish faster than the oceans can restock, pumping water from rivers and aquifers faster than rainfall can replenish them and emitting more climate-warming carbon dioxide than oceans and forests can absorb.The report concludes that today’s average global rate of consumption would need 1.5 planet Earths to sustain it. But four planets would be required to sustain US levels of consumption, or 2.5 Earths to match UK consumption levels.

Our overconsumption hurts us in the long run in that we lose natural resources and damage the ecosystems that produce our resources. However, there’s also a tragic loss of beauty when life (nonhuman life) is treated as disposable, as just another product to consume as part of our modern lifestyles of affluence.

via Earth lost 50% of its wildlife in the past 40 years, says WWF | Alternet.

Sunsets

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I took this picture last night, camping in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, near to McCarthy where I am lingering after working the summer. No photoshoping or Instagramming. You don’t really see the sunsets, per se, when surrounded by mountains, but the setting sun can make the peaks glow like they’ve got a giant neon light bulb on the inside. When contrasted with the blue creek water and the trees lined on either side, it is a perfect ending to the day.

Heirs of Billionaire Oil Tycoon John D. Rockefeller Join Growing Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement

 

The Rockefeller family, which made their vast fortune on oil, has announced it will begin divesting from fossil fuel companies. The Rockefeller Brothers Fund is joining other foundations and wealthy individuals today to announce pledges to divest from fossil fuel companies. Together, these institutions hold over $50 billion in total assets. In a statement, Stephen Heintz, an heir of Standard Oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller, said, quote, “We are quite convinced that if he were alive today, as an astute businessman looking out to the future, he would be moving out of fossil fuels and investing in clean, renewable energy.”

 

ARCHBISHOP DESMOND TUTU: It is time to change the profit incentive by demanding legal liability for unsustainable environmental practices. Encourage governments to stop accepting funding from the fossil fuel industry. Such funds erode governments’ responsibilities as managing custodians of our world. Divest from fossil fuels and invest in a clean energy future, benefiting the world’s majority. It is no longer acceptable for any of us to seek to profit from systems and industries that threaten our values. Move your money out of the problem and into solutions.

via Heirs of Billionaire Oil Tycoon John D. Rockefeller Join Growing Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement | Democracy Now!.

http://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2014/9/22/heirs_of_billionaire_oil_tycoon_john

12 Ecologically Sustainable Countries | Alternet

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An encouraging article on sustainable projects being implemented around the world.

“…human consumption has exceeded our planet’s capacity to regenerate…It is now estimated that  86% of the world’s population live in countries that require more from nature than their ecosystems can provide. According to the  Global Footprint Network, if everybody were to live like Americans, it would take four Earths to support the global population.  The U.S. was ranked 33 on the  2014 environmental performance index (EPI). Consequently, several countries have  begun to adopt the ecological footprint model, which demonstrates the energy and resources consumed in
 each country per person to raise awareness and educate populations about resource demand…”

Click on the link below to see the kinds of sustainable practices that other nations are implementing. It is important, I think, in the U.S. to realize that there are a lot of amazing possibilities for sustainable living. Right now we are stuck in a rut, chained to an old way of living that doesn’t inspire the next generation. But if we were to put our collective energies into building a sustainable economy, we could create something far more beautiful and life giving.

http://www.alternet.org/environment/12-ecologically-sustainable-countries-and-why-they-should-be-admired
Photo note: Taken two days ago. Fall colors are gorgeous here in McCarthy.

Finally, A Simple Plan That Can Reverse Inequality and Save America’s Sinking Middle-Class | Alternet

There are more alternatives to the status quo than most people realize. There are many ideas percolating out there, aiming to bring more equality and opportunity to average folks. One such idea is to use common wealth (wealth that belongs to all of us) and spread it around to all people rather than funneling it straight up to the wealthy aristocrats. Thomas Paine advocated for something like this, and here in Alaska, we have one such form of “pre-distribution” of income at work. The Permanent Dividend Fund is universally valued and appreciated.

“There’s nothing in this that would run counter to conservative principles and the notion of property rights. There’s no tax increases. There’s no increase in government bureaucracy. There’s no redistribution…I prefer to think of what this system would be as a kind of predistribution. In other words, the government isn’t taking money from anybody, but it’s assuring that income is distributed more fairly in the first place.” – Peter Barnes via Finally, A Simple Plan That Can Reverse Inequality and Save America’s Sinking Middle-Class | Alternet. Barnes has a new book out, With Liberty and Dividends for All.

Don’t fall

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Hiking up in the clouds. Lots of mountains here in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.

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Destination: Bonanza mine. This was one of the mines that was a part of the most lucrative and profitable copper mining ventures of all time. And behind me in this picture are the ruins.

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Fall in McCarthy, AK. The leaves are changing early this year and there is a chill in the air.