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Laudato Si – All Praise be Yours

9 Jul

st francisPope Francis just came out with this encyclical around Climate Change and Ecology to provide input to the world around the moral dimensions of Climate Change. This is to coincide with the Council of Parties meeting to be held in Paris, France from November 30, 2015 to December 11, 2015.   The Conference of Parties (COP) is the supreme body of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It currently meets once a year to review the Convention’s progress and establish the rules of its implementation. This will be an incredibly important meeting to establish specific criteria to reduce greenhouse gasses and other promoters of climate change at a time when we are at the brink of being unable to change the course.
In the Encyclical, Pope Francis uses St. Francis’ Canticle of Creation as an example of someone who understood the interconnection of our environment and human ecology. Human ecology refers to how we treat human beings on this earth. He notes how we have not only become a throw-away society when it comes to our refuse and use of the earth; we have also chosen throw-away people. The Church demands a preferential option for the poor. Yet our societies seem to have chosen a preferential option for those who are wealthy. We are not balanced in this world. He points out that 2008 would have been an opportune moment to change our economic systems to make sure that the poor in our society were protected. Yet this was another opportunity mixed.

Pope Francis does not demonize technology. Technology has offered advances in medicine, etc. “It is right to rejoice in these advances and to be excited by immense possibilities which they continue to open before us…” 102 Pope Francis is concerned that “our immense technological development has not been accompanied by a development in human responsibility, values and conscience.” 105 The technological paradigm exalts the use of logic to gain control over an external object. It is confrontational rather than communal. It also looks at the world as though there is an infinite supply of goods, which is just not true.

He challenges the world leaders to reach decisions to reduce our impact on climate change through treaties, etc. But to also have a sense of accountability with real consequences attached to any agreement. (He could be speaking directly to the Council of Parties.)He encourages individuals to do what they can. Every little bit we can do helps. If you lead a simple life, you provide an example that can help our planet.

Actions, demonstrations, educational events, etc. are being planned during the months of October and November leading up to the Council of Parties meeting. Stay tuned. Further info will be coming.

For more information go to http://unfccc.int Council of Parties; www.catholicclimatecovenant.org; www.globalclimateconvergence.org; to order your copy of the encyclical go to www.usccb.org

Questions for reflection:

What are you willing to do to help develop a communal approach to climate change?

What systems need to be changed in order to bring earth’s ecology and human ecology in balance?

 

 

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Save the Great Lakes! Save Ourselves

10 Oct

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By the Religious Coalition for the Great Lakes

“Praised be you, My God, through Sister Water, which is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.” – Canticle of Creatures, Saint Francis of Assisi

The Great Lakes provide 20% of the world’s drinking water. They are at great risk.

The Problem

As we write this statement there have been several incidents that are precursors to the potential destruction of the Great Lakes.

  • In August, there was an explosion at the British Petroleum refinery in Whiting, IN on Lake Michigan. We are assured by the company that everything is fine, but this comes after an oil spill in March, 2014. To this date, we have not been informed as to whether it was tar sands that was spilled into Lake Michigan. BP in Whiting is one of the largest refineries for tar sands in the U.S.
  • In July there was an outbreak of phosphorous induced toxic blue algae in Lake Erie near Toledo, Ohio which caused drinking water in the area to be contaminated. It is estimated that over 400,000 residents were affected.
  • Enbridge Corporation is trying to transport tar sands by shipping it through Lake Superior and all the Upper Great Lakes. “Wisconsin regulators tabled an earlier permit application for a tar sands crude oil maritime loading dock in Superior after residents objected.” Eric Hanson, Midwest Energy News 4/15/2014.
  • The Great Lakes do not stand alone. Rivers flow into the lakes. The Calumet River in Illinois flows into Lake Michigan. Pet coke (Petroleum waste) has been stored along the Calumet River and has been polluting it.
  • In July, 2010, an Enbridge pipeline break poured 840,000 gallons of tar sands crude oil into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River. To date, the cleanup is not complete with over a billion dollars being spent.
  • On August 18, 2014, documents posted by the State Department shows that Enbridge wants to almost double the flow of tar sands into the Great Lakes region using a pipeline along its Alberta Clipper pipeline (Line 67). (Jim Murphy, “State Department Approves Illegal Scheme for Doubling Tar Sands Flowing through the Great Lakes,” 8/25/14. National Wildlife Federation
  • “Tiny particles of plastic have been added to possibly thousands of personal care products sold around the world. These microbeads, hardly visible to the naked eye, flow straight from the bathroom drain into the sewer system. Wastewater treatment plants are not designed to filter out microbeads and that is the main reason why, ultimately, they contribute to the Plastic Soup swirling around the world’s oceans. Sea creatures absorb or eat microbeads. These microbeads are passed along the marine food chain. Since humans are ultimately at the top of this food chain, it is likely that we are also absorbing microbeads from the food we eat. Microbeads are not biodegradable and once they enter the marine environment, they are impossible to remove.” beatthemicrobead.org

What Should Be Done

“Our mistreatment of the natural world diminishes our own dignity and sacredness, not only because we are destroying resources that future generations of humans need, but because we are engaging in actions that contradict what it means to be human. Our tradition calls us to protect the life and dignity of the human person, and it is increasingly clear that this task cannot be separated from the care and defense of all of creation.” – US Catholic Bishops, Renewing the Earth, 1991, p. 2.

  • According to the Alliance for the Great Lakes, the U.S. and Canada should enact regulations or pass laws to meet the phosphorous targets from the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Currently the Agreement does not require the U.S. or Canada to do that.
  • S. Army Corps of Engineers must stop using Nationwide Permit 12 (a process expediting approval for projects like access roads and pipelines that do not result in the loss of greater than ½ acre of waters of the United States for each single and complete project) for long pipelines like Flanagan South in Illinois and Keystone South. Instead these pipeline projects should be transparent, open to public opinion, and be reviewed for compliance with the Clean Water Act.
  • The “Halliburton Loophole” that allows a fracking exemption to the Safe Drinking Act must be overturned. Fracking also pollutes potable water.
  • Tar Sands and Fracking should be discontinued as ways to provide energy into the future. Renewable energy sources should be invested in and used.
  • The American Legislative Exchange Council must be exposed and discontinued. “Through the secretive meetings of the American Legislative Exchange Council, corporate lobbyists and state legislators vote as equals on ‘model bills’ to change our rights that often benefit the corporations’ bottom line at public expense. ALEC is a pay-to-play operation where corporations buy a seat and a vote on ‘task forces’ to advance their legislative wish lists and can get a tax break for donations, effectively passing these lobbying costs on to taxpayers.” ALEC pushes for legislation that is friendly to fossil-fuel production. (alecexposed.org)
  • Microbeads should be removed from all personal care products.

 

What Can We Do?

  • Keep informed. Go to   un/climatechange; www.350.org ; www.greatlakes.org for Alliance for the Great Lakes; on Facebook go to Tar Sands Free Midwest and Oil Sands Truth;
  • Let your legislators, Governor, Congressional Representatives, and Senators know how you feel.
  • Join with groups in your area protesting the polluting of the Great Lakes.
  • Check your personal care products for microbeads. Go to beatthemicrobead.org to find out what other actions you can take.
  • If you have petroleum stock consider divestment or Corporate Responsibility resolutions (go to Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility iccr.org )

 

Conclusion

Water is a requirement for life. Access to water is a right rather than a privilege. When we look at the future of the Great Lakes, we are gazing into our own future. Now is the time to act to preserve the Great Lakes and indeed our own futures.

 

 

 

No April Fools, It Has Happened Again

1 Apr

 

BP protestOn Monday, March 22, 2014, the British Petroleum Plant in Whiting, Indiana spilled over 1600 gallons of oil into Lake Michigan. BP in Whiting, Indiana is the largest refiner of tar sands in the United States.  It took hours before this was reported to the EPA, which requires that you immediately inform them of a spill.

If this was a crude oil spill, it is bad enough.  If the spill contained tar sands, it will go to the floor of the lake and continue to poison Lake Michigan.

Many are concentrating on stopping the Keystone XL pipeline from being approved. That is the right thing to do. What many may not realize is that Tar Sands is flowing through pipelines already approved in the U.S. One Enbridge pipeline spilled 877,000 gallons of tar sands oil into the Kalamazoo River in July, 2010. The cleanup is not complete over three years later.

When I reported about the Kalamazoo spill and protest actions that occurred to make sure this never happens again, little did I know that just three months after that blog, I would be reporting about another blog.  This time in Lake Michigan.

Lake Michigan is one of the largest sources of drinking water in the Midwest. We have been warned over and over again about the necessity of protecting our natural resources.  When will we learn.

British Petroleum was just taken off the no contract list. They were put on this list after the Gulf oil spill.  This shows they need to go back on the list.  They cannot be allowed access to our water resources.

On March 28, members of Global Climate Convergence Chicago held an emergency response demonstration at British Petroleum America’s Midwest Headquarters.  Letters and petitions will be sent to the Environmental Protection Agency and our representatives and senators.  Something needs to be done to put back protections that were removed from the Clean Water Act during the Bush administration.

The GCC, in conjunction with multiple environmental organizations, issues the following demands:

  • The EPA immediately begins testing our water to ensure that it is safe to drink, and publishes their findings.
  • BP is returned to the federal no contract list – which they were removed from only THIS month following their contamination of the Gulf Coast – so that public money does not fund their damage to the ecosystem.
  •  BP may no longer divert resources from the public – e.g. the use of contracted police officers to prevent citizens from entering the land that has been contaminated- to shield themselves from warranted investigation.
  • The city of Chicago becomes a green-energy leader by shifting our energy sources to 100% renewables-based.

Even though British Petroleum has reassured us that the cleanup was successful, based on past history, we have real concerns.

For more information about Global Climate Convergence actions in your area, go to http://www.globalclimateconvergence.org.

Earth Day to May Day – Global Climate Convergence

27 Feb

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http://globalclimateconvergence.org/2014/02/19/video-tim-dechristopher-climate-change-is-the-context-of-our-times/

In the past, most activism has followed the following path.  Demonstration on Immigration Reform will be held and that is the only issue referred to.  Earth Day is about the environment and that is the only issue discussed on that day. May Day is about Labor and Immigration (due to the obvious connection with labor).

This year, a call is going out to have all issues relating to people, planet and peace connect over 10 days beginning with Earth Day and ending (?) with May Day.  The reason I put a question mark after ending, is that we hope that this will really be just the beginning of a worldwide movement of making connections.

We are very much at a tipping point in our world.  We have reached a critical CO2 mass in our atmosphere of 400 parts per million .  (The Guardian, November 6, 2013) There is a shortage of potable water in California and other locations in the world.  Meanwhile, fracking and the transportation of tar sands and Bakken oil threaten Mother Earth. (go to Tar Sands Free Midwest on Facebook)

The fight for a minimum wage in order for people to have the basic necessities of life is being blocked by the desire for more and more profit.  Labor is being cut, while the average CEO is making 273 times the average pay of their employees. (Washington Post, June 26, 2013).

The social safety net is being dramatically unravelled, while the call for tax cuts for the wealthiest is often heard.

Pope Francis recognized this when he stated in “The Joy of the Gospel”Paragraph 56 : “While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation.”

Individual groups cannot really make the impact that is needed.  Combined efforts can begin to shape a new future in which everyone has what they need and the earth and all that dwells upon it is secure. A new world is possible, if only we act.

To find out about events happening in your area, please go to http://globalclimateconvergence.org .

Peace for Earth this Christmas and Always

18 Dec

“Praised be to You, my Lord, through our Sister Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces varied fruits with colored flowers and herbs.” The Canticle of Brother Sun by St. Francis of Assisi  line 9

While we call for peace on earth and peace to all people during this Christmas season, we should also look at what we are doing to Mother Earth.  A lot of discussion has been focussed on stopping the Keystone XL Pipeline from bringing tar sands from Canada to the United States, there are tar sands pipelines that have already begun pumping this heavy sludge into our country.

The tar sands are coming from northern Canada, home of the Arboreal Forest — one of the largest rain forests left on our earth.  In order to get to the tar sands, these trees must be removed.

There is a pipeline running through Michigan that has already created a spill in the Kalamazoo river.

“Oil spill amounts

Enbridge initially reported the pipeline break released 819,000 gallons of crude. The company later revised that amount to 843,000 gallons. At EPA’s direction, Enbridge has provided regular, updated estimates of how much oil it has recovered since the spill. These estimates are based on methods worked out with EPA technical experts to determine the amount of oil in all waste recovery categories: oil, contaminated water, soil, vegetation, debris, and cleanup materials. As of this May, Enbridge estimates the company has recovered 1.15 million gallons of oil from the Kalamazoo River.

Remaining oil and future recovery

EPA estimates about 180,000 gallons of Line 6B oil (plus or minus 100,000 gallons) remain in the river bottom sediment. EPA has ordered Enbridge to remove the recoverable oil (about 12,000-18,000 gallons) by dredging.
The 162,000-168,000 gallons of oil that will remain in the river after this dredging work is complete will not be able to be recovered right away without causing significant adverse impacts to the river. Instead, it must be carefully monitored and collected over time using traps that gather contaminated sediment. Future oil recovery will depend on whether the crude eventually moves to the areas with these sediment traps.”  EPA response to Enbridge Spill in Michigan, August 16, 2013

There are many frightening aspects of the impact of Tar Sands production on our environment.  In some cases, old oil pipelines are being used to push through the Tar Sands to refineries in the U.S.  Some have not been upgraded to account for the massive pressure needed to push this heavy tar through the pipes.  There have been a number of spills already.  The Kalamazoo river is only one.  They can dredge up the heavy tar, but the chemicals in the tar sands are mixed in the water.  Information is not forthcoming on the dangers of these chemicals on the  water supply.

The tar sands coming from Canada into Indiana and nearby are being refined by the British Petroleum Refinery in Whiting, Indiana. The waste product is called pet coke.  This product is transported by KCBX (Koch Brothers) into Chicago, Illinois and stored without cover on the Southeast Side.  On any windy day this product (which is like a fine ash) will fly around residential neighborhoods nearby.  Residents have to keep their windows closed, children cannot play outside, and everything is covered by this pet coke.  This product is then sold outside the U.S. for heating, especially to China.  If you have seen the latest pictures from Shanghai, you will see why China does not need anymore dirty fuel to add to their pollution.

On a positive note.  Pressure from the residents of the Southeast Side and activists have caused one storage place to remove the pet coke.  The Koch brothers still maintain another  open storage space nearby.

May we continue the struggle for Peace on Earth and Peace for Earth this Christmas and for the coming years.  Our children deserve a future filled with beauty.

For further information go to http://www.tarsandsfreemidwest.org or join Tar Sands Free Midwest on Facebook.