Benedict XVI completing final volume of ‘Jesus of Nazareth’

Pope Benedict XVI is on vacation in Castel Gandolfo and is using it to do some writing. CNA reports:

“Pope Benedict XVI’s vacation time is now being dedicated to writing the third volume in what could safely be called the “Jesus of Nazareth” series. The new work will seek to shed light on the story of Jesus’ childhood from the Gospels.”

His first book on Jesus’ public ministry contained some gems with regards to a Catholic approach to the environment and development. See some extracts below:

[Western Aid] ‘purely technically and materially based… has left God out of the picture [and] has driven men away from God’ is in fact responsible for the situation of disparity turning the ‘“third world” into what we mean today by the term. It has thrust aside indigenous religious, ethical and social structures and filled the resulting vaccum with its technocratic mindset. The issue is the primacy of God’

‘the peoples of Africa, lying robbed and plundered, matter to us. Then we see how deeply they are our neighbors; that our lifestyle , the history in which we are involved, has plundered them and continues to do so… Instead of giving them God, the God who has come close to us in Christ, which would have integrated and brought to completion all that is precious and great in their own traditions, we have given them a cynicism of a world without God in which all that counts is power and profit, a world that destroys moral standards so that corruption and unscrupulous will to power are taken for granted. And that applies not only to Africa.’

‘Such pride makes man violent and cold. It ends up destroying the earth.’

‘Once sin has been overcome and man’s harmony with God restored, creation is reconciled, too.’

Hopefully the next two volumes will have more insights into the environment and our relationship to it.

Beaver Reintroduction at St. Malo

Today we had some special visitors find out if they want to move in. The Division of Wildlife brought 4 beavers, 1 adult father and 3 babies, and let them loose at St. Malo Retreat Center wetlands. This was my first experience of wildlife re-introduction. Let’s hope they enjoy their new home, and stay.

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IPCC blunder – The Amazon

Once again, it seems that the information and data presented by the IPCC on climate change and it’s effects seems to be, in the best of cases… mistaken and incorrect. Below the IPCC claim:

Up to 40% of the Amazonian forests could react drastically to even a slight reduction in precipitation; this means that the tropical vegetation, hydrology and climate system in South America could change very rapidly to another steady state, not necessarily producing gradual changes between the current and the future situation (Rowell and Moore, 2000).

One professor offers the reasons why this data should be discredited and his critiques. Also, it is an example of how carefull we should be of accepting information and the importance of being critical. Here an extract of the conclusions:

The bottom line here? The IPCC did indeed make a claim in its report that is unsubstantiated in the literature that it cited in support of the claim. Further, the specific claim being made also appears to be unsubstantiable — that is, there is nothing in the literature to support the specific claims being made. The IPCC could have said something else — perhaps something even more alarming about the Amazon — but it did not. For the IPCC this degree of sloppiness and lack of attention to accuracy is troubling.
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Solar airplane

There is much excitement about a pilot airplane that flew for 24 hrs on solar energy. Designers say in theory it could operate intermittently without fossil fuels. Certainly, technology is a possible solution for the reduction of fossil fuel emissions, since it seems we are not very successful at changing behaviors of consumption. While we work on one, let’s not forget about the other. Read the article here.

Missions II – Poverty up close and personal

Here are a selection of images and videos that describe the harsh reality of people living in the Andes. Though the images can describe more than words,  still I will try and describe a bit of the experience. Certainly, after a month of actually living in the conditions of the locals, I can really appreciate what it means to exist like this.

On our first mission, we slept in an adobe building, with dirt on the floor covered by sheep skins, dry meet hanging from the roof, below freezing temperatures and no heating. On the second mission our facilities were better, though the viallge was more remote. Children, and teachers, walk up to 2 hrs one way to gte to school, many times using sandals made of car tires. One family would come at night, walking for 30 minutes, just to participate in the rosary. The hunger for God is impressive. Below you can see the children of this family, Julio, Sinaida and their little brother whose name I forget.

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The hunger for food is also present, with the basic diet being potatoes and alpaca meat. Living conditions for locals are similar to medieval Europe, mud and stone walls, no floor, indoor smoke for cooking and warmth, thatched roofs and no water or electricty. Most of the people, especially parents and young children only speak Quechua, while middle school children and teenagres learn Spanish in school, though Quechua is promoted too. When we talk about helping the poor, this the people I have in mind… Thanks to Caritas and the Prelature of Ayaviri for their great work.

Faith and the World Cup – a human response

After being horrified by Paul, the psychic octopus, and the magic Python, used as superstitious idols for World Cup I am pleased to have found a positive relationship between faith and football. As posted on CNA, Wesley Sneijder, who will play the final on Sunday and is one of the best players in the Cup so far, has recently converted to Catholicism. Alleged influences are his future Catholic wife, a model and actress, who taught Sneijder how to play, and his Inter Milan companion, and practicing Catholic, Javier Zanetti. Read the full article here.

The way Spain are playing though, it seems Sneijder’s prayers will need to be doubled for Sunday.

Pope calls for a sober way of life

Echoing one of his fundamental points made in regards to the Church’s approach to the environment, Pope Benedict again called for a measure in the use of our goods. The spiritual life, and the example of Mary were indicated as ways of making this intention a reality. He said that:

“We too, who live in a time of great comfort and possibility, are called to appreciate a sober way of life, to keep our minds and hearts more free to be able to share our goods with our brothers”.

Meanwhile, a bathtub made of Brazilian Amazonian crystal was sold at Harrods for $1, 4 million.

Faith, nature and the World Cup

As a Brazilian football fan I have been obviously following the Word Cup, and have been wondering how I could connect any of that to faith and environment. Well, surprise, surprise! Paul and his python friend have done that for us. Paul is an octopus, a ‘psychic octopus’, who supposedly predicts the future. He is English-born, but lives in Germany and has predicted the Germany outcomes for the world cup. Incredible! Watch the video, you need to see Paul divining the football future, a must. I wonder what he says about the Spain outcome. While Paul enjoys Nostradamic success, his African counterpart has been rescued from undignified divining conditions… Faith and nature, faith in nature.

Poverty, water and tropical glaciers

Below the article I promised on glaciers in the Andes and poverty…

Hot and hungry in the Andes

“When I was a child there was such an abundance of water…” says Santiago Quispe, the community leader of San Luis, a remote village in the Peruvian high Andes. I can hardly hear him at the top of the mountain as the wind risks blowing his leather hat, and his words, down the golden valley that unfolds below. At about 13,000 ft and with no electricity or running water, the only sources of income for San Luis’ 24 families are agriculture and ranching. Very little grows at this altitude and with no irrigation it is mostly potatoes and quinua that can be harvested locally during the short wet season. Most of the income, and food for consumption, comes from cattle, sheep and alpaca ranching. For Santiago 13,000 ft is ‘lowland’, where the most profitable commodity, cows, can actually survive. But the ‘lowland’ is only a narrow strip surrounded by steep mountain sides where most of the grazing must happen and where only alpacas can survive.

“I can sell one liter of milk for about 80 cents [of a Sol – equivalent to about 25 US cents], you know, according to the market fluctuations. Now my cows produce not more than 11 liters a day. With the same number of cows, I remember before, we would produce 25 liters.” Most of Santiago’s milk is sold to local cheese producers who pay him $2.75 for his total of 11 daily liters. This is his primary source of income, with the occasional sale of a lamb or alpaca assisting to cover transport and food costs. But most of the alpaca is used for his own consumption. Needing to support the three members of his family, that puts him at about the $1 per day poverty level.

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