Contemporary Watermelon

This is  an opinion piece and guest post by Tom Collingwood. Thanks Tom:

Former “Green jobs Czar” under President Obama, Van Jones is now calling for environmental laws that would give mother nature the same status as human beings. While at first blush this appears as a silly agenda, upon reflection there is a more serious side to his efforts. As a self described Marxist, Jones is an example of what are becoming known as “watermelons”.  These are environmental advocates who can be described as green on the outside but red on the inside. They believe that the central enemy of mother earth is capitalism and with a basic Marxist/socialist view of economics use environmental issues and concerns to advance their political and economic agendas.

Jones has joined the board of the Pachamama Alliance which is pushing the Global Alliance for the Rights of Mother Nature. This organization is working with the UN and other organizations to get enforceable legislation for so called “mother earth rights” at local and national levels. While their website information and announcements appear benign enough, a closer scrutiny of cooperating organizations and individuals such as Van Jones suggests a cautious vigilance. It is a world view based on Pantheism. Those who seriously want to care for creation need to be leery of such organizations, their lofty goals and their hidden agendas.

Stewardship is the responsibility God has given us in caring for his creation. Our human rights derive from God and his natural law. Likewise any rights afforded nature also come from God not from man. Such rights are not equal to, let alone superior to the rights of man. Scripture tells us that we have special authority over creation and are linked in a cooperative relationship based on our responsible stewardship.

Earth Day and Easter: Faith in God begins with Creation

I don’t think Pope Benedict XVI intended it this way, but in his Easter Homily he certainly made great connections between Creation and the central mysteries of the Christian Faith. It may have been a mere coincidence that earth day and the Easter Triduum coincided this year, but the message was clear: “FAITH IN GOD BEGINS WITH CREATION”. Below some of the key passages:

“At the Easter Vigil, the journey along the paths of sacred Scripture begins with the account of creation. This is the liturgy’s way of telling us that the creation story is itself a prophecy. It is not information about the external processes by which the cosmos and man himself came into being. The Fathers of the Church were well aware of this. They did not interpret the story as an account of the process of the origins of things, but rather as a pointer towards the essential, towards the true beginning and end of our being. Now, one might ask: is it really important to speak also of creation during the Easter Vigil? Could we not begin with the events in which God calls man, forms a people for himself and creates his history with men upon the earth? The answer has to be: no. To omit the creation would be to misunderstand the very history of God with men, to diminish it, to lose sight of its true order of greatness. The sweep of history established by God reaches back to the origins, back to creation. Our profession of faith begins with the words: “We believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth”. If we omit the beginning of the Credo, the whole history of salvation becomes too limited and too small. The Church is not some kind of association that concerns itself with man’s religious needs but is limited to that objective. No, she brings man into contact with God and thus with the source of all things. Therefore we relate to God as Creator, and so we have a responsibility for creation.”

The world is a product of the Word, of the Logos, as Saint John expresses it, using a key term from the Greek language. “Logos” means “reason”, “sense”, “word”. It is not reason pure and simple, but creative Reason, that speaks and communicates itself. It is Reason that both is and creates sense. The creation account tells us, then, that the world is a product of creative Reason. Hence it tells us that, far from there being an absence of reason and freedom at the origin of all things, the source of everything is creative Reason, love, and freedom. Here we are faced with the ultimate alternative that is at stake in the dispute between faith and unbelief: are irrationality, lack of freedom and pure chance the origin of everything, or are reason, freedom and love at the origin of being? Does the primacy belong to unreason or to reason? This is what everything hinges upon in the final analysis.”

God and Secularism

Among some of the comments there has been debate on how Habermas and Ratzinger see their own positions with regards to “The Dialectics of Secularization”. While there is much agreement in the book of this title, Habermas does say in “Between Naturalism and Religion” that he doesn’t think that burka’s should be banned from personal use and that crosses should be banned from schools. I don’t think Ratzinger would agree. Anyway, as tensions flare up in France as we speak since the Burka was banned last week, here is a good video that shows the “unfair” or “asymetrical” burden placed on rleigious people. It is a great illustration of the problem that pluralism in modernity faces on the question of God.

Galapagos Tsunami 50 days later…

Below is an email summarizing the events of the tsunami that hit the Galapagos almost 50 days ago. Thanks to Tannia, a missionary for the Catholic Church serving in the Island of San Cristobal, where I was in January.  Below Tannia’s first hand information on the events (in Spanish):

En todo el Ecuador se vivió una ola de tensión con la llegada del Tsumani a las costas Ecuatorianas.

 El presidente, recomendó a los habitantes de todas las Islas abandonar sus casas y dejar sus bienes que serian custodiados por autoridades competentes, la gente permaneció en la  parte alta de San Cristóbal, fueron movilizadas aproximadamente unas 20 mil personas, se cerraron los Aeropuertos de Galápagos y se pidió sacar las embarcaciones de los puertos hasta una distancia de 5 millas náuticas, donde no se sintiera la onda.

Siendo aproximadamente las 18 horas local, el mar se retiro unos 30 metros e inundo las zonas urbanas de San Cristóbal sin afectar la población.

 No afecto a los animales en peligro de extinción, que había en la reserva de cerro verde (puerto Chino).

Pero en Santa Cruz lo efectos fueron imperceptibles, así mismo se dispuso la evacuación de las comunidades locales a la parte alta de la isla a fin de garantizar la integridad  física de los habitantes.

La dirección del parque nacional Galápagos, ordeno el cierre temporal de todos los sitios de visita en la isla para proteger a los turistas.

Se evacuaron todas las especies, como  al solitario George única tortuga gigante en peligro de extinción a la parte alta  (Santa Rosa).

Las Islas lobos y Manglesito es quedaron totalmente sumergidas, la  garrapatero sufrió daños en la infraestructura este sitio sirve como lugar de a nidación de las tortugas marinas.

El centro de crianzas de Tortugas Gigantes se mantuvo cerrado, debido a que la marejada dejo trozos de madera y malezas en el mar.

 En las primeras horas del sábado guarda parques y parte de la comunidad comenzaron a limpiar la zona para reincorporar a las especies principalmente las tortugas que fueron trasladadas a partes altas.

saludos cordiales


Technology and Palm Sunday

Pope Benedict XVI has an interesting reflection on technology on his homily for Palm Sunday this year. You can read it in full here. He has spoken before on this issue. Below the most relevant points:

All the inventions of the human spirit are ultimately an effort to gain wings so as to rise to the heights of Being and to become independent, completely free, as God is free. Mankind has managed to accomplish so many things: we can fly! We can see, hear and speak to one another from the farthest ends of the earth. And yet the force of gravity which draws us down is powerful. With the increase of our abilities there has been an increase not only of good. Our possibilities for evil have increased and appear like menacing storms above history. Our limitations have also remained: we need but think of the disasters which have caused so much suffering for humanity in recent months.

The great achievements of technology are liberating and contribute to the progress of mankind only if they are joined to these attitudes – if our hands become clean and our hearts pure, if we seek truth, if we seek God and let ourselves be touched and challenged by his love.

Bear Essentials (of Hibernation)

Recent investigations on what happens to bears during hibernation have revealed interesting results with possible medical applications for humans.Read the full BBC article here.  A great example of how we can learn from nature and improve human life (the Pope’s favorite animal can offer us even more). The bears metabolism drops to 25% of its usual rate, sometimes to even 2% with body temperatures reaching close to freezing levels. Below some key possible medical applications:

“Another surprise was that even when the bears awakened and their body temperature rose to its normal level of about 38C, their metabolism remained low – nearly half the normal rate, for up to three weeks after finishing hibernation. That the bears emerge in a fit state, with no loss of muscle and carrying on their routines even with lowered metabolism, suggests that they hold the secret to better medical care for humans, said Professor Barnes.

“If we could tell the mechanism by which they… do this decrease in metabolic demand, that would be very interesting; should you have a heart attack or stroke or be gravely injured, the ability of your heart to deliver oxygen to your brain is compromised,” he explained. “If we could do something to reduce your demand to be equivalent to supply – hibernating – it would put you in a protected state that would give us more time to get you to care. That’s the most exciting potential application in my mind.”


The Narrow Way: A Catholic diet

Here is a great article about the relationship of wight loss and the spiritual life. Tom Collingwood, mentioned before, has drawn the connections between the health of one’s body, the health of the environment and the Christian life in his book: Becoming a Creation Steward.

This article from CNA explains a Catholic diet developed to lose weight while growing in your faith called: “Light Weight”. It links the emptiness of a faithless life with the compulsion to fill it up with what is unnecessary. By filling oneself up with God, there is no room for eating disorders. Read the article for a full explanation.

Peace, Love and Nature… a different take

Here is a different angle to the relationship to the iconic “Peace and Love” of the 60’s, and the philo-environmentalism associated to it. Fr. Cantalamessa, the Pope’s preacher. His talk is called “God is Love” delivered in his Lenten Homily series. We heard Cantalamessa before on creation and the spiritual life during Advent. The key point in relation to nature, is how creation is made for love to happen. He also makes a great case for Reconciliation at the end. A different formula for authentic love, real peace and long lasting reconciliation with creation. Read below the key passages:

  • According to rabbinic theology, endorsed by the Holy Father in his recent book on Jesus, “The cosmos was created, not that there might be manifold things in heaven and earth, but that there might be a space for the ‘covenant,’ for the loving ‘yes’ between God and his human respondent”[5]. Creation is ordained to the dialogue of the love of God for his creatures. How far on this point is the Christian vision of the universe from that of atheist scientism recalled in Advent! One of the most profound sufferings for a young man or a girl is to discover that they are in the world by chance, not wanted, not awaited, perhaps by a mistake of their parents. A certain atheist scientism seems determined to inflict this type of suffering on the whole of humanity.
  • The world has always made it more difficult to believe in love… Disenchantment and cynicism is the mark of our secularized culture. On the personal plane there is then the experience of our poverty and misery that make us say: “Yes, this love of God is beautiful, but it isn’t for me. I am not worthy.” Men need to know that God loves them and no one better than the disciples of Christ are able to take this good news to them. Others, in the world, share with Christians the fear of God, concern for social justice and respect for man, for peace and tolerance; but no one — I say no one — among the philosophers, or among the religions, says to man that God loves him, he loved man first and he loves him with a love of mercy and of desire: with eros and agape.