Catechesis of Creation – Guest Post: Tom Collingwood

A CRISIS IN CREATION

The current debates over environmental issues too often provide little in the way of a faith perspective for understanding and acting to address those issues. CREATIO is initiating with this introductory article a “Crisis in Creation” series to present a Catholic ethic for viewing nature.

CREATIO associates are a wide range of professionals from climatologists, theologians, clergy, outdoor educators, naturalists, biologists, farmers, physiologists and psychologists that reflect a diverse range of information pertaining to creation. We all have a common denominator in that, as Christians we seek the truth about environmental issues and practical actions to care for God’s creation. Most recently we delivered a symposium at the 2013 World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro on “Jesus and Nature”. As a follow up to that conference it was concluded that there was a need for an information dissemination vehicle to provide regular articles on a faith based ethic for the environment. Continue reading

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Faith, The Bridge Between God´s Creatures and their Participation in the Understanding of the Greater Meaning of the Creation.

This post is part of the conference  about  “Jesus and Nature: Catholic Perspectives on Environmental Issues”, presented in Rio from July 22-24 for WYD.  Thank you to  Dr. José Duarte de Barros Filho for this  valuable  contribution.

Biology and Faith are two marvelous aspects of the majesty, wisdom and love of God

Biology and Faith are two marvelous aspects of the majesty, wisdom and love of God

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St. Malo, the 1000(?) Year Flood and Climate Change

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St. Malo and Rocky Mountain National Park have been changed by the recent rains, and I was absolutely shocked by the power of nature. Cabin Creek which runs through St. Malo became a massive wall of water, trees, rocks and debris that completely reshaped the geography of Mt. Meeker’s eastern basin. The pictures above and video below gives an idea of the devastation. Having lived there for so long and known the trails and forest, the effect of the devastation is  shocking. The creek bed which was at most 10 ft wide is now over 50 ft wide. The pile of water, rocks and debris funelled out of the Meeker eastern face carving its way down the mountain and spread at St. Malo as an alluvial fan over 150 ft. wide, carving a new path for Cabin Creek in the process. The creek flow has now changed. One building is seriously demagaed and the other has disappeared. It appears that the mudslide began at the top of Mt. Meeker as a slide is visible from the distance.

See the video here: http://www.9news.com/news/article/356169/222/Chapel-on-the-Rock-survives-massive-rock-and-mudslide

Now, much debate has followed about the proportions and causes of the flooding in Colorado at large. Impressed by the power of this event, it is easy to want explanations. Many have used the term 1000 year flood, and Roger Pielke Jr. here and here explains why the term is not helpful at best, and in fact incorrect. The flood in fact is a 25-50 year flood:  Colorado has had a lucky streak, the last time Boulder flooded like this was 1894. He explains:

As is often the case in the aftermath of extreme events and disasters, people look for some way to put them into a bigger perspective. With respect to floods, a common way of establishing this perspective is through the N-year flood, which is defined as a flood with 1/N probability of occurring in any given year. So the 100-year flood, used in floodplain regulations, is a flood with an expected 1% chance of occurring in any given year.

Earlier this week, I presented some of my objections to the utility and meaningfulness of the concept of the N-year flood. In this post I show how the concept of the N-year flood can be used to turn fantasy into fact.

In an article titled “The Science Behind Colorado’ Thousand-Year Flood” Time magazine explains:

Parts of Boulder are experiencing a 1-in-1,000 year flood. That doesn’t literally mean that the kind of rainfall seen over the past week only occurs once in a millennium. Rather, it means that a flood of this magnitude only has a 0.1% chance of happening in a given year.Time is a fixture of the mainstream media and what is written there is widely read and repeated.

A big problem with Time‘s article is that Boulder did not actually experience a “1,000-year flood.” In fact, according to an analysis presented by fellow CU faculty member John Pitlick yesterday, using standard hydrological methods, Boulder experienced between a 25- and 50-year flood.

Apart from being incorrect, imprecise statements like this allow for implications, such as the association with climate change as a cause. Pielke Jr. explains here  why in this case, no particular cause can be identified by looking at the effect. However, one possible avenue of exploration for the uniqueness of this episode of rainfall, could be geological research on Cabin Creek. I am no geologist, but given the previous river bed width and depth, perhaps some interesting conclusions could be drawn about the proportions of the rainfall in this very localized and specific place.Furthermore, as part of Rocky Mountain National Park, this area is unaffected by human impacts. Geologically speaking, perhaps it has been 1000 years since Cabin Creek flooded like this, if ever ?

Introducing a New Blogger: Claudia Caro

My name is Claudia Caro, I am biologist from Peru and it is a pleasure to have the opportunity to share news and comments with all of you about environment issues and God. I will be posting on the blog regularly, and supporting the work of Creatio from Peru. This year I had one of the most wonderful experiences in my life during the WYD in Rio de Janeiro, first because I felt the love of God and after because I understood the language of God´s love through the nature. No doubt, all creation send us to God. I am looking forward to hearing from you, please comment on our posts.

Greetings!

Jungle Violence

Recently my friend Jose Miguel Yturralde sent me an Easter note from the Ecuadorian jungle where he works for an oil company. Jose Miguel has written for this blog before here and here. As a Catholic and environmentalist, he is in a tough position. Now it is the ‘human ecology’ that is being disturbed, with rival tribes killing each other.

To this day there are tribes that have chosen to refuse contact with civilization as explained in this article, that have killed Waorani indians. Below is a picture of Ompore Omeway, the only man in Ecuador who had contact with these tribes and chose to live in solitude in the jungle. He was killed on march 5th and found with 15 arrows in his body. The attacks have increased and now the Waoranis have sought their revenge. The above map shows the attacks and violence. So much for the romantic vision of the ‘noble savage’ and uncontaminated indian. Human nature, is human nature.

Remembering Pope Benedict XVI: the ‘Green Pope’

Quite rightly, much is being said about Pope Francis and his ecological reflections. But we should not forget Pope Benedict XVI, and how important his papacy was for advancing and understanding a Catholic environmental doctrine, in full continuity with what Pope Francis is teaching. It is hard to explain the importance of Pope Benedict’s on this subject, and we should remember how the secular world recognized his achievements in this area. Linked here a few of his key addresses (here, here and here) and a picture of him receiving an electric car in September 2012.

In one of his last addresses, 2 days after he announce his resignation, he spoke the International Fund for Agricultural Development. While he mentioned the environment and respecting its concerns, the address centered on the role of working the land and farming as a way of helping the poor and contributing to solidarity. In fact, solidarity was at the core of his message. The principle of subsidiarity, biodiversity, the role of the family and economy as gift were also mentioned.  See below some key passages:

“…cooperation – while it is tied to differing social and environmental contexts, and to respect for the proper laws of technology and the economy – is more effective when it is guided by the foundational ethical principles of human coexistence, that is to say, those essential values which, by their universal character, can animate all political, economic and institutional activities, including forms of multilateral cooperation. In this regard, I have in mind first of all the methodology followed by IFAD, which gives ongoing development priority over mere assistance, and places the group dimension alongside the purely individual dimension, to the point of setting up forms of interest-free grants and loans, often choosing, as the primary beneficiaries, the “poorest of the poor”. This activity shows that approaches inspired by the principle of gratuitousness and by the culture of gift can “find their place within normal economic activity” (Caritas in Veritate, 36). And indeed, the approach taken by the Fund is to link the elimination of poverty not only to the fight against hunger and the guarantee of food security, but also to the creation of work opportunities and institutional decision-making structures. It is well known that when these elements are missing, the involvement of rural labourers in choices that affect them is restricted, hence reinforcing their sense of being limited in their capacity and their dignity.

 The Catholic Church in her teaching and her activity has always upheld the centrality of the worker on the land, urging concrete political and economic action in areas that affect him. This stance, I am happy to observe, harmonizes with the Fund’s approach in underlining the role of farmers, as individuals and as small groups, thus actively involving them in the development of their communities and countries. This attention to the person, both individually and collectively, will be more effective if it is achieved through forms of association, both cooperatives and small family businesses with the wherewithal to produce an income that is sufficient to support a decent standard of living.

In this regard, our thoughts turn to the next International Year that the United Nations has chosen to dedicate to the rural family, promoting a deep-rooted and sound notion of agricultural development and of the fight against poverty, based on this fundamental cell of society”

The plight of the Amazon: Seeking the Truth

Here are 2 videos about the Amazon and apparent efforts to destroy and protect it. I say apparent since reality is often not as clean cut as the videos project. In both cases the videos involve people who are somehow related, in the first case I know well a person who works at the Repsol plant in Ecuador. I will keep their identities anonymous.

1. Repsol and oil exploration

What my contact explains is that many of the employees of Repsol in the video still work there to this day. The video in general is quite accurate. But some points of the video have a nuanced explanation. First of all Repsol isn’t so interested in destroying the Waorani’s though they are not the greatest priority either. Also, complying with reg’s is much cheaper than dealing with a spill, so Repsol doesn’t seek to propagate such results. Finally, there are many competing evils of which Repsol is a lesser one perhaps, such as FARC who operate in the area, and land colonizers who yield worse environmental destruction. Not to defend Repsol by any means.

2. The Field Museum: Amazonian Conservation

This video shows in an excellent way the behind-the-scenes of conservation. It is encouraging and interesting to see how the narrative now includes social science as one of the concerns, and integrates the local population in conservation efforts. I say interesting since many environmental conservation efforts disregard the human dimension entirely. Recently a Galapagos Park Ranger told me National Geographic had refused to film a program on the islands since the Park required the local population to be integrated in the documentary. “Pure Nature” was the standard sought after. In this documentary, still, it seems that the human concern serves the purpose of a greater environmental benefit; but to see that humans have a purpose, albeit instrumental, is already something. One must wonder what the natives are thinking, about these white people who travel so far and spend so much time to focus on plants and animals, but not really to help them, the local people. I wonder what they think? It also contrasts with the opposite position, of the missionaries of the old days, who travelled thus far to seek the people entirely. Are conservationists from the Field Museum the “new missionaries” of the causes for the 21st century?

Biblical Adventures: The Grain of Wheat

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Creatio has begun a new series of spiritual activities called Biblical Adventures. The central idea is to participate in outdoor activities that are used in the Bible to illustrate a spiritual reality. Some examples are vine dressing, fishing, shepherding, farming, harvesting wheat, etc. By actually participating in these activities, we can get some deeper insight and understand nuances of what was meant in the spiritual sense as well.  Especially today, in a technological and fast paced world, many people may have never experienced or even understand well what it means to fish, shepherd, farm or harvest. The goal of Biblical Adventures is to learn about these realities, and then apply our hands on knowledge to deepen on the understanding of Scripture.

The first activity was held last Saturday, Oct. 20 at Jacob Springs Farm. Christian farmer Andre Houssney, generously shared his knowledge, time and wheat to show us traditional harvesting, threshing, winnowing and grinding methods, similar to what Jesus knew in his time. All participants had a chance to experience these activities, which are often much harder than they look. We also learned about wheat biology, farming seasons and rhythms and Andre shared his experience as a farmer and historical/biblical knowledge on wheat farming. At the end we baked some unleavened bread (foccacia style), ate and shared. The activity was concluded with a Lectio Divina prayer.

Backpacking and Faith

Today Pope Benedict XVI officially proclaimed the beggining of the year of faith with an inaugural Mass and a private note with reflections on Vatican II. During the Mass the Pope spoke about the importance of faith, in continuum with Vatican II and the teachings of the most recent Pope’s since then. IN concluding his homily he used an important metaphor drawn from the Book of Sirach, but also applied to our times: the traveller, or perhaps today the backpacker. The Pope says that the number of people who embark on journeys, such as The Camino de Santiago de Compostela, has increased and asks the rhetorical question of whether it is an expression of an intuition of knowing that we journey in this world, that we search for meaning and faith. (I have posted on related matters here and here). Below his own words and the Mass Reading:

 The first reading spoke to us of the wisdom of the wayfarer (cf. Sir 34:9-13): the journey is a metaphor for life, and the wise wayfarer is one who has learned the art of living, and can share it with his brethren – as happens to pilgrims along the Way of Saint James or similar routes which, not by chance, have again become popular in recent years. How come so many people today feel the need to make these journeys? Is it not because they find there, or at least intuit, the meaning of our existence in the world? This, then, is how we can picture the Year of Faith: a pilgrimage in the deserts of today’s world, taking with us only what is necessary: neither staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money, nor two tunics – as the Lord said to those he was sending out on mission (cf. Lk 9:3), but the Gospel and the faith of the Church, of which the Council documents are a luminous expression, as is the Catechism of the Catholic Church, published twenty years ago.

A reading from the book of Ecclesiasticus

A much travelled man knows many things,
and a man of great experience will talk sound sense.

Someone who has never had his trials knows little; but the travelled man is master of every situation.

I have seen many things on my travels,
I have understood more than I can put into words.

I have often been in anger of death,
but I have been spared, and this is why:

the spirit of those who fear the Lord can survive,
for their hope is in someone with power to save them.

The man who fears the Lord will not be fainthearted, will not be daunted since the Lord is his hope.

Happy the soul of the man who fears the Lord. On whom does he rely? Who supports him?

34, 9-20

The eyes of the Lord watch over those who love him,
he is their powerful protection and their strong support,
their screen from the desert wind, their shelter from the midday sun, A guard against stumbling, an assurance against a fall.

He revives the spirit and brightens the eyes, he gives healing, life and blessing.

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Verbum Domi- ni. C. De- o gra- ti- as.

But there is also another important environmental parallel drawn by the Pope to explain the current state of our times: the desert. Pope Benedict XVI explains that the loss of faith which Pope John XXIII foresaw when he convoked the COuncil in 1962 is what we are living today in a world which is a spiritual desert, barren and empty:

If today the Church proposes a new Year of Faith and a new evangelization, it is not to honor an anniversary, but because there is more need of it, even more than there was fifty years ago! And the reply to be given to this need is the one desired by the Popes, by the Council Fathers and contained in its documents. Even the initiative to create a Pontifical Council for the promotion of the new evangelization, which I thank for its special effort for the Year of Faith, is to be understood in this context. Recent decades have seen the advance of a spiritual “desertification”. In the Council’s time it was already possible from a few tragic pages of history to know what a life or a world without God looked like, but now we see it every day around us. This void has spread. But it is in starting from the experience of this desert, from this void, that we can again discover the joy of believing, its vital importance for us, men and women. In the desert we rediscover the value of what is essential for living; thus in today’s world there are innumerable signs, often expressed implicitly or negatively, of the thirst for God, for the ultimate meaning of life. And in the desert people of faith are needed who, with their own lives, point out the way to the Promised Land and keep hope alive. Living faith opens the heart to the grace of God which frees us from pessimism. Today, more than ever, evangelizing means witnessing to the new life, transformed by God, and thus showing the path.

This aspect was echoed in the Pope’s notes describing his interpretation of Vatican II. Of special mention to the crisis of faith in the modern world, are the themes of religious liberty, which is urgently under attack in America today and the relationship of Christianity with other religions, and especially Judaism. Here there is a specific recognition of the contribution of American bishops which speaks to the urgency of this question lived in the USA.

The Church, which during the Baroque era was still, in a broad sense, shaping the world, had from the nineteenth century onwards visibly entered into a negative relationship with the modern era, which had only then properly begun. Did it have to remain so? Could the Church not take a positive step into the new era? Behind the vague expression “today’s world” lies the question of the relationship with the modern era. To clarify this, it would have been necessary to define more clearly the essential features that constitute the modern era. “Schema XIII” did not succeed in doing this. Although the Pastoral Constitution expressed many important elements for an understanding of the “world” and made significant contributions to the question of Christian ethics, it failed to offer substantial clarification on this point.

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