Sustainable Living Through Appropriate Technology
by Al Fritsch & Paul Gallimore
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Table of Contents: Daily Reflections
Click on date below to read the day's reflection:
Reflection: August is back-to
school time. It is high summer
when vacation ends and is the first foreshadowing of rapidly
approaching autumn. The lazy days of July give way to mists rising
in the morning and days that are getting noticeably shorter.
Nature is giving us clues that not all remain the same: birds start to flock, cobwebs appear in greater number, the morning mists envelop the countryside, goldenrod appears in rocky places and roadside banks, and bush phlox stand out among the forest understory. The landscape is verdant, and fields yield bountiful supplies of watermelons, peaches, apricots, cantaloupes, grapes, fresh green corn, cascades of ripe tomatoes, butterbeans, and still more green, yellow and tan squash. It's the time to pickle the smaller cucumbers, make tomato juice, preserve the peaches, fill up the deep freeze with squash, solar dry the first pickings of apples, and prepare spare blueberries, peaches and grapes into tasty cobblers. It's the time of the mayapple fruit, teasel, spotted joe-pye weed and red clover blooms, of ripe clusters of pokeweed and tasty papaws. August is when we harvest and plant at the same time, harvesting the spring plantings and planting cover crops and fall vegetables.
August 2004 Reflections
August 1 Spiritual Versus Material Security
August 2 Alcohol Fuels
August 3 Gardening as Learning Experience
August 4 Mobile Homes
August 5 Domestic Indoor Environment
August 6 Transfiguration
August 7 Nuclear Power Generation
August 8 Spiritual Responsibility and Fidelity
August 9 Intergenerational Gardening
August 10 Global and Local Villages
August 11 Plan a Fall Garden
August 12 Proper Land Use and Feeding People
August 13 Become Self-Taught
August 14 Ark of the Covenant
August 15 Mary: Gentle Woman
August 16 Involving the Poor in Environmental Solutions
August 17 Peace, Rejection, Discord and Prophetic Stance
August 18 Conflict Resolution and Ecological Concerns
August 19 Common Lands and Private Property Rights
August 20 Family Reunions
August 21 Toxic Chemicals: A Social Justice Advocacy Issue
August 22 Self-Satisfaction, Smugness and the Narrow Gate
August 23 The Decentralist Dilemma
August 24 Population Explosion or Implosion?
August 25 Mortality
August 26 Hands-on Work Experience
August 27 Animal "Rights"
August 28 A Case for Bilingualism
August 29 Humility in our Lives
August 30 Communications and the Internet
August 31 Renewable Energy and Better Environment
August 1, 2004 Spiritual Versus Material Security
Take care to guard against all greed. for though one may be
rich, one's life does not consist of possessions. (Luke 12:15).
Greed all around. We Americans can be greedy too, for that
temptation is greater in places where people are blessed with an
abundance of material things. It is not just the fault of the
young who will not share their bountiful supply of toys. The
middle aged can easily join the rat race to grab a benefit or
position before others get to it. And older citizens are not
immune, for seniors can hold on to things which should be let go
generously and with immense pleasure as one moves to eternal life.
Insensitivity to the have-nots. Greed abounds and must be
resisted with special emphasis when one enters into some form of
affluence. Here greed creeps up on a person without hardly knowing
it. So often, holding fast to possessions is associated with
affluence, the possession of much, and the sin of failing to see
others in greater need. However, the less well off are not free of
greed. Some will clutch to hard earned possessions and refuse to
share with the less fortunate. And this insensitivity can extend
to whole classes of people, economic groups, cultural bodies and
even churches. Greed comes slipping in to groups who do not do
enough self-examining and, rather, dwell in an atmosphere of self-
righteousness and total contentment.
Addictions and greedy ways. We generally talk about an
individual's greedy ways, but it can go beyond this or that person
to its corporate dimension -- a fitting Scriptural subject. Maybe
corporate America's most serious addiction -- to oil -- is really
a close parallel to Jesus' parable of the rich man whose land
produced a bountiful harvest. The temptation is to store it all or
to gain control over what is beyond our boundaries, and do this at
all costs. Then we can continue to eat, drink and be merry.
Security questions. As our nation is searching for new ways to
address an added national security problem we should ask some hard
questions. Are all efforts to be focused on material things and
new administrative security arrangements? Doesn't national
security have a deeper spiritual dimension? Is a billion in
defense as secure as the same billion in building up our national
infrastructure or assisting the global poor? At our household
level, do we not have enough things or insurance, or should we
gather in more and more? And do we inadvertently slip into the
greedy class, who seem never to know when to stop accumulating?
Spiritual Security. Today's simple lesson involves rethinking
our policy of domestic and national security. When are we really
safe in a physical sense? Yes, an earthquake can occur or a meteor
strike us -- though highly unlikely. We can have many possible
accidents or terrorist attacks. But over-dwelling on possibilities
is not healthy. Our motto "In God we trust" is worth deeper
reflection both individually and collectively.
August 2, 2004 Alcohol Fuels
In the height of the verdant growing season, when fields of
corn and soybeans stretch for miles across the Midwest, people
imagine harnessing cropland as a source of fuel to replace scarce
Alternative fuel. Ethyl alcohol or ethanol has been used as a
fuel for motor vehicles since the early twentieth century. Before
the Second World War, over four million cars ran on alcohol fuels,
but plentiful cheap gasoline cut deeply into that market during the
middle of the twentieth century. With the 1973 Energy Crisis and
the campaign to get the lead out of gasoline came a renewed
interest in a high octane, liquid fuel alternative from renewable
sources. Within a decade the domestic alcohol fuel industry had a
400 million gallon annual production capacity -- which sounds
large, but was only a drop in the annual service station tank. The
production of gasohol (90% unleaded gasoline and 10% bio-derived
fuel) plateaued, but remains a modest portion of our fuel economy.
Motivation. What inspires this alternative fuel industry?
Isn't it subsidies for companies which get tax write-offs for
making gasohol? Certainly alternative possibilities look
attractive during an energy crisis as does the cleanness of the
burning alcohol. Proponents speak of fewer air pollutants even
though the main one -- carbon dioxide -- leads to global warming.
The Problem. One winces in saying that this ethanol is
"renewable," since non-alcoholic tractor diesel fuel has been used
to till the ground, cultivate the plants, and harvest the corn.
When the material is taken to the alcohol generating facility, the
production line that operates the distillery apparatus and the
factory lights and heat are generally from non-renewable energy
sources. The captured energy in the fuel includes these energy
production costs. Likewise soil erosion and remedial restoration
in the corn fields is also part of the resource equation locked in
the fuel. The endless acres of corn and beans make us wonder, for
this is also the bread basket of the world. Our fertile Midwest
has lost an estimated half of its best soil since intensive
cultivation started in the 19th century. A billion people could
have their hunger relieved by easily stored and transportable food
from this land. Gasohol proponents agree that food is a major
concern, but they insist that crop surpluses do exist, and making
alcohol produces by-products, which are high-protein food and feed
supplements. However, the alcohol is truly a luxury fuel.
A Positive Contribution. An added element in the debate is
that alcohol fuel in question could be derived in rather high
yields from the plentiful agricultural waste materials through
conversion processes involving state-of-the-art cellulosic
conversion from enzymes and acids. Yes, alcohol is one alternative
like solar and wind energy, but shouldn't we refrain from use of
food-producing land for generating crops for fuel, which would be
then destined to be partly wasted in gas-guzzling SUVs?
August 3, 2004 Gardening as Learning Experience
Gardening can be a learning experience -- for both master
gardeners and beginners. Over time, gardeners gain respect for
nature by enduring the vicissitudes of the elements, accepting
mini-disasters, weighing opportunities to plant other crops, being
"up on top" of the weeds, and minimizing crop damage through
patience and alternative interplanted crops. Beginners gradually
enter into the master's ways of thinking about gardening. And
masters continue to learn and learn throughout life.
A store of knowledge known. The master gardener can anticipate
what will be growing at a certain time of the year, when to plant,
thin, weed, interplant with other vegetables, mulch and harvest.
Proper sequencing of vegetables and herbs is second nature, because
the master gardener knows the climate, soil conditions and what
grows best. Masters have experience in a number of ways: how much
space a full-grown zucchini hill will take; how beans can be
interplanted with greens; why the Native Americans made hills of
beans, corn and squash; and what plants are friendly to or
unfriendly with others. With the master, the beginner can wince
when the hail falls, pray that the wind will cease, and hope that
the freeze won't come too early. Together, the experienced and the
beginner can rejoice in a satisfactory harvest. No, food doesn't
originate in supermarkets. The beginning gardener learns very
elementary things when working the soil. Besides the facts of
plant life, all experience a growth in patience and gentleness in
dealing with the plant creatures and the insect world as well.
Demonstration power. The beauty of gardening and the potential
for growth in knowledge affects master and student alike, for the
garden is a source of expanding wisdom to all, a seed bed for the
teacher and learner, but also for the non-committed bystander or
visitor who does not really fit at first into the teacher/student
category. The garden stands out as a powerful demonstration to all
who come near. Gradually, each interested person is drawn into
moving from the level of observer to participant in the mystery of
gardening, a mystery that takes on the character of respect for
land and all of God's creation. The relationship expands when all
concerned seek ever broadening ways to garden better and better.
Ripple Effect. Passing gardening experience from expert to
inexperienced is an ongoing process. The well-tended garden
becomes a model, a New Eden. Land becomes more productive and that
is exciting, and the excitement spreads to learners and out to
friends and neighbors. The starting point is a single location --
a yard, a plot, a neighborhood, an enzymatic point of action. From
there the idea spreads to peopled places -- a town, a county, a
state, a region, a country, a planet. Learned responsibility for
a small place becomes accountability for progressively broader
environmental areas. We trust that many beginnings will occur at
the same time, a phenomenon that has been observed in human
history. Observers mention have simultaneous points of action are
influenced by each other. Well-tended gardens are some of them.
August 4, 2004 Mobile Homes
About forty percent of housing in lower income urban and rural
parts of the nation is in mobile or manufactured homes. This is a
matter of choice for new homeowners who are limited in access to
loans and financial resources at a given time. These are viewed as
instant homes, which can be hauled in and assembled in a matter of
hours. However, disadvantages exist including greater
susceptibility to severe wind damage. Others include:
Labor Leakage. By leakage is meant the amount of a dollar
which goes outside the community when purchasing some service or
operation. Bringing in a mobile home causes problems for local
drivers, but that is minor compared to the fact the local
construction company just lost another job and the community has
less local spending money. Much of the construction takes place in
a factory most often outside of the target neighborhood.
Exotic Materials. Environmental building associations make a
list of certain preferred materials to be used in housing, and
certain ones less desirable (plastics and aluminum) because of
resource expenditure, distance from place of construction,
instability under certain climatic conditions, or flammability.
Some materials require enormous amounts of energy to mine, process,
manufacture, ship and store, whereas others, especially local
native materials like clay, stone, and wood may not.
Indoor quality. The air in new manufactured homes is perhaps
somewhat better than in a few years past when the pronounced smell
of the formaldehyde (a volatile chemical found in many fabric and
plastic interior decorations) would escape from the materials to
the surrounding air. This has made the boxed-in effect and lack of
air exchange of insulated mobile homes all the more problematic.
These units ought to be aired out when used for the first time, or
when new fabric and plastic furnishing have been added.
Depreciation. The inherent design of mobile homes lends
themselves to being destroyed by heavy winds far more frequently
than stationary homes. Insurance companies know this, and so do
those who buy and sell homes. Generally, the type of construction,
the deterioration of materials, and the inability to maintain these
properly, lead to rapid depreciation. Low-income rural counties
experience deteriorating tax bases due to widespread depreciation
of cheap mobile housing. To counter this, one solution is to
convert the mobile home to a stationary one through additional
foundation, siding and new roofing. We at ASPI covered part of our
mobile home's outer walls with cordwood and have since received
praise for the improved looks and the building's stability.
Naturally the value appreciated and stopped its slide into total
depreciation, and it is less susceptible to weather damage.
Think before you buy. Mobile home buyers are convinced that
this is an easiest route to affordable housing. How about building
one's own home in a modular fashion using local materials?
August 5, 2004 Domestic Indoor Environment
The home is America's most unregulated place, the space where
many spent the most time, and often the dirtiest atmosphere, with
levels of toxic substances and smoke far exceeding those allowed in
a public work place. The free flow of air in drafty older homes is
not the case in more modern ones with insulated space to reduce
loss of heated or cooled air. Addressing indoor domestic
environment becomes one of the emerging challenges for advocates of
a clean environment. In addition to the contamination of modern
closed indoor space one must include the resident population's
growing chemically sensitive in recent years.
Privileged domestic space. Our home is our castle, a
sacrosanct space that others may enter and regulate only with
permission or warrant. We do not want to be subject to the
invasion of this space by energy monitors, as has happened in
certain European countries with "energy police" entering to check
thermostats. But is domestic space beyond the pale of inspection,
if all our citizens need to be properly protected?
Chemicals in the home. Should regulatory agencies (e.g.,
Consumer Product Safety Commission) determine what is permissible
or intolerable for domestic environments? Today we have more
domestic chemicals than an average 1850's laboratory. Consider the
following obvious and more hidden causes of indoor air pollution:
arts and hobbies such as photo developing (less popular in recent
years) and painting or firing unvented pottery kilns; cleaners of
a large number of types and varieties, and all with pungent scents
to mask the chemical odors; oven cleaners which are highly toxic;
pesticides and automotive products left in store rooms and around
the house; building materials -- glues, caulks, and solvents; and
laundry soaps and cleaners, which some are sensitive to.
Smoke emissions. Of all the domestic problems, the most
preventable and controllable ought to be smoking -- but that is not
always the case. Many spouses and children suffer from secondary
smoking affects. What about a child or other dweller who has
asthma or other breathing problems and needs fresh air? The
smoking guardian or parent is in denial and does not see why the
habit is harmful to others, and so continues the practice in the
house. Can anything be done by concerned friends, health
officials, or local police? Does the right to smoke in ones home
supersede the right of a resident to fresh air? But if health of
all take precedence, how can that health be best preserved?
Inventory. The home occasionally needs a housecleaning, but
few realize that part of the cleaning process is to make the home
free of air pollutants of all sorts. Merely scenting the place
with deodorizers exacerbates the problems, for it only an
anesthetizes the nose and keep us from knowing what is really going
on. More thorough cleaning is needed, and the place to start is in
our own room and home. Let's find the offending materials and
remove them; then let's freshen the air and keep it that way.
August 6, 2004 Transfiguration
This is the second time this year we read the Transfiguration
narrative. That is because the event is complex and brings out the
glory of the Lord in high summer, and the need for consolation in
our Calvary experience during Lent.
The Resurrection event. The Transfiguration is recorded in
the three synoptic gospels and in the Letter we have from St. Peter
as well. Jesus takes the three disciples up the mountain apart from
the rest; this harkens back to Moses going up Mt. Sinai and
receiving the Law. Jesus talks with Moses and Elijah and is in the
center stage, thus showing he is more than the greatest of the
lawgivers and the greatest of the prophets. In the Transfiguration
Jesus' face is radiant and shines like the sun. The event becomes
a consoling moment for Jesus before his impending death just as the
great consolation of the Earth comes at the middle of the growing
season, when we reread the Transfiguration narrative in an
atmosphere of summer's glory. In the Lenten reading Jesus shows
his need to be consoled before the terrible ordeal about to begin.
Here we see the emphasis on the natural consolation of the Earth
and its God-given bounty. In both glory and suffering we can be
Reaction. Peter's reaction is to say -- "It is wonderful for
us to be here." In our everyday language he could have said --
let's take a picture or make a videotape. Remember, he does ask to
put up a memorial of stone to remember the great event. "Let us
make three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah."
The tents allude to giving the law at the feast of Tabernacles.
Affirmation. The voice from heaven tells us that the Father
approves of this sacred event, a sanction by God of what is about
to occur. Jesus is God's chosen one, the suffering servant.
Recall Psalm 7 and Isaiah 42. We too need God's approval. The
divine nearness paralyzes the disciples who are not yet
strengthened through the grace given at Pentecost. "Do not be
afraid" is said a number of times in the Scriptures, and is meant
for all of us as well. We walk too often in fear and trembling,
and less often in the courage of being in the presence of God. Our
humanity is too evident. We need God's approving word and others
need us to give it to them.
A Case of Blasphemy. The Transfiguration event is told with
awe and wonder -- a magnificent vision of what is to come.
However, as Walt Bado, SJ points out in a poem, this is also
Hiroshima Day, a time of infamy when a single atomic bomb of
blinding light caused over a hundred thousand casualties. The
bombing results along with those at Nagasaki were intended to (and
perhaps did) shorten World War II. However, the reasoning has been
questioned. The bomb-making project was called "Trinity" and the
delivery plane "Little Babe." What irony -- or blasphemy. We need
all the more to participate in an extended cosmic Transfiguration.
August 7, 2004 Nuclear Power Generation
Nuclear power was to be the panacea of the future, back in the
guilt-laden days after World War Two and the August Hiroshima and
Nagasaki episodes. Whenever there is a power shortage, such as New
York's or California's rolling blackouts, the nuclear industry
comes out of the woodwork and touts the cleanness and economy of
nuclear power. What is left unsaid is the way proponents arrive at
the understanding of what is clean and what is energy efficient.
Persistent questions. Let's ask pointed questions to nuclear
proponents -- and listen carefully for a complete response: Do
they include massive amounts of coal to fuel the electric power
needed to operate nuclear enrichment facilities to prepare nuclear
fuel? Do they ever consider final disposal of the nuclear wastes
and its long-term dangers? Do they talk about the decommissioning
of reactors which will cost far more than the money it took to
build the reactors in the first place? Do nuclear power
calculations include the massive subsidies which the Federal
government expended to convert to a peacetime atom? Are the health
risks and toll to uranium miners and processors at the Piketon,
Ohio, Oak Ridge, Tennessee and the Paducah, Kentucky Enrichment
Plants included? What about the immense human health problems
related to the Chernobyl accident and the lesser damage done at
Three Mile Island? Are the tempting soft terrorist targets of
stored spent rods near nuclear powerplant given adequate
consideration by energy policy makers?
Past reality. No new nuclear power plants have been ordered in
the U.S. since 1972. In the 1940s nuclear power was predicted to
be "too cheap to meter." That's been long forgotten. However, the
industry says the overall record of the power plants is good. The
persistent difficulty with nuclear energy is that one mishap could
be so massive that it could endanger large populations and areas of
the world. Estimates of a major nuclear reactor accident are as
high as 102,000 first-year deaths, 610,000 injuries and 40,000
long-term cancer death and $314 billion in damages (1982 estimates
made by Sandia National Labs for the Nuclear Regulatory
Commission). A previous, less-thorough study in 1975 called WASH-
1400 estimated 3,300 early fatalities, 45,000 injuries, 45,000
latent cancer deaths and property damage of $14 billion.
Future reality. Prudently, we should not take unnecessary
risks when energy conservation could be easily initiated. After
twenty year lifetimes the nuclear plants were meant to be
dismantled. However, reactors have been patched and rebuilt and
their lifetimes extended to forty years or more. This four-decade
mark is approaching for many reactors and the call is for
decommissioning demanding billions of dollars from electric
generating companies. And where will the dismantled components be
deposited? Worrisome economic and waste-depositing problems
persist with nuclear power generation which go unanswered. See
publication section for Critical Hour: Three Mile Island, The
Nuclear Legacy, and National Security.
August 8, 2004 Spiritual Responsibility and Fidelity
Who, then, is the faithful and prudent steward whom the master
will put in charge of his servants to distribute the food allowance
at the proper time. (Luke 12:42)
We are people of the Eucharist and this gives us a new manner
of acting which should be different from those who do not know
Christ. We are also called to serve others in the manner in which
Jesus serves us. We become faithful stewards of the principal gift
given -- Jesus himself in sacramental form, real and truly here.
In recognizing our stewardship we need to do four selected actions:
1. Knowing the gift -- If we have such a wonderful gift we must
acknowledge it with a sense of awe and reverence. There is really
no other way, for God has blessed us as a minority in this world,
and we may make up for lack of quantity by the quality of our faith
response. We do so with outward devotion and enthusiasm.
2. Conducting ourselves accordingly -- This is a matter of
proper conduct for those of us who strive to become better though
never reaching perfection. Good stewards are always mindful of
those who need of our care and the sensitivity to their needs
requires lives of proper acting. We can speak of being vigilant in
advent, which is awaiting a particular person; here we await
opportunities to give help to others, something requiring a special
type of sensitivity and observational insight.
3. In Christ's Compassion recognizing all needs -- The
watchfulness called for here is somewhat different from that of the
Advent season. Here we have a gift which needs to be shared as
best we can do it even when others do not yet appreciate the gift.
The needs are out there but the sufferers do not know how to
express them. We help fill up what is wanting in the sufferings of
Christ (Col. 1:24) through our compassionate entry into the lives
of others. This is part of our sacred trust. Much will be required
of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded
of the person entrusted with more." (Luke 12:48)
4. Respond as Easter people -- How do we respond to the gifts
given? Our manner of response depends on our circumstances and our
present physical and mental condition. We need the grace to know
how to respond, using the saints as models and inspiration. We can
do what St. Theresa, the Little Flower, did in following Jesus
through the "little way."
Final note: So often affluent people pretend to help others
so as to justify what they possess. We have a potential wealth of
spiritual powers -- not necessarily physical possessions -- which
help us reach out. Do we pretend that we have done enough if we
merely smile or control our temper? We must do more because of the
magnitude of what is entrusted to us. We cannot afford to pretend
for reality calls out for our service to those in need. Our faith
in the mystery given is expressed in how we use our gifts.
August 9, 2004 Intergenerational Gardening
Older age creeps up on us, even those who are physically fit
through daily exercise. Granted, the work is not overly
burdensome, but it does involve some exertion which will demand
more use of muscles and more exposure to the sun's rays in summer.
Let's face reality and find here a growing need to incorporate
others who are more able-bodied into our ordinary routines. The
art of gardening seems fairly manageable even to those with slight
infirmities. Why not continue to do it by yourself? Why involve
others? Maybe it is the digging or the planting or the tending
that take more and more effort than can be mustered at a given
time. Inviting others to help is an opening to broader involvement
on their part. Our waning physical stamina is an invitation.
Educational Opportunities. Seniors have a store of pleasant
experiences about gardening and its many facets, which can be
tapped and passed on through programs which include sharing with
inexperienced people who may be more energetic and agile. With a
good relationship cultivated through the love of growing things,
the inexperienced person (not just youth) can put into practice the
insights gained by the experienced person. This interchange
involves both teaching and learning.
The Potted Plant. No one should forget that indoor plants have
great advantages. These are worth bringing to the attention of
elderly persons who can take care of only a small turf with their
unsure knees, arthritic hands, and aching backs. The potted plant
gives a sense of color, purifies the air, often furnishes a good
scent, can be edible when an herb, and affords the opportunity to
have something to care for which is within reach. But some elderly
need assistance in caring for these potted plants as well.
Instituting Wheel-chair Gardening. Older folks can garden in
or out of a greenhouse with an adjustable growing table or with
permanent super-raised beds or trellises. Some crops can be easily
tended by people with disabilities or those who are more confined,
e.g., a variety of greens, strawberries, certain vines and root
crops. On the other hand, corn, squash, watermelons, pumpkins,
okra or pole beans may be impossible to reach and harvest by the
physically impaired because of the plants' height or extensive
space considerations. Again, the need to work together with
younger or more able-bodied gardeners on all crops.
Senior Wisdom. Successful gardening is a sophisticated process
and requires planning and proper seed variety selection. The
gardener/artist knows that design is necessary to execute a mind's
eye vision onto stone or canvas or a longer blooming landscape.
The garden becomes our canvas and, through pictures taken at a
definite location for each of the growing months, gardeners as
artists draw a blueprint of the coming season. This is a wisdom
that can be passed down to those who are new at the game. It is
the passing on of wisdom that is the true mark of a successful
August 10, 2004 Global and Local Villages
Local Village. A village may be considered as local or global.
The former is the concept that has been in existence for millennia,
and involves the self-sustainability of the primitive culture with
its artisan and craft shops and other aspects of the simple life.
Food is locally grown and bulkier goods are processed locally.
Global Village. With the ascent of globalization (from a more
positive stance) there is a sense of our neighborhood compressing,
communication and transportation time shortening, and trade
increasing among formerly distant peoples. In this move toward
interdependence, we could say that we are becoming more our
brother's keeper. Our social and economic concerns are for people
not at the far ends of the earth (and virtually inaccessible) but
simply at an ever-shortening distance which we can travel - and if
we continue we come back to ourselves. Unfortunately,
globalization has been coopted by the G-8, World Bank, and the
Which is better? Is the move to globalization inevitable, or
is the small community or homestead approach to satisfying basic
needs (food, fuel, water and building materials) a more sustainable
economy? Should we favor cheap labor markets and lax environmental
laws to produce specialty products at lower prices and larger
profits at some distant place? Are the NAFTA way of global
thinking and a homesteading or locally sufficient mentality
premised on different understandings of "sustainability."
A Third Alternative: Autonomous Money Systems. Workers in as
many as 2,000 localities around the world have discovered that they
can trade in interest-free Local Autonomous Money Systems or LAMS.
These communities accumulate what they need to live, work, retire,
and thrive in a local credit system. This system is reported to
function successfully at select sites in the world -- each with its
own money system. An advocate, Mark Kinney of Mt. Vernon, Ohio,
says this system functions well in the Guernsey Isles, an
autonomous British protectorate. By using vouchers, residents
boast zero debt, inflation, and unemployment, and lower prices and
taxes with a higher standard of living than in England. Granted,
it may work with certain local exchanges or small tasks, but what
about necessary monetary outlays for non-locally produced materials
or services, e.g., auto purchases or specialized hospitalization?
Mixed systems. Can globalized, local sustainable and non-
monetary systems co-exist and thrive to a certain degree and with
relation to specific certain social and economic functions?
Globalized systems in communications, environmental protection, and
the luxury goods and services could co-exist with sustainable local
systems producing basic food, fuel, water and other bulk goods.
Within certain limits these small sustainable villages could
thrive. Small services could be exchanged on a barter or non-
monetary system as well, provided specialized health and education
services tolerate monetary reimbursement on a wider scale.
August 11, 2004 Plan a Fall Garden
Hurdles. Why choose early August for a fall garden when autumn
is over a month away? There are several reasons: autumn success
depends on early planning and work; much more depends on the
weather in late summer and fall than in spring and early summer;
and the types of selections are based both on experience and the
weather. When this theme was first considered two decades ago, I
listed lettuce, but over time too many hot and dry autumns in my
part of the country persuaded me to leave these spring delicacies
off the list. However, even here where shade reduces late summer
temperatures, lettuce (with watering) could be a good fall crop.
Cover crops versus vegetables. Another difficulty in planning
for fall crops is that autumn vegetables compete for space with
winter cover crops. One answer is to be attentive to what is
grown. If the crop has been late-harvest vegetables such as
tomatoes, then I turn much of this into cover crops leaving some
space for upcoming "sabbatical plots." I used to follow a practice
learned in early farming, which was to broadcast or sow turnips,
kale and mustard over a given area. The crops turned out well in
many growing seasons. However, in dry times autumn row cropping
takes far less water to irrigate.
Plan for Extenders. Use portable cold frames to extend the
fall crops up to winter. The coverings can be cotton or plastic
gauze materials which can be stretched loosely to allow air flow
and rain and yet reduce the loss of temperature during cooler
nights. Most fall crops could be either covered on frosty nights
or embedded with leaves or straw to protect them during the
weather. When protected such crops as spring planted garlic,
beets, carrots and onions can last through much of the winter.
Some autumn crops do not need fall covering in early frost times,
such as collards, broccoli (if started early or has survived the
summer heat and bugs), and Swiss chard. The chard can be
transplanted with success to a permanent greenhouse together with
younger tommy toes, parsley, and celery. Many other summer grown
crops do not thrive in greenhouses because of transfer shock.
Selection. Besides all the vegetables just mentioned except
tomatoes (which have setting blooms at or below 40 Fahrenheit),
please consider the following as candidates for fall crops:
turnips, daikon radishes, spinach, Chinese cabbage, endive, kale,
mustard, pak choi, and several other types of greens. Bulk
cropping can be obtained through yields of turnips and daikon
radishes. With careful planting, the space between rows can be
sowed with hairy vetch as a winter mulch and source of nitrogen.
Leave winter yielding crops such a horseradish, salsify, parsnips,
and Jerusalem artichokes undisturbed. Vacant hot weather crop
areas (tomatoes, beans, peppers and sweet potatoes) can be sowed
with vetch along with other cover crops such as Austrian winterpeas
or some types of winter grains. Those which follow heavy feeders
such as corn and sunflowers should have additional compost before
fall cover-cropping. Good luck!
August 12, 2004 Proper Land Use and Feeding People
Proper modern land use practices are worth defending. In many
parts of the world, weak land use regulations are resulting in land
being converted from wilderness or agricultural purposes to
industry, urban sprawl or highway systems. Our state of Kentucky
lost a quarter of a million acres of land in such development in
the last decade, and this trend is continuing. But some of the
developed land in this state was bluegrass pasture for horses and
former cattle meadow or tobacco patches. An argument can be made
that less land for actual food purposes could still allow all
necessary food crop production in our state to thrive.
The shrinking farming base. Urban sprawl and industrialization
are a worldwide phenomena, and prime agricultural land is in short
supply -- and growing shorter as vast nations like China and India
move more to the automobile economy. To eliminate an intensive
rice paddy in Japan or Korea means that valuable productive
agricultural land is being converted with no substituted land to
take its place. On a worldwide perspective it may be asked: Can
we save green space and continue to feed growing populations on
essentially less and less farm land? Relatively affluent Pacific
Rim lands are experiencing a shocking loss of productive land to
the pressure of new consumer activities and industrialization
projects. Upward economic mobility requires land formerly in crop
Affluent land demands. It would seem that wealthy countries
could get by with less farmland. That is not the case, since
increasingly affluent populations demand new types of food (e.g.,
eggs and meat and specialty items). If every person in China ate
one egg a day, it would deplete the entire grain storage supply of
the world in a year. And as a matter of fact, the Chinese are
becoming wealthier and want more expensive foods, such as meat
products, in larger amounts. Most know that it takes far more than
a pound of grain to make a pound of meat, and per capita meat
consumption in China is on the rise. So is the demand for melons
and certain fruits which will be grown on former rice lands.
Reference: Who will Feed China? by Lester Brown, Worldwatch
Institute, 1998, Washington, DC.
Land Use Questions. Land conservationists seek land use
restrictions because of sprawling industry and housing over once
productive farmlands. The patterns are similar throughout the
world: land that was used in agriculture is ripe for development;
its economic value goes up to a point where the farmer is pushed
off or has incentives to sell at a high price and move elsewhere
and retire. How does a national, state or local government make
meaningful land use restrictions? Certain conservation easement
programs (purchase the rights to development and pay this money to
the landholder) are now in place in more conservation-minded areas.
These cost money, but do have a salutary effect on saving farm
lands. Whether this spreads over more territory depends on the
accessibility of communities to necessary funding.
August 13, 2004 Become Self-Taught
Many people feel left out in older age because they did not
have all the formal education they desired. They tell me, "You can
talk, with your formal education spanning from World War II to the
Vietnam War." True, but the environmental aspects of my ministry
were self-taught, since such programs are very recent. Formal
education has a rightful purpose of teaching critical thinking and
discipline. However, there is also an over-emphasis on degrees
from particular places or certain subjects, which may be valued
well beyond their actual worth. Give me hard working people, who
are enthusiastic, open, energetic, critical of what they hear and
see, and willing to experiment, and they can become self-taught if
they care. Of course, some would say that such people are usually
the ones who submitted to strict formal educational programs.
Are academic critics correct in saying that much of education
is glorified baby sitting, and that degree-collectors are people
too slow to take hold of the world and work? Perhaps there is more
to education, even the expensive variety, than these critics admit.
But there are also inexpensive alternatives such as "colleges
without walls," internships with public interest groups,
elderhostels, Internet courses, and a deliberate effort to study a
specialty on one's own. The last is most appealing to the do-it-
yourselfer, for it means there is little outlay of resources except
one's time and attention and the cost of books and materials.
Ambitious people from famous lawyers such as Robert H. Jackson,
presidents like Abraham Lincoln, and businessmen such as Bill Gates
were partly or mostly self-taught. Generally, the liberal arts are
easier to master on one's own than courses requiring laboratory or
foreign language practice.
The self-taught person acquires a sense of accomplishment and
internal self-worth, knowing just what can be done and what could
still be achieved in the future. The cost of college tuition and
extras may come to $30,000 or more per year, plus the loss of work
experience during that time. A person with a low paying job with
little responsibility can spend twenty hours a week studying on his
or her own. This person could acquire the equivalent of a degree
in one decade and still have saved or earned $300,000. This self-
taught person would not be saddled with the debt that many college
graduates have, and if watchful, could still obtain a fairly
improved position. Current economics undoubtedly favors the
formally educated person who starts high, overcomes indebtedness
and then continues for the high salary position. But with respect
to quality of life, the self-taught could also enjoy life, have
less stressful conditions and, if frugal, save enough for
comfortable senior years.
The self-taught may conceive of college as a racket that many
buy into, or an escape, a crutch, or a surrender to peer pressure.
But college is also a place to communicate, discuss ideas, and meet
great minds. These social factors are not available to the average
self-motivated who is educated in libraries or over the Internet.
August 14, 2004 Ark of the Covenant
This day before Mary's Assumption contains rich symbolism
which many do not hear because the feast has different readings
from those of the vigil. The first in the vigil liturgy pertains
to Mary's title of "Ark of the Covenant." In English we use "ark"
for two Hebrew words: first, Teba or Noah's ark (box, chest), and
second, Aron, a coffin which measured 45 by 27 by 27 inches, made
of acacia wood and later inlaid with gold, and containing the ten
commandments, Aaron's rod but budded and a golden urn of manna.
The Israelite community knew that God was truly present with the
people. The ark moved with them in the desert, it stood in the
middle when the Jordan River parted, it went in battle, it was
placed by David in a tent or Tabernacle-- and later in Solomon's
Temple in the Holy of Holies, and it was lost when the nation was
sent into exile 587-586. One story is that Jeremiah rescued the
covenant and hid it on Mount Nebo.
Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant -- a connection with the
coming of the Messiah who dwells within it. In Mary's womb is
Jesus, the Messiah. But as the Gospel says, it is not the body
parts that are important as the person who hears the word of God
and keeps it. This is St. Luke's Gospel, the Gospel of Mary, who
says all generations are to call her blessed. She is humble
because God, not she herself or other human beings, has done great
things for her.
Fiat -- Powerful Words. Mary says "let it be done to me" or
fiat, and thus is the prime person who hears the word of God and
keeps it. It is a personal decision, a moment which counters the
denials of previous generations from the first parents. Hearing
and keeping God's words are the opposite of the words of Eve, who
wanted to be like God through an act of disobedience, and who
declared a sort of independence from God's will. Mary counters in
trust and union Eve's distrust and separation from God.
How does this ark imagery apply to the Feast of the Assumption?
We must not put Mary on a pedestal or consider her a distant object
of our devotion. Rather let us look upon her in the atmosphere of
the trust, confidence, faith and celebration that the Israelite
community placed in the Lord through and in the symbol of the ark.
Their joy and celebration was of immense dimensions. No one but
those of a particular sacred office were to even touch the ark.
Their devotion was extreme and that shows us the need for reverence
-- in the presence of Jesus and before the Sacrifice of the Mass.
We need a return to reverence which is so lacking in modern
religion. With irreverence comes a failure to see what God is
doing for us and through us. We are to couple traditional
reverence with the joy of celebration on the feast of Mary.
We focus on Mary's gifts and role, her assent, her life and
model, and we see her as going ahead of us in a happy death which
has no sting. Her Son has overcome death in the victory of the
resurrection. She entered into his victory in a very special way.
August 15, 2004 Mary: Gentle Woman
Maybe men are the weaker sex; we need to be in front of
things; we must be affirmed always. The Church affirms women and
in and through sinless Mary who was able to be assumed into heaven,
the first of the fallen asleep who are to share in the fruits of
the resurrection of her son.
Real Mary. Mary has many feast days and we have been afforded
thousands of opportunities to celebrate numerous feasts in her
honor in an average lifetime. These feast days allow us to grow
ever deeper in our devotion to Mary. Imagine the experience of a
young maiden who hears the magnificent words of the annunciation
and wants them to sink into her heart. Almost simultaneously, she
learns that her cousin was with child and she does not hesitate to
go to her over a long rough road. Mary is not knelling in rapture
as some of the paintings portray, but rather riding a donkey on a
dusty road, alone with the God-within, not in the soft light from
a stained glass windows. She is first among those who give loving
care to the needy and is able to contemplate in action.
Blessed among women. Truly Mary is blessed and her humility
is in knowing that she has such great privileges. We too are
blessed people, and must recognize not our nothingness but our
somethingness, and that we are the most blessed of created beings.
We are humbled that this great gift is not from our own efforts but
from God's. We are blessed by one other than ourselves, and we
have a slight glimmer of our chosen place in the grand plan of
salvation. Mary is the one we want at our side at the hour of
death. Our Mother of the Church is caring, nurturing and healing.
Giftedness. There is a transparency that comes with the gifts
of Mary, for the gifts that are given to her make her the most
blessed of women and of all of us. Her humility is in plainly and
honestly knowing that she has great privileges -- and they are
from God and not from her own efforts. She is totally pure and
transparent and thus her gifts are known to all as seen through a
prism. As bearer of God, she moves us to Christ, the ultimate
gift. Mary is not so much above us on a pedestal but ahead of us
in the Assumption, for we expect to be taken into heaven and our
bodies reunited at the last Judgment.
The Woman's Touch: Eco-feminism. Let us renew our devotion to
Mary as Mother of Church and us. The reality of Church as loving
mother will become more evident when we gain a deeper respect for
womanhood -- and Mary in particular. We need to see that women
make unique contributions to an understanding of how the Earth
functions, and how human beings must respond in healing processes
which are truly compassionate. Empirically I note that women
intuitively grasp the need for healing our wounded Earth, and they
respond with a sense of compassion and personal concern. Is there
something inherently womanly, without which the final task of
saving our Earth cannot be achieved? Is it a mistake for men to
try to define this role? Must we await a woman's solution?
August 16, 2004 Involving the Poor in Environmental Solutions
Reality always speaks forthrightly, and this is good
spirituality. When reality is hidden through denial, excuse, or
escape, spirituality lacks an authenticity which allows us to pray
for what is needed, to offer thanks for what is a blessing, and to
see how much we have been the one who made the offense in the first
Reality check. The poor generally have their feet on the
ground when it comes to essential needs, far more than do affluent
people. Because the poor generally live closer to ravaged areas of
environmental degradation, they have experienced the effects in the
form of poor health and lower quality of life. Insofar as they do
not have a higher quality for a standard, they may not be
articulate about their maladies and discomforts. Others who are
sensitive to the conditions of the poor may be more able to be
articulate and to show contrasting data on the chasm between the
haves and have-nots. This involves environmental sensitivity.
There must always be a return to the grassroots for verification
and the answers must concern and involve the poor.
Affluent responses. The affluent and the poor have
fundamentally different ways of perceiving the same situation.
That is especially true where the problem areas affect people
differently and call for immediate and fundamental conversion and
change. The affluent are blessed with a greater mobility, more
influential connections, and more access to material and
informational resources. However, all of these privileges do not
guarantee eco-success. In part, this is due to lack of sensitivity
(the sin of affluence) to the needs of others, and an unwillingness
to work together as equals in problem-solving.
Authentic data. In recent years we have seen the rise of
"junk" science which contains results paid for by special interest
groups. Such scientists are hired to say that the Earth is not
undergoing global warming or ozone depletion or that some so-called
environmental problem is overblown. (Some critical comments about
such environmental matters may be valid). Such conclusions
generally work to the benefit of industries which do not want
further regulations. A number of factors are at work here:
affluent people tend to muster resources to deny an impending
catastrophe; they are the ones who escape by moving to more
pristine locations; they excuse themselves by saying that the
question should be handled by experts at some future time usually
beyond their lifetime.
Involving the poor. Environmental problems call for
cooperative action at all economic levels. While the poor are
handicapped by lack of resources, still they have certain
advantages: they know the harm first hand; they see this as a
more serious life and death situations; they have basic incentives
to work harder on solutions; they are at the authentic grassroots;
and, finally, they sense that God and history are on their side.
August 17, 2004 Peace, Rejection, Discord and Prophetic Stance
Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the
Earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. (Luke 12:51)
Hard Saying. Jesus is always direct and honest. He speaks
openly and without excuses. His hard statement that he comes to
bring division may appear to be contrary to a pacifist Christian
approach, but is it? A distinction needs to be made, for a peace
gained by establishing "tranquility" (or lack of hostile action) is
not necessarily a lasting peace. Jesus is not silent, complacent,
or withdrawn. He enters into the fray; he is right there in the
public; he demands commitment on the part of his followers.
Divisions Come. Such demands take a toll, for followers must
now break away from the bonds of conformity which have previously
held them fast. In breaking with these bonds, divisions will
inevitably occur. Some sayings continue to challenge us, and
certainly this is a key one. How can we be bridge-builders and
bring about community through breaking down the barriers of
division, while at the same time we are called to be fire-brands
and risk divisions in the process? For Christians, the two
questions are present simultaneously. We both build up a new
social order and we tear down the unjust structures which exist in
our world. Thus we have a twofold task to accomplish.
False Tranquility. How can I be a pacifist and still deal with
discord and controversy? That first struck me when I ministered to
sailors at the Great Lakes Naval Base during the Vietnam War. I
was a pacifist but also wanting to be a part-time chaplain to the
military. But that led to an ambivalence which is so difficult to
adjust. Jesus constantly said "Peace be with you" to people in
internal discord. We need to be at peace within -- family, person
and church. It is not always the same in the world in which we
live, where peace has political implications. The prophet Jeremiah
and Jesus bear similar messages, for both were utterly rejected and
cast off by the authorities. Both realized that they must suffer
or die for the people, and that in dying new life comes forth.
Blue Diamond Strike. The Bishop of Nashville was tortured by
the Blue Diamond Coal strike in the late 1970s, for justice called
him to be on the side of strikers; the bridge-building capabilities
of the "pontifax" call for being on both sides and bringing people
together. But are both sides equal, or can they be made equal by
a special stance in the favor of the weaker party? Justice calls
for equality among all parties, and this is a primary demand before
ultimately establishing peace in an unequal situation. The bridge-
builder must first help establish equality.
Inevitable Discord for Ultimate Accord. Our families and
friends have difficulties which demand ultimate accord. Where do
we fit in? Will we witness to a marriage we do not agree with?
Will our nation establish equality before going to a Middle East
peace effort? Do we see the connection between peace and justice?
August 18, 2004 Conflict Resolution and Ecological Concerns
I do not like environmental conflicts. In fact, I wish that
every conflict by oppressive polluters would cease on this Earth.
Resolving two-way conflicts is always a good thing, especially when
both parties are present and willing to cooperate as equal or near-
equal partners (brothers, wife and husband, employer and employee).
Some emphasize the primacy of removing conflict in discussing
environmental threats, but is this really the proper procedure? An
effort to tone down or silence debate over ecological threats does
not involve the partners (Earth and inhabitants) but rather the
threat and a spokesperson for the one threatened, namely, the
Earth. Let's be fair; not all actual parties are represented.
The Silent Victim. Unfortunately, such fabricated non-struggle
may be a license for business-as-usual and a way to reduce the
effectiveness of environmental advocacy. Advocates may say they
represent the Earth, but no one can be a perfect Earth
spokesperson. In fact, the victim is the voiceless peaceful planet
which does not shout or scream with each tear in its fabric. The
Earth is a patient sufferer and may react, but its reaction time is
generally so slow that the exploiter has time to do damage and get
away without paying the true price.
Existing Conflicts. At times a spirited argument is most
necessary to emphasize the seriousness of the damage done to the
Earth. When advocates are silenced, there is actually no conflict
resolution, only a false tranquility while injustice continues.
Advocacy is compromised in the name of being nice and friendly to
various parties. And this always works to the advantage of the
The Prophetic Stance. Another and radically different method
exists which emphasizes that conflict already exists between those
who assault the environment and the victim, and it is necessary to
expose the actual conflict before resolving so-called differences.
Lessening the heat of the discussion does not actually remove the
problem, but only diverts attention from the activities of the
culprit. On he other hand, prophets must convince outside
onlookers that advocacy does not mean that prophets are truly
spokespersons for the silent Earth, only imperfect supporters or
champions. We have no authority to speak for the Earth, though the
we may speak openly, forcefully, and in a spirited manner depending
on our personal traits and characteristics.
Ecological Resolution. Agreements may be made by the
offending parties to cease and desist in practices which affect the
Earth, and to make restitution for damages done. Advocates for the
Earth may regard the agreement as a resolution. But is it? Or is
it a mere modification that allows all parties to think they have
gained some victory? One must be on able to stand back and see
whether the so-called resolution is the best solution or just a
cop-out by the parties involved. Too often resolutions are only
short-term solutions -- and the environment continues to suffer.
August 19, 2004 Common Lands and Private Property Rights
Land Attitudes. Our American tradition of land ownership has
a long and varied history. Much of our English law tradition is
based on perceiving land as something we have an absolute right
over once we possess the legal title. Other countries' views and
even Native American understandings differ somewhat. More is held
in common and more is subject to the overriding regulation of a
larger government body. Some experts like Professor Eugene
Hargrove trace the American land attitudes to our Saxon forebears
and then further back to the Teutonic notions of land tenure.
Commons. Virtually all land traditions profess that some parts
of the environment are held as commons such as the air, oceans,
fragile zones, and Antarctica. Other traditions are still more
inclusive, and accept common grazing land, mountains, forests,
lakes, seashores and on and on. This common heritage of humankind
can easily be coopted by those who discover that with some legal
mechanism a proprietary right to the property or a license to
perform certain acts of ownership may be allowed. When our
government is influenced by money, then those wanting to profit
from a new definition of "property" will find an opportunity to lay
claim to more of the commons. This had an historic precedent in
the 17th century when common grazing lands in England were enclosed
and taken over by influential persons and groups. In recent years
the movement to codify a "Law of the Seas" ran into major American
opposition because some saw this as an appeal to a higher authority
than a government which allows exploitation of the sea floors.
Development Rights. It is a small step from absolute property
attitudes, to enclosure of the commons, and then to use of land for
polluting activities. The philosophy goes: to h--- with commons;
if we own it, we need not get permission from anyone; we make the
decisions on how the land is to be used, and what constitutes
development. With this progression, one can see where the "right"
to disturb one's owned or leased property arises. But the concept
of "commons" also applies to the oceans and major seas as well.
Does it not extend to private forestlands, regulation of surface
mining, and purchasing air quality credits?
The Wise Use movement. An ultra-conservative group seeks to
superimpose property rights over the rights of government to
regulate land use in some forms. Their arguments include the
demand to be repaid for the lost opportunity to profit from the
development of environmentally restricted land. For instance, a
requirement not to build on fragile seacoast in the lower Atlantic
states means that the property values of the potential resort areas
are affected, and this brings a loss to the developer. Taking back
or takings implies a return to the owner of losses caused by
governmental regulation and could run into many millions of
dollars, if a regulatory agency stops construction of what could
have made a fortune for a developer. The "Wise Use" efforts to
regain property or force compensation for losses through regulatory
restriction have vast implications. And few of them are good.
August 20, 2004 Family Reunions
Sometime in late summer, people think of family reunions, which
occur once every year or decade or on very rare occasions. Those
of us who come from large families know that these events can be
difficult to make a success. I went to the one-hundredth
anniversary of my mother's great grandparents (the Schumacher Clan)
coming to America, and at that occasion we found the family tree
had grown to about a thousand descendants and their spouses. I
later went to the 150th of the same group and the tree was still
further overgrown. The big family affairs can be logistical
nightmares, or they may prove challenges to the organizers who
enjoy them. That brings us to several points which may add to the
success of family reunions.
1. Have reunions infrequently. People get tired of coming if
they are held too regular a basis. Maybe the bigger, the more
infrequent. When it is only two or three generations, the
gathering is more manageable. When it goes back to five or more,
many of the descendants simply don't know each other.
2. Have a good organizer. Not everyone wants the stress and
work required to plan for and gather in a family for a reunion.
Phone calls, letters, e-mails and persuasive conversation, the
determination of a gathering place, and arrangement of the schedule
must be made. Much of the work can be reduced by assigning
specific duties and having everyone bring their own potluck dish
and sharing this with others. It still takes a good organizer.
3. Find an adequate meeting place. Often people want to return
to the small house or farm where it all began. Nice, but the place
is not equipped for massive parking or for toilet facilities. A
better suggestion is to go to a nearby public facility capable of
handling the crowd. Some guests need air conditioning or
accessible ramps due to being incapacitated. Anticipate this and
dietary needs beforehand. Make sure that there is adequate
drinking water as well.
4. Prepare the agenda well. We can sometimes do extensive
planning and only later find out that many people do not like
raffles, formal games, worship services or other group activities.
When cards or games are to be played, make sure they are the fun
type. If music and dancing are required, this takes special
attention as well. Sometimes the informal may prove the most
entertaining. However, some people are not natural mixers and find
so many relatives who are unknown as intimidating. Name tags are
always good even though some people know everyone. Many have a
difficulty with immediate name recall. Consider general
introductions and prizes for the most distant visitor.
5. Document the event. Photography is important, as is audio
or video history. Visible family trees with the current historian
checking on accuracy are always helpful. Encourage a follow-up
letter and a sharing of a web site or e-mail addresses.
August 21, 2004 Toxic Chemicals: A Social Justice Advocacy Issue
Toxic chemicals have been known since the advent of poisons;
some are inaccessible to most people; some are of biological origin
and require sophisticated extractive procedures. True, as Dupont
says, there are "better things for better living through
chemistry." However, the modern chemical record is not perfect,
the toxic substances can be used well or misused, and the results
can be vast improvements in health, or deterioration over a long
period of slow poisoning. Modern chemistry gives both promises and
perils. Take Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana, which hosts 53 chemical
plants, some of which emit into the water and air the toxic dioxin
(a by-product in the production of ethylene chloride and a host of
chlorinated compounds to make PVCs and other plastics). As a
chemist, I see the value of petrochemical production, and resulting
life-saving substances. But there can be health costs to workers,
local inhabitants near chemical plants, and consumers themselves.
Occupational Harm. It is not good that our excesses have come
at the expense of people working in the industry. These need a
livelihood and do not understand the dangers until it's too late --
if ever. Occupational hazards have existed and many cases of lung
and liver cancer and other maladies have either been identified or
are part of the anecdotal picture, which await verification by
scientific investigation. And that can be a difficult procedure.
Residential Harm. Others, especially minorities and the very
poor, have been forced to accept housing in neighborhoods which are
next to chemical plants such as in the Mississippi Delta and other
heavily industrialized parts. The same applies in so-called Third
World lands where runaway industries have fled to escape lands with
tighter chemical pollution rules. Remember Bhopal.
Consumer Harm. Social justice considers all aspect of a
balanced life. A consumer inadvertently buys a product which does
a good job killing a pest or cleaning a sink, but it may harm the
user if precautions are not taken. In some ways in this chemical
age, we have all become guinea pigs, and our injuries and deaths
will make future generations wiser -- but at what cost? As
increasing numbers of chemicals assault our lives, we are becoming
more chemically sensitive in ways never before imagined. Do we
even believe sufferers, especially the very young, when they
complain, while others in the same household show no ill effects?
Remedies. Certainly the "right-to-know" legislation has helped
residents and workers to discover the toxic effects of some of the
compounds being produced in their backyard or in the chemical plant
where they work. Other regulations by environmental protection and
occupational health agencies have reduced the blatant abuses of the
earlier parts of the industrial age, at least in the more
sophisticated parts of the world. Like smoking chimneys which have
been a sign of employment, an operating chemical plant is a welcome
to unemployed workers. The health costs and shortened lives are
often remote considerations. But should they be?
August 22, 2004 Self-Satisfaction, Smugness and the Narrow Gate
They shall proclaim my glory among the nations. (Isaiah 66: 18-21)
The Good News of salvation is universal and is meant for all;
so is the responsibility associated with receiving, acting on, and
passing it on to those who have not yet heard Good News. We often
misunderstand our total commitment to Christ; we neglect the call
to avoid affluence or excessive craving for and possession of
material things, the involvement of which makes us smug, self-
satisfied and insensitive to the needs of others
Isaiah's Vision. We begin with a vision. Jerusalem will be
restored and become a drawing card, a magnet to attract others. If
we think the community of the faithful, the Church, is not
attractive enough, it is our calling and our mission to help
improve it, not expecting some one more learned or wise to do it.
Rather, we must accept the harder task of helping to do it
ourselves. We can become "institutionalized" and think another
bureau or leader or agency must do the dirty work. The door is
open to all, and many are called to take on the responsibility to
be callers. Our task is to bring about an all-inclusive call for
everyone to live a simpler life and to focus on God's work. All
are under the loving embrace and mercy of our God, and our love
overcomes the barriers that separate people from the community of
Luke's Hard Message (13: 22-30). While we do eat and drink
from the common cup, we can easily forget to share with people in
all lands and cultures. Jesus' love is universal. All creation is
good and every act of suffering in the world is part of its
redemption. The Spirit calls us to listen to the voices of the
poor and speak up for them. This is to be authentically spiritual,
and is signed in the Trinity (Creator, Redeemer and Advocate). Our
faithful community declares this in the Creed, and each individual
knows this to be part of our mission. We must take nothing about
our personal salvation for granted. We are called to be disciples
of Christ (the current gospel theme); we focus on Christ, deny
self, and accept responsibility for my individual self and the
total community. That is why the road may seem easy, and the door
wide, but it is somewhat constricted on closer examination.
Total Commitment to Christ. In the Hebrews Letter we find that
theme repeated: We are to be focused on Jesus in our own life.
Things will happen to us individually or collectively to distract
us. But within our spiritual life we are called to reaffirm and
refocus on our baptismal commitment: How are we to be of service
to those who suffer? When are we on the wrong track? What
improvements must be undertaken? We often look to saints who were
able to withstand the pressure of their own times. In August we
celebrate the lives of St. Monica and St. Augustine; Monica had
the patience to pray for the conversion of her son and bring him
back to God. A kind bishop once said to her, "It is not possible
that the son of so many tears could perish."
August 23, 2004 The Decentralist Dilemma
Think and act locally so that we can think and act globally.
Small is Beautiful. My mother is a Schumacher, from the part
of Germany where E.F. Schumacher came from. We are most likely
distantly related, and I always had a warm feeling towards his book
Small is Beautiful. That philosophy permeates various essays and
my own meditations. The world would be better if we left some of
the high-technology fixes and concentrated more on simple
techniques which are decentralized, lower cost, easier to maintain
and are of a community basis. No one, in our way of conceiving the
world can fail to see the importance of the simple, the grassroots
and the small scale of doing things. However, to think small in
all matters is not enough.
Limited view. A radical decentralist would argue that all
environmental problems can be solved at the local level. Some
question author Kirkridge Sales for defending such an approach, but
he claims that he has refuted it. Whether this is true the
decentralist position needs some further clarification. I would
rather take a more middling position between those who champion the
primacy of the local, and those who think all good things come from
on top and filter down to the lower peons through regulations.
Thinking and acting. Numerous groups take a wider view on
environmental problems, for the globe's oceans can easily be
exploited and polluted, the fragile commons (e.g., Antarctica)
overrun, and outer space filled with junk. How do we regulate the
distant places, the unoccupied zones, the areas beyond the
attention of even a hard-pressed national state? Decentralists
may not have answers for these questions because they are so
distracted by their local problems that they fail to see the
broader picture. Thank heavens for global groups, for social
justice and human rights folks, for the Pope and world religious
leaders, for opponents of land mines and nuclear proliferation, for
Green Peace and Children's Relief, for global prophets, and for the
United Nations. Yes, it is good that those who think and act
globally or locally can limit or expand focus as need be.
Broader environmental problems. Air and water are more mobile
and thus deserving of broader-ranging areas of regulation and
regulatory agencies. The European Union is worried about forest
death due to air pollutants; many nations are concerned about acid
rain and global warming caused by the heavy energy consuming
states. The world's water is both mobile and varied in purity. Do
rigid decentralist solutions address pollution from distant
sources? Don't we need more centralized governmental agencies to
regulate the purity and equitable distribution of water (e.g.
interregional watershed authorities in the Middle East)? And
beyond air and water problems, must we not regulate global commons
such as forests, which moderate climate, act as a sink for carbon
dioxide, and are the planet's lungs? Let's support global agencies
and still do environmental work at our local level.
August 24, 2004 Population Explosion or Implosion?
The twentieth century witnessed a vast increase in human
populations on this planet, from about one to six billion people.
This gigantic increase has been due both to plummeting death rates
(in great measure from reductions in infant mortality rates) and
relatively high birth rates. A decline in birth rates occurred
throughout the twentieth century, but is not as pronounced as the
decline in death rates (until the recent AIDS epidemic turnabout).
An environmental concern. Many environmentalists have
expressed fears that this population increase would continue
unabated and result in "no standing room" on the planet. The Deep
Ecology platform says that a (qualitative) flourishing of human
population is compatible with a substantial (quantitative) decrease
in the human population. For these people, the Earth's carrying
capacity is nearing its limit. Their pessimism is based on
selective indicators of continued decline in death rates and slower
declines in birth rates, especially in the so-called developing
world. However, a new phenomenon is appearing and that is
projected declines in population for 26 nations by the year 2025
and 48 nations by the year 2050. Some of this decline is in
eastern and southern Europe, where a combination of an aging
population and lower births is bringing decline (Russia has 14
deaths and 8 births per thousand people).
A New Factor. One population indicator shows that death rates
in parts of Africa and elsewhere are rapidly rising due to the AIDS
epidemic which has resulted in HIV infection to almost 60 million
people and a heavy toll in sub-Saharan Africa. This modern "death
plague" has taken almost 30 million lives, and victims are dying at
a rate of about ten thousand persons per day. Botswana, where high
birth rates a few years ago led to predictions of doubling of the
populations in about two or three decades, now with 36% adult HIV
infection rate, and is expecting population declines in the next
two or so decades. Zimbabwe, which was projected to double in
population in 69 years, is now expecting a decline of people from
11.343 million in mid-2000 to 9.481 million in 2025. In the same
period, South Africa will decline from 43.421 million to 35.109
million. Note that Italy (without a major AIDS problem) will also
decline by five million people in the same time period. Statistics
are from the Population Reference Bureau in 2001.
What Policy? Is this dramatic switch in some African countries
unique? Will the near future involve not immense population
increase, but plummeting populations when the AIDS epidemic reaches
full force in India and China? Is there a tacit neglect in
combatting AIDS due to a population policy of birth limitation --
and AIDS just happens to come along as a "natural" birth control
device? Further questions worth answering include: Are certain
forms of coercive birth control, (e.g., China's one child per
family) profoundly unethical? Do areas of dramatic population
decline stand as the tip of an emerging iceberg? And are these
population declines less manageable than limitation of births?
August 25, 2004 Mortality
Senior moments. We are to know the seasons of our individual
lives. The signs of aging include added backaches, birthdays that
seem to come with ever greater frequency, obits with the majority
being younger people, museums featuring tools we used in youth,
shortness of breath coming when memory is going, and increased time
to recharge our batteries. It is perhaps morbid to think too often
of death, but salutary to think of it on an occasion. I don't mean
reflecting on the type of my death, what other folks will say when
gone, or how the funeral will be conducted. I mean just simply
passing to the Lord and that is what death is all about.
Don't count the days, but rather make the days count. When one
reaches the seventies, it's better to reflect on mortality more
often than an annual retreat or review, maybe once a month. For
seventy is, as Scripture says, the ordinary length of life -- and
it certainly comes quickly. We can never fully calculate the
seasons of our life until they are over or nearly so, but for the
majority of human beings the seventies are the December of life and
the advent season of eternal life soon to come.
Unreal or real? I often suspect that half the world's people
at a given time think they will not taste death. That's as
unhealthy as always tasting it. We may like to occasionally
reflect on when we will be here no more; but let's be frank, most
of the world never takes such time for they live in an unreal
world. They may be afraid the world will keep going with or
without them. They prefer to substitute "passing" for dying, an
admiring comment, "doesn't he look nice," upon seeing the corpse,
a nod of the head or hug at loss of words. Or they may refrain
from going to funerals altogether.
Quality, not quantity. In anticipation of what is to come, we
have to be realists, to prepare and be prepared. As quantity of
remaining time shortens, we must make the quality lengthen for each
day. Quality has no limits to growth, and we recognize it with
years. Hospice workers encourage the terminally ill to make every
day and moment count as special events, for life is to be lived to
the full -- and that should improve as we near the end. But aren't
all our lives terminal? Getting the most out of good sleeps and
beautiful sunrises, chirping birds, and verdant meadows, the waxing
and waning of the moon, the starry skies and occasional showers.
All good things become more meaningful for us, mellowing with the
years like good cider.
A happy death. Lord, you let us know our destiny is to die
like others, but it can be a happy one, nonetheless. You hear our
prayers, and that includes a desire for a pleasant passing. If it
is Your Will, let the passing be short and without fanfare. Let it
be a moment of final faith and hope, and not of despair and doubt.
And let us take the one thing that is all we can carry away in our
nakedness, our love. Make it golden love, a love for You and for
your sake, not for me and mine.
August 26, 2004 Hands-On Work Experience
Many people do not have the experience of working with their
hands, of seeing the product of their labors reach fruition. It is
the reason why many of us find trail-building so helpful for youth.
They can work with their own hands, they see the fruit of their
labor, and they know the fruit will endure, so they can return
later in life and feel satisfied that the trail is being enjoyed.
Experience. Gardening, as a form of outdoor work, can be
performed by a variety of people seeking work experience. Near
Amsterdam in the Netherlands I observed an entire school class
engaged in planting seedlings in a school plot -- and they were
quite enthusiastic about what they were doing as they touched the
soil with their own hands. Some learn cooperative outdoor projects
through Eagle Scout projects or through Habitat for Humanity. The
work skills may differ, but all have the opportunity to contribute
-- and that gives a sense of self-esteem and worth. Encourage the
shy to take an equal part with those who push in and do the
exciting part of the work. Ideally, all learners have their own
individual work assignments and are held accountable for that part.
This spring I organized the entire Frankfort, KY Good Shepherd
school (300 students) and we saw that each one planted a tree.
They all seemed thrilled to some meaningful work with their hands.
Follow through. Accountability for seeing the project through
to completion is a major lesson taught in any work experience.
Gardening is always difficult for youth who like planting, but soon
learn that plants grow slowly. For good results, any form of work
is a slow, exacting and sometimes painstaking process. Granted,
some have that sense of seeing things through to completion better
than others do. Learning to plan and carry out a project can
require patience and a certain degree of encouragement. If we are
measuring something, it has to be checked and rechecked to make
sure we make no mistakes; we have to focus and give attention to
what we are doing. We are judged, for better or worse on what we
are doing with our time.
Work masters. Not everyone has the patience to teach,
especially slow learners. Many gardeners are insensitive to the
way people learn, how one must start with basic tools and how they
are used, the need for a little experimentation where little damage
can be done, and then a progression to more important tasks.
Experienced farm kids are quite insensitive to what city folks know
and can do for these lack work experiences of the rural youth. The
same holds for those who drive vehicles or cook meals or care for
a lawn. People who seldom teach find it difficult to remember what
it was like to learn. A Chicago youth minister called wanting to
come and bring eighth graders to teach Appalachians to garden.
Think about the bias! I asked whether the kids had gardening
experience and the organizer said they didn't, but could learn
quickly. I assured him that so could most Appalachians. Each
person can become experienced in the work before us, but we have to
be invited, encouraged, and rewarded for tasks well done.
August 27, 2004 Animal "Rights"
A celebrated recent case of road rage in San Jose, California
involved an angry driver berating a woman in a fender bender and
reaching into her car, grabbing her pet dog and tossing it out into
the ongoing traffic. After the smoke of the trial subsided, the
offender got three years in prison. So much for killing a pet or
property of another or, as the pet owner described it, as one she
loved more than a family member.
People cannot go out and shoot stray animals, an exercise we
thought merciful for the starving pup a half century ago. Today
there are agencies to handle and, if necessary, to "put these away"
in supposedly humane manners. Part of the changing climate is due
to seeing animals as beings deserving of respect which is not shown
weeds or invasive plant species. We do not condemn animals at
will; we must not subject them to meaningless cruelty, which some
young kids may be in the habit of doing.
Traditional understanding is that rights come with
responsibilities, and that in a strict sense non-rational creature
can't have rights because they are not "responsible" in the normal
way of seeing things. Perhaps it is a question of degrees of
rights or analogous rights just as all creatures are beings sharing
their existence on this planet. The species' "right" to respect,
a decent living, and fair treatment may extend to an individual
creature, at least with the larger mammals. The right to a
species' existence and quality of life may go even farther and
enter into what we define as pests and unwanted animal life.
More questions arise when we think of animals differing in
their ability to handle incarceration. I can no longer stand to go
to zoos and see orangutans facing the wall because they apparently
find the spectators more than they can handle; nor do I like to
see a badger pacing back and forth almost crazed by confinement.
Should we capture and confine wild animals for pets or for
scientific research? Are animal parks less stressful alternatives,
and might these help preserve certain endangered species? Should
animals be killed for meat? Raised for eggs? Furs and animal
parts? Should our society tolerate animal abuse? What about those
who deliberately inflict pain on animals or who deliberately cause
endangered plants or animals to become extinct in order to avoid
endangered species regulations?
There are growing numbers of people who cannot support cattle
or hogs being slaughtered to furnish meat for a society. The
slaying process is too difficult to watch, and this may induce some
to go vegetarian. Others with a more activist streak contemplate
and take steps to release captive mink, to close down labs with
caged monkeys or mice, and to protest chicken farms which turn out
those fried chickens with the bent drumsticks; these are caused by
fowl never able to range freely, but live for their life in
extremely cramped quarters. The world is taking a fresh look at
the treatment of animals. It isn't coming any too soon.
August 28, 2004 A Case for Bilingualism
The number of Hispanic Americans has doubled in the United
States since 1980 and now number about 30 million. Every part of
the nation now has Spanish speaking residents. There are large
numbers of Puerto Ricans in New York and the Northeast as well as
a heavy concentration of Cubans in Florida and elsewhere. But the
largest influx in recent years has been Mexican Americans who are
coming north into Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California and
spreading rapidly to other parts of the country. Some three or
more million undocumented workers are here and are desired as very
dedicated workers in construction, agricultural and factory work.
In a number of large cities in the broad ban of land adjacent to
Mexico, Hispanics and other minorities are becoming the majority
(e.g., San Antonio, San Diego, Houston, and Albuquerque).
Something different. Never before has such a large number of
a single language group entered this country during such a short
span of time. De facto, Spanish is becoming the lingua franca of
a large portion of the area bordering Mexico. Why not make Spanish
a "second" language, rather than frown upon its presence or
discourage its use outright? Hispanic radio and television
stations abound; signs are now found in all commercial quarters;
many non-English speakers can get along in the sea of English due
to the expanding areas of spoken Spanish. What will be the
language of ascendancy at the end of the 21st century? Spanish-
speaking American people see the future in their hands.
A New Opportunity. Anglos may not like the way things are
going, but we cannot ignore the Hispanics in our midst. No problem
is going to make them return south of the border. Many have been
here for a long time and more and more are settling down and want
to stay. A far more positive approach is to greet the newcomers
with a welcome as good or better than what our non-English speaking
ancestors received. And there can be much more. We need to
welcome second languages because so many Americans are mono-
linguists and suffer from difficulties in learning a new tongue.
A second official language will raise Americans from our own self-
imposed cultural isolation and allow us to converse more easily and
see the world as bigger than ourselves alone. Is it a bias to
expect others at their expense to learn English, while we English
speakers never bother about learning other tongues?
A New Look. Requiring the learning of Spanish by all public
and private grade schoolers would have many advantages. It would
open people to new cultures; it would help us to consider the
Hispanic as close neighbor and not persons of a distant culture; it
would tie the continents together more closely in common pursuits;
it would expand the speaking skills of youth at a time when
learning a second language comes far more easily; and it would
allow a growing appreciation of the wealth of the Hispanic culture.
Maybe the rest of the world will treat Americans with less disdain,
if we make a deliberate effort to incorporate a second language
into our basic national curriculum.
August 29, 2004 Humility in Our Lives
"For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled and
the one who humbles himself will be exalted." (Luke 14:11)
Humiliations come. We have all experienced moments when we
thought all was going right and we would win the great prize -- and
then it slips out of our hands to someone who was completely
ignored and overlooked. Why he or she? The same applies when
triumph seems so near at hand for our Church or nation or
institution and then a scandal arises and puts us down, deep down.
Why? Could the answer be possibly that God loves us so very much
that we are being gently taught through humiliation?
Touching the soil. This act brings us to our earthly origins
and destiny, for we are from and to dust, for humility is derived
from this affinity to soil (humus). God gives growth and life and
our efforts are secondary. We see that we do not have an infinite
time. Teach us to count how few days we have and so gain wisdom of
heart (Psalm 90: 12). We seek to achieve goals which are
reasonable and not to reduce the status of others in reaching them.
Thus we respect others and refrain from having an inflated ego.
Times make us humble. If we just stay around for a time, we
find that our own dreams and great expectations somehow miss the
mark. We are not able to be or do what we thought was so easy to
be or do; we are not able to fulfill glorious dreams whether a
good job or a lofty position or heaven knows what. The dreams are
so much easier than reality itself. Few will say this is not the
case. The more and broader the unrealistic dreams, the sooner the
downfall. On the other hand, to accept who we are and what we must
do and be is humbling. We've done the best; what more can be done?
Humility has its own reward. We soon find humble folks
approachable in their quiet way. For instance, a humble attempt to
have a productive garden will give the fruit of the labor for all
to see in good times and in drought and storm. Garden work is hot,
tedious, demanding, and yet rewarding and truly a form of
recreation. While at times, as before a frost, there is a slight
stress on one or other types of work, still gardening is leisure-
filled and yet humble work, to which others may be attracted.
Purging us of pretensions. Our own domestic or professional
life's work is the product of honest hard work. We do not pretend
to be doing things we simply are not able to achieve. After awhile
our life is like an old pet dog, always faithful, always caring.
Care given or partly neglected is care returned.
Being down-to-Earth. Humility has a way of providing the
foundation for a spirituality which allows us to know ourselves for
what and who we are. This gives a sense of integrity permitting us
to accept our stance and position in life. Humility strengthens
our psychological health and peace of soul. In the long run, being
humble is simply more comfortable like a well worn shoe.
August 30, 2004 Communications and the Internet
Our culture and communities thrive on communication. That goes
far back in civilization, but in former times communicating was far
more difficult. A letter was treasured and the truth told broke
the secrecy about health, occupations and the lives and deaths of
friends. Today e-mails give us instant news, cell phones tell a
spouse when one is coming home, and television gives news from the
other side of the globe. Some people would regard it as a major
obstacle to go even a few hours without the news or knowing how
family and friends are doing. This connectedness over such long
distances is a new phenomenon, and where it all leads has not yet
been thoroughly researched.
Rapid communication. It seems obvious in the togetherness of
modern communications that protecting the environment requires
rapid, open, and accurate communication. Today, most organizations
have web sites to tell others of activities and general information
about the group. Individual staff members have e-mail addresses
and communicate quite often through the electronic mail. "Instant"
is the key word for the wired person in today's world. This
constant communication plays a role in the monitoring process or
watching out for pollution or mishaps of any sort. The more
communications are available, the less the chance that physical
disaster or misdeeds will go unnoticed.
Too Much. Information overload occurs when we receive so many
information each day that we find it impossible to digest all of
it. This condition is like going through a world's fair every day
and passing a parade of booths all needing our attention and time.
What must we read thoroughly, and what can we skim or ignore? I
won't say much more about this important subject for fear of that
overload right here. Do all parties have the right to know what is
being manufactured, processed, or stored in their vicinity? If
yes, then when is a company permitted to retain a trade secret
concerning chemicals which may affect the surrounding community?
Since most substances can be detected and identified through costly
analytical means, should not all citizens have access to analytical
data? And what do they know if they have all the data at hand?
Internet weaknesses. Like all things, modern and otherwise,
there are tradeoffs. Is the current pressure to have the
government regulate the Internet the result of agencies' and
institutions' desire to exert control over that medium of
communication? Are efforts now being undertaken to control the
content and manner of delivery of the Internet really interested in
the audience's protection, or in control of the air waves by
certain special and vested interests? Media ownership is
concentrated in the hands of a few large conglomerates. Do we even
have access to the decision-making power over what we are to hear
and watch? Is fast information lacking in depth but is all out
there to confuse us? Is instant low quality communication eating
into reflection time or the luxury of discovering unusual sources
by browsing in libraries and bookstores? See Silicon Snake Oil.
August 31, 2004 Renewable Energy and Better Environment
In 2001 the United Nations Environmental Programme issued a
report Natural Selection: Evolving Choices for Renewable Energy
Technology and Policy. In the report it argues that from nine to
fifteen trillion dollars will be invested by 2020 on new power
projects. If a greater part of this massive investment were made
in clean energy technologies (renewable types) then the global
economy would be more secure, more robust, and the globe much
cleaner than in the twentieth century. Energy demands continue to
rise, as they did through the 1990s, at about two percent a year.
To continue to meet this increasing demand through traditional
means (heavily non-renewable energy sources) will increase
pollution levels and kill 500,000 people a year, and cause, among
other ailments, four to five million cases of chronic bronchitis.
These energy production methods will cause acidification of
ecosystems, contaminate the soil and water, lessen biodiversity,
and contribute to the growing global warming problem.
Rise of Renewables. On the other hand, cleaner renewable
energy sources are available and will continue to become more so.
The report states that when starting from a small base in the
1970s, biomass, geothermal, solar, small-scale hydropower, and wind
technologies have grown proportionately faster than any other
technologies for supplying electricity. Wind energy, the world's
fastest growing energy source, has far exceeded the most optimistic
1990 projections; its price has dropped sevenfold and wind is now
competitive with fossil fuel technologies, even with their
The Road is Clear. Renewable energy sources are becoming more
attractive due to the increasing scarcity and inherent pollution of
non-renewables. The report states that "It is increasingly true
that there are no technical, financial or economic reasons why the
nations of the world cannot enjoy the benefits of a high level of
energy services and a better environment. It is simply an question
of making the right choices."
Why the Delay? One may ask -- if the report is restating what
many appropriate technologists have said for three or more decades,
why is it taking so long to convert over to non-renewable forms of
energy? The answer rests in the power of the non-renewable energy
companies over nations and new regulations. The oil, gas, coal and
nuclear conglomerates are large and powerful, and these have so
strongly influenced governments that they will not relinquish their
control. As long as these fuels supply much of the energy of the
world, the profits are far too high to see the companies lose their
market share and influence. But economics is not the total picture
and that makes us relook at what is profitable. When health and
environmental factors are included in the equation, the current
non-renewable energy dominance does not make sense.
Source: Acid News, A Newsletter from the Swedish Non-
Governmental Organization Secretariat on Acid Rain. June, 2001