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Daily Reflections Earth Healing

Daily Reflections
by Al Fritsch, S.J.

A series of written meditations and reflections

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Table of Contents: Daily Reflections

June 2010

Copyright © 2010 by Al Fritsch

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Pink stonecrop, Sedum pulchellum
(photo: Janet Powell)

June Reflections, 2010

     June hesitates to admit being harsher than May, but this month soon loses that spring freshness.  The temperature moves past 90 degrees F, days are longer, nights warmer, and gardens start to grow by leaps and bounds.  Peas bloom and bear; beans spring as by magic, and cucumbers vine.  Green spinach, the brassicas and bright red beet plants and leafy Swiss chard color the garden, as do the yellow blooms of zucchini and summer squash.  We pick strawberries, raspberries and the earliest blackberries.  Pale blue exotic wild chicory decorates roadsides; day lilies add color as do bee balm, red trillium and black-eyed Susans, all graced with majestic Queen Anne's lace.  June means summer apples and mulberries, early plums, young corn and soybeans plants, and the scent of new-mown hay and blooming, but exotic, Japanese honeysuckle.  Springtime's freshness wears thin and summer is announced by rumbling thunderstorms.  June includes buzzing, busy bees, as well as worrisome mosquitoes, flies and gnats.

      Amid it all, maybe June is the time to ask some basic questions, and so we craft each of June's reflections as a question.  Some have obvious answers and some require us to continue to ponder in search of answers. 







The Rockcastle River.
(*photo credit)

June 1, 2010            Who Should Clean Up the Rivers?

      During National River Cleanup Week we ought to focus once more on the beauty and charm of our many rivers, the ugliness of those that have been polluted, and the need for returning these waterways to pristine condition.  Most of us would not quibble with these basic facts, namely natural beauty, human-induced river mismanagement, and cleanup requirements.  The added point that has bothered me for years is who should do the cleanup?

      In the past when running a nature center, I considered that a task of cleanup could be a way of giving some experience of Appalachia to volunteers from outside the state.  However, the more I reflected on this, the more it became apparent that it was not right to bring willing folks from other parts of America to clean up after local people or visitors had messed up the many rivers.  Why should a volunteer be brought in to clean up someone else's irresponsibility?  The wiser outsiders might say in short order -- this is an enforcement problem, and our work is simply postponing the need to address the issue of proper management.  The insiders may feel inclined to continue in sloppy practices since others will clean up after them.

      My current solution is a three-phase approach:  catching litterers in the act and forcing them to pay the $500 fine per act through use of cameras or personal presence, especially at popular locations;  designating public service work using jailed inmates and others already fined for some offense such as driving while or immediately after drinking; and creating jobs for the unemployed for the cleaning up of larger items needing semi-professional skills. This is simply not something that willing volunteers who did not create the damage should be expected to clean up. 

      River cleanup is more urgent than some want to admit.  Our rivers should remain in or be brought back to pristine condition for the sake of all parties -- residents, visitors, Earth herself.  This requires an investment and not a haphazard approach.  A trashed river is a cancer to a community and leads to a malaise that disrupts family and community life and depresses many individuals in subtle ways.  We should stop littering and dumping at their sources and fine the culprits;  we should regard cleanup as a penalty in which those requiring community service must be engaged; and when the remedial work needs professionals our environmental agencies must manage the operation.   

      If we live near to a river (as this writer does to the Kentucky River) we have an added responsibility to occasionally pick up the discarded trash found on the riverbanks or within easy reach.  Let's just not expect volunteers to do our dirty work.   

      Prayer:  Lord we find it more inspiring when the right persons do the necessary tasks ahead.  Help us to realize that there is a proper time for everything under heaven -- even cleaning up rivers. 






Fungi in catnip garden.
(*photo by Sally Ramsdell)

June 2, 2010       Are Reduced Spatial Requirements Greener?

      The media is full of the Chinese property bubble.  The theme is interspersed with stories of poor urban folks whose old homes are being torn down to build high rises; there are also poor rural folks who see their grainlands coopted to make way for roads, commercial establishments and specialty crops.  The theme has a familiar ring to Americans and others who have seen traditional land uses come under pressure from unscrupulous developers, and eventually succumb to the more powerful government-supported innovations.  Green space is often erased in the demand for more interior space;  that covers everything from worship to educational space, from commercial to residential space.  Americans have come to expect double the amount of space per person as their forbearers of a century before.   

    The average American household dropped steadily from 3.67 persons in 1940 to 2.64 in 1997.  During that time, the average house size increased from 1,100 square feet to 2,150 square feet -- from 290 feet per person to over 800 square feet today.  In  1967, 48% of homes had a garage for two or more cars and this increased to 79% in the new century.  In 1975, 20% of homes had two or more bathrooms.  Now over 50% do.  Now the Chinese and Indians are calling for domestic expansion -- and not only in their residences but also in highways, parking areas and other spatial needs for the upwardly mobile middle class.  Both countries together have EIGHT times our North American population.  

      Privatizing space for specific luxury demands is unsettling:      

      * Escalating expectations on the part of the upwardly mobile lead to enormous demands on limited space in many lands.  In  such places the poor are the ones who suffer most through loss of space; 

      * Maintaining buildings with added space takes time and can be burdensome -- but the physical exercise is a tradeoff; 

     * Working in well-designed smaller spaces allows for more creativity and eliminates distractions that result from spatial sprawl.  Everything is within an arm's reach;

     * Pretending about available resources overlooks actual needs.  Such interior spaces not only took precious materials to build, but also they place a heavy demand on the resources of the world for heating and cooling as well as for maintaining the expanded space; and

      * Driving out the little fellow is an expanded spatial cost, namely, the folks who want to grow rice or keep an older home in place.  Instead of allowing injustice we ought to promote the taxation of properties with unnecessary space and encourage retention of needed space for essential services. 

      Prayers:  Lord, help us to downsize our material expectations and upscale our spiritual ones. 





Taking a break.
(*photo by Sally Ramsdell)

June 3, 2010       Are You Taking Time Off in Summer Months? 

      A big June question is about proper time off in our lives.  In fact, I do plan to take next week off.  Joy!  Composing new Daily Reflections after over 1,600 of them becomes harder and harder.  Our resolutions all too often focus on how to be better in the busy work we do.  But just as silence and sounds ought to coexist in harmony, so ought rest and work be found in balance.  As one who grew up milking cows, I know the work must be done on a daily basis, but subs and good planning can allow for days off -- that holds for Daily Reflections also.

      There is no question but that we all need rest -- during the day at proper short periods, day-by-day with proper sleeping space, and week-by-week with days off.  What about a longer period, namely a year-by-year rest period called "vacation," where a change in pace is required and the investment adds freshness to spirit and outlooks on life?  

      Once we affirm the need to rest, the added question is "How do we go about it?"  Some say that we must get away, but the getaway can be burdensome and become an unwelcome chore for some of us.  Like others I enjoy seeing new sights, as I intend next week to see the Apostle Islands off the northern lakeshore of Wisconsin.  This is the only part of our country where Pere Marquette spent time that I have not visited.  The distance is a thousand miles, and getting there by any means is what I am inclined to dread.  Over my career I have traveled over one million auto miles (most for the service of others), but the annual averages have been decreasing with older age.  In earlier times, travel was enjoyable; now I need a little more time at rest when arriving at a travel destination.

      With proper and long-term planning I will be free next week and thus can experience a more peaceful rest.  Daily Reflections, prepared long in advance, will be posted; books will be promoted; liturgies are being covered, and an uninterrupted rest will hopefully be forthcoming.  My suspicion is that most readers do these things more than this writer -- so I stop short and start packing.  Don't worry: the reflections for the 6th to the 14th of June have been written and edited already, and the first draft was a March project.   

      Prayer:  Oh Creator, you rested on the Sabbath;  so ought we.  Give us the courage to take time off and just sit down and do nothing for awhile. 




Kitch-iti-kipi (Big cold water in Chippewa language), Michigan's largest freshwater spring.
Upper Peninsula, near Thompson.
(*photo credit)

June 4, 2010       How Many Sounds of Water Can You Distinguish? 

      Many of these water sounds are listed in a forthcoming work on the life of Pere Marquette that is in preparation right now by this writer.  Among notable water sounds are these: 

      Bubbling -- Boiling water moves from liquid to gas.

     Cascading -- Rapids of a large river.

     Cracking -- Thin ice sheet when someone is so rash as to walk or skate on it.

     Crashing -- Glaciers calving and giving birth to icebergs.

     Crunching --  Footsteps on a snowy path.

     Dripping -- A leaking faucet.

     Grinding -- Ice sheets meeting other pack ice in a northern bay in late winter.

     Gurgling -- Brook currents that move among rocks and obstacles that seem ever so inviting.

     Gushing --  A creek after a freshlet in the late springtime.

     Hissing -- Escaping vapors from a steam engine or a leaky steam pipe.

     Pelting  -- Rainfall on a tent.

     Plunking -- First heavy drops of a thunderstorm on a dusty path.

     Pounding -- The wind blown waves of the ocean shore as the tide rises.

     Rattling -- The frightening din of hail beating on a galvanized roof when one knows the crops are being ruined.

     Rippling  --  Sound of a slow moving river.

     Roaring -- The thunder of waterfalls and rapids.

     Rumbling -- The shaking of the ground when approaching the roaring waterfalls.

      Rushing -- Flood waters at high tide.

     Sizzling -- Moisture meeting hot oil.

     Sloshing -- The regular lapping on the lakeshore at dawn or tramping through half melted snow.

     Smashing -- Heavy waves on a ship side or at a seawall or pier.

     Snapping -- The breaking of an icicle.

     Splashing -- A water-bound youngster after a flying leap or just sitting in a tub and playing with the water.

     Splattering -- Driving rain hitting the windshield of a speeding vehicle.

     Spurting  -- Old Faithful at the moment it begins to let off steam.

     Swishing -- The water hose outlet in the fresh grass or used to wash a vehicle.

      Tinkling -- Wind-blown snow and sleet on the window pane in winter's depth, or urinating in the leaf clutter of the woods.

      Trickling  -- Rainwater from a shower in a downspout.

     Whispering -- Underground or undercover small water streams.

     Whistling -- Steam escaping from a teakettle. 

      Prayer:  Thank you Lord, for the gift of hearing and being able to distinguish the music of living water. 






Enjoying a sunny spring day.
(*photo by Sally Ramsdell)

June 5, 2010        Why Is Reducing Meat Consumption Environmental? 

      While many arguments are made for vegetarianism (respect for animals, need for our sacrifice and/or well-being, keeping possible grazing land in forests etc.), an equally strong argument ought to be made for all the planet's people to reduce meat consumption, and to eat meat only at certain culturally-established festivities.  Here are some reasons: 

      * Meat is expensive; lower consumption would free up food budget money for fresh vegetables, fruits and whole grains;       

      * Meat production, including associated feed crops, require over half the arable land now in agriculture;   

      * Twenty billion head of livestock are three times the human population, and require feed cropland and grazing space;  

     * Pound-for-pound, efficiency calls for direct human consumption of grain.  It takes almost five pounds of grain for one pound of grain-fed beef, but half of that for a pound of chicken;

      * Nutritionist Jean Mayer says that reducing meat production 10 percent in the U.S. would free enough grain to feed 60 million people.  If ALL wealthier nations would reduce meat consumption by 20%, then one billion hungry people could have enough food; 

      * Meat reduction is an indirect way of answering our ultimate question, "Lord, when did I feed you when you were hungry?"  One normal-sized steak is equivalent to a bowl of rice for 45 people; 

      * Excessive fatty meat consumption is unhealthy -- leading to heart disease, gout and high blood pressure; 

      * Meat products are sometimes unsafe, contain harmful bacteria or require refrigeration and careful cooking techniques; 

      * Much American meat comes from factory farms with excessive animal wastes, poor animal care, and concentrated solid and liquid emissions that pollute the land, air and waterways; 

      * Reduction in meat use is a major message from the concerned to the unconcerned about resource consumption;

      * Animals emit vast quantities of methane that contribute to climate change.  Pound-for pound, one pound of methane has a greenhouse effect equivalent of twenty-five times that amount of carbon dioxide; and 

      * It takes more cooking fuel to prepare most meat than it does vegetables or grain.  A single hamburger patty takes the fuel required to drive twenty miles. 

      Prayer:  Lord, that we would learn to use less of good things. 






Pods of the redbud (Cercis canadensis).
(*photo credit)

June 6, 2010       Do We Truly Believe in Transformed Bread and Wine?                                         

     Those of us who believe in the Body of Christ, the feast we celebrate today, profess the real presence, not only as end point of transformation, but in the mystery of the process itself.  The Lord becomes present and that is before our eyes, the eyes of faith, while nothing seems to happen in the eyes of the unbeliever around us.  The bread and wine that have been made by human hands in growing, picking, crushing, milling, baking, fermenting and transporting all this material reflect a human effort in preparing for the transformation event.  Then a solemn liturgical moment arrives; the presider and those present in the faithful community witness to a Mystery unfolding in the Consecration.

      What has a humble human content becomes the body and blood of the Lord.  A sacramental reality occurs, and this unites us more closely in the mystical Body of Christ -- the Church in the process of being constructed with cooperating hands.  Furthermore, this building up goes beyond church walls and organization;  this is the building of a new world of peace and justice.  To believe in Christ coming into our midst is to believe that the work we do has a divine/human aspect that will lead in due time to the New Heaven and New Earth.  It is not enough to simply believe Jesus is present;  we must believe that his becoming present is the beginning of our efforts to bring about his complete presence at the last day.  We enter into the transformation mystery in a special way.

     The bread and wine of Melchizedek was part of an Old Testament transformational process: a coming of a world to faith.  This story tells the history of Abraham's particular journey of Faith and the foreshadowing of what was to come in the New Covenant.  Our lives foreshadow what will happen in the great gathering, of which we are only starting to have a faint awareness; the New Heaven and New Earth are coming into being.  We gather and eat together, but we cannot go and do so perfectly when some people have overabundance and others lack the basics of life.  Thus steps toward sharing must be taken and they must occur now.   

      In the multiplication of the loaves that we read about today (Luke 9:11b-17) we find common elements with other accounts of the miracle(s): basic trust in Jesus; distrust by the disciples as to whether there is enough food; a miracle of either physical multiplication of the food or the opening of the stored food by the many for others who are nearby (a miracle of charity); the example of a youth willing to share his bare essentials; the example of a gracious God giving us well above what is needed to feed the hungry, and a care not to have any waste remain. 

     Prayer:  Lord, thank you for the gifts you give:  faith in your presence and a trust that what you do for us, we in some similar way can do for those who look for our assistance.  Help us respond to the needs all around us by sharing our gifts with others, and allow this to be a foreshadowing of what is to come.   







Water's power and beauty.  Carp River, near St. Ignace, MI.
(*photo credit)

June 7, 2010       What Are the Three Legs of a Sound Energy Policy? 

      During the past five months a loose association of 185 sustainable energy and other groups (including this website) have sent letters to each senator suggesting that there are three major components of any sane national energy policy: 

     Cap on Emissions:  The United States should establish a mandatory cap on allowable greenhouse gas emissions as well as both a near-term and a longer-term schedule for reducing overall emissions at levels consistent with the best science now available (i.e., 30% or more by 2020 and 50% or more by 2030).  The proposed target of 17% reduction from 2005 levels by 2020 is almost certainly inadequate and needs to be strengthened if the worst consequences of climate change are to be avoided.         ;

      Energy Efficiency: The cornerstone of near-term U.S. climate policy should be quickly reducing energy waste and fossil fuel consumption.  The experience of other industrialized nations coupled with dozens of governmental, business, academic, and private analyses over the past three decades consistently document that the potential exists for sharply reducing U.S. energy use while simultaneously creating jobs, protecting the environment and low-income consumers, and sustaining a good quality of life.  Rapidly curbing energy consumption by 30% or more is well within reach.  Consequently, a policy should greatly strengthen energy efficiency goals including the creation of mandatory national standards for residential and commercial buildings, greatly-expanded use of co-generation and combined heat and power in the utility sector, and much more aggressive efficiency standards for lighting, appliances, industrial equipment, and motor vehicles.        

      Renewable Energy: A goal of 25% renewable energy by 2025 -- or even a stronger one -- should be formally incorporated in a national energy policy.  In 2010, a Senate goal is a Renewable Energy Standard (RES) of 3% by 2013 -- even though non-hydro renewables are already producing almost 4% of the nation's electricity and will likely reach 6% (or more) by 2013 under a business-as-usual scenario.  The current governmental RES target for the near-term should be at least doubled if not tripled or quadrupled and made significantly more aggressive for the longer-term as well as coupled with other measures to drive renewable energy development.

      By focusing on this three-pronged strategy (i.e., carbon cap + efficiency + renewables), it may prove unnecessary -- for the moment at least -- to tackle either of the two most controversial options for addressing climate change -- creating a "trading system" for emissions credits or imposing carbon taxes. 

      Prayer:  Lord, give us the courage to develop a sane energy policy so that all will benefit, especially the poor in this country and throughout the world. 







Late spring garden scene.
(*photo by Sally Ramsdell)

June 8, 2010       Must We Go from Short- to Long-Term Environmentalism? 

      Short-term environmentalism has been the bane of the green movement since its start.  No one wanted to say it would take ongoing vigilance and considerable effort to establish a safe environment.  Immediate goals and results were craved and had greater media appeal.  From the start, many of us thought that cleaning up pollution was a short-lived task.  Each of us had the perfect gimmick for what people (mainly the less enlightened) could do to improve a blighted environment.  It was so simple: expose abuses; list remedies; publicize results; and pressure the government to do the rest.  Only with time did we see that the multiplication of short-term actions only solved relatively narrow problems;  while in the short-term river quality was improved, still the global picture seemed to deteriorate to those who became more sophisticated about environmental matters and climate change. 

      Longer-term environmentalism was not bantered about on that first Earth Day forty years ago.  Such a concept of taking much time and effort was (and is still) disliked, because few wanted to promote a green future beyond one's own life span -- and the media appeal was far less than for short-term solutions performed by enthusiastic volunteers who wanted to see results right then.  What audience will enthusiastically applaud what seems utterly beyond their expertise and their realizable goals?  Besides longer-term solutions were then and still are somewhat threatening.   For the "trickle down" economist, wealth, comfort and progress are just around the corner.  And today over a billion new middle class Asians and Latin Americans strive for the same material comforts of Europeans and Americans, and at a massive additional price of resource expenditure and resulting pollution.  Tweaking the system with regulations and conservation measures will not be sufficient.  

      Environmental response is more varied today than at Earth Day, 1970.  Some rush on to acquire middle class comforts: cars, processed food, electronic devices and deny any problems -- "Live for the day."  Other admit problems but stay in the short-term ruts.  Others say "Leave it to the experts."  However, the stark reality makes astute observers voice a new environmental message:


     Not being expected to live to see long-term results is similar to planting trees and realizing that benefits (shade, fruit, nuts, etc.) will occur after we are gone.  The longer-term message is an environmentally prophetic one and this cries out for a hearing.  Short-term solutions prove we can act, and solve some immediate problems.  Yes, longer-term solutions are called for and are humanly possible.  But we must act now and trust results can be achieved.  We must act justly for the benefit of all.

      Prayer:  Lord, give me the courage to speak in the longer term and to invite short-term green advocates to do the same.  Help us see that our efforts must be geared for a just and peaceful future. 







Pets keep us young at heart...
Teaching a puppy to swim on a warm day in late spring.

(*photo credit)

June 9, 2010    How Many Ways Are There to Age Gracefully?

      On Senior Citizens Day it is proper to consider the learning associated with aging.  I have met people over the years who were graceful in welcoming older age;  others kick and fight the inevitable process of aging and want to forget their birthdays -- that seem to come more rapidly with years.  Why not ride with the tide?  What do you think of these ways to grace advanced years? 

      1. Refuse to retire.  Rather increase personal services as a benefit for others as well as for personal enrichment, for ultimately even this enrichment may work to the benefit of others.  Retiring could mean switching to less stressful work that is more in keeping with limited energy levels. 

      2. Rise early and have much to engage yourself whether essential to the welfare of others or hobbies and practices for your own enjoyment -- ultimately for others.  Those of us who rise early get more done -- though we may be overly busy at times.  Thus this suggestion comes with a caution: let's pace ourselves.

     3. Exercise regularly.  Young children need safe outdoor space away from congestion and well-policed;  older people need outdoor opportunities for fresh air and exercise as well, even if the stretching of all muscles is done in a seated position. 

     4. Eat healthful food is heard from childhood on, but for many of us it needs to be a daily flashing sign.  We may be tempted to cut short on nutritious food and follow the fast food signs to burgers and fries, sugar and salt.  Keep veggies, fruit and whole grains in mind and learn to create a new dish each day.  

      5. Care for plants either in a garden or on a window sill.  All of us should take charge of encouraging life in some form each day.  Some have more energy and can fill outdoor space with herbs and vegetables;  others may find indoor plants enough and satisfying in all their beauty and vigor. 

      6. Learn something new every day and keep the mind active.  Look for new intellectual challenges that can both be enriching and assist in giving service to our neighbors. 

     7. Mentor the young and keep in touch with old friends who are also seeking to age gracefully.  Pass on the tips that work for you in an acceptable manner for both the young and the old.  Seniors are supposed to give wise advice, and know when to keep silent and simply allow others to do their thing.  

      8. Be hopeful about the future, for we can be the heralds for those who are tempted to give up.  That includes our prayer life being such that we remember those who are in need whether they ask for help or not. 

      Prayer:  Help us, Lord, to age with enthusiasm and humor. 







Eastern box turtle makes a trail through the grass.
(*photo credit)

June 10, 2010      Natural Gas:  A Bright Future?

      In a world of rapidly shifting energy sources, much attention is given to the rise of wind power as a renewable energy source.  However, the message is more complex;  some non-renewables must act as transition fuels on the road to a more sustainable energy use pattern.  We cannot afford to overlook the rapidly increasing ability to get locked natural gas from shale formations by some new technological innovation of horizonal drilling deep underground called "fracking."  This energy source is quite widespread with over half of our states and parts of Canada having available sources.  North America with 230 trillion cubic meters ranks second to Asia-Pacific with 270 trillion in total gas reserves of shale gas, tight gas and coal bed gas;  the former Soviet Union is third with about 150 trillion with other parts of the globe having smaller amounts.  Natural gas prices have more than halved in the last two years; here energy independence has been achieved with little prospect of need for imported liquid natural gas (LNG).   

     This cleaner non-renewable energy source, occurring while reserves of petroleum are slumping, was not anticipated even a few years ago.  Plentiful natural gas bodes well for two of the three major uses of fuel, namely domestic cooking/heating and powerplant electricity generation; it is more problematic for the third, the transportation sector.  However, even in the travel arena liquefied natural gas could be used in trucking, if a refill network were established and if electricity-recharged passenger cars were more commercially available.   

      One advantage of plentiful natural gas is that it can be extracted with less disturbance than coal -- though natural gas production does have problems associated with extraction.  Natural gas can be piped or transported more easily than other fossil fuels;  natural gas has only half the carbon emissions of coal per unit of energy produced and thus can easily replace coal-fired power plants.  Certainly natural gas does not have the disposal and safety problems of spent nuclear fuel. A major advantage is that gas is more easily able to operate in tandem with solar and wind renewable systems when they are unable to produce sufficient power.  Some estimate that at present use patterns this fossil fuel could last at least one hundred years ("An Unconventional Glut,"  The Economist, March 13, 2010, pp. 72-74).

      However, not all natural gas prospects are rosy.  First, this is a fossil fuel and, while it replaces dirty and cheap coal, its consumption adds to the carbon footprint that exacerbates climate change problems.  Second, this fuel could become so plentiful and desirable that it will hamper the current rapid growth of renewable wind, geothermal and solar energy use.  Last of all, removal of shale gas could disturb some valuable aquifers; unforeseen technical problems may surface. 

      Prayer:  Lord, give us the insight to be realistic in stewarding the seemingly plentiful resources of our planet. 







Columbine flower for late spring color.
(*photo credit)

June 11, 2010   Global Atmospheric Methane:  A Problem?

     Methane (CH4), the major component of plentiful natural gas just discussed, is the product of certain decomposition and, when emitted into the atmosphere, can be a greenhouse "pollutant" with many times the potency of better-known carbon dioxide.  Capturing and using this gas as a fuel is, as discussed yesterday, highly desirable due to its combustibility, ease of extraction and total released energy per unit measurement.  Widespread use of methane today makes for its handling in a relatively safe manner.  However, we do hear of occasional explosions or unvented mine methane buildup and resulting loss of life.

    Apart from the rapidly increasing availability of natural gas on a worldwide level, methane is worrisome when it enters the atmosphere and cannot be collected feasibly for combustion.  It is a waste gas from landfills, but this methane can be utilized as a commercial fuel in many instances.  Animal wastes generate methane provided the materials are concentrated in a space (unfortunately an ecologically polluting feedlot) where the gas can theoretically be collected.  Because livestock can become a global source of one-quarter of the generated atmospheric methane, environmental experts call for fewer livestock, not more congregated feedlots.  

      However another potential atmospheric methane source is regarded as a "time bomb," namely melting permafrost in Arctic regions due to global warming.  Arctic emissions of methane have jumped about thirty percent in recent years.  We are speaking of millions of tons of methane going into the atmosphere.  The long Russian Arctic coast emits 7.7 million tons per year and total global methane emissions amount to 500 teragrams a year.  Atmospheric methane concentrations over this Arctic area are three times the global average of 0.6-0.7 parts per million.  Some climate scientists think that past catastrophic effects leading to sudden warming were caused by cascading emissions of more and more methane.  The Arctic Ocean methane store could be greater than all the carbon locked in global coal reserves; unit for unit, methane traps about twenty-five times as much heat as does carbon dioxide. 

      As noted, methane is part of the natural cycles of our world. However, at certain places and in concentrated amounts methane is a big problem.  Like all chemicals, we must respect methane through proper management.  Unfortunately, a scientific consensus is emerging that human practices result in excessive carbon dioxide and the long-term results of this can lead to excessive emissions of methane through the release of Arctic methane.  There is no easy gimmick or easy technological fix beyond burning excess methane as a fuel.  Controlled, methane is a benefit;  uncontrolled atmospheric methane is a disaster. 

      Prayer:  Lord, teach us to respect all chemicals, to use them carefully, and to realize how delicate is this planet's web of life. 






Reflections of a blue sky in a puddle of rainwater.
(*photo credit)

 June 12, 2010          Rainwater Barrels Anyone? 

      Rainwater barrels are containers that hold some of the water collected when showers or rains occur, and allow for a good source of untreated water for use on garden produce and flowers during times of water scarcity.   While these containers are smaller than cisterns, they can save precious water for domestic use (watering plants and pets and washing cars and soft water for washing hair).  Other advantages include: 

      * They are a non-chlorinated source of water for garden plants -- and chlorinated products are harmful to some plants;

      * They do not have the high salt or iron content, or other chemical contamination often present in groundwater;

      * They can provide high quality water, which is near-at-hand;

      * They are under sole control of the homeowner; 

      * They do not require water treatment for anticipated uses;

      * They are inexpensive to maintain and reduce water bills;

     * They allow small rain showers during droughts to be conveniently collected; and 

     * They remind us often of the need to conserve water. 

      Regular barrels are available in most areas, for they are used for a variety of commodities and can be purchased at different prices depending on availability.  Some prefer a specific barrel with an outlet spigot to release water when needed.  Choose a clean barrel that has not contained chemicals.  Plastic may be better than metal, for metal will rupture, if filled with water in winter and the contents allowed to freeze.  Even the metal barrels can be protected by inserting a chunk of styrofoam that will allow ice that might form to expand against the foam rather than the barrel walls.  Many people simply empty the barrels in winter -- and that is better maintenance.   

      Some may want a larger water store and thus think of a larger fiberglass water tank of hundreds of gallons or a cistern.  However, the 50-plus-gallon water barrel will be sufficient to carry one through less severe drought periods.  Often people would prefer one barrel at each side of the house rather than running guttering from both sides to one barrel.  The downspout can be equipped with a cut-out that is always left in an "off" position except in a heavy rain, and after an immediate cleaning period by the early rainwater.  This will save having to install filters so that the barrel does not collect debris. Elaborately painted rain barrels can be expensive, but they allow budding artists opportunities to show off their skills; the painted barrel is good promotion to get neighbors to consider water conservation measures.  The decoration of the barrel could be a youth community project. 

      Prayer:  Lord, help us to see that water is a precious commodity that must always be treated with respect;  give us the creativity to find ways of doing this and utilizing good water for our garden needs. 






Ozark milkweed, Asclepias viridis.
(*photo credit)

June 13, 2010     Can We Live the Trinity Mystery?  

      We are to make each truth in which we believe more than words;  they must become deeds.  The major challenge on the feast of the Holy Trinity is how to take this deep mystery of faith and translate it in ways that allow all to see that our faith motivates and inspires our living deeds in special ways.   

      Let us expand on the thoughts of last Sunday's Feast of Corpus Christi.  In the Liturgy, the work of the people, we are present when Christ is re-presented to the people, when Calvary is extended in space and time.  Through words of consecration we witness to a sacred act of Christ coming among us in a personal way.  We have Jesus present as we go out from the event and strive to live his presence in our word and deed.  We become Christ to others. 

      Looking to the historical Jesus we see through reflection on the Scriptures that he is the embodiment of the Trinity's creativity, proclamation and extending love.  In Jesus' life, death, and resurrection we find the human face of the Trinity.  Now we return from this faith acknowledgment as to who we are as we journey through life.  We too are part of the Body of Christ, the embodiment of the Trinity mystery in our actions when in conformity with the Lord.  We are other christs and, as  the intensity of our loving service to others grows, we increasingly show the truths in which we believe. 

      The Trinitarian nature of our Christian actions is shown in various ways.  For one, we have creative ideas about what we must do;  we think over these and articulate and interact with others about them;  we resolve and put these words into action as service with and for others -- and we do this in the infinite sea of God's love for us, namely in gratitude for having been called to do such work.  A procession of moments in our Christian action occurs: we are grateful for our gifts given by the Creator; we reflect on how to go about our actions; we take on some degree of service out of love of our neighbor.   

      All that we are and do imitates the Trinity in some way, but any act of love and sharing with others shows that character all the more.  When our actions are done in unity with the entire Body of Christ the oneness of the Three Divine Persons is all the more apparent.  Our cooperative efforts at being of service and the desire to grow in these efforts, bring us deeper into the reality of God's working in us.  Through service and the desire to continue and be persistent in our cooperative service we show in action the Trinity who permeates our lives -- and the greater the degree of love we put into each act, the greater is our witness to the God who is Love..   

      Prayer:  O God of love, teach us to enter fully into salvation history and become a revelation of your love through the actions we perform. 









American flag in the morning light.
(*photo credit)

June 14, 2010     Treat Old Glory with Respect 

      The final ceremony at veterans' funerals just before committing the body to the grave involves the honor guard, the taps, the rifle reports, the folding of the flag covering the coffin and the military salute to survivors.  The care with which the flag is folded into that triangle shape to be placed in a prominent place by the spouse is always a moment of the deepest respect for the deceased.   

      Flags have been used since time immemorial to symbolize the devotion, courage and commitment of those who have given public service and were willing to sacrifice themselves for others.  The  flag stands for those noble efforts.  People marched together behind a flag;  some took great pains in the midst of war to raise a flag, as at Iwo Jima; some risked their lives to make sure the flag did not fall to the ground.  Respect for fellow citizens and those who sacrificed their lives is all in a flag.   

      We ought to teach respect for the flag especially to a more informal generation who may be inclined to take symbols lightly.  As we age we may become more rigid in what is proper respect:  undivided attention, silence, salutes, hand-to-breast, standing at the National Anthem.  We fly flags at half-mast when an important person dies.  We recall, in the words of the Star Spangled Banner, the immense uplift in spirits when they noticed over Fort McHenry near Baltimore that the flag had survived the British bombardment.  Our national consciousness is expressed through the symbol of our flag even while the emblems of states and communities do not elicit such pent-up emotion.   

      On Flag Day we even appreciate that some fly their flags at their places of business or at home.  Today, our flags fly day and night, though the flag is supposed to be a lit symbol and is not supposed to be flown in darkness.  Respect requires certain practices as to how to handle, fold and even destroy damaged flags.  Disrespect of any sort bothers us most of the time -- for proper respect is a delicate boundary that can be easily crossed.  We may wince when goofy folks drape themselves in our flag in improper ways;  however, we applaud when American Olympic winners do just that on receiving their well-deserved medals.  

      We have been living a half century with a flag of fifty states and hardly recall except in reading history books that the American flag changed in number of stars many times during the history of the expanding republic.  However many stars, the American flag still elicits strong emotion on the part of many service personnel.   The pledge of allegiance, given daily by students, indicates that we have a common heritage worth respecting on this and every annual Flag Day.    

      Prayer:  Lord help us extend this act of respect to our national symbol, the flag, so that we are better bonded. 







The gentle glow of sunset.
(*photo credit)

June 15, 2010     How about Some Verses: Steadfastness?   


                       We strive to stand firm,

                       not moved by shifting winds,

                         or rushing tides, or darkened skies.

                       We affirm the Faithful One

                         Who gives us steadfast love

                         with gifts that eternalize.

                           That divine faithful love

                         takes root in Earth herself

                         where sufferers personalize.

                       We too give another our word,

                         steadfast promise unwritten                                       

                       through voices that legalize.

                       Let us the restless ones

                         speak in a mountain way,

                         on our word we solemnize. 

     In changing times we are more aware that the individual must stand up to the storm and show a fearless behavior, always aware of the current situation.  Being alert people, we must constantly glance out to the horizon wherein our hope lies.  The current situation allows us to care for the ones near us, our family and local community;  a steady gaze shows that we are not completely taken up with the present moment, but we direct our journey to the distant goal that is beyond our immediate vicinity.   

     We are thus committed to learn from our surroundings and to gather the faithful courage it takes to continue moving, even when feet and body ache.  Furthermore, we are committed to forming larger and expanding communities that reach beyond our immediate purview;  we look out to those neighbors beyond the locality.  However, this steadfast search beyond involves a trust based on a covenant promise.  Fidelity includes giving care to the needy, and ensuring that those who come after us follow in our footsteps as caring service people to their peers as well.  In this age of short-term agreements some presume their marriages will not last and make financial arrangements in case of eventual breakup.  The lack of long-term goals extends to home purchases, jobs, religious practice, even friendships.  Mobility has a place but so do stability and steadfastness.

      Photos of mountain scenes that reflect the world of land forms that can teach us steadfastness are found in Mountain Moments -- soon to be released.  Other characteristics of mountains are also featured in this coffee table book from our publisher, Acclaim Press.  See the home page of the website for purchase details.   

      Prayer:  Lord in your steadfast love for us teach us to be steadfast in what we do and the way we treat others. 





A pause to enjoy a fresh lilac bloom.
(*photo credit)

June 16, 2010    Do You Know the Ten Commandments of Capitalism? 

       Michael Moore's recent movie, Capitalism: A Love Affair can be regarded as a subject for deeper reflection.  Amid its humor is far deeper subject matter.  Where is our heart when it comes to our current economic system?  Recently when Senator Dodd was presenting his revised plan for reforming this country's financial system, he admitted that the system is vulnerable to collapse.  What he omitted was whether the entire system is rotten and needs replacement.  It is as though the assumption must be made that we are married to capitalism or regard it as a state religion.  If that is our problem, we need to ask the basic question of believers -- do we follow the Commandments of a Godless system that takes the place of supernatural faith?    

                     Ten Commandments

      1. I am the lord thy god, and money is my name.  You shall not allow anyone else to question this economic system and shall have no personal or strange gods before you.    

      2. You shall not question or speak ill of my priestly bankers who conduct services in the temple of Wall Street.  Always treat the use of private money with the deepest respect. 

      3. Remember to work hard for money and thus keep holy the day of financial comfort. 

      4. Honor your fatherland that is totally committed to the money economy and fight and even die for it. 

      5. You shall not kill the spirit of greed or confront those who have privileges, for some day you may (after the lotto win) be one of them. 

      6.  You shall not rape the coffers of the rich by any form of taxation that will destroy their noble privilege.  Keep taxes for everyone, for all taxpayers must exercise their civic duty and support the system. 

      7.  You should regard the taking of private wealth for the common good as a form of stealing from those who have recognized wealth through established legal means.   

      8.  Do not bear false witness against the capitalistic system, nor against the sacred person of corporations. 

      9.  You shall not covet the possessions of the greedy and the bankers;  only covet their good life.  If you are good and lucky, wealth will trickle down to you. 

      10.  You shall not covet the luxuries of the rich;  you may some day have the privileges as well. 

      Prayer:  Lord, relieve us from all our foolishness. 






Oxeye daisy, Leucanthemum vulgare.
(*photo by Sally Ramsdell)

June 17, 2010    Is the Right to Health Access a Global Concern?

      A person's right to access to proper health care has been the subject of debate in this country for over a year, and recent legislation efforts have only increased the debate itself.  Costs of extending this care to everyone in this nation have been a major consideration.  Most are willing to admit that advances in health are meant to benefit all our human family, but a fair and just method of extending these benefits has yet to be fully settled even with recent legislation.  Private insurance companies have been highly profitable and reining them in with all their political clout has become a major contentious issue.

      Public funds have been used for scientific research and training of personnel as well as for the safety, prevention, and maintenance agencies that have promoted health advances.  Unfortunately, a substantial portion of public funds has been used to subsidize the private pharmaceutical industry that advertises their wares in the public media -- and this leads to what some call a fifty billion dollar overcharge (John Abramson,  Overdosed America: The Broken Promise of American Medicine [2004]).  This nation, even with an expanded right to health, is still caught up in a drug-related problem that results in overdosing and excessive drug use, even when legal.

     So much attention has been given to health care within our nation that we often fail to see that we have global commitments to our brothers and sisters in other countries.  Perhaps two billion of the world's people just hope for the barest medical essentials such as access to clinics, medicines and vaccines. In one-third of the world's lands, health systems are lacking or exist in the most rudimentary manner, while a majority of the nations' health care workers migrate to richer lands.   The shortage of health care personnel is a chronic global problem.

      A global health protection program includes current medical information, proper medicines, general public health services, and access to basic immunization programs and protective equipment such as bed netting in malaria-prone areas of the world.  Medical care based on economics allows the richer parts of the world to receive the most care and the poorer ones the least.  If health care is to be rationed, what must be the selection basis?  If according to need -- but whose need?  On what basis should medical research funds be apportioned?  On the most dangerous threats to more people?  On the drug that is potentially most profitable?  On tropical diseases afflicting the poor?  Perhaps in no area is the divide between the rich and poor more felt than in medical access and distribution of proper medicines.  Amid rising health care costs the health of the world's people must always be considered.

      Prayer:  God of the poor, help us to see and hear the ones who are calling for help -- for we are all one family.  Would that we were as concerned about each other's health!







Miami mist, Phacelia purshii.
(*photo credit)

June 18, 2010      Can Our Nation Create a Proper Energy Mix?

    In this period of rapid energy demand and growing awareness of carbon dioxide and air pollutants from powerplants and vehicles, we seek an energy mix that will satisfy essential global needs.  Not every state in our country is blessed with equal amounts of renewable energy as the government's  map of "Annual Direct Normal Solar Radiation" or "Wind Power Classification" will show.  Though small amounts of available wind and solar energy are found throughout our country, there are optimal areas of more rapid payback.  We consider mixes of various energy amounts in order to tide us over until we reach a sound balance in a few decades down the road. 

      Energy efficiency techniques and education should be directed especially to those parts of our land that are less gifted with solar, wind and geothermal energy.  Such places exist as here in Kentucky, where more focus must be placed on energy conservation.  In the past our state has benefited from plentiful cheap coal and thus has fallen behind in energy efficiency.  In fact, if such conservation programs were promoted, savings would equal increased energy demand for the foreseeable future.  More insulation and efficient light bulbs await installation.  A cap on emissions could hasten the day of energy efficiency. 

      Grid integration will allow the flow of electricity, wind-generated on the High Plains or in many coastal areas, to be shared with people in outlying and less wind-rich regions. 

      Hydropower is clean and can be obtained to some degree from water currents and tides without the need for more disturbing dams in the waterways.   

      Geothermal energy is most available for centralized electricity generation in many western states.  However, geothermal heat from heat pumps is widely available.  It uses ground and atmospheric temperature differentials for heating and cooling and has produced reductions in domestic heating and cooling bills of up to 70%.  Equipment does wear out and needs replacement about every fifteen years. 

      Biofuels are of great variety and include waste materials used as fuels.  However, not all biofuels are equal.  We ought never to use food grains for  fuel when such use must be highly subsidized (over four dollars per gallon for currently-produced ethanol for auto use) and results in higher-priced foods.   

      Non-renewable sources are currently in our energy mix: natural gas has a bright future; coal ought to be phased out, for so-called clean coal technologies are expensive; new nuclear power plants should be avoided due to costs and safety issues.  

Prayer:  Lord, give us the strength to choose wisely from the many gifts given -- and to be less wasteful in our actions. 






Black orange butterfly on dogbane, Apocynum cannabinum.
(*photo by Sally Ramsdell)

June 19, 2010     Do We Pretend We Have Sufficient Resources?

      When younger we would engage in a game -- how close can we come to the end of the auto gas tank before going for more fuel.  I don't think such risk-taking appeals to older folks who have to tote a fuel can several miles to the nearest gas station, but we engage in equivalent sorts of games.  How close can we come in our wasteful practice of using gasoline-powered vehicles before we find out the emperor has no oil?  Some within the International Energy Agency (IEA) believe that the world's major oil consumers are downplaying the looming crisis among a public that simply does not want to hear bad news.  Oil is running out. 

      Consumption is still rising.  Predictions are being hedged by not only oil companies but the IEA itself.  The brief dip in our global energy use during the recent "Great Recession" is soon to be history.  While we feel as a nation somewhat more relaxed because one-quarter of our corn crop is going to substitute ethanol in our fuel tanks, and we are using more efficient vehicles, still current comfort is short-lived.  America is no longer the number one car buyer;  China is.  If we blink we may even get surpassed by India with its massive small car market.  Unfortunately, these emerging Asian consumers are looking desperately for petroleum sources -- and are willing to pay top dollar for more supplies in Sudan, Iran, Iraq and other remaining oil reserves.

      The problem is growing. In the future petroleum resources may be sufficient for legitimate needs but not for the wants of the greedy.  For instance, additional comfort comes with each new discovery of an oil field, especially under the vast oceans off Brazil, the Falkland Islands, and south China/Philippines.  However, the total predicted from these fields (or new American coastal or Alaskan oil fields) is simply not enough to meet demands for more than one or so additional years at current rates of about 83 million barrels of oil production per day.  A few years back the IEA spoke of 130 million barrels production per day.  Even the much lower 110 million barrels of five years ago dropped to 105 million in 2008 -- and that is optimistic.  By comparing existing oil reserves and considering that 30 billion barrels of oil are consumed per year, we see that new discoveries in Africa (and anticipated Iraq's increased production above  current two million barrels per day) will not suffice.       

      Tell it as it is, even if risky.  We constantly advocate the use of less energy through conservation and promote those sources that are less harmful to the environment.  Telling it means that we ought to save the limited non-renewable petroleum resources to meet future needs -- even when potential supplies of natural gas grow.  Is publicizing coming oil shortages going to hasten the day of four dollars per gallon gasoline -- and richer nations scrambling to ensure supply sources?       

      Prayer:  Teach us Lord to be realistic in use of resources. 









Assorted colors of a June lawn in Kentucky.
(*photo credit)

June 20, 2010       Fatherly Self-Sacrifice 

     If anyone wishes to come after me, he will deny himself

       and take up his cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:21-22) 

      Father's Day and the prescribed Sunday liturgical readings sometimes have a happy junction -- and so it is today on the Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary time.  The Messiah is to undergo suffering as Messiah, and we are invited as followers to do the same.  That invitation includes our life's journeys, vows, circumstances, and joint ventures such as raising families or improving communities.  For better or worse, our crosses are associated with responsibilities in life.    

     We do not have to seek out sufferings;  they are there for the taking and include accepting life's challenges and the opportunity to grow in such an acceptance. e.g., fatherhood.  A conscientious father, today's focus, accepts his crosses connected to providing, caring for, supporting and creating a viable family in a world where self-centeredness is an accepted norm.  The cross of fatherhood includes accepting responsibility for children, lost sleep and privacy, uncertainty about future livelihood, and concerns about health of offspring as well as of spouse, parents and close relatives.  Sufferings occur provided we do not deny them, excuse ourselves from them, or seek to escape to other more comfortable pursuits.   

      Over time, fathers learn to be truly paternal and caring while avoiding being paternalistic and domineering.  A challenge!  Some fathers do this better than others.  Failure comes when caring breaks down through self-allurements, substance abuse or infidelity.  Success comes through hard work and constant vigilance over one's household.  Sacrifice means denying oneself and avoiding the temptations that would otherwise make us selfish and inwardly focused.  Paternal challenges include helping launch youngsters on the right road to life, but also giving them the freedom to accept responsibility and judge correctly. It includes treating each person according to personality and needs.

      Self-sacrifice involves understanding one's powerlessness found in carrying a cross.  However in accepting a cross we discover a hidden power -- a spirituality rooted in self-surrender and also self-discovery -- a process that Soren Kierkegaard addresses in The Sickness unto Death.  Fathers who give themselves up for others, and are willing to do so, actually find themselves as companions with the Lord.  Quality time spent with family becomes a spiritual investment in which a peace and satisfaction endures -- and helps improve performance.  The person willing to become a suffering servant for others becomes a companion and friend even though this may involve "tough love" directed to the betterment of children. 

   Prayer:  Lord, help us to be companions and friends to those under our charge, much as you are father to us.







A rolled bale of Kentucky hay in June.
(*photo credit)

June 21, 2010     Must We Make Hay While the Sun Shines? 

      Hay-making is part of agricultural operations at this time of year in our northern hemisphere;  this occurs around the summer solstice, the longest day of the year.  Weather has an important role as well, for suitable time is at a premium for curing and baling hay without loss of its higher nutritional value.  Too much moisture in the hay results in moldy product, and too much drying is detrimental as well.  The opportune moment must be seized and made good.   

      After this solstice, the longest day, it is downhill for sunlight span starting tomorrow. The sunshine of our lives is also of limited duration.  Unlike the winter solstice, when we know each day will be longer for the next six months, we now sense the shortening of daylight as starting to occur very soon.  Thus doing the best with a limited span is more relevant to us now on the longest day -- at least that is the way I see it. 

Others may not take this rather realistic view on June 21, when each of the next six months is a little more dying;  is this because not all of us are "day people" who value sunlight more than growing darkness?

      I was never a great "haymaker."  In fact, I note that none of my 1,633 previous essays deal with this practice as such.  Hay-making is sweaty, difficult and dirty, even though the benefits are great for the wintered livestock.  Perhaps the practice today with more mechanized equipment may be seen by modern haymakers as less onerous, for our haying consisted of putting the crop into a barn that was itself a hot box in summer.  However, even amid the summer work, there was a bright horizon.  Hay-making looked ahead to a comfortable winter hayloft and hungry cattle straining to be fed.  Hay-making was then and is now a longer-term investment, and what we sacrifice in harvesting yields a payoff later.  Thus farmers take this investment and accept the sacrifices involved -- and on the open market hay proves to be a good commodity and brings a good price.

      Looking beyond hay as a commodity we see that investing in our future prospects involves making some effort now.  Our investment in assisting others allows us to make up for what is wanting in our imperfect past performances, and likewise helps in the salvation of our wounded Earth.  Hay-making becomes Earth-healing.  What we need to do for such healing is accept another adage -- "strike when the iron is hot" and heal when the creature is down and out.  We cannot afford to put things off to later. "Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow creeps in its  petty pace from day to day" (Macbeth Act 5, scene 5).  Our work is not petty;  it must be launched now.  We are aware of the limited time span that gives urgency to the mission before us.

      Prayer:  Lord, help us understand the significance of the longest day, not to procrastinate, but to know how short life is, and that this day's span is a gift to use wisely.   






Fresh honey in the works!
(*photo credit)

June 22, 2010       What Are the June Blessings?  

      Blessings come in every season, but when times get warmer or colder we often focus too much on our discomforts and forget the good things all about.  In June we are thankful:  

     *  For native and exotic flowers -- day lilies, bee balm, black-eyed Susans and the colorful flowers of June, as well as  elaborate types such as the Queen Anne's lace.   

      *  For the coming of outdoor water sports and the shrill delight of those who enjoy them. 

      *  For mockingbirds that flutter to high places and give us pure joy in their rendition of the bird community. 

      *  For roads on which to travel and the vehicles we use to move from place to place. 

      *  For clean and well-guarded public rest stops and the people who allow us to take pauses that refresh us. 

      *  For the start of the berry season and all the tastes that go with variety of lush fruit of the vine. 

      *  For the picnic season and the joy of eating out with others those good tasting delights of the season. 

      *  For the smell of new-mown hay and even new-mown lawns. 

     *  For the freshness of a summer rain and the rainbow that follows. 

      *  For the grand oaks and elms and other trees of the woods in all their summer finery. 

      *  For the pronounced sounds that can penetrate the acoustic dampening of leaves on the trees (bells, bird calls, whistles and playful youth) -- and the gift to hear and to distinguish them. 

      *  For bounding colts and heifers and the exuberance of all new and young life in the wild and in the fields. 

      *  For buzzing bees of all sizes that help pollinate the many food plants we have.  

      *  For the pilgrimages, processions and rallies that manifest a sense of public display of religious and spiritual life even in a materialistic age. 

      Prayer:  Lord help us to prepare for summer's heat, to look about for the blessed moments and places, and never to forget to be ever so thankful for the growing season and the bountiful daylight of this month. 





A view from a bridge spanning the Kentucky River.
(*photo credit)

June 23, 2010      How Should We Celebrate Public Service Day?         

      The public service always stands before us.  In some primitive cultures there is little private service beyond personal and family needs.  All the rest is public: road- building, caring for the old and infirm, gathering food for the community, defense, and common utilities.  For these cultures the private arena is the smaller service.  Is that the case in the free market economy where we find ourselves today?  Private service for self is primary; service to the public is often underrated and secondary.  The fact is that public services take up far more of our world than we care to admit at first.  In fact, every element of the commons involves service areas that should be regarded as "public."  However, we need a healthy balance in our time, effort, and attention among the various services.  Let's remind ourselves of our broad public service: 

     * Governmental public service at offices at various levels and assisting in electing personnel and managing these services;

      * Military service in the various branches to the longer range security of our threatened world;

     * Health services as doctors or caregivers in a wide variety of occupations and outlets;

      * Educational services in institutions or informally, e.g., teacher assistants and literacy training programs;

      * Religious services in the presentation or assisting of public acts of worship and maintenance of worship space;

      * Emergency, rescue and security services such as performed by fire, police or ambulance and 911 departments;

      * Communications services through the media for the informational benefit of large numbers of people; 

      * Transportation services through operating or maintaining vehicles on land, sea or air for carrying people and freight;

      * Heritage and cultural preservation services; and

     * Space exploration and maintenance services.

     Some may want to extend this to commercial and financial services, but these are all too often privatized as are some of the elements in the above listing.  For those of us who affirm the "reclaiming of the commons," still other areas such as forest management, wildlife and ecological preservation, and various types of research are ecological and recreational opportunities that could be in the service portion of the economy.  Goods production, processing and commercialization may be regarded as private, but again the common good is vital.  Preserving and distributing from the commons can be regarded as service though it could entail activities that are often privatized.  The public service is as broad as a people desire to make it, and some of us want to broaden and some want to restrict these categories of public and private.  Such is life! 

      Prayer:  Lord, make us aware of what our neighbors need and give us opportunities to be of service to them. 







Stalks of Corn at University of Kentucky's farm.
(*photo credit)

June 24, 2010      Why Make Fuel Ethanol from Corn?

      As grade schoolers with a chemistry set, we learned that the alcohol burner produced a mild heat in comparison with our kerosene lamp and heating stove.  Maybe our nation needs to remember this elementary lesson and leave the biofuel ethanol made from corn or sugar cane out of the energy mix that we talked about on June 16th.  Further observations and research information cast doubt on using a food-source-turned-fuel, when world food shortages are driving up the price of food for the poor.  Furthermore, ever since tractors replaced horses, modern American corn production has involved a heavy -- but hidden -- petroleum investment. 

      Recently, the SUN DAY Campaign News Story Excerpts noted that the Missouri Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute issued a report, "Projection for Agricultural and Biofuel Markets," that stated that the current corn ethanol tax credit is costing American taxpayers $4.18 for each gallon of ethanol (with its inherent lower effectiveness in contrast to a gallon of gasoline).  On top of this, the report stated that this money- wasteful process is driving up the price of grain.  By 2011 this practice will cost almost six billion dollars a year (<www.fapri.missouri.edu/publications/2010/FAPRI_ MU_ Report_01_10_pdf> See page 64).      

      The following week a second and more telling finding was noted in the March issue of "Bioscience."  Thomas Hertel of Purdue concluded that the practice of using corn ethanol for biofuel causes enough carbon emissions from land use to cancel immediate tailpipe benefits.  However, the Renewable Fuels Association fired back that the new study "ignores the market-mediated impacts of other fuels, choosing to make unfair comparisons between ethanol and petroleum-based fuels on a different set of standards."  The battle rages on.  Nevertheless, facts are emerging that ethanol from corn is costly to taxpayers, is harmful to the world food market basket, and is actually detrimental (to at least some degree) to the total environment. 

        Is this not enough to sink this practice?  By no means!  Corn-derived fuel is a myth of a few "corn state" congresspersons who are beholden to their wealthy agri-corporate clientele.  Few fellow members of Congress want to challenge this apparently "good" practice of saving family farms, except that this is not a good use of anything -- money, land and soil, energy to run machinery, or global climate.  We all need to make an important distinction:  not every biofuel marked by government funding is good for the environment.  Recall, last year some in Congress wanted to develop a pipeline to send ethanol to the East Coast.  Just how corny can one get? 

      Prayer:  Lord, shake us to the core.  Help us see that good food should never be wasted in any way.  Help us clean our plates and use our surpluses properly. 








Grasshopper poses on Eastern red cedar berry (Juniperus virginiana).

(*photo credit)

June 25, 2010      A New Marshall Plan for Emerging Nations? 

      Some progressive American groups have been promoting a twenty-first century approach to assisting poorer nations much in the manner of the highly successful historic precedent of the Marshall Plan that helped war-torn Europe after the Second World War.  Since western Europe was the recipient of American largess, so the European Union -- a successful product of the Marshall Plan -- ought to be expanding funding (not just loans) to projects that would allow nations to overcome the hurdles of high unemployment and engage in genuine development.  It must go beyond military objectives.  Madeleine Bunting comments that what worries critics of the Afghanistan nation-building is "that the "militarisation of aid is a dangerous slippery slope whereby development aid is distorted or subordinated to achieve military objectives" ("Comment & Debate," The Guardian Weekly, Jan. 19, 2010).

      Funding resources could be found, considering the massive amounts used today for military campaigns and base maintenance.  In Reclaiming the Commons (current draft on this website) we have suggested a similar development fund with the same intention and direction.  We have suggested that this could be funded through a trust that security could accrue if military budgets were tithed for the purpose.  Also nations that fall under the umbrella of foreign military security ought to help pay the bills of this massive undertaking on a global scope.  

      Needs and willing workers can be identified.  Poor nations need to get ahead just as a bombed-out Europe needed assistance to start to rebuild and grow once again.  Among the areas of current attention ought to be: infrastructure construction and maintenance of roads, bridges, seaports, airports and railroads; basic schools for the people;  clinics and hospitals in all areas; assistance to small farmers for fertilizer, pest control, irrigation and seeds;  storage facilities for holding crops grown in the various countries; environmental protection projects;  renewable energy; and proper housing projects.   

      Benefits will most certainly accrue from such a Marshall Plan, provided the funding is directed properly and monitored successfully.  In fact, with modern means of distribution and communication, misuse of funding could be rather rapidly exposed, and thus funding skewed to nations where the track record is good, with hopes that other nations will follow suit.  Such well-spent funding could have multiple ramifications.  Money coming to communities for construction projects would be directed locally and have a manifold multiplier effect for local goods and services.  Such projects would require large numbers of workers -- hopefully drawn from the ranks of the local unemployed.

      Prayer:  Lord, help us to rid our minds of excessive militarism and to use the resources associated with such a mentality to assist to raise people who have essential needs. 








June colors at forest's edge.
(*photo credit)

June 26, 2010     Should Jerusalem be Internationalized?

      One of the most delicate subjects is that of the status of Jerusalem.  A city can be more than one thing;  New York is both the financial center of America and the headquarters of the United Nations.  Mexico City is the head of a district and of a nation as are many other capitals.  Serving one purpose does not mean a large city cannot do something else as well.  Could Jerusalem be the capital of one (or two states if necessary) and yet hold the unique status of being "internationalized" at the same time?   

      Being controlled solely by one state (namely Israel) is totally unacceptable to both Muslim and Christian residents and to those wishing to come and worship in Jerusalem.  This uniquely sacred place is a "commons" belonging to all the world's people, and especially to those of three great religions comprising a majority of the human race.  We find areas of the commons on this planet that deserve sharing and talk about them elsewhere.  However, in some instances Danzig and at other times Tangiers were regarded as "internationalized" to some limited degree.  Here is another city, not based on trade or commerce or failure of nations to agree, with a history of belonging in a broader cultural and religious base -- to Jews, Muslims and Christians of a variety of denominations.   

      The internationalized territory may perhaps be limited to areas of major dispute, especially to the "old city," which contains some of the holiest shrines among those religions of the book that comprise a majority of the world's peoples. International auspices are currently in effect in the entire though unpopulated continent of Antarctica.  They have worked well enough through treaties or agreements wherein certain zones of control exist.  Perhaps the same could be the case in the entire area of metropolitan Jerusalem.  Though this procedure when applied to Jerusalem seems more difficult to actualize, still it is a matter of lasting peace that is at stake.   

      A peace dividend could result.  An international status would help create an atmosphere of trust among all parties.  The world is too small to be overly exclusive;  the sharing does not diminish one's respect for a site;  in fact mutual respect will enhance its importance and allow the removal of some of the current military presence that hinders worship by peaceful pilgrims.  The increased numbers of pilgrims would be the massive peace dividend.  How about encouraging all believers in the religions of the book to come to Jerusalem once in their lifetimes?  This means a continuous flow of one million people per week and with replenishment of population that would continue into the foreseeable future -- all facilitated by a globalized transportation network.  Think of the commerce in lodging and other services to the benefit of all parties. 

      Prayer:  Lord, make us sharing, worshipping people.








Spiranthes lacera S. Gracilis
Spiranthes lacera (gracilis), summer ladies tresses.
(*photo credit)

June 27, 2010      Can Peaceful Resoluteness Replace Military Might?      

    Lord, would you not have us call down fire from heaven to destroy them?    (Luke 9:54)       

      In St. Luke's Gospel today we find the disciples James and John asking this question to Jesus as they pass through the inhospitable areas of Samaria.  In turn, Jesus rebukes them for such a suggestion.  Perhaps we can learn a lesson from this that has immediate application today as a reminder in reflection on the theme of resoluteness in the face of upcoming dangers. 

      In the current Middle Eastern wars all too often the fire from heaven is called in to wipe out the Taliban.  The drones and command of the skies above allow our forces to call down fire at will on a caravan or convoy, and in some cases on innocent civilians attempting to flee.  Are not Christian people called to rebuke the manner of conduct of this war?  All too often progress is based on military operations although virtually everyone in and out of government admits that there are other ways that must be applied in order to gain success in Afghanistan and its border region. 

      The non-military options can be just as resolute, though the practical types may object.  Among the many causes discussed for the "fall of the Roman Empire" in the fifth century A.D. is the preaching of pacifism by the predominant Christian culture.  The over-arching assessment was that the Empire was good, and Christians were to blame because they worked for peace.  A totally different interpretation was that the Empire was rotten and needed change, and Christians helped usher in that change in part (not totally) through peaceful means. 

      Today, a strong and growing contingent of people (Christians and others) see futility and negative effects in calling down fire from heaven.  We need to be resolute in desiring a free and just society.  However, our means of reaching this may be based on raw military power, and a failure to see that ultimate world security must come from sharing resources equally among all people.  We cannot allow some to have all they wish and others to wither in lack of food, housing, education and health.  This very failure to share has a contagious effect on world health, leading to suicide bombers and terrorism on the part of a few.  Thus what is needed is a fire that generates economic and political change -- not more and more bombs from the sky.  Some efforts are being taken to stabilize the countryside in the Middle East, and these efforts should be continued.  However, we need to let these nations develop in their own way, since tribal societies need time to change. 

      Prayer:  Holy Spirit, inspire us to work for peace and to do so resolutely and without flinching.  Help us convert  our role from that of making war to making peace in affected areas. 







A fresh summer salad with avocados instead of salad dressing.
(*photo credit)

June 28, 2010      Are There 183 More Salad Varieties?

      As the year 2010 reaches its half-year mark, one might ask how the project for variation with low-budget meals is coming.  This time a year ago I had reached the half-way mark on a new soup every day and, though the yearly total still seemed a long time, the goal was reached -- with many soup recipes offered that were not utilized.  Need I say, none of my soups were made from existing recipes.  It just didn't seem to be the right approach. 

      Actually a different salad every day is easy compared to a different soup that has to be cooked or prepared with some special time and effort.  Not so with many salads: 

      * It is more a matter of anticipating the use of some basic ingredients either from the garden, the store, or the wildland around.  These ingredients are used in basic combinations. The salad is NEVER defined by the type of dressing, herbs or spices added but those individualized flavor and scent.  We are talking only about primary and any major secondary ingredients -- though vegetable combinations give special varieties.  This is seen by looking over the half-year list that is being published this week on our "Special Issues."   

      * Salads are generally far easier to concoct than are soups both as to preparation time and to changing the taste with slight modification, if the preliminary taste or visual appearance is in need of change. 

      * Salads can be expensive if made in large quantities from  higher-priced basic ingredients -- a new fresh fruit or vegetable.  However, these can be used a second or third time in smaller amounts with a new variety of secondary ingredients (e.g., yogurt, cheese, peanuts). 

      * Salads are really different both in visual appearance and in scent and flavor.  In some ways, they can surpass soups in this regard provided overpowering garlic or other strong spices or herbs are minimized.    

      *  Salads and accompanying materials are really less fattening and even more nutritious for the ones of us who can gain weight easily.   

      *  The difficult salad days of winter are long past and a variety in the garden makes this (rather than a store) the source of major summer salad ingredients.  Of course, an effort has had to be made to produce a variety of late spring greens, but that takes extra care in selecting plants for the outdoor garden -- with all the advantages brought up in previous garden-related reflections. 

      Prayer:  Lord, give us the strength to be creative, and thus see a future ahead in which we will have a part to play. 








A burst of abundant green.  Droplets of rain on grass.
(*photo credit)

June 29, 2010      Have You Resolved to Live within Your Means?  

      As literally millions of Americans face home foreclosure, as one-tenth of our workers actively look for jobs, and as a nation goes deeper into debt daily to the tune of eight billion dollars (the last monthly report when this was being written), then we pause.  We are living beyond our means.  How ought we to continue?  Only as long as our neighbors allow this to go on.  But good friends and responsible citizens need to object. 

      Know and accept the current situation.  Some simply deny the situation as it is whether it is personal health or national financial health.  Many excuse themselves and leave the problems to offspring or others in the future after our departure; tomorrow is beyond their purview.  Still others remove this financial problem through physical or mental escapes

      Live within a budget.  It sounds so simple, but some do and many more do not.  A budget demands cuts in the obvious and savings in unexpected places.  Merely crying not to cut this or that is not sufficient to stave off bankruptcy, whether as an individual or a nation.  We must resolve and do it. 

      Live simply.  Telling this to many falls on deaf ears even when going broke.  We could live with less meat and prepared foods;  we could think about downsizing our living space and be even happier; we could cut heating bills in winter and cooling bills in summer to our betterment;  and all those medicines may not be necessary either.  A more conservationist approach helps find the budget items that can be shaved and often allows for a healthier and even more enjoyable life.    

      Re-examine the right to bear arms.  If we all kept a musket above the fireplace or in the local arsenal, there would be few problems.  Modern security becomes an obsession for individuals who do not realize that all armed to the teeth with automatic weapons is the height of insecurity.   Our military budget that is over half the entire governmental expenditure (57%) and includes military hardware, two current wars, veterans' expenses, and service of the military part of the national debt) is what is breaking us.  The withdrawal of Roman legions from Britain actually extended the life of the Roman Empire a little longer;  our closing overseas bases could do the same. 

      Don't tolerate extravagance.  Why all these billionaires?  They should make as much as they can get -- but not be allowed to retain what should belong to all the people, especially those in need of essential services.  We are going broke through a permissiveness in allowing concentration of untaxed wealth. 

      Prayer:  Lord teach us to realize where we are, what we can do and how much we need to understand about living beyond our means.  Make us aware of material luxuries and how these ought to be shared with those having essential needs.   







A flying saucer? Pie pan used as scare-tactic for birds near berry patch.
(*photo credit)

June 30, 2010      Why the Program on Corporations, Law & Democracy? 

      "We the People" do not control our own government.  In our modern globalized world, corporations have been "free" to move their capital (money) and business from one nation to another at their own discretion  with disastrous effects on some of these countries (even by the admission of the International Monetary Fund).  The power of unregulated financial corporations makes the world beholden to their operations and to the decisions of executives who take law into their own hands or create favorable laws through massive lobby efforts.   

      Since the mid 1990s the Program on Corporations, Law & Democracy (POCLAD) has shown in its own words "that corporations were not merely exercising power, but virtually ruling us."  POCLAD has exposed this ongoing erosion of democracy at a precise time when our democratic systems ought to be strengthened after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the honest search for a more just world.  POCLAD has been just as grieved by the Middle East conflicts and horrified by the Wall Street bankers who have plunged this country into the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, and then reward their people through massive amounts of taxpayer money.  The group is also offended by a health care reform that took a "single payer" approach off the table due to the influence of the insurance and  pharmaceutical companies and their lobby efforts.  

      POCLAD says in quoting the late Howard Zinn that "the designation of corporations as 'Persons' is just proof of how our legal system, the Constitution, and the courts have always been tools of the wealthy classes."  The heart of the issue is to return democracy to the people.  POCLAD focuses its efforts on promoting an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to make it clear that only living persons have inalienable human rights protected by this country's foundational document.    

      POCLAD knows full well that to make this amendment possible it must get the people behind it -- and has been going to the media in this effort through commentary, editorials and interviews.  The organization realizes that demands must be made clearly in order to pressure existing institutions to respond.  POCLAD is convinced that the first step is to get this amendment through the long and arduous process -- and that is an opportunity to educate our people in hard-pressed grassroots democracy.  For our American readers, please sign the petition at <www.movetoamend.org>.  For the other readers in 110 countries, realize that this is a global fight, for corporations are at the forefront of globalization and seek to subvert worldwide democratic process.  Let's join a global effort to enhance our democracy. 

      Prayer:  Lord, give us strength to continue the battle of noble people who see the weaknesses of our system, and who strive to change the current system into a more just one.

Copyright © 2010 Earth Healing, Inc. All rights reserved.

Albert J. Fritsch, Director
Janet Powell, Developer
Mary Davis, Editor

Excerpts from the JERUSALEM BIBLE, copyright © 1966 by Darton, Longman & Todd, Ltd. and Doubleday & Company, Inc.  Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

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