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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, 2011

Copyright © 2011 by Al Fritsch

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Red Admiral on Wood, Vanessa atalanta.
(photo: Sally Ramsdell)

Reflections June, 2011

      As spring gives way to summer, we are gearing up for the long hot period in this northern temperate zone.  Will this be a time of overabundant rainfall in contrast to drought experienced last year?  Will the weather be as hot as last summer when we experienced day-after-day of ninety-degrees-plus-Fahrenheit temperatures?  Will we endure the climatic conditions with equanimity, humor, and enthusiasm for our work and recreation time?  June is the prelude to summer, but is not as foreboding as December's opening to winter.  We can live through what lies ahead, but we also are wanting to make the best of June. 

      Ordinary duties should not overwhelm us.  June invites us to the vast outdoors, to hike and enjoy precious time away from the office and indoor surroundings.  This is an opportunity to relax and forget for a moment the troubles of the world -- a moment that is.  This June we need to re-establish harmony in our lives, in doing proper things well and in replenishing the spirit.  Don't neglect to do something novel -- pick some raspberries; admire summer flowers;  connect with the natural world and find the great balance of spirit and matter.  

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June in Kentucky
Crayfish burrow, Madison Co., KY.
(*photo credit)

June 1, 2011   Why Nuclear Power?  Is it Congressional Payoff Time? 

      Those of us who have questioned the utility of nuclear power for four decades keep wondering:  Why do both Democrats and Republicans keep wanting to insert "Nuclear" in energy policy legislation in 2011?  Don't 8.9 earthquakes wake them up?  

     Not clean!  Remember the health of uranium miners and process workers;  don't forget waste storage and ultimate disposal problems;  recall that coal is used in nuclear fuel (see May 23rd  on this Website). 

      Not secure! Remember Chernobyl. Too much said on inherent nuclear powerplant insecurity will give terrorists ideas -- and why supply a crazy group with ideas about storage facilities?  Many of these local powersites have fuel rods stored there in water-cooled conditions.  Power outages could create dangerous scenarios.   

      Not popular!  On March 3, 2011 the Wall Street Journal said that the nuclear power subsidy was the most popular budget cut available at this time; in fact, one survey showed 57% of the American people choosing elimination of nuclear power funding.  The public is not interested in putting more public money into nuclear power when private investment could produce lower utility rates elsewhere (wind and geothermal). 

      Not cheap!  Of course coal-fueled power has been cheaper (but now is being outstripped by wind) because coal was not paying for full environmental costs.  Wind is out ahead and solar is coming on fast.  If new natural gas sources that were slated to be the cheapest interim fuel pay all environmental costs (wastewater treatment, etc.), the gas savings will soon disappear.  Eight- billion-dollar nuclear powerplants lacking governmental subsidy are out of the utilities' reach.  Why spend taxpayer money? 

      Not ready!  Nuclear facilities take years to plan, site, fund, build, and clear important regulation hurdles.  From the moment of inception to switching on the power it takes at least a decade or more.  Quick fixes are energy efficiency measures (see May 10) along with domestic wind and solar applications; moderate-term ones are geothermal and retrofitting small-scale hydropower dams; and longer time spans are needed for wind and solar farms.  Nuclear is a very long-term and quite risky investment. 

      Why now?  There is one answer, and that is the money angle, not the cost angle, but the payoff $$$ given to support Congress members' elections.   One estimate has been  $650,000,000 over years, but we do not know actual amounts.  The fact is much of the money may be covered under other donations.  However, many within the U.S. legislative branch need to show his or her benefits --  it is time to "fish or cut bait."  

      Prayer:  Lord, help us all to come to know what we are doing and to omit doing that which is not good to do. 








July in Kentucky
Wild senna (Cassia hebecarpa),nectar source for the cloudless sulphur butterfly. 
(*photo credit)

June 2, 2011  Protect Silent Space in a Busy, Connected World

      This is an addition on the former treatment "Cell Phone Use and Silent Space" (see January 19, 2008).  True, cell phones are filling a communications niche in our active world though, hopefully not when driving or attempting to pray or talk to others.  The intrusiveness of cell phones give us pause and question over-connectedness on the part of our society.  What is wrong with being free from connections to others for some periods of time?  One parent's answer was, "But I would not know what she is doing." A recent photo shows a crowd in Warsaw, Poland with all people standing with one ear to a cell phone.  We do not know yet how much constant cell phone use could harm the brain, but time will tell. 

    Going beyond one gadget (though virtually omnipresent in our world) is more difficult for those who hate gadgets.  However, other intrusive items and practices include: social networking (Facebook and Twitter), land phones, television, radio, cars and general traffic, lawn mowers, sirens, airplanes, jackhammers, motorcycles, yelling kids, and on and on.  In idyllic times birds and especially crows broke the silence;  crickets, cow bells, roosters crowing, and church bells added to the charm.  Silence has never been perfect and has always been a disadvantage for deaf people who cannot be alerted by alarms.   Still, blessed silence! 

      Like any musical performance, the silent interludes are needed as the moments in the composition between movements and instrument changes.  Pure sound, no matter how soothing, without silent space is unbalanced.  So is our lives.  We have many places where sound enters and affects us, from a lullaby to a call for help.  Tell the over-connected, busy people among whom we live that they need silent space, whether in the evening or early morning or in the middle of the work day or during annual retreat.  Silence is like a Sabbath in our life, the rest after action and before further action (see Sounds & Silence on this website).   

      Again, let us emphasize that over-connectedness is not a good thing.  The one who is always present to another is really never at the perfect disposal of anyone.  Busyness is not really a sign of importance;  rather it signifies that little true reflection occurs.  We live in an age when everyone needs to take some period and rethink where he or she is going.  The insecurity, hostility, and stress of our age are not good; nor is the tendency to bankruptcy, to concentration of wealth in a supposed democracy, and to the movement of populations to states of luxury.  A world gone crazy is one in need of silence -- a highly infringed-on area of the commons required for meaningful communication.  True, written material can also be worrisome, but it generally does not demand an instant response, though with email that is changing as well.

      Prayer: Lord, help us to be creative enough with our time in the day, week, month, and year to find the silent space that we really need to plot out our lives anew, and to make a less stressful world for all to live in peace. 








June in Kentucky
Summer explorations.
(*photo credit)

June 3, 2011  Defend the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 

      The United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) has a record that is public and can be retrieved easily.   Lack of knowledge of this record is now the heart of a partisan battle today.  Merely furnishing information about its achievements will not keep it from losing its future programs, because virtually all know its basic record and some want its activities to cease.  You may not have been around at its inception after the first Earth Day;  this agency was born during the Nixon Administration and had bipartisan support.  However, now things have turned politically nasty under the guise of budget-watching and fiscal responsibility. 

      At various times in its four-decade history, USEPA has stood out in defense of the environment often ahead of the general public.  Now is one such time and focuses on climate change legislation, and the reporting and regulation of carbon dioxide emissions.  As in its past history, opposition has come principally from exploitative groups targeted to be regulated for polluting the great outdoors. 

      Get the nation's moral leaders to direct attention of those who pride themselves in being pro-life, as did letters from us in mid-March that went to policymakers and numerous moral leaders.  What applies to abortion and assisted suicide issues must extend to the web of life, including the life of this planet on which all physical life depends.  Too many are strangely silent or they take a pro-death stance with respect to our troubled Earth.  Morally speaking, defending the USEPA by confronting its critics in a forceful public way must be done now.  If we do not defend the USEPA, we are allowing our country to lead the world in ignoring carbon dioxide reduction strategies.  How are we to expect emerging nations, especially China and India, to follow suit if we continue to allow rising carbon dioxide levels in this country?  In this critical decade we will either reduce emissions and begin to save our world from drastic climate change, or we will allow for two to four degree temperature rises that will melt ice caps, cause oceans to rise, and displace millions of people.

      If you are a silent person, please overcome your hesitancy.  Pro-life leaders, abandon your partisanship and contact your representatives and speak up before it is too late for the only place in the universe known to have life as we know it.  One of the best ways to speak up is to defend the USEPA, its enforcement procedures, its research on the best and fairest regulations, and it stance on all matters of protection.  The agency needs room to function and adequate funding to get the job done.  Early in American history when James Madison was leader of the House of Representatives, that body was seeking to stifle the highly contentious Jay Treaty (between the U.S. and Great Britain) through withholding funding from treaty provisions.  The current House knows the power of the purse.  Champion the USEPA right now! 

      Prayer: Teach us, Lord, to speak openly about vital issues.






June in Kentucky
Walking trail through Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest.
(*photo credit)

June 4, 2011  National Trails: A Great Infrastructure Investment  

      For those of us who strive to support new jobs through infrastructure investment, trail-making guarantees future payback at low investment costs.  The National Trails Act of 1968 may have envisioned the companion to the Eisenhower Interstate Highway Network, but that dream is only partly true.  National Trails Day tells us to look at the national trail system and find entire states (especially in the Midwest) with no system at all.  Yes, our country needs improved infrastructure including better natural gas utility lines, renewable energy development, better public schools and more public transit;  we also need better regional and interlocking trails, along with needed rest stops, lodging and other associated amenities.

         Every time I see hikers and bikers on our narrow and dangerous secondary rural roads and then enter the nearby Interstate 75 (and others), the contrast is striking.  One group with motorized vehicles is able to traverse the over forty thousand miles of the safest highway system in the world; the other group observes signs to keep off public highway built with taxpayer money -- and is required to take great risks competing with autos and trucks on secondary roads with no shoulders or lanes.  No, hikers and bikers do not need to be on the current Interstate lanes for that would be deadly.  Rather they need parallel lanes suited for their needs.  A few years back an associate at ASPI and biker, Russell Parms, was struck and killed by a hit-and-run student driver who was late for Monday morning class. 

     Yes, bikers and hikers are unable to go easily and safely from place to place.  Shouldn't these energy savers have an alternative safe trail network?  Certainly, such a system has its bits and pieces in "rails to trails" sections, in the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail and other local and regional trail segments.  Had it not been for the recent Great Recession and the tight state budgets these pieces of a possible national trail network would already have fallen into place.  Our needs include expensive over- or under-passes, but existing rights-of-way on Interstates or public rural roads could suffice. 

      This reflection is not meant to be an exercise in laying out a possible hiking/biking network with a densely filled map that looks like the Interstate System.  Granted, some states have initiated their trail systems, and others lag with finances being the excuse for delay.  Rather, this is "bang for the infrastructure buck," or getting the most out of a tight budget.  If the trails system were adequate, interconnected, and included rest facilities, and were given national publicity, users would respond.  Vacationers would use the trail network with such advantages as low prices, family togetherness, less stress and congestion, fresh air, wholesome physical exercise, and occasional great scenic views.

      Prayer:  Lord, help us to see that national trails are good investments for our people and the improved quality of their lives. 





June in Kentucky
A heavenly view in June. 
(*photo credit)

June 5, 2011    The Grace of Holy Discontent and Earthhealing      

      On this feast of the Ascension, we look heavenward to where Jesus is taking leave of his disciples.  They stand in a state of stupor, a feeling of being left behind with a task and no paternal leader.  Too often, that feeling on Ascension comes over many people in the Church today.  The immediate task at hand is before them and no "father" figure with immediate answers to guide them.  Ironically, this is where we stand on whether earthhealing is truly pro-life.  Some of us know that life on this planet demands work;  others see value in claiming their stance in being pro-life.  Can the two interests meet and cooperate with each other? 

      In a partisan way some would think this Congress is the most pro-life of any in history.   My contention is that it may prove to be the LEAST.  To miss the opportunity to take a moral leadership in merging these two interest groups into one would be regrettable. Today, Americans look for leadership from this paternalistic way -- if only church leaders would see what is right to do and lead us to do it.  Really?  Is that the best approach?  Scripturally, a participative role of the rank-and-file emerges with leaders sometimes taking their time to respond -- but their honest response of "amen" is a mark of leadership.  Consider St. Peter's coming to understand that the Good News must go out to ALL the world. 

      What is at stake is to challenge a prevailing paternalistic spirit among those who follow religious, economic, or academic leaders.  Those who strive to "think with the Church" ought to realize that this means primarily thinking within the Church community.  We certainly need to do more than attempt to read the thoughts of leaders; we must contribute to the entire process of following the Spirit, who moves us to think within the Church as a community of believers.  Good thinkers must think, not attempt to read minds, for such could pretend or be a possible charlatan..  

      Thinking at times can be filled with a discontent that comes when one has to contemplate issues that leaders have not considered adequately.  This situation triggers a feeling of uneasiness on the part of the believer.  Responsibility falls on those driven to think. Discontent includes the uneasiness that solutions are not forthcoming.  Is this discontent necessary or even holy?  The discontent comes from the Holy Spirit within us; the holiness comes from a happiness that we experience in being on the right track, even if problems are not solved.  Contentment with solutions may be lacking, but happiness within is possible.  Comfort is not the mark of happiness; following the Lord in this struggle is the true direction of the Ascension event.  The Ascension opens the door; the solutions await ordinary time.  Holy discontent includes the fact I will not solve the problem myself, but I risk addressing it. Also I am willing to invite others to enter this struggle.

      Prayer:  Lord, let us go on with the task ahead, know we must continue in order to find a solution, and become more aware that our effort is itself only part of the final solution. 






June in Kentucky
Blue eyed grass, Sisyrinchium angustifolium, at edge of forest.
(*photo credit)

June 6, 2011    Can People of Holy Discontent Be Happy? 

      I was confronted with the title as a question that involves me.  Certainly I am discontented about a number of issues and so my happiness is called into question.  At the heart of the matter I agree with my mother in her old age who said over and over, "I'm happy, happy, happy."  Our family was deeply impressed by her happiness and each prayed that in their old age they would feel the same through a sense of gratitude to God for a wonderful life.  In some ways I do feel that sense of happiness even though I work in my senior years on issues that are filled with impending struggle and discontent.  Distinctions need to be made. 

      Happiness comes when we know we are doing what God wants and that in some way we are moving towards a distant horizon, an indefinite future time but still a definite eternal future.  Happiness is realizing that all does not depend on us, but we are with the Lord and with others on the journey.  Happiness is accepting our limitations and working as well as we can with them.  Happiness is being on the side of the poor and finding friends. 

      Discontent arises with being on the wrong road, thinking all depends on us, refusing to accept inherent limitations of self, and attempting to discover companionship on the side of wealth, fame, and power.  On the other hand, the term "holy discontent" implies suffering through what it takes to be on the right road, to be dependent on God, knowingly to be limited in human talents and resources, and to be accepted as of little account for siding with the poor and to associate with them -- even today's downtrodden.  Holy discontent is to be unsettled because the solutions to our problems are still a way from settlement, and we may not be present for the solution -- or even get earthly credit for what we do. 

        This act of being counted as insignificant is really a trigger for happiness in the words of St. Ignatius and many others who were on the road to sanctity.  We become more like Christ in the way we proceed, and that is important for believers.  Thus, just as tranquility is not peace, so comfort and contentment are not the same as happiness.  In reflecting we discover that comfort can be quite deceiving and thus not a true indicator of spiritual life -- in fact, it could be the evil spirit at work.  Holy discontent is the sure knowledge that through prayer and discernment we are going in the right direction with encouragement and advice of others whose assurances are most necessary.      

      In the struggle to solve problems, a holy discontent may be intensified by questions and objections from peers.  In such cases, prayerful discernment and conversation may be required in order to overcome differences and make the issue better understood -- even necessitating an abandonment of the problem area by the discontented person without disturbing an interior happiness.  

      Prayer:  Lord, make us ready to do your will and in so doing to see discontent as part of our sacrificial oblation to you.






 Athabasca Falls
Athabasca Falls. Jasper National Park, Canada.
(*photo credit)

June 7, 2011     Ten Reasons for Small-Scale Hydropower Now 

      Renewable energy needs our attention as the nation settles on a responsible energy mix that moves away from fossil and nuclear fuels with their inherent difficulties.  That means all benign forms of renewables must be emphasized.  I live almost within sight of one of these potential hydropower sources on the Kentucky River.  Currently, small-scale hydropower is a renewable energy source needing further attention for ten reasons: 

      1. Plentiful sites exist.  A multitude of small-scale hydropower sites are scattered in all states; some 79,000 dams exist as of last count. 

      2. The cumulative resource potential is immense.  Currently, some 97% of the dams are untapped for hydropower generation. 

      3. Small owners are generally in charge.  Many of these sites are in private and local community hands and thus development would directly benefit the local community and investors. 

      4. Such sites are more benign than large-scale sites.  The development of small-scale sites does not require new flooded areas;  these larger areas are the bane of many hydropower sites throughout the world.  Such developed sites result in major disruptions of wildlife habitats and migration routes, along with displacement of human populations (numbered in hundreds of thousands in the instance of the Three Gorges site in China).   

      5. Cost of development of sites is low with respect to amount of power generated, and thus payback for investment is rapid in contrast to nuclear power expansion or large-scale solar farms. 

      6. Safety and security issues are not major concerns as are at nuclear sites where stored materials require constant monitoring. 

     7. Rapid development is possible.  Source utilization in this age of petroleum-supply uncertainty must be rapid.  In contrast, nuclear power takes years and even decades to develop.  If energized, existing dams could supply 7.3 GW of energy by 2025. 

      8. A remedy for intermittent power exists.  While the energy supply is somewhat continuous in given periods of plentiful water supply, there is an intermittent character to it.  However, small-scale hydropower is generated at night when the sun is down.

      9. Environmental damage associated with existing dams has already occurred;  thus development of this energy source perhaps has the least impact of any land-based renewable energy sources. 

      10. Toxic emissions do not result from hydropower production. 

      Prayer:  Lord, help us understand the potential of water, which you freely give us.








Artifacts under an old henhouse.  
(*photo credit)

June 8, 2011  Can Religionless Spirituality Heal Our Earth? 

      We are deeply concerned with a variety of friends and contacts who tell us that they have a spirituality but see no need for religion.  On February 4, 2011 we gave reasons why religion is utterly needed today as part of the Earthhealing process, namely: religion encourages individual civility and civic involvement; religious life offers prophetic witness; and religion stimulates compassion within community.  We all need to worship publicly, for this shows our dependence on the Most High -- and that we cannot do it all ourselves.  Furthermore, good spirituality affords us the chance to see we are limited -- and that inspiration drives us to find God together with others. 

      A spirituality without religion is like sailing a ship without a rudder or keel;  it is hard to steady the course of life's journey of faith without sound navigation.  Spirit tells us we are more than matter -- but certainly not perfect.  Spiritualities may be unhealthy, indifferent and poorly directed.  Ships leak; seamanship can be poor; and the vessel may head in the wrong direction.  Religion gives us wind direction, a period to examine the boat's condition and awareness that we need others to help.  Merely declaring one has a spirituality says little, for even Hitler and Stalin were "spirited" people.  We may seek interreligious and ecumenical cooperation; however, grouping spiritualities together may allow a mix of those working together and those hell-bent on disrupting our lives.  Yes, terrorists are spirited people with warped agendas.  

      Spiritualities are generally private, but religion involves a public commitment to believe in unity according to established discipline and common purpose.  Broad gambits of individualistic and loosely-held spiritualities say nothing of any public commitment.  While we need to be spirited enough to participate instead of denying, excusing or escaping, we must also realize that the threefold temptation unfortunately may not be overcome by an individual spirituality: denial is to go it in private; excuse is that public commitment is unnecessary; and escape is the constant allurement to perform meaningless and distracting exercises.   

      Some may say the threefold temptation also exists for religious-oriented people.  Yes, the temptation is certainly there among all of us, especially since the damage is so disheartening, the healing is so broad-based in scope, and healers are so distracted by the cacophony all around; it is clear we need assistance.  We need reinforcement of a community of believers' faithful witness to see clearly the depths of damage;  we need to know that we are not alone but are assisted by the hand of the Almighty in the work before us;  and we need the focus that religious prayer and petition constantly give us.      

      Prayer:  Lord, give us courage to find a future that involves our healing ministry; give us nourishment to carry on; and help us to remain focused on our goals. 









A tangle of weeds creates a natural bouquet.
(*photo credit)

June 9, 2011    Activist Options for Senior Citizens' Day 

     The myth that senior retirees have little more to do than fish and drink coffee under the Golden Arches needs investigation.  Granted that is what some people do or would like to do if they were not immobile.  Caregivers for seniors wish their charges could fish and go and gather some place; they list three classes of people: doers, those wishing to be doers, and committed non-doers. 

      Senior activists (hobbyists and meeting-goers) generally realize that they are slowing down and have to pace themselves.  They compensate by doing moderate garden work or cooking or visiting others.  Their mobility diminishes.  Compensation comes by discerning better projects or asking assistance to help with the tasks at hand.  Wisdom teaches us that we can act according to our abilities and circumstances, and we can act even by talking and encouraging our neighbor.  Less demanding hobbies, closer to home visits to those in need, volunteering at local churches and civic centers and a host of other opportunities await the diminishing energetic activist.  Self-motivation is important for them.  

      Seniors wishing to do things, are a class who are potentially available if they could be creative even amid their limitations.  I recall that Ralph, an aging activist in his own right, could not leave home but acquired a ministry of phoning other elderly people who wanted to converse; he would offer to sing and play his musical instrument (via phone) for them, hoping in his fading days to offer his own contribution to caring for others.  Amazingly, those with greater spiritual fortitude find things to do with themselves, and they seem to turn their living circumstances into opportunities for others through email, phone, letters, and personal conversation.  However, this group is not always self-motivated and needs the catalyst offered by caregivers and change agents.   

      Senior caregivers are truly challenged by the non-doers who seem to be at loss as to what to do.  This could be a tragedy that can be removed by a firm belief in the value of each individual's life and contribution to communal life.  Some seniors have been "shelved" because of physical or mental difficulties and so others regard them of little worth.  In fact, the habit of some elders being asked to pray has far more meaning than the less-spiritual caregiver might suspect.  Believers enter a special world of  reality that is moving our universe far beyond the places of some who are always in the limelight.  A spiritual reality of the poor (who include the non-doers to a great degree) can actually make them the ones who feed the hungry, that is, the spiritually hungry whom Mother Teresa called a major group.  Those prayers can suddenly transform them into the "powerfully poor," for radical change does not come from the rich or seemingly powerful. Give the non-doers new life and become an Easter person to them. 

      Prayer:  Lord, help puzzled caregivers to find value in its senior citizens and to encourage them to act in some simple way. 








Wild grapes
Wild grapes in the forest canopy provide food for many creatures.
(*photo credit)

June 10, 2011    Crisis Caused by Disparity of Wealth/Power 

      In the 1970s, the early days of environmental crisis, the problems were directed to sheer numbers of expanding world population. Over time and with arguments found in such literature as The Contrasumers it became less fashionable to blame the poor, and to see how much consumption by the affluent was less conspicuous and yet a case of the problems of pollution.  In fact, with time, the culprits turned out to be "consumers," not ordinary poor folks, no matter how far ordinary consumers distanced themselves from pollution sources (powerplant, uranium mine, etc,).  Arguments were  obscured because the Union of the Socialist Soviet Republics (USSR) and satellites were heavy environmental polluters, and yet inhabitants were not excessive consumers nor wealthy either.  Eastern Germany was a foremost polluter by using lignite as a primary fuel:  lakes were contaminated; forests were damaged; the  Chernobyl accident had laid waste to valuable land and harmed or shortened lives of thousands of nearby residents. 

      At the same time these facts were considered, a new thought began to emerge:  it is not necessarily consumers but those who drive consumers to consume, namely media, captains of the consuming culture and rich leaders of cultural change that demand more and more consumption.  Disparity of wealth had much to do with disparity of power -- the ability of some to set trends that led to more and more material consumption seemed to emerge.   

      With time, social justice and eco-justice were more linked together, and the former saw that environmental decline meant decline in social and community bonds; furthermore, decline in social bonds means the decline in environment.  Thus, the fight for social justice and environmental protection are a single struggle.  Super-rich consumption triggers middle class consumption down through the ladder of success-craven private vehicles, spacious housing, and expensive foods.  Cracking disparity is complex.

      The environmental crisis has not declined when the Chinese communist regime has become a foremost capitalistic one, with a surging middle class clamoring also to enjoy what current billionaires have.  On the other hand, primitive societies in the Amazon or New Guinea lived in harmony with nature for centuries without major disparity or wealth.  Among societies in our American Southwest when power became unequal, natural environments suffered.  The toll of excessive power and wealth go hand-in-hand;  environmental protection suffers.  The argument may demand more research.  At least when higher technologies in industrializing nations demanded more resources and the authorities had the power to obtain them, environments tended to suffer.   An uncontrolled materialism leads to wealth, and this to uncontrolled consumption, and thus to environmental harm. 

      Prayer:  Lord, help us to unravel the mysteries of this environmental crisis and to see how materialism has led to excess power and wealth -- and help us to make public our discussions. 








Wild bergamot, Monarda fistulosa. Washington Co., KY.
(*photo credit)

June 11, 2011        Two Views of Possessions 

      Possessiveness of land leads to a sense of privilege that is opposed by the just aspirations of a free people who are naturally inclined to the Principle of Sharing.   The Good News is that these natural aspirations are God-given.  To counter these aspirations, those who are privileged with excess possessions require protection of their possessions.  Two views emerge from a reflection on the closure of the commons and the struggle to obtain essential goods and that of obtaining luxuries: 

      * Greed is a virtue and Charity is the concern and decision of the privileged, versus

       Sharing is a virtue but charity can be an exercise of power,   and so doing justice is better than merely giving to the needy in charity. 

      Consumers will be materially motivated to strive for greater shares of the resource pie; and

      Economic and corporate privilege knows best, no matter  what the world mess is, because poor are ignorant versus

       The material pie is limited; motivation should be directed to higher spiritual and qualitative horizons.

      Beware of the materially privileged and realize that "the poor" hold the key to rising and saving the Earth.         

      * Democracy means complete free choice, and millionaires have a right to become billionaires, versus

       Democracy is harmed by excessive wealth and Superrich inequalities hurt the human society.

      * Free market and free trade are articles of faith;

      * Credit energizes a culture of consumption, which influences people and nations far and wide,  versus

       The market must be subject to regulation and trade must be  fair along with consumer rights protected;

       Capital and credit are dangerous when left unregulated.

      * Governments are to be despised, complacent, disparaged, and manipulated as a source of bail outs, and

      * Problems are solved solely by secular procedures,  versus

          Good government is absolutely necessary for the sake of  our wounded Earth and our global economy; troubles stem from a lack of reverence and faith in the future.


      Prayer:  Lord, make us discerning people, able to see differences in the use and possession of material things, to realize how significant they are, and to explain the differences to others for the sake of better distribution of resources. 







Moon behind clouds at sunset.
(*photo credit)

June 12, 2011       Pentecost and World Evangelization 

      Pentecost means spreading Good News and the Acts of the Apostles account has a variety of aspects all related to that spreading process: 

     Pentecost is God's work, not ours.  We may enter like children who are passive observers, and with time develop into outgoing active participants who both spread and gather the Word; 

      The context is a prayerful atmosphere among the assembly; 

      The fearfulness of the assembly is evident by reason of the locked doors at this time of great distress; 

      The suddenness of the Spirit's coming means we cannot anticipate the arrival, for such events are beyond our reckoning; 

      The powerful winds of change are meant to move us from our locked-in and complacent ways of acting; 

      A flame touches each in the assembled body and so the life of Church involves all assembled.  This individualized flame indicates that the Spirit gives us unique gifts that must be used according to our individuality, and yet be involved in our corporate body; 

      The impulse is to move out from a semi-private visitation to the broad world containing people from all the known regions of the world at that time -- a global manifestation; 

      Empowerment by the Holy Spirit helps us overcome our weakness and reluctance to speak out and act in courage; 

      Spreading the message involves speaking to others in tongues that they understand.  Language is becoming understood by others and they in turn can give feedback to the messengers of Good News; 

      Witness to events in the life of Christ is at the heart of our message to those who await the Good News.  This is the core message preached at the first Pentecost; 

      The Audience is the assembled crowd from all over the world.  This shows that the Good News is not meant for the designated small number or for only Jewish people, but rather for people of many lands and cultures -- though all have a sense of anticipation; and 

      Breathing is the added feature for we all need additional air or Spirit to allow us to retain the energy to go forth again. 

      Prayer:  Holy Spirit, give us the grace to go out to others, authentically communicate with them and share what each has, and then return to bring back other Good News and to share in the broader-ranged spiritual community of Church. 








Eastern box turtle, Terrapene carolina
On the move. Eastern box turtle, Terrapene carolina.
(*photo credit)

June 13, 2011        Babel Dispersal Today and Beyond

      Let us make a name for ourselves so we will not be scattered about the whole earth.                (Genesis 11: 1-9) 

      There are a number of interpretations of the story of the Babel dispersal of the people into their own separate tongues.  A literal interpretation may not be overlooked, for it shows that the oneness of any communal people speaking a single tongue can break apart through the pride and evil of individual people.  The coherence of community can be broken by individuality and selfishness. The dispersal leads to new language expressions and through isolation new languages emerge. 

      Theologically there is more here.  The breaking apart of the common thread that bound the primitive people together was a godly pride in the building of their cities, the Tower of Babel being a symbol of reaching out to obtain divine greatness.  As they used their ingenuity to build and the petroleum product to be the binding, we are reminded that a common language of greed exists today as well, and that this also uses petroleum products as well in trying to bind people together -- but in selfishness the binding comes apart and the people are left with isolated fragments of a civilization.  Materialism, based on advanced technologies, can bring about a pride and a disruption of common goals and lead to basic insecurities among peoples. 

      Pentecost is a counter-current flowing in the opposite direction of the dissipation of a fragmenting materialism.  It is the spiritual return or coming together, and this is Good News.  The material interest that divides people into selfish automatons and isolated units is countered by the power of the Spirit to bring us back together as a single grouping.  We recognize the power of God in our lives; we see the work we are called to do as a participation in spiritual empowerment; we begin to see the need for others -- those in Church and those beyond.   

      Technology is a promise or peril.  Technology is a tool that can be used in spreading the Good News.  The "babel" of a misdirected tower or form of communication has been perverted by selfishness into a dividing symbol;  instead of truly congregating people it sets them apart from each other.  The power to bring folks together is used to make them separate and aloof from each other.  A privileged class that speaks the language of capitalistic greed becomes removed from the great mass of people who are divided and scratching for a living as best they can.  A sense of commons is lacking here and must be restored -- and that is the task of  evangelistic people.  Abandoned towers of Babel exist all around, and those who wanted to build them, babble on about their fading dreams of glory.  So be it, but Good News brings about a gathering.

      Prayer:  Lord, let us see the dangers of a Babel where people make names (privileges) for themselves and forget others' needs; help us to champion the Pentecost spirit of togetherness.








Tiger lily continues to thrive in an abandoned garden.
(*photo credit)

June 14, 2011        Is Good News a Two-Way Street? 

      When we communicate with others, do we do so as solitary speakers of truth and demand their listening, or do we become hearers as well as bearers of "Good News"?  The first is a one-way sending of information, and the second is a two-way street.  One could ask whether this question pertains to general apologetics, or to a broader methodology that includes this "info" website and its series of reflections.  The more narrow approach has been discussed especially in Asian religious circles, for some Christians promote the idea that Christianity as a minority religion has much to give AND much to learn from others.  A one-way street associated with older forms of evangelization emphasized that the bearer has something to "share" with others -- namely, that which is being offered, with only the expectation of the other is to listen. 

      The traditionalist Christian may argue that spiritual sharing is not like an economic transfer, namely, that a material exchange between two parties involves trading item for item, or money of some accepted value for items.  Another could argue that this bearing of the Word is similar to an academic exercise of sharing knowledge by knower to the unlearned in a lecture hall, with some questions asked and discussed.  Sharing Good News is personal.  We share Christ the Word with others;  he comes and communicates with and among others.   However, Good News flows somehow in two directions, namely from an organized church community through bearers to individuals or groups.  In the process the bearer is changed by the culture of the hearers of the word, and that transformative change is a reception that can be carried back to the launching community. Primitive cultures and even plants and animals have much to give, for God's creative word has gone out to all the world and is worth being received, honored and celebrated.  In the receptive process we are changed through openness to the world, and so the Word triggers and encourages a two-way street.  

      On this website we try to reveal the sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and feelings of nature's flora and fauna.  Healing is more than lists of healing medicines developed by experts.  This is ultimately a conversation with Earth's creatures.  This becomes a "blogging" between hearers and the wounded.  We are healed through healing.  Good News is the beginning of a conversation with Earth's creatures, for our command (Mark 16:16) is to go out to all creation.  Since God is the author of all life, hearers enliven and express some aspects of understanding the basic message.  The second way involves Church as gathering place, where thoughts of many can be heard, distilled, elaborated, and connected to the basic message or Kerygma -- the basic proclamation that Jesus Christ came, lived, suffered, died, and rose from the dead.  Sharers include bearers of Good News and receivers of another's cultural milieu that is enlivened by plants and animals, and thus say "Amen" to news worth sharing to a broader world community.   

      Prayer: Lord, help us make Church a focal point, the place where Good News is sent, received, shared, and celebrated. 








Family of foxes (Red fox, Vulpes vulpes) make a home of abandoned house
Family of foxes (Red fox, Vulpes vulpes).
(*photo credit)

June 15, 2011       Good News Will Ultimately Triumph Over Bad News 

    Good news for much of the mass media is NOT news.  Often natural disasters are intermingled with mass killings and armed struggles to create the 24-7 news cast.  The good deeds of others are hardly newsworthy.  However, the challenge for bearers of Good News is to make it appealing to a broader audience.  How can this be done given the limitations of today's media? 

      One solution:  Accept bad news and make it palatable.  Why fight bad news, for it is out there for presentation and reception? Just see the troubled world as a reality in which we come to cope, and yet go on with our lives.  Take for granted that the reporter who finds such existing phenomena is more worthy of promotion, and so the scramble for more and more hidden sources of evil and destruction is better for more vivid reporting.  The one response is that the story could have been worse, so some other example from past history is dredged up to beat the previous tale. 

      Alternative solution:  Overpower with good news.  The opposite of bad news is a plethora of successful plans, reports and past stories of positive actions by people who have made a difference.  It is promoting a series of human models who overcame the odds and performed feats of glory.  An in-built problem with this is that the models are often painted better than life.  This may lead people to retreat into their own inner misgivings as to whether they could imitate the performers in the success stories.  If they are true, they are exceedingly rare. 

      Balanced approach:  Mix good news and bad.  A sense of failures and successes could be regarded as a realistic approach of which some media do attempt to comply, at least in the total weight of the news when once past the headlines.  Much depends on how the story is composed.  In an age of troubles (stated and discussed), good things still happen.   Really, the balance does speak of success, but the tendency is to water it down to a world view that removes any attempt at earthly sainthood and leaves the total impression that nothing is perfect or completely successful.   

      An emerging solution: focus on ultimate success.  Perhaps there are too many good and bad items, and we suffer from information overload.  More attention must be given to singular events that focus, rather than spread out scatter-shot across the media landscape caused by competition of multiple outlets.  The current situation is an overwhelming scene.  Ought we to pick and choose, or is this not the expertise of the news director?  Ultimately we are our own news directors, and what we watch is up to us and to our ability to decide not to surf channels but to settle on what is most needed here and now.  Discerning will have to be up to us, and our clear vision of a future will help in our decision-making. 

      Prayer:  Lord, give us the courage to find the news best suited for our benefit and to help others do the same.








Mount Robson / Canada
Mt. Robson, Canada.
(*photo credit)

June 16, 2011    Elk and Large Wildlife Presence and Proliferation 

      Look, Elk!  Some admire a grazing herd of elk -- especially if they are reintroduced to an elkless area (see March 3, 2007).  Elk numbered about ten million in North America at the arrival of Europeans in the seventeen century.  In the East they were hunted to extinction, though now are reintroduced.  Sightseers engage in tourism's number-one activity:  nature viewing, and elk can enter the picture.  Admirers are attracted to the male elks' majestic antlers grown annually as equipment to defend their harem and offspring.  However, until recently elk sightings were limited to the West and the sounds of elk forgotten.  Elk cows bark to each other when in danger, mew to keep in communication, and whine to signal to calves, who bleat for their mothers when disturbed.     

      The reintroduction of native elk in the East includes their presence now in sixteen Kentucky counties.  However, the tourist potential in regions where elk are hidden often in wooded areas is more limited than in the vast grasslands of the West.  The presence of elk has a value in itself and this ought not to be discounted.  Furthermore, elk continue to be prized by Native Americans and hunters as an abundant source of meat and for other body parts.  Today, without natural predators the elk numbers naturally increase and can become worrisome to local residents; the elk are agile enough that they can damage expensive fencing if they so desire; they may like to enter and harm cultivated areas.   

      Undoubtedly, denser human and elk populations seem to clash. When wandering elk leave their prescribed county boundaries, state agencies are permitting harvest in order to have some semblance of control.  Note to hunters: will you help balance elk, deer, goose or other wildlife to the carrying capacity of the region?  These species can become sources of locally-grown meat with no payment to meat producers.  The elk meat is now becoming readily available, organically-grown, free-ranging, local food for those living in the reintroduced areas.  Much depends on how well these reintroduced herds continue to prosper. 

      Elk are not alone in wildlife mammal presence.  Bears are appearing more frequently in our mountain areas, but that is through natural colonization or spreading from other regions.  The same has been the case of deer that lack their native predators and are safeguarded by regulated hunting periods, along with specific harvest methods and limits on numbers.   Stability in number and carrying capacity of these species are important ecological considerations, for each needs feed (vegetation) and habitat.  Elk and deer make excellent food for local consumption, whereas bear meat may be less appetizing.  Excess elk can be removed to restock other areas.  All in all, the presence again of these native species is most welcome, and may become an attraction to many visitors as well.   

     Prayer:  Lord, help us to admire the majestic creatures you have made and to furnish them with quality habitat.








Western Nebraska windmill
Windmill for supplying water to livestock. Western Nebraska.
(*photo credit)

June 17, 2011   World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought 

      What can we do when it won't rain?  I don't have resources to hire planes to fly out and seed clouds in those affected dry regions.  We can do one thing of utmost importance -- spread the word about climate change costs.  We live in an age when those craving the status quo tend to deny what changes are actually occurring.  We have to follow the example of the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah and introduce a discussion of where the world is going.  Climate change is worth considering as a culprit.  This phenomenon causes increased desertification to thousands of acres in the band across north central Africa where the Moslem and Christian worlds meet and occasionally clash.  

        Politically, this region of desertification is a highly sensitive area as turmoil in Nigeria, Chad and Sudan testifies -- and the Sahara marches on.  The same problems afflict other especially western Africa nations as well as parts of Eurasia, Australia, and parts of China.  Other climate change effects could have serious political ramifications as well, such as flooded Pacific and Indian Ocean island nations. 

      Economically, climate change is devastating and is reported to  result in $4 trillion in costs to environment, health, and food security.  This estimate was compiled by experts for the International Finance Corporation, a component of the World Bank.  Such impending environmental losses could cripple investment efforts from pension funds to national sovereign funds.  Without remedial measures the impending situation could limit recession recovery.   

      Socially, the effect of enhanced storms, floods, heat, cold, AND droughts will be enormous on certain groups of people who find it hard to migrate or mitigate circumstances.  We recall how the very poor were trapped at the time of Katrina due to immobility.  The same could be said of many people in Niger or Bangladesh.  A severe climate change -- if current energy-use practices continue -- will have dramatic effects on the community life of perhaps two hundred million people in drought- and flood-prone nations. 

      Culturally, the drawbacks of climate change may have the most devastating effects.  When cultural groups are threatened, they may withdraw into isolation for the sake of self preservation and create barriers that keep others out;  in contrast, some ties break down in times of extreme pressure and communities break apart as migrants move to what are perceived to be better locations.  This is particularly true in flood- and drought-prone areas.   

      Prayer: Lord, teach us to see the current situation and how we as a people are causing what is happening on our planet as deserts advance through overgrazing and in climate change conditions.  Help us discover and acknowledge causes and seek ways to heal our wounded Earth.  







Freshly-picked wild growing raspberries.  Washington Co., KY.
(*photo credit)

June 18, 2011      Raspberry Season Fosters Creativity  

      Now it is time for raspberries -- those sparkling berries with the intense taste.  We have mentioned blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, mulberries, and elderberries in past years reflections -- and wish to note the flavorful raspberry as well.  Raspberries are nutritious, being very rich in Vitamin C, and in folic acid, niacin, and riboflavin.  The distinct intense taste of raspberry has long made it a prime candidate for drink and foods, especially bakery goods.  Whether cultivated or wild (European are red and North American are black), raspberries have a multitude of uses of which some are worth recalling.  Don't hesitate to pick them and eat on the spot, for raspberries are difficult to preserve for long and still retain that vine-ripened flavor.  If taken home, try chilling and serving with sugar and cream or consider alternative ways to prepare them:

     Angel Food Cake (with raspberries mixed or as topping)

     Bananas and other fruit mixes

     Brandy from raspberries

     Bread with raspberries

     Candy (especially hard candies, cream candies, and chocolate- coated varieties)


     Chicken breast (with raspberry sauce)

     Cobblers (it takes many berries but could be mixed with rhubarb or strawberries if available

     Cottage Cheese (mix in whole berries)



     Fruit cocktail

     Fruit juices  (alone, it is strong and so it can be mixed with cranberry or apple fruit)

     Ice cream  (homemade or as a topping with commercial vanilla)      

    Jam or Jellies (alone or with others such as blackberries) 

     Oatmeal cooked (one of the Year 2011's "365 varieties" or  sprinkled on cold cereals)

     Pancakes (mixed in the batter or used as a topping)

     Pies  (strong, and can be mixed with apple or blackberry to enhance flavor)


     Salads (even vegetable for color and flavor and tuna salad)

     Syrup  (add juice to apple syrup)

     Tea    (use the berry or the leaf)

     Tarts   (Manchester variety) 

     Toppings (for cakes of all sorts)

     Trout (add raspberries either in cooking or as garnish)

     Turkey with raspberry sauce



     Yogurt  (a flavor enhancer).  

       Prayer:  Lord, help us be creative with raspberries, one of your most wonderful and delightful gifts found in nature.








Hollyhock, in full bloom.
(*photo credit)

June 19, 2011       Sharing Blessings and the Trinity 

      Blessing another is our response to the God who has invited us into the divine Family.  To bless is to extend ourselves to others and to share our blessings with them.  We acknowledge our elementary common heritage as part of the human family -- and now we experience the special invitation to become more godly in our actions.  We can bless all and do so freely -- to butterflies, mushrooms, lichens, evergreens, berries, birds, and amphibians.  We bless a land teeming with all types of flora and fauna;  we bless the entire blue-green planet tarnished by exploitation;  we even bless the Creator of all things.  Natural beauty leads to respect, and respect to blessing -- the prelude to earthhealing.   

      We bless the agents of change, those who protect resources and heal Earth's wounds, those willing to confront misdeeds and the ones who commit them.  Our blessings return to us and empower us.  Even damage we now observe amid fading natural beauty makes us aware of original blessings, deep down and yet wrapped around with the paradox of fragility .  Blessings return to us in damaged land and trigger action now, today.  We care because we believe in what is here and what we can share.  God's favor is perceived as "ours," not mine or yours alone.  Let's bless together, for blessing is the acknowledgment of togetherness in the Lord.     

      If someone says, "Get off my land," we are disturbed, for such acts restrict our personal enjoyment of gifts.  With surprise we ask, "To whom does this land belong?"  Actually the stark reality of possessiveness strikes us at the moment when raw beauty floods our soul.  Some may depart without a word; others may express anger; still others resist and confront the supposed owners.  As though awakening from a dream, we face the reality that the beauty of the commons has been privatized (at least through some legal mechanism) by the wealthy.  These enclosures of the commons mar beauty, for it cannot be appreciated by everyone.  This raises questions:  How can we manifest our common sharing of natural and enhanced beauty with all people of good will?  Do those who possess places restrict our common sharing of natural beauty? 

     At the moment of blessing we find a curse hidden deep down in the world that we regard as commons.  The curse is uttered by the shouts of those who want us off their property, the "No Trespassing" signs and the lack of civility on occasions that are luxuries to some, and yet are needed as essentials by others.  Those who bless, are sensitive to the unspoken curse.  To reclaim the commons means that we must act, not merely admire, nor merely cast blame.  Natural beauty is a blessing;  our action to enhance it is a double blessing.  However, we must face reality; curses are out there, and recognizing that fact keeps us from becoming too naive.  By admiring natural beauty we are drawn to God.  We accept the invitation to be active members of the Divine Family. 

      Prayer:  Holy Trinity, allow us to see your oneness and to find our reclaiming as part of the blessed gifts given to us.










Summer into Autumn
Aromatic aster, Aster oblongifolius.
(*photo credit)

June 20, 2011    Elitism Versus Democratic Values 

     An earnest neighbor actually countered my statement of fact that the wealthiest 1% of Kentucky's residents pay the lowest rate of taxes.  To my utter amazement his reply was, "Why shouldn't we favor them?  They furnish us with jobs, don't they?"  In his mind the elite are certainly present and ought to retain their "eliteness."  He thought he was a good citizen by defending their claims, their manner of speech, subtle ways of acting, their privileged company, and their methods of promoting "charity" work.  He perhaps was comforted that elitists could elaborate on their blood line, wealth, power, fame, academic degree, or historic precedent -- e.g., "Daughters of the American Revolution."  

     Democracy can be malleable.  During the earliest days of this Republic, efforts at making George Washington a king showed the desire by some for nobility.  This was resisted by other participants in the Revolution -- and differences led to partisanship towards the end of the eighteenth century.  In hidden ways, the desire for recognized nobility is still strong today; namely, in efforts to maintain elite positions through exclusive clubs, recognition at events, publicity in press and other media forms, importance of CVs, recognition of authority, and in unconscious biases against certain groups of people.  The sonorous voice contributes to elitism as do certain types of residences or vehicles or social associations for show.  

      Democracy is fragile; it suffers by distinguishing several classes of citizenry, and this leads to discouraging so-called second-class citizens from assembling and participating.  "Let the experts do the job," is quite tempting -- and this means relegating citizenship to the elite.  This apathy is reinforced by the following unfair and undemocratic activities:  preserving tax privileges for the wealthy lest they cease being elite; deferring to those regarded as expert whether or not they know the situation; and placing higher judgment on the theoretical over practical experience.  The non-elitists suffer from lack of critical recognition, and thus may strive to present themselves as satisfied with the current status quo. 

      Democracy is open and public, for in theory all citizens have a voice and that voice ought to be heard.  However, we suffer with instant and preferred media coverage to those of special attention.  Amid the chatter, democracy is best served truly by listening and understanding the reasoning of the practice, the wise, and the folks with common sense, not just the notable and talkative.  Good reasoning is often drowned out through political posturing.  The flood of information and the multiplicity of news channels confuse many citizens who need time to reflect and are hesitant in voicing their positions.  Let's learn to listen beyond the elitist drone.  

      Prayer:  Lord, help us to see that we all are humble servants before your majesty.  What supposedly makes us in our opinion "elite" could set us apart from the nobility of the commons.   








Making hay.  Photo Creation Date: 1900
Museum of Photographic Arts, Gift of Stephen White. (Creative Commons License)

June 21, 2011     Similarity in Making-Hay and Healing Earth

      Summertime!  Today a year ago, I mentioned the beginning of the major harvest season (haying) in the northern hemisphere.  This is the season when the tall grasses are being mowed and allowed to dry and then collected and stored in some suitable manner.  In recent times hay is rolled into large quarter-ton bales and often left in the field until needed in winter.  In our childhood farming days, hay bales were smaller, and we would struggle to put them on wagons and take to barns for storage or to make hay stacks (in order to protect a major portion from the weather).  Then and now, the aim was to "make hay" during optimal times of vegetative growth and highest nutritional content.  Thus the expression to "Make hay while the sun shines."  Don't do it on rainy days (or the hay will mold);  don't waste sunny days when the hay must be made (the optimal hay harvest period is limited and days are longer).  A similar saying is "strike while the iron is hot," or right now. 

      Why as summer begins?  As discussed last year (see June 21, 2010) hay-making is similar to Earthhealing.  While our healing task continues over a temporal span, an optimal suitable time is obvious to the observant and conscientious person.  We cannot put off acting, for the human factors that contribute to environmental damage (carbon dioxide, carbon black, methane, and a number of other air pollutants all add to an ailing planet in need of proper care.  The summer solstice, the longest day is the optimal time to reconsider the urgency of the current situation.  Tomorrow begins the process of the shortening of days, and so less of this precious temporal commodity will be available. 

      Hay-making teaches us something; the operation is hot, sweaty, and dusty work -- though ultimately richly rewarding, especially as feed for cattle in wintertime.  The animals will cherish the product being preserved, and so the investment is worth it -- a long-term investment when those who benefit are not the ones who make the initial sacrifice.  Earthhealing has a similar role to play.  Earthhealing procedures to avoid climate change will be cherished and enjoyed by parties who are not now making sacrifices -- but we have faith in the long-term benefits. 

       We need to accept responsibility for what must be done (no denial), realize our personal responsibility (no excuse), and act according to the talents and skills at our disposal (no escape).  We are willing to invest time and effort to help a future generation that will live after us.  They  demand our generosity today for we do not put work off until tomorrow.  Each day lost in the struggle to control climate change makes it all the harder in the future.  Promoting a sense of urgency is part of our mission.  

      Prayer:  Lord, help us see today's hay-making as somewhat different from last year's, and yet just as urgent with respect to the threats facing our wounded planet.  Help us act now, for to heal means we cannot delay.  Help us know the time is right.   







Female cardinal in blooming quince.
(photo: Sally Ramsdell)

June 22, 2011   Should We Preserve Nature as Untouched? 

      Wind turbines are certainly noticeable, and some landscapes can change dramatically when these are installed.  This situation leads to disputes over change of land use, though farmers can testify that land on which turbines are installed is still used for agricultural purposes (grazing and growing crops).  Purists want the land to remain visibly untouched, and accuse resource owners of placing "economic value" on natural phenomena.  Resources can be computed for tourist potential by counting lodging, meals, and fuel purchases in the given region.  However, all concede that "priceless" viewscape may be separated from pure economics; for purists, placing value on nature is simony -- buy sacred items. 

      Those who assign monetary value to nature overlook the spiritual content of God-given gifts.  How do you price natural beauty even though creative artists may get good prices for their depictions of how scenes touch them?  Many lovers of nature resist allowing natural beauty to become a commercial commodity to be bought, sold, or used and wasted at will.  I recall homeowners who devastated an Appalachian viewscape by erected gaudy houses at key locations -- and ruined the total view for others just so they could look out from their privileged location to view nearby unspoiled beauty.  This is a public demonstration of the change or touching of nature for individual selfish use.   

      In seizing what is part of the commons, commodity-makers denigrate the shared democratic values of all citizens.  Champions of natural beauty see the forest as having aesthetic value in itself;  exploiters see forests as home sites, or timber and logs, or even as having tourist potential.  Yes, they agree that tree-cutting can be defacing the landscape for a period of time, but attest that the forest will return.  Yes, roads to tourist destinations along with motels and service stations are the sacrifices for others to accept in admiring natural beauty, but it takes planning for least impact. 

      Should human activity include retouching natural beauty? Rene Dubos argued that human efforts can enhance nature and it is part of the nature of things to do so.  Beauty can be a blessing worthy of praise.  Wind turbines for general community use as utilities can change the views of mountains, plains, and seashores.  Should windpower technical innovations be permitted?  Some landholders are offered $4,000 per year for each installation -- good income for struggling farmers and mountain dwellers.  Isn't beauty in the eye of the beholder -- and those areas suffering from coal mining and powerplants emissions are not a pretty scene.  Critical issues need addressing in this century:  when is viewscape change permitted?  Necessary?  Accepted?  Welcomed?  If windmills help add charm to the Dutch countryside, could they enhance America's as well?   

      Prayer:  Lord, teach us to value the things of heaven and still be willing to find value in both untouched nature and the value of what is touched and enhanced by human hands.









Vedauvoo formation, Wyoming
Vedauvoo formation, Wyoming.
(*photo credit)

June 23, 2011  2000th Essay:  The Future of Earth Healing, Inc. 

      Why talk about the future now?  A student at the University of Kentucky wanted to do an essay on this locally-based organization and so asked a series of searching questions -- This occurred on the day when I was drafting the first copy of this reflection.  Is that as profound as we can make it?  Earth Healing, Inc. is a practical organization that is "lite" on structure. 

      The EH modest goal is environmental information to and by believers, who affirm that we can heal our wounded Earth and see it as a sacred duty to do so.  More succinctly, the goal is to make religious values count and be incorporated in healing our threatened planet.  EH's future involves a faith in the future.  Prophetically, we can speak with some degree of certitude about a possible outcome, if remedial steps are not taken.  Conditionally, this will happen unless ...  It takes common sense and no special charism to say what will happen to our country if annual trillion- dollar budget deficits continue to burden our government programs.  In the same way, if losses burden EH, then goals will be affected and a future redirected.  EH has suffered from the passing and loss of both Mary Davis and Kristin Johannsen in the past eight months.  Both are irreplaceable, but we are drawn to modify editing and production procedures to keep our goals sustainable and intact.   

      If, for some reason, we are blessed with resources that include continued financial ones and volunteer assistance (as what Kristin gave us), then what could the future be?  For one thing, our information service does not directly solicit feedback, and yet we receive as much as we can handle given our time constraints.  I get more emails per day (after the removal of massive amounts of junk mail) than I got in the entire year of 2004, the first year of the Earth Healing website.  It would be good to invite discussion, but what baffles us is just how could we respond to the satisfaction of the viewer/participant as we move forward?  This unanswered question relates to expanding a goal in a healthy manner, but what type of new structure does that entail?  

      Time is of the essence and yet the Greeks tell us there are two times:  Chronos (or clock time of our 24 hour/day) is in short supply;  Kairos (the NOW or acceptable time) is ever more pertinent.   Our future depends on whether we can balance these two types of time, to keep the NOW before us without the many detours that are on other people's agendas.  We have considered a future that includes blogging, but this opens us to screening of an assortment of contributions, or risk losing the urgency of Kairos.  We have considered teleconferencing that saves people immense travel time and could be meaningful.  This modification is still on the table and we welcome comments, for that could determine the future of this website.  We could invite guest essays to accompany the ones through the route attempted here.   

      Prayer:  Show us, Lord, what to do so we can present a future that fulfills our goals.








Appreciating the beauty of tender blooms.
(*photo credit)

June 24, 2011       Creating the Future: A Healed Earth     

      Yesterday, we reflected on future hopes for our earthhealing process.  The goal is to heal our troubled Earth through citizen information and participative activities dealing with environmental protection and remediation.  The driving force is a religious foundation and belief that people must have a faith in the future.  Today, people see little need for even reflecting on a future beyond their mortal life.  For these people the future is indefinite, and so as faithless individuals they look little beyond having their ashes scattered on some memorial stretch of landscape, water body, or specific site by friends or relatives.  Remembrances pass with that of mortal companions. 

      A future can be created for us and we can participate. America's Founding Fathers did believe in a future for this country and expected us to do the same.  Yes, we can believe that in 2050 our planet could be on the road to being healed, and justice for all will abound.  We hope that at that time food security will be established for ALL the world's future nine billion people.  We hope all will be vaccinated and have access to primary health care facilities.  Would that they could: live in respectable housing; enjoy adequate recreational facilities; have potable water to drink; be able to read and write; and be connected through rapid communications to loved ones.  Why possibilities?  Don't they demand an unattainable global social justice? 

      The answer is that one could set goals too limited and in doing so feel satisfied to feed the person who comes to the door, or give a donation for housing in Haiti -- and confess a fuller world of justice is impossible, so why waste time talking about it?  Limited goals show a limited faith, and that shrinks expectations and hopes.  The disease of the futureless agnostic or despairing resident can infect a community with scoffing at youthful dreams and create an atmosphere of cynicism; so can those of limited expectations doubt whether the disparity of wealth will vanish.  But how can we remain contented? 

      Religious practice should generate holy discontent with the status quo and limited expectations.  Will we have to risk possible marginalization and peer rejection?  We can be developing a state of tranquility and yet well suppressed underneath is a state in anxiety that we are not doing enough.  Granted, with the world in such troubles, we are called to do more ever realizing that we will not be total authors of our future, only participants.  Such recognition of an imperfectly executed future calls for a basic humility.  We cannot foresee what is to come, for a future generation will have to challenge the conditional, "What if no one else believes, no one else cares, and most think they can do little more than preserve their precious individuality." 

      Prayer:  Lord, give us as food from heaven, nourishment to be happy to be on the right road, and yet discontented enough to seek solutions to the problems facing our hungry world.








Corallorhiza maculata, spotted coralroot
Spotted coralroot, Corallorhiza maculata. St. Ignace, MI.
(*photo credit)

June 25, 2011     Time to Make Cucumber Pickles    

      Why, with all the important issues in our world, are we talking about making pickles?  Answers: we have cucumbers to spare and ought to preserve them; we need to be creative in preserving food and do so with the least amount of effort; pickles taste great when well preserved -- and greatly enhance the quality of meals. 

      Produce galore!  I plant many hills of cucumbers because they are a favorite and the vines can grow vertically on fences;  they do not take up that much horizontal space in a limited garden area.  They grow fast and need picking almost daily or otherwise the fruit gets too mature and the skins toughen even in the pickling solution.  One can eat some two meals a day and give others away for this is the season of garden plenty. 

      Pickle creatively!  I like to fill the refrigerator space with gallons of pickled cucumbers.  Granted there are packages of rather expensive commercial pickling mixtures that are mostly salt plus select herbs -- but one can be creative in using the homegrown or commercial spices that are available for far less.  Mixtures of these herbs and spices in different proportions generate unique tastes for each portion pickled.  Sweet pickled batches require sugar in generous proportions and that adds to the expense.  I prefer the sour varieties made with boiling aqueous vinegar/herbal mixtures over the packed cucumber slices along with other veggies that add much to culinary creativity.  

      Container Companions!  I use glass jars as containers but others may use plastics (no metal please).  Include diced homegrown peppers to add spice to the pickles.  Choose companions that suit your family's and guests' taste buds; if you want really spicy cucumbers keep the pepper seeds in the pickles.  Over time I have added mixtures of various other produce from the garden:  carrots, green beans, onions, garlic, dill, and parsley in different mixtures and amounts.   Creativity encourages the immediate impulse and access to supply though a pickle person may want to notify users by notations on jar labels.

      Prepare well!  My mother was a master pickle person; she put the cucumbers in five-gallon stone crocks and changed pickling solution every so many days.  This required time and care but the products were great in both texture and taste.  She also canned pickles in quarts according to her own recipes.  I do not have such loving care nor time, and so I pour boiling pickling solutions over the packed jars and immediately screw the lids on tightly, and thus create a vacuum that helps preserve the taste until use.  The jars are allowed to cool and are stored in a refrigerator.  Since store-bought pickles are costly, pickling could be one of the most economic practices of the homegrown-garden yield.   

      Prayer:  Jesus, you tell us to be salt of our Earth and to use the salt ("brine" solution) until it loses it savor.  Let us recall that salt means fidelity and wisdom -- and so do pickles.   







Trillium sessile
Sessile trillium, a jewel in the understory.
(*photo credit)

June 26, 2011  Corpus Christi: An Activist and Holy Discontent 

      Corpus Christi is about food, and challenges us on our journey of faith.  This is the Bread of Life of which we are fed.  So part of the glory of today's feast is that we are spiritually fed.  But the Fathers of the Church tell us that if we know of others who are hungry and we partake of this spiritual meal, we do so unworthily if we do not first feed the hungry.  Our trouble today is the shrinking nature of our global neighborhood -- those on the other side of the planet are now our neighbors, and a billion of them live with extreme food insecurity.  Besides, billions are confronted with rising global food prices and food shortages. 

     Feeding is then a two-way street.  We must both be fed and feed; be fed spiritually and physically feed those who are hungry.  The two are together and that raises us to a level of holy discontent.  In doing so, spiritual hunger is alleviated.  Judgment is really all about food.  You might ask why the emphasis; that is because other faults breed insensitivity arising from self-centeredness, greed, and succumbing to self-allurements.  In this insensitivity we fail to see others in need.  From this emerges the dilemma related to the BIG question:  Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed (or fail to feed) you?  What if the answer to some or many of us is: 

    When you allowed a thousand billion to get away without paying fair taxes and a billion people to go hungry and you didn't do a thing about it, you did not feed me. 

      This response may haunt us; some have said if people do not get it resolved it could drive them crazy.  My response is that we will either go crazy or we will change our ways -- for we still have time to decide.  What we cannot do is continue "as is," for the question is what we will ask and not that will be asked of us.  The feast of Corpus Christi recalls our dilemma and our judgment.  

      Change means that we take our citizenship seriously and participate the best we can.  Some will respond by finding the emaciated and hungry and contributing to relief agencies (Catholic Relief Services, Bread for the World, or others).   However, the activist knows there is far more at stake, because merely doing little things, no matter how many, fails the democratic process of which we are members.  For the activist, charity or direct donation is a short-gap measure because the hungry are in need today, right now.  We cannot delay such needs until tomorrow.  If we do nothing to prod legislators to do their duty and levy fair taxes, then the dilemma continues; if we act, no matter how successful we are, we allow fairer use of resources in this world of great disparity of wealth;  we will encourage the lowly to rise -- and those in high places to come down.  We must change -- and the Body of Christ nourishes us enough to take this important step. 

      Prayer: Lord, help us to see and believe, and to show that we believe that we can feed others in various ways.










Royal paulownia, Paulownia tomentosa
Kentucky-grown royal paulownia, Paulownia tomentosa. Harlan County.
(*photo credit)

June 27, 2011       Paul Bunyan Day and Pax Americana

      Tomorrow on Paul Bunyan Day we ought to consider the power of individuals, not only the physical power of the mighty logger, but a longer-lasting moral power of individuals and groups.  Yes, for a period of time strength like the summer sun waxes supreme, but nothing is lasting on this Earth, and that physical power and strength will fade with time.  We need to see the connection between individual and national strengths also.  To expect our country to shoulder the military burdens of the world is unfair and unsustainable;  we need to reevaluate the part that this country must play in being policemen (and women) of the world.  Why?  Is it because we have a host of spoiled brats that do not want to bear their respective burdens in world security?   Maybe it is not that severe, but the hesitancy of some youthful folks may be indicative of something wrong somewhere.  

      The following poem was written in 1995 and is somewhat dated but still has pertinence today.  With Middle East revolution so widespread and profound this year, a word of caution is still operative.  Maybe in retrospect the lesson is still before us.  We are unable and will remain unable to create a peace through military might.  The fact is emerging that security does not come from planes and bombs and warships, but through establishing a harmony in use of resources, and this can establish a global peace.

                            PAX AMERICANA 

        No one cares, no one seems to wonder

          Whether God still rules the thunder.

        Awake, en masse, are these bombs, nerve gas

          escaping his notice, weapons of crass

        misguided souls, wound in righteousness,

          Or calloused licentiousness?

        So we ponder our leaders' blunder

          Blasting burrowed innocents asunder. 

        Will it cure the madman's dream,

          or throw off his cruel regime?

          Or do we seem to deem

        Our army, navy, marine

          Reign globally supreme,

          On airwaves beam and torrid stream,

        With high tech head-of-steam,

          and misplaced U.S. self-esteem?

        Redeem us, Lord.  Redeem. 

    (Written while expecting President Clinton to bomb Baghdad in 1995.)

      Prayer:  Lord, give us insight when we age and wane in physical energy;  help us see this is a time to grow in wisdom and to strengthen our moral powers to confront insecurities all around. 







Red-spotted newt (Notophthalmus v. viridescens)
Red-spotted newt (Notophthalmus v. viridescens).  
(*photo credit)

June 28, 2011  Kentucky: A Touch-of-Green Positive Aspects

      This reflection is taken from a talk I gave in February to the Kentucky sanitation and environmental workers at their annual meeting in Louisville.  My Internet website readership is derived from over one-hundred countries, and I suspect that their respective environmental engineers face the same problems that we do in Kentucky: tight or reduced environmental budgets and many new problems to be handled by fewer staff.  However, the work involves keeping our environment safe and maintaining an ever-higher quality of life for our citizens.  Green is the color of summer vegetation and the color of activities needed for proper sustainable living.  Let us look at six positive green approaches: 

      Solar Energy  --  Our state's response to dirty coal is the Kentucky Solar Partnership, an organization sponsored by the organization I co-founded, Appalachia -- Science in the Public Interest.  At present, the fastest increasing American renewable energy source and most competitive fuel source is wind.  However, solar costs are declining, and wind potential here is less than in neighboring Great Plains states.  Solar is the proper choice for us to emphasize, even though we need a mix of suitable energy sources. 

      Edible Landscapes -- Greenery can be just as great with edible landscapes as with green lawns.  These edible landscapes include fruit and nut trees, gardens, and wildscape for wildlife habitats. All can easily replace at lower costs the monocultural lawns of bluegrass that must be mowed weekly and are subject to drought. 

      Flowers/Gardens  -- Gardens are a painted landscape that changes with the week or month of the growing season.  Think about inserting flowers into all vegetable and herbal gardens. 

      More Trees -- We can list at least forty beneficial aspects for many of the over one-hundred varieties of trees found covering half the surface area of our state.  Youth and elders can work together for planting and maintaining this valuable forest cover.

      Ecotourism -- A far greater potential for new jobs could come from the service industry dealing with feeding, lodging and entertaining tourists who come to our state for a nature experience.  We have mountains, forests, nationally known caves, gorges, natural bridges, waterfalls, state parks, and historic and cultural sites and events.  Ecotourism is a win-win situation. 

        Wildlife --  Reintroduction of elk in seventeen counties and deer and "wild" turkey in all parts present benefits and risks.  A wildlife balance demands reintroduction and promotion of native predators (fox, wolf, mountain lion, etc.).  Food needs ought to be satisfied locally and one candidate is surplus wildlife.

      Prayer:  Lord, teach us to act in ways that will retain the higher quality of our landscape, for this is needed to uplift our spirits and improve our community life. 








Honeysuckle, Lonicera
Invasive exotic Kentucky plant, honeysuckle (Lonicera).
(*photo credit)

June 29, 2011  Kentucky: A Touch-of-Green Negative Aspects

     Keeping our state green takes a balance of positive steps and those areas of restraint where we confront problems that threaten that greenness of landscape.  The following are six areas needing restraint and change of practice:      

     Urban Sprawl  -- Central Kentucky has suffered severe losses in recent years of prime farmland, as documented in the report   "Farming on the Edge" by the American Farmland Trust.  The state is blessed with deep rich soil that attracted early pioneers from the East Coast, and this is a treasure worth preserving well. 

     Smoking Powerplants  --  Kentucky is listed by the Environmental Integrity Project as the seventh most carbon polluting state in the U.S.  The large number of coal-fired powerplants in the Ohio River Valley contributes to this pollution. While some of the electricity generated is used in neighboring states, it still indicates a bad trend all around. Better pollution control devices could capture or check some of this pollution, and coal residue can be used for concrete manufacture and other industrial uses. 

     Billboards -- These commercial devices plague landscapes and ruin viewscapes treasured by sightseers.  If tourism is meant as a job-builder, we focus on sightseeing, the number one tourist activity.  Billboard information could be presented through informational literature and properly placed road signs.

     Junk Food -- Commercial eating places supply junk food that contributes to our state's obesity problem.  CSPI, a nutritional organization that has just celebrated its fortieth birthday, calls attention through its Nutrition Action Newsletter to the goal of healthier food, food that needs a green landscape for production.

     Unreclaimed Land -- Abandoned lands, farms fallow in preparation for development, deforested areas and un- or improperly reclaimed surface-mined areas all damage the beauty of our state.  Selected vegetation need not be exotic species such as Russian olive.  A far more attractive tree crop is the fragrantly blooming (in May) black locust that could be utilized for a possible renewable biofuel.

      Invasive Species  -- One could compose a sorry listing of at least two dozen exotic and invasive species of plants, most of which furnish a facade of greenery by choking and crowding out the native plants.  Kudzu is the prime culprit in many parts of the Commonwealth, to which one can add purple loosestrife and Japanese honeysuckle to multi-flora rose and mugwort.  Some environmental experts regard these as the greatest threats to the environment. 

      Prayer:  Lord, teach us right action and how and where to observe the threats that come our way.   





Southern Red Trillium, Trillium sulcatum
Southern red trillium, Trillium sulcatum.
(*photo credit)

June 30, 2011   Questions at the 2011 Half-Year Review

      Can you believe that the year is half over this Sunday night?  Where did it go?  As we age time seems to fly faster.  In just six months it has been a time of budget battles, revolution in the Middle East, and earthquakes and tsunamis in the Pacific Rim.  With profound change in the air, we ought to ask ourselves some basic questions: 

Spiritual Life:

      * Have I grown spiritually in this fast-fleeting year, and do I give some quality time to prayer?

     * Do I let events, whether local, regional, national, or   global, make me dispirited?                        

     * Do I treat my associates and neighbors with proper respect  and kindness?

      * Do I make too many excuses for my inability to do the right things when they need execution?

     * Is my 2011 spiritual retreat planned or completed? 

Health & Physical Wellbeing:         

     * Am I getting enough physical exercise as weather changes from winter to spring, and to hot and muggy summer? 

     * Do I eat right and avoid excess of those things I like?

     * Do I focus on foods of the season?  Am I growing my own garden produce and preserving or giving away surplus?

     * Is my vacation planned or executed?

     * Do I take prescribed medicines and honor appointments? 

Social Life:

      * Am I overly connected through cell or land phone, email or just chatter, thus wasting time?

     * Do I plan ahead? Do I show equanimity when what is planned  goes awry?  Am I flexible enough to change plans?   

     * Am I following free time needs and rest in periods daily or  weekly?  Do I allow rest to translate into being even-tempered with those with whom I must interact?         

     * Do I choose to read good materials both of spiritual and secular nature?

     * When I relax, do I really do so and in a way that all benefit, especially those for whom I do service?

Economic Life:

     * Do I live according to the budget or do I overspend? 

     * Does auto travel involve true economy of fuel?  

     * Do I purchase what is needed or is money wasted on unplanned impulse buying?                                

     *  Do I patronize the local farmers' markets for foods not  grown in my garden? 

      Prayer:  Lord, thank you for seeing me through this much of my life's journey.  Help me to be honest with my progress and to resolve to continue in a spirit of hope for what is to dome.

Copyright © 2011 Earth Healing, Inc. All rights reserved..

Earth Healing team:
Albert J. Fritsch, Director
Charlie Fritsch
Janet Powell
Sally Ramsdell
Mark Spencer

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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