Because taking care of the Earth isn't just for hippies!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Who do you confide in?

According to a study from Duke University, about 1 in 4 people don't have any close friends they can confide in.  The Confessionator reports on Social Isolation in America, and offers some insightful thoughts on the importance of a relationship with God strengthening relationships with others.

Extreme Hammocking!

OK, I'll admit it, I'm a sucker for most extreme sports (even if most of the time I just think about how cool they would be rather than doing them myself). I'm also a big fan of hammocks, and recently read an article in Blue Ridge Outdoors on the growing trend of day hammocking (think hiking + nap and lounging in beautiful scenery). So naturally, when I saw a post on Gizmodo entitled Extreme Hammocking my interest was piqued! What combination could be better than relaxation and adventure? Check it out!

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Does the Earth ask things of us?

The Dominican Sisters International (DSI) think it does, and decided to find out just what exactly the Earth is asking of them. Mark Shea and Disputations have both rightly commented on just how far off this question is. The Earth is not a being, it cannot ask questions, and the "New Cosmology" is not "the critical lens from which all preaching needs to flow and all justice action should emerge."

My question is this - what is this "New Cosmology" that they speak of? Where did they get it, why did they come up with it, and what does it say? It sounds like a New Age concept that is devoid of any true Christian theology.

After doing a Google search for "New Cosmology" it became apparent that folks from all sorts of fields are coming up with new cosmologies of their own. Many are from physicists researching general relativity and quantum physics, but some are looking to find spirituality within scientific theories. The one the Dominican Sisters are referring to comes from Thomas Berry and Brian Swimme, who have co-written a book called The Universe Story : From the Primordial Flaring Forth to the Ecozoic Era--A Celebration of the Unfolding of the Cosmos.

A quick look at Brian Swimme's website returned the following questions from an interview with "What is Enlightenment?" Magazine:

WIE: You often speak about the fact that we are at a unique juncture in human history because we now have knowledge of the fourteen billion years of cosmological evolution that brought us to this point—and that this knowledge carries with it a responsibility that we never before imagined. can you give a basic outline of the vast scope of this evolution?

Brian Swimme: It’s really simple. Here’ the whole story in one line. This is the greatest discovery of the scientific enterprise: You take hydrogen gas, and you leave it alone, and it turns into rosebuds, giraffes and humans.

WIE: That’s the short version.

Brian Swimme: That’s the short version. The reason I like that version is that hydrogen gas is odorless and colorless, and in the prejudice of our Western civilization, we see it as just material stuff. There’s not much there. You just take hydrogen, leave it alone, and it turns into a human—that’s a pretty interesting bit of information. So that’s why I love the short version.

So where does this "New Cosmology" clash with Christianity? I think the answer is pretty apparent - that you "just take hydrogen, leave it alone, and it turns into a human." I don't think you have to be an experienced theologian to see a problem with this statement. So often the good-intentioned concern for the Earth ends up coming from these ideas which are antithetical to the core of Christian theology. This is really a shame, because any authentic Christian spirituality already should include respect for God's creation, there is no need to search elsewhere. Anyone who searches for answers to dilemmas within the body of Christ and does not find an answer needs to delve deeper into the mysteries of Christ.

For a more thorough examination of a "New Cosmology" within Catholicism, Bill Jacobs, director of the Catholic Conservation Center, has written an excellent article, "A Cosmos Without the Redemption of Jesus Christ?"

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The Importance of Charity

Julie D. over at Happy Catholic has a great post on the importance of charity. A must read!!

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Friday, June 23, 2006

Human Ecology vs. Anthropocentrism

Ok, I'm jumping in! Here's my first "real" post - my thoughts on Catholicism and environmental issues - non-Catholics and non-scientists, please let me know if this makes sense or if I lose you! I'll try not to use too much jargon.

In May, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Holy See's permanent observer to the United Nations, addressed the U.N. at a session of the Economic and Social Council's Commission on Sustainable Development. His address covered many issues, from clean water access to transportation to global warming, but what I found most interesting was one of his opening paragraphs:
In addition to the irrational destruction of the natural environment, there has been the more serious destruction of the human environment. Although people are rightly worried about preserving natural habitats, too little effort has been made to safeguard the moral conditions for an authentic human ecology. Such an ecology will place the human person at the center of environmental concerns, while simultaneously promoting an urgent sense of human responsibility for the earth, be it at the level of states, commerce or individuals. Happily, as the essential symbiosis of life on the planet becomes plain, there is already a growing acknowledgment that good environmental policies are by extension good people policies too.
Complete Text

Now, at first glance one might see this paragraph as dismissing environmental concerns as unimportant compared to other issues. I know many environmentalists who would probably pass this off as a typical anthropocentic view of the world - the typical "we are at the top of the food chain and can do whatever we please to make ourselves happy" idea. However, I see this as a much broader concept than merely doing what's best for man and forgetting the rest. I think the key to this is when he says "while simultaneously promoting an urgent sense of human responsibility for the earth, be it at the level of states, commerce or individuals." This is not an issue of either/or, of choosing to protect the environment or be happy, healthy humans. Both are necessary. So many times groups demonize the each other and assume their positions are mutually exclusive. I find the greatest polarization to be between pro-environment and pro-life groups. Why do you think this is the case? I'm interested to hear other's comments on this.

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Bless the Lord

One of my favorite scripture passages comes up often in the Liturgy of the Hours for morning prayer. Here it is:

Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord.
Praise and exalt him above all forever.
Angels of the Lord, bless the Lord.
You heavens, bless the Lord.
All you waters above the heavens, bless the Lord.
All you hosts of the Lord, bless the Lord.
Sun and moon, bless the Lord.
Stars of heaven, bless the Lord.

Every shower and dew, bless the Lord.
All you winds, bless the Lord.
Fire and heat, bless the Lord.
Cold and chill, bless the Lord.
Dew and rain, bless the Lord.
Frost and chill, bless the Lord.
Ice and snow, bless the Lord.
Nights and days, bless the Lord.
Light and darkness, bless the Lord.
Lightnings and clouds, bless the Lord.

Let the earth bless the Lord.
Praise and exalt him above all forever.
Mountains and hills, bless the Lord.
Everything growing from the earth, bless the Lord.
You springs, bless the Lord.
Seas and rivers, bless the Lord.
You dolphins and all water creatures, bless the Lord.
All you birds of the air, bless the Lord.
All you beasts, wild and tame, bless the Lord.
You sons of men, bless the Lord.

O Israel, bless the Lord.
Praise and exalt him above all forever.
Preists of the Lord, bless the Lord.
Servants of the Lord, bless the Lord.
Spirits and souls of the just, bless the Lord.
Holy men of humble heart, bless the Lord.
Hananiah, Azariah, Mishael, bless the Lord.
Praise and exalt him above all forever.
(Daniel 3:57-88)

On a lighthearted note, Jeff Miller over at The Curt Jester wondered what Daniel might have said had he been exiled to Florida:
Heat and humidity, bless the Lord
praise and exalt him above all forever
Gators and geckos, bless the Lord
Lack of mountains and hills, bless the Lord
Swamps and wetlands, bless the Lord
Thunderstorms and hurricanes, bless the Lord
You Manatees and all water creatures, bless the Lord
Birds of the air and tourists flying South, bless the Lord
Fireants and giant cockroaches, bless the Lord

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

What's in a name?

Why is this blog called "God's Green Thumb"?

One day I was thinking about how we are all part of the body of Christ. We all have different callings in life - and I think if I had to equate my calling in life to a certain part of the body of Christ, I figured I would probably be his "green thumb."

So what exactly will I be studying in Rome?

The following is a copy of my course of studies for the next school year in Rome. I will be studying environmental science at a Pontifical university. Why, you might ask? The program focuses on integrating Catholic theology, spirituality, and ethics with contemporary environmental issues. How cool is that? Read on for more info...

Master’s Program (Diploma) in Environmental Sciences

A society’s sensitivity towards environmental issues demonstrates its level of civilization: For this reason, it is essential to use all available competence (whether human, educational, scientific, technological, economical or ethical) in order to analyze and solve the problems involving Man’s work and Creation.

It is necessary to develop an optimistic cultural view, different from the one which seems to predominate nowadays: A view that will no longer be based on the conflict between human activity and environment. Man is not “the cancer of the Earth”, nor should Nature be worshipped as if it were a pagan goddess.

A reductionist approach, such as that of materialism, does not lead to any solution.

A new concept of environmental protection is necessary: It has to be interdisciplinary and it has to be based on the Christian Humanism’s philosophy, according to which the quest of Truth, Righteousness and Beauty joins Faith and Reason.

Our Program aims to develop a more encouraging idea about Man and human potential: Man shall be viewed as a blessing rather than a plague for the planet; as a medicine, rather than a cancer for the world; we think of a Man whose progeny rouses hope instead of despair, both for human kind and for Creation; a Man who will take care of the world, so that the environment will become, instead of a problem, a resource.

Our purpose is to restore a “vertically” oriented, theocentrical view, according to which Creation should be healed, developed and governed for the common good. We reject a “horizontal” concept of environment, which “divinizes” fauna and flora. We lift up our eyes to Heaven, so that we may learn the Universe’s laws; we refuse to become victims of Gaia, a vindictive goddess who takes revenge for every human deed.

The Ateneo Pontificio Regina Apostolorum, along with the Ministero dell’Ambiente, has organized a Master’s Program in Environmental Sciences, which follows an interdisciplinary approach.

It will devote special attention to:

    ·The anthropocentric and integral concept of human development, according to the best philosophical and theological tradition of the Catholic Church.

    · The study and practice of the most advanced techniques that science and technology make available to environmental problem solving.

    · The economic and civil progress of nations in accord to the best principles of integral human development. Such principles consist in fostering the possibilities of human beings, as far as their person, dignity and work is concerned.

What lectures, subjects and contents are offered?

In the academic year 2003-2004, we are offering six modules. They are presented below, each one with the titles of the related lectures and seminars.

  • Anthropology: The relationship between Man and environment: philosophy and history.
  • When Man worshipped nature: The origin of pagan religions.
  • Overcoming of pantheistic and polytheistic religions.
  • Man, environment and the Abrahamitic religions (Hebraism, Christianity and Islam).
  • Modern pantheism, the Charter of the Earth.
  • Young people's culture, New Age and Neo-paganism.
  • The Animalism: history and nature of a fundamentalist ideology.
  • Environmentalism and neo-paganism in the new young people's culture.
  • Feminism, ecologism and birth control.
  • Man and the custody of Creation: the Biblical teaching.
  • The protection of the environment in John Paul II's magisterial teaching.
  • Module 2: Science and Technology

    • History of scientific innovations and contributions to environmental problem solving.
    • Evaluation of scientific contributions to human progress.
    • Cultural and environmental impact of scientific and technological innovations.
    • Agriculture, chemistry and pollution.
    • Biotechnologies and transgenics: The importance of an evergreen revolution.
    • Climatic variations and greenhouse effect.
    • Energetic development between metropolitan legends and scientific reality.
    • Electromagnetic fields and their danger for health.
    • Typology and main sources of electromagnetic radiations.
    • Physical characterization of electromagnetic radiations and assessment of possible causes of electromagnetic pollution.
    • "The mad cow": spongiform encephalopaties in animals and in man.
    • Technologic development and scientific information.
    • Order and development of biologic processes.
    • Nutrition and protection of vegetable organisms.
    • Pollens, allergies and phyto-sanitary control.
    • Public health and pollution.
    • Space technology and environmental protection.
    • History of climatic changes, variations in the atmosphere.
    • Meteorology, data collection and investigation method.
    • Antarctic Geography and its influence on climate.
    • Geology and proper use of soil.

    Module 3: Economy and Environment.

    • The environment from being a problem to being a resource.
    • Failure of T.R. Malthus’ theories.
    • Utilitarism, bounds and drifts. >From Jeremy Bentham to Peter Singer.
    • From human capital to the social doctrine of the Church.
    • Industrial revolution and globalization. Advantages and drawbacks.
    • Economic analysis and solution of major environmental problems related to energy, transportation, commerce and industry.
    • Liberal economic doctrine and protection of the environment.
    • Shortage and abundance of resources.
    • Food availability and population growth.
    • Economic growth, demography and environmental impact.
    • Sustainability, conditions and needs of development.
    • Industrial activities and environmental development.
    • Development economy and environmental protection.
    • Waste processing: from being a problem to being a resource.
    • Industry and environment: advantages and limits.
    • Unsustainability of underdevelopment.
    • Underdevelopment and environment.
    • Sustainable development and human rights.
    • Environmental impact of buildings and roads.
    • Bioarchitecture and Christian Humanism.
    • Architecture and respect for the environment.

    Module 4: Bioethics and environmental issues

    • Bioethics, animal and vegetable biotechnologies.
    • Vegetable immunizations and second-generation biotechnologies.
    • Xenotransplant ethics.
    • Notes on animal clonation.
    • Animal engineering: technical purposes, possible risks and benefits.
    • Vegetable biotechnologies, ethical remarks.
    • Environmental impact of animal breeding.
    • History of animal breeding for human feeding purposes and the “mad cow” disease.
    • Ethics and environment, the role and concept of man.

    Module 5: Legislation, Rights and Jurisprudence.

    • Fundamentals of environmental legislation.
    • European and Italian legislation.
    • Epistemological bases of environmental Law.
    • Industry and environmental legislation.
    • Consumers’ Associations and quality of life.
    • Human rights and animal rights.
    • Patents and Patent regulations on biotechnologies: ethical and legal aspects.
    • G.M.O.: International and European legislation.
    • V.I.A. (Assessment of Environmental Impact).
    • Environmental consulting for productive activities.

    Module 6: Environment, information and the mass- media.

    • Scientific knowledge and public information.
    • Environment: the grossest errors in its evaluation.
    • Energy and information.
    • Analysis of information sources through the internet.
    • Accidents, risks and catastrophism.
    • Environment and ecological disasters .
    • Scientific-Medical Information Observatory.
    • Radiations: Between fears and certainties.
    • Professional Correctness and Scientific Information.

    And also:

    • Websites about the environment.
    • Computer-Lab work-sessions.
    • Experimental research projects.
    • Internships, International meetings and on-field demos.

    Monday, June 12, 2006


    Hello! I hope to be starting this blog soon, it will contain musings regarding environmental science and Catholicism, a combination of the two, and interesting adventures in Rome (and the process of getting there!). The development of all of this is still in the process in my mind, so hang in there with me! :)