Moving Rapidly towards a Green New Deal
America and the world must move forward in order to prevent an impending climate change catastrophe. A very positive approach is for our country to do what some term a "Green New Deal." Most readers are not old enough to remember when young unemployed and eager people were hired in the 1930s to do a variety of infrastructure building projects and other services throughout the country. Many of these projects (roads, bridges, parks, dams and other facilities) still stand in proud testimony to what started as "make" work but became a solid investment in the nation's future. The "New Deal" was Franklin D. Roosevelt's approach to getting the nation moving again due to the paralyzing Great Depression; by many measures it was highly successful --though FDR had detractors.
What is the battle plan today? Our crisis today is more severe than during the Great Depression, for the very vitality of the planet is at stake, and a major contributor has been our own nation's overuse of fossil fuel resources. Severe human-induced climate change calls for retiring fossil fuel (petroleum, coal and natural gas) sources as well as unsafe and aging nuclear energy sources; in place of retired facilities will be a complete substitution by a healthy mix of renewable sources, energy efficiency measures and a safer electricity distributing system. The renewable energy sources include intermittent solar and on- and off-shore wind farms as well as a steady supply of expanded hydro and geothermal sources. Some additional biomass and further researched and developed tidal and hydrogen fuel sources will be brought on-line over time.
Are there additional sub-programs? Added to this increase in renewable electricity generation must be an emphasis on energy efficiency that could actually decrease the need for additional facilities, especially if electric rates are adjusted for certain uses during non-peak load periods. A system of rapid electric auto-charging stations being built by public and private means must be accelerated. Furthermore, storage and use of longer-term batteries have a valuable future with a certain amount of government development funding. The national energy grid is both in need of longer range improvement and a sub-set of microgrids that would prove quite healthy in times of natural or human-induced emergency.
Will this work be public or private? The simple answer is that it could be both, but the government must take a leading role in catalyzing the introduction because of the centralized nature of the Green New Deal. Grid systems and interlocking energy sources need coordination that is beyond the purview of individual private investors. Localized grid systems could be of interest to the local communities, but energy independent military bases, health facilities and transportation networks go beyond private capabilities. The local, state and regional governments that are now making strides in renewable energy application must be complemented in both research and development by strong Federal activity; this is unfortunately lacking today.
Are we willing as a nation? The polls indicate strong across the board support by upwards to 80% of ethnic, age, educational and political groups with a stronger support by more progressive, educated and younger components of the population. The majority support was needed for Roosevelt's New Deal and the same can be said here. While the program is American in organization and goal, still it must be part of a collaborative global effort, which in theory has the general support of the community of nations. The main opposition is from the fossil fuel industry with a receding but still powerful wealth base that sees any movement towards renewables as leading to its own demise. Confronting the superrich influence within Republican Party circles is a challenge as to whether rapid bi-partisan support is forthcoming. Much depends on needed leadership of the unpredictable Administration.
Who will pay for the Green New Deal? Practicality is very important; "all taxpayers" is too simple an answer. Growing national endebtedness demands that conservation be sought in governmental expenses, especially the three-quarters-of-a-trillion- dollar U.S. military budget (more than the next four or so nations' combined budgets). The military is meant for global security and this advance into energy sustainability and independence is certainly a security issue and should consider current military funds. A second source is that all vehicle users pay for using the road infrastructure: electric cars with no gasoline tax bill deserve to also pay for road maintenance; increased federal road taxes are really a sound investment. Furthermore, closing out of the fossil fuel system could include a carbon tax as well as the transfer of current tens of billions in fossil fuel subsidies to the renewable energy economy. Lastly, part of improving the grid system could continue to be met in part by electricity surcharges.
What are the expected results? The most obvious longest range objective is the control on climate change through a renewable energy economy. A more proximate goal is to have a safe and economic energy system that will allow for the most rapid transfer from fossil fuels to renewables both in electric generation and in replacement of the petroleum-fueled transportation system. Due to its current interlocking vulnerabilities, the current national grid system could be damaged or destroyed by sabotaged operations or some extreme weather or accidental mishap.
Is this program doable? A nation that sponsored the New Deal, that made the atomic bomb, and that initiated an expanded space program is quite capable of a "Green New Deal;" this would include expanded renewable energy sources and their safe distribution, a workable type of "Interstate Energy Network." The system would cut carbon dioxide emissions to near zero by mid-century and thus in tandem with European, Asian and global renewable efforts curb the rise of global temperature to within acceptable limits. In order to be effective this Green New Deal must start very soon. Will it?
Corallorhiza odontorhiza. Harlan Co., KY.
February 1, 2019 Take and Receive Abundant Blessings
Through the intercession of Saint Blaise, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you from every disease of the throat and from every other illness, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. (Blessing on St. Blaise's Day)
Once a year on February 3rd we ask a special protection for our continued good health; we realize that we are always subject to mishaps and illnesses that afflict human life in general. Seeking protection through the intercession of the saints is an age-old communal exercise, but more; we place ourselves within God's familial embrace and realize that many blessings are forthcoming.
On Sunday we use a blessing of St. Blaise who was a fourth century Armenian bishop, but little is known about his life. Legend has it that Blaise saved the life of a boy with a fish bone stuck in his throat, the son of a woman who brought food and candles to him while he was imprisoned for his faith. That gesture of good will extends to us today.
Why is this the most popular blessing in this country and in many Christian communities worldwide? Part of this phenomenon is due to the deep-seated practice that goes back to the eighth century. People have always had a fear of sudden diseases and life-threatening accidents that can occur either to themselves or to loved ones when least expected. Choking from food is always a great fear, for we know of cases in restaurants and hear how people save others from death through quick action. We desire protection from such accidents -- and from such diseases as a flu virus that could strike with dramatic suddenness. Calling on the saints can be a public sign of the constant need for divine providence and heavenly assistance.
Rather than hoping that this blessing goes by the wayside of "progress," it may be better that blessings be extended to others. One person, a Baptist, observed that a female Catholic soldier always blesses the Humvees in Iraq. Someone asked him why he awaited her blessing. He said that he noted that all the blessed vehicles returned, and he knew a good thing when he saw it. Certainly, that answer borders on the superstitious, but it also includes the acknowledgment that blessings help us all find the Divine Providence so necessary for ordinary daily living. The world would be a better place, if more blessings were asked and more given. We are part of a needy family that could use the spiritual and moral support of others, especially those who have accomplished the journey of life and are crowned with victory and sainthood.
Prayer: Lord, we seek your special protection, especially in times of epidemics and troubles. Guard us and help us to do your will. Give us good companions to help us on our journey of life, and open our eyes to look out for blessings given and opportunities to give blessings in return.
February 2, 2019 Candles and Other Energy Sources
A camdle, used as supplemental evening light.
Each year on Candlemas Day we are carried back to the rich tradition of using candles for special events and seasons: birthday candles, altar candles, candles at Baptism, Advent candles, blessed candles lit during storms, dinner candles, candelabra, Christmas wreath candles, and on and on. We realize that the light of a candle (candle power) is quite small, and yet this flame has been satisfactory as a source of light for generations of our ancestors.
Along with the various types of candles are a host of associated emotions: commitment, anticipation, protection, conviviality, solemnity, and intimacy to name but a few. Candles when lit symbolize enlightenment in a special way. "Light a candle; don't curse the darkness." Enlightenment gives us direction on our way and light by which to read. Although candles are a weak source of illumination, they are strong symbols of how we ought to act. However, candles have some inherent weaknesses that we ought to recall:
Candles are expensive. Conservative candle users limit the time in which they allow them to burn. In former times, the differences in the ordinary monetary offering for a "low" Mass (two candles) and that of a "high" Mass (six candles) were partly based on candle costs. Remember blessed candles used in such services were made from beeswax -- and that can be expensive. So are modern sources of energy costly, especially if we are to choose nuclear power operations at price tags of six billion dollars and rising per powerplant, along with uncalculated additional environmental costs. "Clean" coal demands more and more taxpayer money as well.
Candles are dangerous. One cringes to think that the Swedish girls would wear rings of lit candles on St. Lucy's Day, or Germanic folks may light candles at the Christmas tree (heavens forbid). All too often, candles have been left burning after a meal or services, with some drastic results. Thus certain energy sources are dangerous, even when forgetting the dangers to the environment associated with fossil or nuclear fuel sources.
Candles are temperamental. I recall the process of the unsteady hand (my own) attempting to light or extinguish candles at the high altar using a taper-holding device. Candles can easily topple or drip or fail to catch, or their wick can get buried in the molten wax; sometimes they fail to start. Similarly, many renewable energy sources seem perfect, and then the clouds block the sun and the winds cease blowing when energy is needed.
Candles are finite. They can give only so much light. All energy sources are finite whether in the materials and finances needed to install or in the resulting useful energy produced. Conservation is part of proper energy use of whatever type.
Prayer: Lord, as the light of day extends, help us to bless the light You give us to help find our way in this finite world.
Appreciating the warming rays of sunlight on a very cold February day.
February 3, 2019 Support Hometown Prophets
Hometown folks are not necessarily hostile; they simply know us well -- or at least think they do. In fact, my hometown is a wonderful and beautiful place to which I enjoy returning when time permits. However, Jesus leads us to discover there is a way of looking at a "hometown prophet" through an honesty that many of us shrink away from for a host of reasons: a hometowner's perceived lack of credibility; known past indiscretions on the part of that individual; a perception that the individual is no better than the stay-at-homes or is still immature; and a familiarity that breeds contempt.
Why did the talk by Jesus raise such ire in his hometowners? Remember, he is really saying that the home place is not privileged, but that salvation and concern reach out to all people of good will, not the audience alone. What Jesus challenges is the special privilege of the home place or culture or social status, and he points out to residents that the hometown qualities actually extend to a broader range of people. His examples are that Elijah, the prophet, was sent to a widow in Zaraphath in the land of Sidon; Elisha, the prophet, cleansed Naaman the Syrian. Salvation is for all, and local loyalties are best served by sending some of the town's sons and daughters out to other places. That message is difficult for some (the prophets) to make and many (the residents) to understand and accept.
Loyalty is best served when the local people support their own in giving to a greater world that which they cherish so much. This may be asking much, but there is more. Some are better able to give what we cherish and to do so without referring back to the hometown. Generosity is demanded on the part of all and that is often wanting. The hometown prophet is saying far more than the average resident wants to give or share with others -- and this may result in criticism -- or even violence shown to the one going forth. Those who stay at home may resist the ones going away and speaking. "They don't speak for me," is one refrain. But in fact, prophets could be moved to speak for the home place, for it will make life easier for them who leave. All of us owe something to the community from whence we came.
If we do not support those sent, we will be opposing them at least implicitly. Negativity hurts. Giving moral support allows the hometown to be part of the process. Just as in the athletic or entertainment fields, the pride in a hometown son or daughter is an affirming gesture, so ought it be for prophets as well. Certainly some folks go off the deep end, and the hometowners must make the proper distinctions. But there are many who do not have home support when it is highly needed. Let universal love take effect here; extend love to all, not just a select few.
Prayer: Lord, help us to see the good in those near and far, and discourage us from disparaging those who strive to do good.
February 4, 2019 Commit Yourself to Ongoing Education
Experiencing a calming effect of water in motion. Carp River, MI.
Let's resolve to continue our ongoing education until the time we die -- and perhaps that will continue eternally as well.
Remaining a student in some fashion is needed for the creative person, who learns new fields, better techniques, and a deepening spirituality throughout life. Each of us should refuse to allow ourselves to sink into a regime of ball games and inane television shows; we must stay active, read more and reflect on what we have gathered in and assimilated. However, speaking in generalities has limits. Concretely, how do I continue my ongoing education?
Here individuals differ considerably. Some professionals demand current improved techniques (surgery, horticulture, computer programming etc.), and thus ongoing education may invite further awareness and experience. But many fields and methods may not require assembling in one location to interact with an expert. First, transmission methods allow for Internet or television access and thus avoid the time -- and energy-consuming travel -- that becomes more difficult with aging. One admits that social intercourse in a one-on-one situation is most helpful in many educational pursuits. However, many of us receive education through personal research, reflection, and reading or accessing information in various ways; we prefer to work on our own.
The educational institutional racket is deeply ingrained in professional educational demands -- but is it the last word? Colleges and universities prefer to offer courses and increase paid enrollment in many fields. But for some people this is not the venue of their own growth in knowledge. Why should one go to a lecture that could be seen or heard on video- or audiotapes or found in literature tackled at one's leisure? What makes it better to go long distances and endure unfamiliar lodging when the same could be acquired in one's home at far less cost? Even personal conversation -- a major learning device -- could be done via teleconferencing, phoning, or the use of Skype.
As long as my eyesight and hearing permit, I am committed to reading a host of books and periodicals, as well as material on the Internet and listening to serious programs on the radio. I do not get much from most face-to-face lecture session, and would far rather read what the gifted lecturer has written. When we consider that note-taking in academic institutions during the Middle Ages was popular, because materials and literature were extremely difficult and costly to acquire, we question the same lecture method today. This is especially true when considering professional education. Just as a mature person need not make a "preached" retreat, if the Spirit moves him or her otherwise, so a mature professional person ought to choose the method of ongoing education as well as the amount of a given subject matter.
Prayer: Holy Spirit, continue to inspire us to continue the learning process, for this defines us as willing to grow and mature throughout our mortal life.
Weak sun through overcast.
February 5, 2019 Realize That Weather Can Be Intrusive
On Weatherman's Day, let's consider that each of us is to be a "weatherperson," not just certain gifted or TV-friendly and presentable individuals. Today, on venturing outside we want to know exactly what is happening weatherwise. Will winter let up today? Are there any new signs of spring? We may return and check the weather maps on the Internet, television or newspaper; we listen to weather reports when planning trips. If a storm front is coming, we prepare for it, or postpone the travel for safety's sake. With each passing year as meteorological science becomes more sophisticated, weather maps are more accurate and predictable. The maps tell us the patterns of the next few days with reasonable accuracy -- and we tend to pay closer attention before confronting tomorrow's "elements."
Some of us experience mood changes when the barometer takes a sudden dip -- and with time we learn that our important life decisions must take weather into account. We weather-sensitive people should not decide important matters when the barometer is low or changing --- and perhaps ought to refrain from decisions when temperatures are too low or high (this century has already had over a dozen record high summer temperatures). Know exactly what the environmental conditions are when choosing important life-altering actions. Each morning I go outdoors just to get a "feel" as to what the day is to be like (yes, my outdoors inspection says it will snow today as this is being written). Farmers make daily decisions for planting and harvesting based on immediate weather conditions -- along with moon signs.
I doubt whether the home-bound or those working within their homes are as interested in weather as those who must journey to work, study, worship or play. Even the home-bound must go to the doctor and want to know about today's or tomorrow's road conditions. Weather enters into our scheduling of events. What if that rare trip is slated for next weekend, but a major storm is expected -- and cancellations and delays could be reasonably expected? Think ahead; we can't change the weather, but we can change our weather-dependent activities. In the past, the word "journey" involved hardships, and this condition has never completely disappeared, even though travel is more comfortable than in times of stagecoaches and sailing ships.
Longer range weather predictions as to how cold the rest of winter will be or how hot we may anticipate this coming summer being are somewhat problematic -- even for the professional forecaster. Those who guess by wooly worm color bands or the thickness of animal coats or groundhog shadows are about right half the time -- as are the rest of us. We need not know that much about the future even though climate change seems here to affects us deeply. Tomorrow will bring weather that we must prepare for.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to be observant to the signs of the heavens as Jesus tells us; help us to plan for what could come.
Rural Kentucky farm in mid-winter. Rowan Co., KY.
February 6, 2019 U.S. Counties with Saints Names
A number of noted major U.S. cities (San Francisco, San Diego, San Antonio, St. Paul and St. Louis) are named after saints, but few of us realize just how many of the over 3100 U.S. counties are so named as well. In fact, if we include Los Angeles (named after the choirs of angels), about one-tenth of the American population resides in counties with saint names.
St. Clair (AL) (IL) (MO) named for Gen. Arthur St. Clair
Santa Cruz (AZ) (CA), St. Croix (WI)
St. Francis (AR), St. Francois (MO), San Francisco (CA)
San Benito (CA)
San Bernardino (CA)
San Diego (CA)
San Joaquin (CA)
San Luis Obispo (CA)
San Mateo (CA)
Santa Barbara (CA)
Santa Clara (CA), St. Clair (MI)
San Juan (CO) (NM) (UT) (WA)
San Miguel (CO) (NM)
St. Johns (FL)
St. Lucie (FL)
Santa Rosa (FL)
St. Joseph (IN) (MI)
St. Bernard (LA)
St. Charles (LA) (MO)
St. Helena (LA)
St. James (LA)
St. John the Baptist (LA)
St. Landry (LA)
St. Martin (LA)
St. Mary (LA), St. Mary's (MD)
St. Tammany (LA)
St. Louis (MN) (MO), St. Louis City (MO)
Ste. Genevieve (MO)
Santa Fe (NM)
St. Lawrence (NY)
St. Augustine (TX)
St. Jacinto (TX)
St. Patricio (TX)
St. Saba (TX)
Three entries are for an early general named St. Clair; two are for Holy Cross and one for Holy Faith (not persons); one additional county (Ventura in CA) is abbreviated for St. Bonaventure. "St. Tammany" was not a canonized saint and maybe not a Christian, but a Native American leader from Colonial times known for his kindness.
Prayer: Lord, may all the saints be respected and praised.
Scenes from an afternoon hike. Meade Co., KY.
February 7, 2019 The Poor Will Rise and Bring Change
Happy those who hunger and thirst for what is right;
they shall be satisfied. (Matthew 5:6)
Is it safer to be silent about our discontent, or ought we to begin to spell out our feelings in a special way? Our discontent involves both the current "free market" economy and the gurus who promote it and intimidate us to be silent about the system's weaknesses (joblessness, undervalued resources, greed, and unjust tax patterns). Since we can change the world faster and more profoundly through blessings than through curses, let us attempt a positive spin on what lies ahead -- not cursing the possible darkness that could envelop this world. Here are positive elements that are emerging:
The poor will rise. The less-wealthy nations are realizing power in uniting and in rejecting the colonial "divide and conquer" approach of past ages. In union is strength. Demanding financial support in times of global climate change is simply asking those who promoted wastefulness to pay for what went wrong -- the temporary effects of industrial greed and privilege. The demand that they are not to continue in their wrongdoing but to make recompense for the after- effects of wrongdoing in the past is a Christian and just demand.
Affluence is exposed as impoverishing. This impoverishment works in several ways. Excessive wealth used for consumer goods impoverishes our Earth by excessive draining of resources that are needed for meeting the essential demands of the poor; affluence impoverishes the spiritual yearnings of individuals by turning them into budding materialists; and affluence makes practitioners selfish and insensitive to the needs of others. Yes, affluence is bad example for those aspiring to imitate the rich and wealthy.
Changes will come quickly. A world of rapid communication has a way of hastening the demand for justice; the Internet is catalytic. What is lacking among so many cannot go unnoticed with television cameras and microphones. People cry out and we hear the cry of the poor, for we are Christ's ears. We must challenge social acquiescence or consent without protest. Injustice needs exposure so that, with pure hearts, justice can be established by those taking power into their own hands.
Just taxes are required. In Kentucky, the top wealthy one percent has the lowest tax rates in our commonwealth; many of our taxes are quite regressive and affect the poor in the hardest way -- and our state is not alone. Not only are current tax systems unjust, they impoverish all by cutting educational, health and public service benefits. "No new taxes" is a propaganda slogan heavily shouted by those who ought to pay their fair share.
Prayer: Oh God, Source of all justice, inflame our hearts so that we might help bring justice to a world in need.
Startling 2018 Climate Change Reports
In our weekly essays on America's environmental situation we find that the recent efforts to avoid a global catastrophe by the end of the century is stalled. Authentic spirituality demands that one clearly understand where we are as well as what we ought to do. The fact is now evident: anticipated annual decline in CO2 emissions did not occur last year. In raw fact, these carbon dioxide emissions that result in the greenhouse effect and rising global temperatures ROSE sharply during 2018 by 3.4% in the United States and 2.7% globally. What has happened? American and world economies were fair to good and energy needs grew faster than total fossil fuels being replaced by emerging renewable energy sources.
The U.S. is one of the top three global CO2 carbon dioxide emitters due to very high industry, transportation and electrical generation; the first two areas rose last year with transportation the leading polluting section for the third year in a row. The conversion to natural gas and renewables by the power sector showed an expected emissions decline; however, the conversion to a renewable energy economy has had some road blocks and did not fully offset increased uses of jet and diesel fuel for industry and especially transportation (air, land and water) energy use. Robust economic activity was partly to blame along with increases in travel, air conditioning, electronic device use, and a host of other consumer demands for fossil fuels. Coal continued its decline but replacement by so-called "clean" natural gas does not mean freedom from CO2 emissions as much as less other coal associated emissions. We are not substituting for fossil fuels fast enough by commercially competitive wind and solar energy applications.
The community of about 200 nations (all except the U.S.) are committed to the Paris Climate Change Accord, which is to be more fully implemented during 2019. Will the U.S., as the president threatens, drop out of collaboration or by some unexpected change of heart join the rest of the world? If it is of any comfort, the global CO2 emissions' increases were lower than those of the U.S. But let's be honest, all the world is making higher energy demands. When in 2015 the Accord was signed, the expectation was that continuous declines of a sizeable degree must be forthcoming to avoid the 2100 catastrophe of more frequent extreme weather events, rising ocean levels, and submerged low-lying areas where hundreds of millions of the poor have their homes.
The slower than expected efforts at the process of decarbonization is resulting in still higher conservation goals needed this year and for the next decade. This means a shrinking time exists before the upper limits goal of 2 degree Celsius increase (over pre-industrial global climate levels) is exceeded. All the while we are reminded that 2018 was the fourth hottest year on record following El-Niño-affected 2016 (the hottest on record) and 2017 and 2015 second and third. The anticipated heat of this coming summer should inspire us to become even more conservative.
An authentic spirituality calls for both recognition of the fact that we are not meeting goals and a resolve to improve the performance for the sake of offspring in 2100. A wholesome variety of individual, corporate and governmental efficiency and renewable energy implementation measures are the only answer. This must be catalyzed by a call for a global emergency of which all (not some) nations must respond. The voluntary cutting of expenditures by individuals in a selfish society will most likely not have tangible results, if bad effects are not experienced by consumers in their lifetimes; corporate voluntary cutting has had some effects through money-savings and good publicity; the individual addition of domestic solar is occurring, but could be accelerated by tax incentives that are not forthcoming. The greatest possibility for success is that all levels of government (and especially the federal level) support all types of renewable energy and efficiency applications ASAP. The climate must be one of critical emergency.
Foremost in our focus ought to be to persuade Congress to undertake a bipartisan effort at launching a "Green New Deal" as was discussed last week. Make your feelings heard. Rapid increases in energy conservation measures and reduced fossil fuel use could occur through improved lighting, auto efficiency, grid and energy storage improvement, off- and on-shore wind farms, domestic and corporate solar applications, geothermal energy expansion and tidal and hydro source R & D. These are some of the basic components of a proposed Green New Deal.
We need to be reminded once more that urgency has been shown by recent high-level international documents as well as the fourth national climate assessment report mandated by Congress in November 2018. All show the seriousness of the situation, but our president unfortunately failed to read or comprehend the seriousness of the situation. Is he functionally illiterate? Instead, this Administration has chosen to associate with Big Energy merchants of doubt who want to maximize fossil fuel profits as long as possible. Furthermore, the captive Environmental Protection Agency proposes to relax rules on coal-fueled power plants and to abolish the Obama-era Clean Power Plan. At the same time efforts are being made by the Interior Department to open 9 million acres of closed lands in Texas and elsewhere to oil exploration. Instead of focus on shifting to renewable energy this current Administration to world amazement is expanding fossil fuel development.
At the recent G-20 meeting in Argentina the U.S. insisted that it was withdrawing completely from the Paris Climate Change Accord. The Trump denial of any climate change problem and it counter measures, along with regarding science community findings as "fake" is quite disconcerting. Is this attitude in defiance to world opinion a Crime against Humanity and solid grounds for impeachment of the current president?
Half-eaten morel mushroom (Morchella).
February 8, 2019 Healing Earth and Need for Regulations
For those of us who are seeking to heal the Earth we look to other healing professionals and find that without some form of regularity the healing cannot occur. The same applies for the planet itself, which today is threatened by climate change -- a challenge the likes have never been seen before. More to the point, the healing is not a hit-and-miss operation, nor can it be achieved by a voluntary regime that allows some to become deeply serious and still others such as the United States to opt out if all the conditions are not suitable.
Healing involves knowing the cause and seriousness of an illness, remaining in isolation to avoid harming others, and taking measures needed for healing. We cannot expect miracles to cure what we have caused through deliberate neglect or thoughtlessness. We are not to pollute air through some sort of "right to pollute" and then expect God to right the wrong we have done or are continuing to do. We must realize our harm, ask forgiveness, and take corrective measures. We need adequate regulations.
Wrongdoing towards our wounded Earth includes: pollution of air and water, excessive emission of carbon dioxide, salination and erosion of fertile land, and toxic contamination of land through use of pesticides and industrial chemicals. Glaciers are melting; oceans are starting to rise, and extreme weather events are increasing in frequency. We assure ourselves that technical remedial measures exist and that we can move to higher ground and build higher sea walls in a future time.
Some may suggest paying for added climate change expenses through a tax on the savings that shipping companies make by using the shortcut of an ice-free Northwest Passage. Far-fetched? However, climate change realistically could be reduced through some practical measures suggested at the Paris Climate Change Accord: renewable energy and efficiency measures; transparency in programs to cut pollution; and giving a value to forests, thereby compensating poorer nations for reducing and eliminating deforestation (currently causing 20% of climate change emissions). However, few openly question a consumption-based economy that is the root cause of these environmental problems.
Do citizens, especially affluent ones, have the will to change? Certainly some people want to simplify their lives, become more energy efficient, and replace fossil fuels with renewable energy sources. However, the critical question is: what about Chinese, Indians and others who want cars, spacious homes, electrical appliances, and more meat and processed foods? What if two billion more want to be like Americans? Doesn't a free society demand a radical sharing of responsibilities? Are we willing to join with others and do this? Will we accept regulations?
Prayer: Lord, teach us to act as a community and curb the excesses that harm our Earth, and take the needed remedial steps.
Pipsissewa, Chimaphila maculata, wintergreen. Powell Co., KY.
February 9, 2019 Look for Proper Financial Controls
Our economy is connected with our environment; to expect those of us engaged in seeking to heal our wounded Earth to refrain from being critical of the economic system that encourages wasteful consumption is out of the question. Citizens can and must regulate and reconstruct the economic system in which they must live and thrive -- and this is to be part of a new renewable energy economy. The question is not one of patchwork regulations for a corrupt system involving banks and financial institutions outside the law; regulations ought to be directed to confronting economic illness with authentic healing. Some desired regulations include:
Break up the banks: The old economic ways are simply not good enough: "Too big to fail" is failure; the truth is "Failed when too big." Small is more than beautiful; it is far more practical in economic terms. Big banks are unhealthy and damage our democracy. Limit the size to which banks can become.
Limit financial activities: No federally insured banks or institutions should be allowed to engage in reckless speculation.
In reply to the argument that there will always be speculation (and other forms of gambling), the answer is that speculation can be strictly regulated if not abolished so that all will be safe.
Limit pay levels: Why should some in this world have a "right to wealth" while others do not have enough to live on? Every effort should be made on the part of authentic government to avoid bonuses for ALL, for there are other more healthy incentives for doing one's work very well. Coaches could make university football salaries; they simply should not be allowed to keep them.
Prohibit derivatives and exotic financial instruments that are not related to the common good and defy normal regulation. Why can such economic game play even be allowed in a rational society where many are not properly fed, sheltered, educated and provided with access to health care?
Tax the Rich: Why should the tax burden be on lower income citizens? In Kentucky (and elsewhere) the highest income one percent pays the smallest proportion of taxes. Certainly a speculation tax called for by some is only a start. Most can live well on $100,000; the surplus should be taxed for the needy.
Jail tax cheats and those who slip immense sums of money to overseas tax havens. Apply sanctions to the nations that are tax havens and encourage such illegal transactions; and move in the direction of global sanctions through the United Nations.
Prayer: Lord, we are overcome by a holy anger over what has occurred in our land during the last decade or more. Help us not to be blinded, but through proper legislative action to change a system that threatens to damage or destroy our democracy.
Ice crystals on last year's blackberry leaves.
February 10, 2019 Risking to Do the Lord's Work
Here I am! Send me. (Isaiah 6:1-8)
God sends us as messengers of Good News and yet some do not listen, being distracted by noise all about them. Some excuse themselves for lack of hearing or a false humility; and still some seek to escape the responsibilities directed at them and direct their attention to other business, allurements and distractions. However, the Lord calls, and perceiving this becomes our critical moment. Granted, we are unworthy, we recognize that escape mechanisms are tempting, and we realize that time is short.
In the stillness of winter when the snow falls, dampens outside noises and forces us to stay put, we have a precious moment to stand before God as Isaiah's moment of grace appears. If we are people who thank God in a spirit of ongoing gratitude, we find the gifts given deserve a recognition that goes beyond mere words; the call is to do specific responsible deeds whether these be caregiving to others, fulfilling our current ministry, moving to other fields of service, or allotting free time for the benefit of our needy neighbor. Almighty God is willing to share power with us; we must realize that our deeds are instruments of change.
God calls, gives us the grace to respond, and helps launch us into the deep of those in great need. Excuses seem quite reasonable if we let ourselves "reason" our way out of responsibility. Rather, we must assume the tasks before us; even amid difficulties and risks we are moved to say with Isaiah, "Here I am." When we age we find mobility and surplus energy more challenging; excuses seem to surface with greater frequency. However, we are aware of the risk of each calling and the potential storms that may arise. Jesus calls disciples at the Lake of Galilee; his apostolic call is for them to leave everything and follow him, even to go to distant places. We also receive God's call. "Here" includes Calvary-made-present in our world and "Now" is the present time to act with urgent haste.
God continues to call us over and over. The task ahead is daunting. Jesus says, "Put into the deep water and lower your nets for the catch" (Luke 5:4b). The risk of failure is always present. However, God, who has given us all good gifts, will shower us with the tools to undertake the tasks ahead -- if we but truly trust in divine assistance. By saying "present" to God's unique calling, we launch into the deep and open ourselves to make Christ present to others. But launching involves risk and vulnerability within the turbulent sea of life. Our forebears decided to move out of their homeland security to a new life on these shores. In following the Lord, we see the fruits of our labor as being from God and that success depends on working with the Lord at this time.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to leave the comfortable life, our couch, our nest, our inner room, and move out into the harsher and more uncertain depths. Help each of us to say "Here I am!
Ready for spring's call, a robin's nest.
February 11, 2019 Give Thanks for February's Blessings
If finding a dozen things to be thankful for in January seemed to be a challenge, what about in February? However, here are a few that may tap your own creative wellsprings:
* Lengthening daylight, becoming ever more noticeable with each passing day;
* The dawn's color with its sweeps of gray and blue. Sometimes the red streaks enter and tell us of the weather changes ahead;
* Poetic inspiration that seems to be better suited for this month, maybe because its shortness makes us aware how passing our own mortal lives are -- and how much more we must do today;
* The birthdays of great people born in this month, all of which could deserve some special mention;
* The aroma of wood smoke from the neighboring residences that still burn a renewable resource for heating and cooking;
* The sound of the mourning dove that gives a sense of reunion with the great outdoors and promise of new life;
* The sight of the first robins as they move about the lawn and seem to be shivering from the cold;
* The warm indoors that makes us comfortable and sheltered from the sharp external breezes.
* The first outdoor work opportunity on a sunny day. Things come to mind such as initial spading of the garden plot, planting of the first peas, gathering of fallen tree branches, and grounds' clean-up that was not completed in the autumn;
* The vigor of basketball games of all sorts being played or observed, or the other indoor sports such as racquetball and squash;
* The early flowers -- snowdrops, crocuses, and forsythia bushes (add, in addition, the brave dandelions that give needed color to the raw landscape); and
* An upcoming Lenten time to reflect and meditate with fewer distractions, but with a resolution to enhance our ministry of service to others.
Prayer: Lord, help us during this month of February to always rejoice and give thanks, even when this seems to be a challenge. It is far easier to beg than to thank You for gifts already given, but help us do both in adequate amounts.
Bluejay, Cyanocitta cristata, on a February day.
(*photo by Sally Ramsdell)
February 12, 2019
ODE TO THE FEBRUARY-BORN
When winter extends itself in frosty clime,
and spring won't come, nor poems rhyme.
Such is the shortest month sublime,
but longest, by far, in psychic time.
Sing out winter's final dirge,
Fault the neighbor's mall‑led splurge.
Exercising urge, fasting purge,
Greenhouse starts, when spirits surge.
A birthday rite, a feast of light,
When days get longer, an hour less night.
Hear the mourning dove, bird‑starved delight.
Listen! the tree sap's finding height.
Pouring molasses in January's a chore,
but molasses in February is still slower.
Winter, winter, may it ebb away?
Modest delay, oh fibbing February!
And deep down when I think this month's a crime
I find the finest born came at this time.
There's George, Tom Edison and Honest Abe,
and many years ago, Paul Rothkrug, a babe.*
God made the February‑born doubly great,
for these learned early to smile and wait,
To defer to those who come by late,
to stand for justice in place of hate.
* Dedicated to the late Paul Rothkrug on his birthday, though it could just as easily apply to other February-born.
Prayer: Let us find every month an ideal time for something, and make the best of what we have with each opportunity. There is a time to be born and a time to die, and let us be comfortable with the times that avail themselves for important happenings.
Following coyote tracks after a light winter snow.
February 13, 2019 Is Hunger a Form of Terrorism?
Confronting hunger with an empty stockroom can be a form of terrorism -- with all its raw emotion and trauma. How do we advance food security in a hungry world and do this in a way to distribute justice to all? On unexpected occasions, someone comes to my door needing food for his or her family. I feel that Jesus is visiting me in the form of hungry people, and telling me we cannot be complacent about sharing food with others. We must recognize that God has done great things for us -- and we must share with others. Certainly when opportunities arise, our two parishes have been more than generous, both at holiday times of the year and when people suffer shortages at the end of the months or through some form of mishap such as a house fire.
Annually, parts of the developing world suffers drought that kills livestock and leads to grain shortages and extremely high food prices. Whether a famine will develop later this year cannot be determined as of this date. However, people who indulge in waste of food or luxurious consumption of resource-intensive food materials must reflect on that ultimate judgmental statement: "You did not feed me when I was hungry." Our response that we did not see the Lord hungry is not sufficient. For our own salvation we must see the hungry and do something about it. Otherwise in this sea of hypocrisy we become terrorists.
A simple fact emerges with food shortages and the resulting life-threatening hunger: a person who does not have food tomorrow suffers from a form of terrorism, for to face starvation is to be terrorized. We who are sated with access to quantities of food do not experience this form of terrorism -- only the reaction of the under-employed and hopeless who regard their own contribution to the world as blowing themselves up, a desperate message to a world of haves and have-nots.
We can be inadvertent terrorists; our reaction to terrorism is to kill terrorists by military means. If we hold our cool and look at this realistically, we find that permitting the commons of the world to be apportioned to those with power to "possess" and our never taking measures to remove their wanton surpluses and waste is to become party to terrorism. To allow a world of greed and waste is to terrorize the poor of the world -- and we democratic people, both our nation and as individuals, are held accountable for what we are allowing to happen.
To waste food or to fail to share our surpluses is to participate in the total act of terrorizing the one billion people somewhere in the world today. We do not want to put ourselves into the shoes of the poor African mother with her hungry brood on a dusty road hoping to reach a refugee camp. She is terrorized as starvation stares at her -- and we are all partly to blame.
Prayer: Lord, help us to promote food security at every level possible, so that when we can hear you say we feed you when hungry.
A heart for Valentine's Day.
February 14, 2019 Promote Renewables Now
On Valentine’s Day those who gain our appreciation need special attention. With each passing month, renewable energy sources (wind, solar, geothermal, hydro, biomass, biofuels and tidal) gain increasing attention in our effort to liberate ourselves from fossil fuels. The International Renewable Energy Agency states that all forms of renewables are expected to become cost-competitive with fossil fuels by next year 2020. For instance, the cost of generating power from onshore wind has fallen by a quarter since 2010. Over one-fifth of our electricity sources are now renewable and growing at a moderate but never satisfactory rate.
Renewable energy is cost effective. Both off-shore wind and solar are being influenced by favorable market forces. Solar PV costs are falling by 73% in a decade. Both wind and solar electricity sources can reach the equivalent of 3 cents per kilowatt hour by 2020 whereas in the end of 2017 they stood at double that price. Note that the current cost spectrum for fossil fuel generation ranges from 5-17 cents per kilowatt hour.
Divest from fossil fuel companies. While many of us are not enamored by capitalistic endeavors, still we must confess that this is one arena where renewables have a better chance of winning the battle for acceptance. When fossil fuel lose its privileged Big Energy profiteering, things will change all the faster.
Nuclear power is too costly. This source of electricity is inherently unsafe and comes with unsolved disposal problems. New plants may still cost as much as nine billion dollars each. This is only possible with hidden governmental subsidies, which must bear some of nuclear fuel's costs: waste disposal, added security and insurance against possible major nuclear plant calamity.
Soften the blow of economic transition. When I came to Ravenna in 2004 I could observe seven loaded 110-car coal trains in a railroad switching yard right outside my window. In the year 2017 and 2018 there has not been a single one -- event though coal was touted to be having a comeback. Coal miners need new jobs.
Show that "Clean coal" is a myth. The cost of cleaning up coal emissions far exceeds the cost of generating wind and solar energy -- and the sooner this is understood the better.
Dependence on fossil fuels is temporary. If we put our mind to it, the renewable energy economy could be ushered in far faster. Fracked natural gas is still cheaper than other fossil fuels and is considered more environmentally friendly, but that is disputed if total methane escape effects were evaluated. A combination of various forms of renewables can do the job adequately.
Prayer: Lord, give us the courage to speak out even to those who are in transition; we must begin the process of moving to a new renewable energy economy with deliberate speed.
Travails of National and Global Emergencies
I have an absolute right to declare a National Emergency.
President Trump (January, 2019)
A growing divide between executive and legislative branches of our U.S. government does not bode well for necessary bipartisan teamwork on such critical issues as climate change. In early 2019 we are witnessing the longest partial government shut-down in American history. Bipartisanship is lacking and some blame an uncompromising presidency and others an unworkable Congress. However we assign blame, we need to move beyond as citizens demanding collaboration on the part of our government. We must tackle emergencies and at least one global one exists.
Some preliminary remarks:
* The National Emergencies Act of 1976 (NEA) is a U.S. federal law passed to stop open-ended states of national emergency and formalize the power of Congress to provide certain checks and balances on the emergency powers of the president.
* NEA pronouncements are urgent and require immediate action. Urgency means doing something now and not waiting; solutions demand moving on to proper congressional action. Since NEA began, some 21 declarations have been issued; included are those dealing with the 9-11 attacks under President George W. Bush and the Yemen Middle East crisis under President Obama; both of these emergencies were to be temporary -- but they still exist today with presidential powers continuing to be exercised.
* No national emergency has ever been terminated by Congressional action, though many are well overdue. This failure certainly weakens the separation of powers and permits a president to continue to exert what was meant to be temporary measures.
* Trump has considered the immigration issue and the building of the wall at the Mexican border as a NEA possibility. Is it?
* Republican opposition to Trump's implementing the NEA is based on the possibility that Democrats when in power will use NEA to put forward their environmental agenda.
* Environmentalists view the failure to implement the Paris Climate Change Accord as a global emergency, not simply a national one; this is not a temporary executive action but one taking a decade using cooperative endeavors on all branches of government.
Are our immigration concerns a national emergency? Look at this huddled mass of poor women and children from Central America asking for refugee status at our southern border. Individually, these people have had private emergencies in their homeland and have come seeking an open acceptance as refugees in our welcoming country. The controversy is to whether the president could declare a national emergency and then act (temporarily) in a unilateral fashion to disperse this pitiful mass of humanity. If such a declaration is truly urgent then why the delay? Is this an authentic response, especially since the worrisome drugs and criminals regarded as causing basic troubles enter our country mostly through airports and other points?
Is there a national emergency today? Misuse of NEA and misunderstanding of its actual impact on governance is a matter of grave constitutional concern. In NEA matters, the executive branch makes a pronouncement about a matter of concern and then designates a sub-branch of the Administrative apparatus to address the issue. In the history of national emergencies most have had to do with threatening forces outside of our American borders. The ability to declare authentic emergencies is not an issue; however, a fabricated condition for such an action is. In fact, immigration is not a national emergency issue, but the climate problem is a global emergency deserving both executive and legislative involvement.
Complex situations. The NEA history does not come with a clean bill of health. Failing to work towards a compromise for solution to national problems through the use of NEA as a triggering weapon creates a dangerous precedent. An executive use of NEA due to an urgent situation and no immediate congressional response allows for continuing emergency powers in the hands of the president who can misuse it. Congress alone must initiate longer-term military action, not the president alone. Unfortunately some current members of Congress are urging Trump to implement NEA in building that wall without congressional approval -- a disregard for separation of powers as written into our Constitution. National emergencies can start too soon or last too long.
A global emergency is really before us. The question of whether immigration problems are national emergencies comes at the time of a global emergency (namely climate change) demanding full attention by our government in concert with the rest of the world. Here is an issue beckoning governmental action and yet being overlooked or shelved by lower priority issues that amount to untreated campaign promises. We must distinguish between low priority issues (even though authentic) such as immigration and high priority issues as participating in the Paris Climate Change Accord. Implementing NEA for the wall is bad because it is a political hot potato feeding the ambitions of an autocratically-inclined president; on the other hand, partaking in a global emergency would require globalists working collaboratively.
A gross distraction. The current situation bodes badly for solving climate change issues in 2019. Executive wall construction can confuse solvable immigration problems that heavily overshadow longer-term environmental actions such as implementation of the Paris Climate Change Accord. Immigration reform is something in which most from both parties are actually near agreement -- and this can be solved rapidly to the good of all. The same type of necessary bipartisan participation on the climate change issue will take much longer and not be a temporary fix but a decade long "Green New Deal" approach to launch a renewable energy economy. Through some miracle our current Administration could work with Congress on reforming migration policy; then all parties must move on to a needed global climate change program this year.
The mourning dove, Zenaida macroura.
(*photo by Sally Ramsdell)
February 15, 2019 Celebrate Mourning Doves
One of the great mysteries of my life is that people would ever "hunt" a mourning dove. How could you do such a thing? What is manly -- or womanly -- about killing a dove? Have you ever heard of a dove killing a human being? That is sure to give me a comment about a car crash in which an unfortunate dove came through the windshield.
The mourning dove's call was first heard this year in a very distinct way. I used to think that the dove call was a February harbinger of spring (February 3, 2012), but with the effects of global warming we find that it is now a January call. If we search a little deeper, we may discover that the dove is calling us to beware of both good and bad effects of any climate change that is surely upon us -- and will be even more serious if steps are not taken in light of the Paris Climate Change Accord.
Dove pairs have a love and fidelity to each other. We find them along the road hunting, hurrying about, and gathering food together. Cooing together is that sign of love as found in the Song of Songs -- and the turtle dove. This seems to be a match where the parties need to work together throughout the operation.
The dove is not an exotic bird, and so is a simple gift from our Creator to us. In times past, poor folks presented doves as a sacrificial offering in the Temple; Mary and Joseph offered these birds at the formal presentation of Jesus. In some ways, the dove symbolizes simplicity and presents itself as a gift worthy of being offered back to God.
The dove is a sign of peace. We recall that the dove brought back the olive branch to Noah and the ark community as a signal that the flood had ended. The dove together with many other birds and living creatures reminds us that we need to have peace with all creation and not make war against Earth herself.
Doves can bring rejoicing. Yes we are preparing for Lent but are asked to rejoice for the Easter that is to follow, and so mourning is short-lived as we learn from this dove. We know the sound of weeping but such can be for sorrow or joy -- or a combination of both. Cooing can sound mournful or joyful according to one's interpretation. Thus a true celebration has the elements of what has passed before, and of what is to come.
Mourning doves trigger us to act. Spring is now before us and there is work to do. The dove teaches us to celebrate in little ways so that we can have a longer-term celebration later.
Prayer: Lord, let each creature be our teacher, and allow us the precious time to reflect upon the quality that each has to offer us, so by being enriched by simple creatures, we are better able to embellish the Good News we give to others.
Bamboo, nurtured through winter's chill.
February 16, 2019 Salvation For All Demands Radical Sharing
Climate change if left unchecked could make life unbearable on our planet. If we as global citizens are willing to bring about a new renewable energy economy, we must take proper steps -- and risk doing daring things. Developed nations, including the United States, which contributed more than its portion to the excess greenhouse gas emissions, must be willing to contribute a fair share of the needed funds for conversion by developing countries. The one hundred billion dollars per year in the 2020s is proper and just. "Salvation involves us all” and an isolationist stance like an America First outlook does not embrace such a view.
However to understand and champion this universal outlook is itself a privilege of grace. They say "hindsight" is an exact science. We do look to history for possibilities as how to act now. The Lord has given us a glimpse as to what lies just beyond the horizon, but to reach that goal ahead of an emerging renewable energy economy takes effort. In Luke 4:21-30, Jesus' message turns an astonished hometown audience into an enraged one. Jesus does not cater to the hometown audience as though they are privileged to dictate how to act or what to say. Expanding one's consciousness to the outsiders takes a broader perspective. For selfish people, thinking globally is to diminish local privilege. Jesus speaks directly to the heart of the matter; he never minces words; his heart goes out to people in distant places well beyond the area his immediate ministry.
Does saving all mean sharing limited resources with people throughout the world? Yes, all are to be saved, not just our own folks. Increasingly, in recent world conferences, differences in rich/poor viewpoints have become more pronounced. Do we preserve high consumption rates among a few? Or do we share health, food and other benefits with the great masses? Just as it was risky for Jesus to deliver his message two thousand years ago, so a prophetic voice calling for the saving of all is needed today. Silence is not always golden. One must share, and that means turning from luxuries to essentials for others. We are anointed by the oils of Baptism to be a prophetic people, and that means we should not remain silent. Speak, even if such provokes violent responses.
People in local communities and parishes are asked to share radically with others. One parish in Tennessee changed its building program and assisted a poor parish in Haiti. Some individuals curb their food budgets in order to share with people in India. In speaking of a prophetic outward vision, one must challenge those who hear or read these words. Where is the need the greatest? Are people hungry for Christ in our local county or community? How do we go out to all the world except through this radical sharing with them from our surpluses?
Prayer: Lord teach us to proclaim the need to share radically with our neighbor and to encourage others to do the same; help us see that this is a necessity today.
Colorful bract fungus.
February 17, 2019 Blessed Are the Poor
Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours.
Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied.
In this Year of St. Luke's Gospel, note how often the poor are mentioned: the infancy narratives, temptation of Jesus, Good Samaritan, Lazarus and the rich man, hard saying to Pharisees and others, and even Jesus' initial proclamation of his mission to his home town audience; the refrain continues throughout and even through Luke's companion volume, The Acts of the Apostles.
Homily-givers are tempted to say what is pleasing and soothing. "Why bite the hand that feeds you?" Is the homily meant to increase our popularity, or does spiritual leadership demand more? We can deny our privileges, excuse ourselves as doing some things with the poor, or simply escape to other issues. But face it: Americans are privileged with special gifts: national security, good roads (even if needing improvement), health care systems, educational facilities, a secure food system, adequate potable water, instant communications systems, and on and on. As privileged with many gifts, we must see gifts as serious responsibilities, opportunities to share, and as resources to respect and use properly. But this is not enough for a homily.
While the collective people are blessed, does this extend to the poor in our midst? We recall that the poor who suffer often have a sense of gratitude for the simple gifts given; the poor are often more receptive to seeing that they could have been overlooked and yet are somehow remembered. Some sufferers do not have such a grace of insight, and yet intuitively they know that comfort awaits them in a blessed future. Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose hope is the Lord (Jeremiah 17:5-8). While the poor as a group includes imperfect people who can be conniving, subservient, deceitful and even greedy, still a sizeable number are trusting in God, for how else can they survive? They understand a spiritual blessing, while others who are fortunate rely on seeking comfort in real or imagined material goods. And the more materials possessed, the tighter the grip by the affluent possessors.
Do we seek to encourage the wealthy to give up what they regard as theirs and allow this to become a double blessing? On the level of "should" a few of the wealthy realize that their resources do not belong to them alone but to the commons. When not understood as such, the moral imperative is to liberate the rich of possessions. Give it up freely and generously or have it taken by those who see it belongs to all the people. The world's resources and wealth do not belong to the select few; they also belong to the poor. Pope Benedict XVI
Prayer: Lord, we are torn by our own unrecognized riches and a persistent poverty that is often beyond our perspective. Make us a blessing to the poor by joining them in liberation.
Warming light of a sunset.
February 18, 2019 Woe to the Rich
But alas for you who are rich; you are having your consolation now. Alas for you who have your fill now; you shall go hungry. Alas for you who laugh now; you shall mourn and weep. Alas for you when the world speaks well of you! This is the way their ancestors treated the false prophets. (Luke 6:24-26)
Woes are harder to administer than are blessings. With a blessing we extend God's goodness to others who may be less fortunate. The "woe" is a potential blessing for it affords an opportunity for someone who is on the wrong track to stop and redirect his or her steps. When we say "woe" to horses we expect them to halt. Furthermore, we say "woe" to those who are satisfied in their own affluence. We may ask whether they have their fill, and they may simply want more and more, allowing their mounting greed to desensitize them. If we are satisfied when millions and billions are hungry today, then there is something wrong with us and we will be held accountable.
Why a woe? The woe is a wakeup call, a demand that another pause and think what is happening. The message of Good News is meant for everyone, but a failure to give the total message could lead to the loss of the rich, and we do not want this to happen. Salvation is for all and thus we address ALL, the poor and the rich. If one is not doing the right thing, that person ought to be addressed -- and we need to voice and affirm "woes" in meaningful ways. The grace is to distinguish between what is really "needed" by us and what is authentically needed by others.
It would be impossible to expect miracles and to await a collective inspiration on the part of all the world's wealthy -- an extraordinary miracle. For the wealthy may excuse themselves and say their wealth is a temporary stewardship; with friendly governmental statutes they can designate "legitimate" heirs who will continue the practices of the wealthy long beyond their passing. Their large benefices become a status quo, a transfer of power within a privileged class; recent so-called American tax reforms allow this to happen and call for further reform. When such concentrated wealth of the upper 1% continues to produce ever greater profits, the call goes out to make radical changes.
Citizenship involves our assisting in liberating the wealthy of ill-gotten gains. Progressive forms of taxation must be made effective -- certainly not a massive transfer of a trillion dollars to the upper class. False prophets bless materialistic gain; authentic prophets work to assist those in need through economic and political liberation. Give, and if you do not give, take for all the people in a collaborative fashion. Monitor so that takers do not become a new privileged class.
Prayer: Lord, sweep away the dark clouds that hide from our seeing the world's poor; make us see that we must change ourselves and be in solidarity, so that we can say genuinely "We the people."
Wild garlic clusters in spring.
(Photo: W. Cutler, Creative Commons)
February 19, 2019 Is Garlic Something Special?
In 1636-37, a gigantic financial "bubble" developed in Holland over the price of tulip bulbs, one of many capitalistic bubbles (stock market, dot-com, bitcoin) springing up to our times. Tulip prices rose precipitously; more people wanted to gain wealth by trading in tulips at outlandish prices and profits. Greed caused a stampede. Finally, someone, perhaps a child, said, "Wait!" "Why the panic?" Prices imploded and tulip-holders lost their shirts.
A decade ago a garlic bubble in China (the world's major garlic producer and user) proves either history's repetition or simply gullibility. The 2008 drop in garlic prices caused underplanting in 2009; the H1N1 flu surfaced and garlic was considered protection; suddenly institutions wanted truckloads of a scarce commodity, and prices were multiplied by forty. Jinxiang, China's garlic center, witnessed simple growers making instant fortunes, and the word got around quite quickly.
Medicinally, garlic is almost as popular in China as wild ginseng, whether garlic is taken fresh or cooked. The Western thinker Galen called garlic the "cure-all;" it has been regarded as an antibiotic and a remedy for fungal infections, digestive disorders, chest problems, yeast infections, atherosclerosis, thrombosis, hypertension and as a blood sugar regulator, to name but a few uses. Many claims are disputed including the reduction of bad cholesterol (LDL). Garlic does contain many healthy ingredients such as Vitamin B1 (Thiamine), B2 (Riboflavin), B3 (Niacin), and C, along with essential traces of selenium, zinc, potassium, and phosphorus.
People swear by garlic (Allium sativum), the "stinking rose," a close relative of the lily and onion families. February is the time we detect new life among the wild garlic plants that are the first of the signs of new life. Many people flavor dishes with both wild and cultivated garlic. The pungent cloves are the sub-sections of the bulb or head that can be dug up from the cultivated garlic; after the outer skin has been removed, these can be crushed and used for cooking. However, a milder garlic flavoring is found in the leaves or shoots from garlic root. The ingested garlic, when metabolized, releases a chemical, allyl methyl sulfide (AMS) that affects the breath and sweat for a period of time after being ingested. Garlic-phobes won't eat garlic dishes; garlic lovers may be courteous and use fresh parsley or mouthwashes.
Wild garlic is found virtually all over the planet, not just in every lawn but also in all places with the exception of Arctic regions. Its ubiquitousness leads to widespread recognition. Garlic is a perennial; garlic is a widely-liked seasoning. Often people use garlic as a cheap form of dietary supplement and even regard it as a way to ward off evil spirits. However, with all its qualities it did not succeed in halting a Chinese bubble stampede.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to use the plentiful things of Earth.
Snow on bright foliage.
February 20, 2019 Are We Willing to Halt Climate Change?
A solid spiriuality must confront reality, no matter how adverse. We cannot afford to be paralyzed by pessimism nor retreat into the dream world of over-optimism. Now that the hype, proposals, promises and basic agreements related to the Paris Climate Change Accord have been discussed and voluntarily established, we wonder aloud whether we can be successful in the ever narrowing span of time. At the end of the last century the Kyoto Conference gave noble goals and international agreements. However, in the intervening years precious time was lost due to rising fossil fuel use and carbon dioxide emissions; global temperatures have continued to rise; glaciers melt in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Western Hemisphere; average ocean levels increased by several inches. Add to this coal-burning power plants are still in heavy vogue in China and India -- and will be used for another two decades in various parts of the world.
An awareness of global disaster has emerged in the 21st century; the classic case of denying a mishap started to change with the Great Recession and the majority of Americans realize the tragic consequences of unchecked climate change. However, the power elite denies it, since fossil fuels have always proved so profitable -- provided environmental costs are not factored into the bill. The power of big money influence is suicidal and those with common sense realize it. Too often, people deny troubles or try to excuse themselves, or attempt to escape when they are so confronted. Spiritual insight to act erodes when materialistic allurements and greed are allows to dominate.
The answer for people with faith in the future is that the reality of growing difficulties must be confronted and addressed forthrightly. This means we are to humble ourselves to accept our service role in changing the world around us. We cannot go alone, so we must join with other people of faith into a single praying and working community willing to get our hands dirty. WE must know the HERE and NOW. The WE are called to be people who are willing to work; the HERE is to recognize the reality of conditions; and the NOW is to regard this as the acceptable time to act.
The only way we can reverse current trends is to move rapidly from a consumption-based economy to an essential needs-based economy, where the basic needs of all are being met with the resources now used for a false global military-based security. This new alternative economy places emphasis on spiritual, not material, profit; it means that efforts are needed to counteract the allurement of Western materialistic values on the emerging nations of Asia, Africa and Latin America; it means that the vast divisions of wealth in the world are to be eliminated and much redistributed to those in need. See our Resonance: Promoting Harmony When Confronting climate Change.
Prayer: Lord, inspire us to see with eyes of faith, to buck up our courage, and to act to address the global crisis at hand.
Poppy from a summer's garden.
February 21, 2019 Recasting the Spirituality of Gardening
As we age and hopefully mature, our attitudes about favorite pastimes and leisure activities change. I find this applies to gardening, a subject I seek to comment upon each month of "Daily Reflections." My hesitancy is that the subject has been treated so many ways there is little more to be said. However, a repeated story when one is older is not forbidden. Recounting is part of aging; and we can rest assured that spirituality grows with time.
Gardening is uplifting. The effort to get outdoors in the fresh air and sunlight lightens a heavy spirit and helps us settle down to overcome depressing moments with a more positive spirit -- and this enters into our service by improving our quality of work.
Gardening triggers gratitude. The gifts we can be thankful for are so utterly numerous that we are incapable of exhausting the store. However, when we work in the garden we are focusing on what has to be done here and now, something quite concrete. Here we realize that the weather, soil, plants and supply of moisture need to come together in a proper amount so that living produce can occur. Right now we accept the salient quality of "life," its uniqueness, frailty, and dependence on our decision. We see once more the need for cooperation in God's work -- even in gardening.
Gardening opens our hearts. Can a leisure activity change the way we see the world? When we make a gardening decision to plant this or that, now or later and in what location, we are making decisions on a small level. We actually extend compassion to the crops that are to be in the future, and this is a small way to opening ourselves to the future and what it will bring. We accept that a risk is involved, but that is part of our commitment to the future.
Gardening is affirming. Why waste time when you have resources to buy the produce raised? The question seems so easy to answer, since many of us do not garden solely for economic reasons. I prefer to think of gardening as an affirmation of finding value in time spent in leisure, for each of us is a whole being needing time off for good things that come without a price tag. Exercise gives more benefits than money can buy.
Gardening is ecological. And what is ecological is spiritually of value for the progress of our world. Each thing we do, if done in a positive manner, adds to the salvation of the world. Our part seems insignificant unless we perceive the ripple effect of what we do encouraging others to do the same for the betterment of our home, the Earth. This contribution is spiritually valuable.
Gardening beckons others. One seldom considers how one good garden influences others to do the same -- and thus this garden becomes a model of change for a world in need of good witnesses.
Prayer: Lord, inspire us to probe ever deeper into the fine points of life, and to find You when doing our garden work.