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Daily Reflections Earth Healing

Daily Reflections
by Al Fritsch, S.J.

 

A series of written meditations and reflections

 

 

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Table of Contents: Daily Reflections

July 2009
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TODAY'S REFLECTION:


Copyright ę 2009 by Al Fritsch



Oxeye daisy
(photo: Janet Powell)
 

 

Yes, Dog Days are here. It is that time when humans and beasts learn to endure July in all its fiery. Actually, through a little reflection, we discover that July has much to give us: Independence Day rejuvenates our patriotic spirit with parades; flags, fireworks, hot dogs and cool drinks at midday; fresh produce appears at reasonable prices at the farmers' markets and within our gardens; vacation and added rest time make us take it easy to withstand the unpleasant heat; long days give us more time to be outdoors in the cool of evening and morning.

A slowing down at midyear is important for our overall health. July is that month when -- the insects sound louder; tomatoes, plums, peaches, blueberries, cantaloupe, okra, string beans, and watermelons are ripening; homecomings and get-togethers have a special flavor; cookouts are better than kitchen cooking; pets want a cool break from exertion; water sports are the talk of the town. It's the perfect time to: gaze at the night sky; check the auto for wear and tear; dress lightly; realize the year is half over; become doubly concerned about those without the basics of life; and try your hand at something new.

 


Early summer squash blossoms
       
(
photo by Sally Remsdell)

July 1, 2009     Cultivating Anglo-American Friendship

     Canadians have been long-term U.S. friends, and we owe them gratitude on this, Canada Day.  Without their help we could never have healed our discord with the United Kingdom (UK) motherland.  The Canadians remained faithful to their mother country, honoring their queen, accommodating the French-Canadian culture, and helping all North Americans to bury old hatchets and join together within the world community.  Maybe it was better that the United States and Canada went their separate ways, and that the larger land mass to our North saw fit not to merge with us as one nation.  As individual Canadians journey south each winter, the "snow birds" make us U.S. citizens aware that we are related and yet still distinct nations.

     Viewed over a span of time, it may be historically more accurate to say that there is an "Anglo-American Empire" (including the United States); this "empire" started with the Norman conquest in 1066 and continued in modified form until today.  We could regard the American Revolutionary War as a separation, but not a total divorce.  We share the same language and culture, and have come to the estranged motherland's aid during two 20th-century wars.  Ever since the 19th century the United States has had close ties with the United Kingdom -- if we ever really lost them.  It is amazing in reading American history to see how soon full relations resumed after the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. 

     Winston Churchill's mother was an American and he felt the kinship between our countries keenly.  In turn, Americans came to respect him, especially in Britain's finest hour during the bleak days of the Second World War.  President Roosevelt (FDR) solidified those bonds by bending over backwards to see to it that a number of American mothballed destroyers were furnished to embattled Britain.  The country stood almost alone after the fall of France in June, 1940, and before the Soviet Union entered the fray in 1941.  Britain was assisted by Commonwealth members, which included Canada, but it needed much more to counter Hitler's conquering legions.  FDR knew that we had to supply the UK's needs, even though US isolationists wanted no involvement in other struggles.

     The United Kingdom has seen its power wane dramatically within our lifetime.  The largest navy in the world no longer rules the waves.  If the sun never sets on the Union Jack, it is because the few remaining islands are so scattered that a faded Empire is always in daylight.  Well over 90% of the former UK colonies are now members of the United Nations -- though most all still cling to a Commonwealth association with the mother country.  Through it all the US/UK relationship has grown stronger thanks in to Canada acting as the go-between.  For better or worse, we are Anglo-Saxon.

     Prayer:  Lord, teach us to learn along with our neighbor Canada and mother England how to bridge difference among struggling groups to become one world.

 

 

 

 

 

 


 A herd of cows, congregating at a pond
       
(
*photo credit)

 July 2, 2009          Enduring Summer's Heat

     We are preparing to start the long July Fourth weekend, and there are many loose ends to tie.  But let's not overdo the preparations.  People slow down with their need to withstand summer's heat.  Most learn to take it easy in order to survive.  Some suggestions for keeping in spirit with the season include:

     * Adjust timing.  Plan less exercise outdoors in the heat of the day.  Rise earlier to garden, hike, jog, bike or shoot hoops.   

     * Drink plenty of water.  This is a must in hot weather for each of us, along with all flora and fauna, needs proper moisture.       

     * Keep cool (see July 7).  Wear what is right; avoid the sun.      

     * Reduce outdoor demands.  If you must pick berries, do it in the morning or evening before the sun is hot or just when it goes down.  When we age it is fitting to simply taste the fruit and not pick so much;  a seasonal taste should be sufficient.  Why more?    

     * Eat lightly.  It's hard to digest heavy meals.  Light cold soups and salads are perfect for the season.

     * Relax more. Give more time to soft music and reading;  this is not the time to overdo, and listening comes easy. 

     * Abbreviate everything.  Note how short this essay is.

     Prayer: Give us, Lord, a constant reminder to continue our prayerlife during this hot weather, and to do so in a light-hearted manner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


The Chaplin River, Washington Co., KY
       
(
*photo credit)

July 3, 2009   Being Free from Credit and Debt

     Indebtedness is modern slavery that is deliberately imposed by financial institutions with the connivance of governments and cushioned by the silence of moral and religious leaders.  I can never forget when I asked a person aspiring to open a non-profit how he was to fund the operation and he raised his credit card.

     * Do not use credit cards.  Resolve not to have any new credit cards, to get rid of older ones, and to refrain from using them if carried as your Linus blanket.  Make "credit card free" a motto and challenge others to do the same.  

     * Reduce existing debts.  Make a financial plan for paying off old debt as quickly as possible.  Refinancing is to your advantage, now that credit is far cheaper and mortgages can be refinanced more easily.  Get proper financial advice on how to be debt-free ASAP.  For some that is a distant hope -- but still it is possible.

     * Eliminate unnecessary and impulse purchases of quickly outmoded stuff that clutters people's homes and yards. Remove the unneeded items and give them away, sell them or recycle them.  Take time to unclutter the place though this takes special will power and deliberate resolve.

     * Live a lower level lifestyle and be proud of it.  We don't have to live like the "Jones," and purchase the bigger house, the motor home, the boat and the extra car.  Refuse offered stuff that is expensive to maintain: "I would not do the item justice," which may mean, "I will be tempted to keep it around and that costs money."

     * Join in community yard sales and promote fewer purchases of new items such as furnishings, utensils, dishes, tools, and lawn equipment.  The problem with material swaps is that you simply exchange one pile of junk for another.  Useless items are costly and take up space.  Share seldom-used items such as lawn mowers, hedge clippers, and ladders.  Learn from pioneer recyclers how to reuse materials.  Recycle unneeded gifts and save the wrappings for reuse; a respectful gift to you is equally so to another.

     * Eat less prepared food.  Eat lower on the food chain to reduce costs and the carbon imprint of animal products. 

     * Keep healthy, for indebtedness is often related to paying for medical treatments.  Stop smoking and engaging in substance abuse of any sort.  That may be easier said than done.

     * Ask education-related questions.  Can bills be cut by changing schools and get less costly but equally high quality education?

     Prayer:  Help us, Lord, see the onus of debt enslavement as worthy of liberation that may require a struggle and the assistance of other like-minded people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Five-lined skink, Eumeces fasciatus
      (
photo by Walter Para, Stanton, KY)

July 4, 2009     Reflecting on the Declaration of Independence

    Does the following apply today to the underprivileged of the world?

  When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one
people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them
with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the
separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of
Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of
mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel
them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are
created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with
certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty
and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights,
Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers
from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of
Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of
the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new
Government, laying its foundation on such principles, and
organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem
most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence,
indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should
not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly
all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to
suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by
abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing
invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them
under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty,
to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their
future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of these
Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to
alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the
present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries
and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment
of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let
Facts be submitted to a candid world:

* He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and
necessary for the public good.
* He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and
pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his
Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly
neglected to attend to them.
* He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation
of large districts of people, unless those people would
relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature,
a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
* He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual,
uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public

Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance
with his measures.
* He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing
with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
* He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause
 others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable
of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise;
the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of
invasion from without, and convulsions within.
* He has endeavored to prevent the population of these States;
for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of
Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their
migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new
Appropriations of Lands.
* He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his
Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
* He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone,
for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
* He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither
swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their
substance.
* He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies,
without the Consent of our legislatures.
* He has affected to render the Military independent of and
superior to the Civil power.
* He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction
foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws;
giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any
Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these
States: For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent: For depriving us
in many cases of the benefits of Trial by Jury: For transporting
us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offenses: For
abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighboring
Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and
enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example
and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into
these Colonies: For taking away our Charters, abolishing our
most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our
Governments: For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring
themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases
whatsoever.
* He has abdicated Government here by declaring us out of his
Protection and waging War against us.
* He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns,
and destroyed the lives of our people.
* He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign
Mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and
tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy
scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally
unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
* He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on
the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the
executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall
themselves by their Hands.
* He has excited, domestic insurrections amongst us, and has
endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the
merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare is an
undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for
Redress in the most humble terms. Our repeated Petitions have
been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character
is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit
to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren.
We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their
legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We
have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and
settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and
magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common
kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably
interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have
been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We
must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces
our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind,
Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore the Representatives of the UNITED STATES OF
AMERICA, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the
Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions,
do, in the Name and by Authority of the good People of these
Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United
Colonies are and of Right ought to be free and independent
states, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the
British Crown, and that all political connection between
them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be
totally dissolved; and that as FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES,
they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract
Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and
Things which Independent states may of right do. AND for the
support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the
protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each
other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

John Hancock et al

 

 

 

 


Ephemeroptera, delicate summer beauty
       
(
*photo credit)

July 5, 2009       Risking to Be Prophetic

     ... and when I am powerless, it is then that I am strong. 

                                                  (II Cor. 12:10)

     All too often people, even those closest, want to break off conversation on some issue.  Today, the subject of simplifying our lifestyles is a difficult one to broach with others who have made a deliberate effort to live affluent lives.  They have enjoyed consumption;  they regard it as a patriotic duty;  they enjoy the advertising hype;  they want to go with the fashions; and they may even find our presence irritating.  For them, moral and religious leaders are to make them feel comfortable.  They may ask us the unsettling question: "What are we paying you for, to make us feel uncomfortable?"   The attitude just expressed is far more common than we would like to admit.  The doubly unsettling question for us may be:  is the prophetic word to be comforting or disturbing?   Is the entire modus vivendi of this period to maximize comfort levels or to arouse some to change their ways?  Is what is needed at a given time the mark of a true or false prophet?  In times of troubles we need to weigh the alternatives paths. 

     Bad prophesying allows listeners to continue in current ways.  This says what is being done is fine and those who want to shake the boat are disturbers of the peace.  The status quo is good and must be defended by such stalwarts of conservative ways.  The privileges currently enjoyed may be seen as gifts to good stewards who are called by God to do proper things with them.  Part of this optimistic comfort picture is a future that does not include any sign of gloom and doom.  Should others like to call attention to our current practices or to oppose them in violent or non-violent fashion, we must resist their efforts for the good of existing privilege and others who are in company with us in this position.  The bad prophet teaches adherence to what we have and refuses to consider any major changes.

     Good prophesying addresses current questions forthrightly.  The current consumer lifestyle is not sustainable.  To continue to defend it only encourages the aspiring emerging economies to follow our example and consume as well -- thus dooming the world through sheer numbers of consumers, to accelerating pollution, resource depletion and waste, and a growing disparity between the rich and poor.  While some live in comfort, others suffer from lack of basic food and health care -- and this real situation is not comforting, only disturbing to those in short-term privileged comfort.  If we do not change, we will surely die.  The good prophesy rests in the word "if" for contained in the message is the real possibility that change is possible and can lead to benefits to the greater numbers.  On the other hand, the discouraged must be shown compassion for it takes effort to undergo and gain by the change that is needed.

     Prayer:  Lord teach us to be prophetic in a good sense even if such a practice is risky.  Teach us to remember the mission before us and not to forget that Jesus said what had to be said -- and he was crucified for doing so.

 

 

 

 

 


Cloud uplift on a hot summer's day
       
(
*photo credit)

July 6, 2009          Jogger's Lament

 

          Lord, what makes people jog,

              in sunshine, wind, sleet and fog,

               spending time in shoes that clog,

               dodging cars, potholes, excited dog?

 

           Why do they endure such pain,

               weary legs, muscle strain,

              raw groins, ankle sprain,

              and yet they seldom complain?

 

          What makes them run the extra mile,

              to pass another with a fleeting smile,

              or dress just right to be in style,

              with the social grace of the rank and file?

 

          How can they keep the furious pace,

              turning every day into a prize race,

              or heading out to a meeting place,

              or just establishing breathing space?

 

          When will they stop ‑‑ in their old age,

              or when falls make them turn a safer page,

              or when they don't need the center stage,

              or begin to earn a steady wage?

 

          Don't jogging questions need reply,

              like running gear that one must buy,

              when preparing for that runner's high,

              that natural way to reach the sky.

 

          Count the steps, meditate;

              observe the scene, contemplate;

              reach the wall, hallucinate;

              call it fun, rejuvenate.

 

          Now good Christians please step aside,

              keep the competitor from breaking stride,

              and come right up to the finish tide,

              step back and overcome perverse pride.

 

          It's time now to call it a day,

              when one is unsure of the step or way,

              may younger ones continue the play,

              fun while it lasted;  okay, okay,  Ole!

 

 

 

 

 


Prickly pear cactus, Opuntia humifusa, native Kentucky species
       
(
*photo credit)

July 7, 2009     Cooling without Air Conditioning

     Energy consumption spikes at this time of year when air-conditioners (AC) hum throughout America and in increasing numbers in Europe and elsewhere.  To cope with this energy consumption spike, more powerplants are needed to keep the electricity flowing.

     Natural cooling decreases AC use.  Resource conservation is always the best reason for avoiding air conditioning (AC).

Structures shaded by large trees have perhaps the most efficient natural cooling.  Properly placed shade trees can reduce house temperatures by twenty-five degrees in northern hemisphere Julys.  For rapid natural cooling, plant annuals or perennials (such as sunflowers or Jerusalem artichokes) outside windows to act as natural sun screens.  Window boxes of flowers, including morning glory growing on lattices, provide summer greenery and reduce temperatures as well.

     Curbing AC is more healthy, for it is shocking to go from a super-cooled building to torrid summer heat.  My only summer in Texas, in 1969, involved travelling several times a day from a super-cooled laboratory building at the University of Texas's Austin campus to a computer center several blocks away.  I think I got pneumonia out of that exercise but never had it diagnosed. Turning off AC allows for more fresh air.  Domestic ventilating practices may involve cooling space late at night by opening windows and allowing the breezes to flow through.  A roof with a mounted turbine ventilator can help;  so can rooms equipped with ceiling fans allowing the warm air to escape during cooler times.

     Building design adds to natural cooling.  Those structures built with adobe or heavy masonry or those that are earth shelters are naturally cooled.  Higher ceilings in older houses are helpful.  Porches (my old residence has porches on three sides) certainly help keep the place cool;  so will roofs covered with light colored roofing materials.  Increased insulation is of value provided warm air is exhausted from insulated space as discussed in the previous suggestion.  Awnings are helpful as are curtains and window shading devices.  Some new window sun-screening covers are highly effective, either free-standing or as films attached to window panes on the sunny sides of houses.

      Some people, such as the elderly and those with certain breathing conditions, justifiably prefer AC -- and this may verge on being a necessity for them.  If one must use AC, use it moderately and at the highest temperature comfortable.  Maintain the AC unit properly.  Cool only rooms in use, by means of modular cooling devices rather than central units.  Acquire new units only after comparing labeled energy efficiency ratings.

     Prayer:  Teach us Lord, to avoid resource intensive equipment that can be substituted for by practices or devices that are less harmful to the environment. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Indian hemp, Apocynum cannabinum
       
(
*photo credit)

July 8, 2009    Keeping Cool through Other Practices

     Let us continue the discussion of yesterday about keeping cool during the current hot summer weather.

     Maintain comfort zones.  Americans often tolerate cooler summer temperatures inside air conditioned (AC) space than they tolerate in heated space in winter.  Incredible?  Hardly, for I have personally found this phenomenon occurring throughout the country during numerous environmental resource assessments.  A building will be cooled to 62-65 degrees Fahrenheit in summer and the same space heated to 75 degrees in winter.  The difference between what is tolerated in summer (62), if allowed in winter, and the 75 degrees, if allowed in summer, could save close to one-third of many heating/cooling bills.  One can argue for personal psychological tolerance, and try to get dwellers to accept, as "natural," 75 degree interior space in summer and 62 degree space in winter -- and space heating and cooling saving will accrue.  Insist that room residents become familiar with thermometer readings and personal comfort zones.  Withstanding moderately higher summer temperatures and moderately lower winter temperatures is more healthy and reduces colds compared to over-heating in winter and over-cooling in summer.

     Eat cool stuff.  Besides providing seasonal iced drinks and desserts, how about creating cold soups, fashioning chilled salads and selecting cold cuts for summer menus?   Reserve the cooking to the non-growing season -- especially those dishes using hot sauces and needing to be served steaming hot.  If summer cooking is needed, do it in larger batches and utilize the leftovers on succeeding days; this reduces kitchen cooking time, which naturally cuts interior heat generation and saves energy as well.

     Wear light clothes around the house, at exercise, to bed and on special occasions.  It may come as a surprise, but some folks will wear the same things in winter as in summer and never realize that their heating and cooling bills often reflect this desire to have the same clothes habits year-round.  Wearing light colored clothing outdoors will be helpful as well.  Also consider taking a cold shower or go for a swim when it gets hot.

     Use appliances less in summer and then only in the cooler parts of the day.  This contributes to reduced energy overloads and ultimately the need for more powerplants.  Clothes washing (and mechanical drying) in the hotter parts of the day add to the humidity and heat load of the residence.  Consider exterior drying.  Keeping computers and recording equipment on standby is unnecessary.  Remember, converting to compact fluorescent bulbs saves energy, not only in the lighting itself, but also in the lessened heat load of the house, an added incentive for both AC and fan users.

     Prayer:   Lord, direct us to ways that make life more pleasant for all and are less demanding on our environment.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Home made mulberry-vanilla ice cream
       
(
*photo credit)

July 9, 2009      Celebrating National Ice Cream Day

     Celebrating is part of life, and we Americans like to celebrate with ice cream as has been the custom in our country for one hundred and fifty years.  When ice became readily available (either from ice storage houses or ice-making machines), the creating of different flavored ice creams became a national treat -- that soon spread to a global treat.  Let's celebrate all the pleasure that ice cream has given people for so many years.

Don't let guilt hold us back, for those who need to be more watchful have choices of sugar-free ices and ice creams.  For others who are sensitive to fattening foods, how about fat-free ice cream or taking off a few calories through some extra exercise today; remember that a little ice cream well savored is worth more that a massive bowl; a little of most good things is okay;  a lot is not. 

      During youth, half the treat was making the ice cream.  When I was a kid, we did not have ice cream except on Sundays.  After church, we would go to the ice plant and buy a block of ice for a dime; we took it home, and put the ice block into a gunny sack and beat it into crushed ice with the flat side of an old axe.  A one-and a half gallon metal container of ice cream ingredients into which was inserted a long paddle/stirrer was placed in a wooden ice cream freezer or maker;  then the crushed ice was packed round the cylinder along with salt to lower the temperature so that the cream and flavor ingredients would freeze after ample churning.  A turning device was attached to the protruding end of the stirrer and the "fun" began.

      The turning of the lever to stir the slurry gradually required more effort as the ice cream thickened and became a frozen slurry.  Finally we turners judged that the ice cream was ready and begged Mama to let us test the results.  We removed the metal lid and there it was -- a site to behold!  One and a half gallons of Ice Cream, and the stirring paddle dripping with ice cream "firsts" for the turners to clean off.  Then the whole family was alerted to taste the Sunday homemade treat, that occasional treat.  Too much of a good thing does not taste as good -- and can be unhealthy also.  Our family ice cream treats were flavored by the  fruit of the season (cherry, strawberry, peach) or standard flavors (vanilla, pineapple, butterscotch, banana, and chocolate).  In winter we made a Christmas treat called "tooty fruity," which had dried candied fruits along with a touch of bourbon to give flavor, but not enough to prevent the mixture from freezing. 

     Ice cream is almost universally liked.  We may have an opportunity today to take out someone and treat those who are financially strapped;  they may not get ice cream too often.  They may require a low-carb substitution or frozen yogurt or a soya substitute for cream. Whatever, ice cream under any form is a treat.

     Prayer:  Lord, increase our enjoyment of life's good things.

 

 

 

 

 


The basil plant, repellant for flies, mosquitoes, and asparagus beetle
       
(
*photo credit)

July 10, 2009   Discouraging Pests through Interplanting

     In July, plant growth slackens and insects look for plant hosts.  For the organic gardener the challenge of discouraging these unwelcome pesty visitors becomes greater.  We search for effective substitutes for the commercial and guaranteed pesticides that kill;  these pesticides leave their unhealthy ingredients around to contaminate garden produce, cling to soil and harm wildlife for a long period of time.  However, on searching about we discover that certain mulches, herbs, flowers and other plants can kill or repel pests effectively.  By interplanting these, we obtain the additional benefit of beauty, for the variety of plants adds to the garden's growing artistic mosaic that changes by the day:

    helpful plants       Insects repelled

   *Castor bean -- plant lice and also vole and mole

    Eggplant -- varieties of potato bug

    Flax -- Colorado potato beetle, potato bug

    Garlic -- weevil, aphid

    Green beans -- Colorado potato beetle

    Horseradish  -- potato bug

    Lavender  -- moth

    Legumes -- mosquito

    Marigold -- many insects if densely planted

    Mint -- black flea beetle, cabbage worm butterfly, moth

    Nasturtium  -- aphid, squash bug        

    Oak leaf mulch -- cutworm, slug, June bug grub      (also Tanbark)

    Pennyroyal -- ant, plant lice  

    Potato  -- Mexican bean beetle

    Radish -- striped cucumber beetle

    Rosemary -- malaria mosquito, cabbage worm butterfly

    Rue --  common fly

    Sage -- moth

    Spearmint -- ant, aphid

    Stinging nettle -- black fly, aphid, moth

    Tansy -- ant, common fly

    Thyme -- cabbage worm butterfly

    White Geranium  -- Japanese beetle

    Wormwood  -- black flea beetle, common fly, mosquito

     Interplanting the herbs just mentioned proves more effective than planting a cluster of these herbs at a distance from the insect target area.

     * The castor or mole bean, familiar in American and European gardens, produces beautiful green and red foliage and stalks in summer and autumn.  However, the bean cluster is highly poisonous; if you choose to use this effective pest retardant, the castor bean should be kept out of the reach of livestock and children.

     Prayer:  Lord, help us to create our own balanced environment where natural plants assist in keeping the grounds pest-free.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Canis latrans, a mother coyote, Washington Co., KY farm
       
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*photo credit)

July 11, 2009   Battling Pests with Friendly Insects and Wildlife

     Since the publication of Rachel Carson's book, Silent Spring, in the 1960s more attention has been given to commercial pesticides that harm wildlife.  When I first wrote on this subject three decades ago, two of the ten rare peregrine falcons known in Alberta province, Canada, had had the egg shells of their offspring broken;  the thin-walled shells resulted from small amounts of DDT along with the degradation product DDE in the mother.  With reduced use of this highly toxic pesticide, in recent years fewer bird losses have been observed.  Wildlife has been protected -- and well placed natural flora and fauna can help with the protection.

     We human animals can move through the garden and manually pick and destroy the culprits.  I killed thousands of tobacco (or horned-tomato) worms in my youth.  Also when gardening I find that by interplanting evening primrose in the garden, I can attract the Japanese beetles to that plant first before they eat any veggies. With ease, the gardener can collect the day's beetle cohort by shaking the stalks over a wide mouth jar.  Certain insect pest traps can be more effective than others.  Attracting and drowning slugs in beer has always sounded quite expensive to me, but gardeners say it works.  Many sex attractants simply invite more of the insects from the surrounding countryside; some of the increased numbers are caught, but more are now present, exhibiting greedy appetites.  Ringing pest-targeted trees with a sticky ribbon can help.

     Certain fauna can help the human garden protector.  One favorite is the ladybug, an insect that lately has become almost invasive;  ladybugs feast heavily on aphids in gardens and greenhouses.  The praying mantis (named for the way it holds its claws) can devour a number of pesty insects.  Various wasps and the non-threatening mud daubers should be tolerated as much as possible.  Spiders are also friends to us and enemies to many pests.  Among less well known friends are ground beetles, aphid lions, assassin bugs, centipedes, ant lions, and dragon flies.

      The larger pest-reducing animals include birds, which generally avoid chemical pesticide-laden lawns and gardens.  The Cherokee Indians invited purple martins through the use of nests made from gourds hung at strategic locations;  they recognized that these martins could keep a human living space essentially mosquito-free.  Bats have the ability to do much the same and should also be encouraged.  Frogs, toads and lizards have an appetite for many of the garden insect pests, and should always be tolerated and encouraged.  Snakes can remove varmints that might hurt the garden.  Non-poisonous snakes should be tolerated and respected.  The list of friendly animals also includes skunks, shrews and weasels, but these are not always welcomed by neighbors.   

     Prayer: Lord, who gives us protection in all matters, help us to find and encourage the protectors of our own quality of life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Western salsify, Tragopogon dubius
       
(
*photo credit)

July 12, 2009            Ministering Lightly

     He instructed them to take nothing on the journey but a walking stick.  (Mark 6:8)

     We speak about travelling lightly on ordinary trips (April 4, 2009), though never as lightly as Jesus did in his instructions to the ministering disciples.  Not quibbling over whether to take a second tunic (no) or sandals (yes), let us see value to spreading the Good News in a light or "low overhead" fashion.  Are there advantages? 

     Urgency and mobility:  First, we are more able to act with spontaneity, for we do not have to wait until we have the backup resources assembled to start acting.  Sometimes speed is of the essence, and those who assemble too many things are caught up in the assembling details.  Baggage needs tending to at all times, and more baggage takes extra time.  Furthermore, if we bring too much, we find it more difficult to abandon one project and go to another.

     Lowly are able to be leaders:  The poor are the ones who are to take a lead in bringing Good News and they are the ones simply unable to furnish a lot of background materials.  Simple equipment allows the poor to have an opportunity to move forward in ways to which they are better accustomed.  Today, the Internet allows low-cost travel of ideas and words to all parts of the world -- the equivalent of St. Paul's being blessed by the excellent Roman order and road system in his day.  The Internet is Good News.

     Cultural handicaps avoided:  Too much baggage indicates cultural differences and personal and distracting needs that cannot be furnished by the end destination, and thus ties one back too tightly to the place of origin.  On the other hand, the lightly traveling one is accepted and integrates more rapidly into the receiving community.

     Jesus as an Example:  Christ worked in simple ways and so ought we.  Our imitation of him is of the essence.  He could have come in the world as the head of a massive army and with regal pomp but God does not work that way.  Jesus had a power to attract those who want to hear the Word and follow it.  Through the power of prayer we can be like him in serving others.

     Divine Power:  Light travel shows the power of God working within us.  We think that gimmicks and other gadgets, sound boxes and slide shows are going to turn people on.  Such catering to materialistic people obscures the spiritual message that is empowering through its source and content -- and is meant for those seeking faith. 

     Single-mindedness:  The Good News involves simple and spiritually-empowered delivery as well as content.  The message is given more directly when lightly packaged.

     Prayer:  Lord, teach us to travel ever more lightly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Pastured cows, grazing
       
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*photo credit)

July 13, 2009      Reconsidering "Captive Nations Week"

     Is this designated week, which once had such pertinence during the pre-1989, USSR-era, outmoded?  Hardly.  Certainly, numerous nations such as the Baltic and Eastern European states and Central Asian nations are now independent along with dozens of nations that were part of pre-Second World War colonial empires.  Still some nations remain captive to tyrannical rulers, to extreme poverty or to the condition of a "failed state" that does not allow for maximized freedom of its citizens,  e.g., North Korea, Zimbabwe  and Somalia.  What about those who are captive within an existing state such as the people of Tibet, or the Kurdish (parts of Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria), or the residents of the Gaza strip?  

     However, our view of captivity is a condition that is outside of us, in a distant captive land.   We tend to overlook the subtle ways "captivity" can envelop us all.  Yes, we can be captive but neglect to see subtle forms of enslavement.  Our creative spirit is restricted by overtaxation; our freedom of movement is hindered by over-regulation; our voice in speaking out is muffled by peer pressure and the tendency to conform to the hidden wishes of rich benefactors;  our powers to concentrate are weakened by the instantaneous distractions that crop up all about;  our struggle to pursue spiritual pursuits is broken by gimmicks and allurements;  our weakened human condition allows us to be taken prisoner by a host of enticing materialistic substances.  

     Captivity can come in what appear to be legitimate ways.  We are always finding comfort from pain and distress with a host of over-the-counter and prescribed pills and medicines,  advertisement for which bombard us on television.  Credit cards along with the pervasive cell phones and cable networks have all taken their toll and left us with overwhelming indebtedness and growing dependencies.  Even the effort to escape by better education has ended with substantial debts.  Add to this car payments and home mortgages and soon we are enslaved and totally at the mercy of credit agencies and bank collectors.  Trillions of dollars owed become chains that wrap around our necks bowing us down for lifetimes and our children for decades afterwards. 

     Can we break these bonds, or is this week simply an acknowledgment of our condition?  Does this week witness to the liberation of some people from Soviet imperialism, and yet neglect the imprisoning nature of western materialism?  Is our democracy a false front, a facade imposed by a capitalistic financial system?  In some way, all people are captive people and need redemption.  In acknowledging this we become receptive to receiving the Good News that all are being liberated, but we must believe that liberation can be achieve though our effort and God's help.  Only in such an acknowledgment can there be true solidarity among all captive people and a movement to freeing all. 

     Prayer:  Lord, You come to bring liberation to captives and to overthrow the bonds that chain us.  Help us all to be truly free.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


A very, very small mushroom, species unknown
       
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*photo credit)

July 14, 2009       Learning from the French

     On Bastille Day it is fitting to consider France, our first and primary US ally.  If England is our American Anglo-Saxon relative, in more ways France is the godmother, for without her support we could not had become a nation.  We can learn from the salient aspects of French culture and grow in our mutual understanding of the democratic spirit that binds us together.  Allow this Franco-American the opportunity to highlight a few:

     The French know how to rest and enjoy themselves.  On Sundays they take off from work and have a weekly sabbatical -- and we can only hope they don't follow our example in having 24-7 stores (though small stores open on Sunday morning).  They believe in holiday periods when much of work life ceases, and people take time off and even enjoy their high speed rail system.

     The French have an understanding of being a cultured people, who enjoy good food and spend time at a meal for the betterment of all concerned.  They eat fresh young vegetables and grow as much as they can in local circumstances.  They enjoy food variety with good salads and soups along with meat and dairy dishes, appetizers and desserts. (However, the young have begun to favor fast food).  The French extend that taste for variety and freshness to flowers and houseplants and to gardens and parks. 

     The French are coming to face the need to preserve their religious and artistic culture as a living heritage.  They have put a major part of their current 26 billion euro stimulus package into a thousand projects such as repairing their ancient gothic cathedrals and museums.  On one visit several decades ago I was shocked at how the Chartres Cathedral's facade had eroded due to air pollution.  The French are aware of the toll of time, pollution and neglect and are doing something about it on several fronts.  

     The French consumers do not bear nearly the debts of average Anglo-Saxons; they save more, and the household debt load as a share of the GDP is less than half that of the United States or Britain  (The Economist, May 9, 2009). 

     The French see a need to assist poorer nations in Africa, Asia and the Middle East to become stable.  Most French are patriotic almost to a point of sentimentality.  This has a good side; however it can foster a radical nationalistic reaction involving fear of language loss, or the replacement of church bells and organ music by the mullahs calling the faithful to prayer.  While the French take their democratic spirit seriously on Bastille Day, the nation does have problems:  greater demands per worker, high jobless rates, heavy taxes, dependence on nuclear powerplants, and a growing body of unprotected short-term employees (temps and interns).  We need to continue mutual interaction.

      Prayer:  Lord, let us neither be overly enamored nor neglectful of the qualities of different cultures.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Watering system, home-brewed
       
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*photo credit)

July 15, 2009      Remembering to Water Plants

     According to an English tale, if it rains on St. Swithun's Day, it will do so for forty consecutive days.  We want enough rain to break a drought and never too much to harm growing plants.  Delivering just enough moisture to plants in July is a challenge.

     * The best preparation is to expect that garden plants will need watering and to prepare a good rain water source, if that is possible -- for it avoids local restrictions on use of municipal water.  Periodic water shortages and restrictions call for some sort of water catchment, whether it is a water barrel or a cistern. 

     * Even in dry times, application of waste water to growing plants is not prohibited.  Save the dish or wash water and use on the plants that will tolerate such detergent-laden water. 

    * Water in the evening after the sun has receded or, if not then, early in the morning before the sun beats down.  The moisture is more effective in the evenings, for the thirsty plants have a longer opportunity to benefit before daytime evaporation occurs.

    *  Practice a form of medical "triage" by which wounded soldiers during battles get more or less attention depending on their condition.  In the garden "triage,"  the highest attention is given to newly planted vegetables and tomatoes even though all garden plants should be mulched; the second level includes plants needing more water such as cucumbers, melons, greens, celery, and many herbs.  Among those at the lowest level are sunflowers, Jerusalem artichokes, and drought-tolerant okra, garlic, onions, and mint, and what remains of the brassica family and root crops.    

    * Water with larger amounts on fewer days, rather than with smaller amounts on a daily basis.  The amount of water applied depends to some degree on the actual water supply.  Simply keeping a crop from dying until the next big rain takes far less than actually irrigating a growing crop from start to harvest.  

    * When watering, try to direct the water stream at the base of the plant rather than scattering water over a general growing area.  Crops sowed in rows rather than over areas lend themselves to efficient irrigation techniques.  Trickle methods of irrigation are highly effective, but are hardly worth it for small garden plots where intercropping is practiced.

    * Diluted urine (one part to four parts water) can be used on tender fall greens.  If the July drought is prolonged, concentrate on the summer moisture-sensitive vegetables and delay starting a fall garden until the rains come.  For late melons and cucumbers, soak the seeds before planting.  For autumn vegetables, rows are preferable over area sowing, because watering can be concentrated.  

     Prayer:  Lord, remind us once more that You are the Living Water that is needed for our spiritual life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


An evening hike, approaching sunset
       
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*photo credit)

 July 16, 2009            Hiking in Summer

     For ex-joggers, hiking may be a substitute.  Its acceptability depends on a number of factors:  convenience, comfort, satisfaction  of health and exercise demands.  When properly undertaken, hiking gives us needed exercise, fresh air and a wider view of the world than the auto-bound sightseer is able to experience.  Besides some local trails, I can remember certain hikes vividly, including those on the Appalachian Trail, on the Kabob Trail in the Grand Canyon, in British Columbia, in Puerto Rico and in the hills of Alsace.  Hiking indelibly imprints something on our memory, and we recall trail features and the flora and fauna we encountered years later.

Part of this implanting requires advanced planning for a hike:

     Carry necessities, but only those.  For my last hiking venture I forgot a hat and sun screen, but remembered the water and walking stick.  Every ounce counts. In my regular day hikes in the Daniel Boone National Forest, I leave my water bottle after a good swig at about the half-way mark, so I won't have to lug it the entire distance; I retrieve it on the way back.  Longer hikes require more items such as foods.  Pack dry fruits, nuts, nutrition bars.  Eat the bulky stuff before you launch out. Travel as light as possible.   

      Know where you are and where you are going.  I remember we got lost by misinterpreting a trail in the Blue Lakes region of southeastern Colorado and did not find the right path until after a night lost in the woods.  While such an experience is an adventure, a proper interpretation of maps and maybe a compass or GPS device will help when unfamiliar with the territory.

     Provide sufficient time.  Hiking needs a certain leisure atmosphere in order to be enjoyable, for it is to relieve and not create more stress.  Somewhere, and I don't recall exactly where, I wanted to say that I hiked a trail, and so I jogged the walking trail for a piece since time was short.  While many places remain in memory, I can't recall much except a sweaty quick visit.

     Prepare for eventualities.  Day hikes can be easily overdone, since we don't normally need to bring along snake kits, cell phones and ponchos, if we know the territory and expected weather conditions.  The walking stick, water, good shoes, adequate clothes, and the food snacks are sufficient.  If mosquitoes are possible, put on repellant before starting.  If hiking alone, carry identification.

     Record if you like.  Some hikers carry cameras; others prefer just to take in the scenes with the eye and limited memory.  Spring flowers and autumn leaves are missing on July walks, but those with an eye can discover many summer subjects.  Describing the hike afterwards in written format can be a valuable future reference.  

     Prayer:  Teach us, Lord, that summer hiking resembles our faith journey through life.  The unforeseen can happen,even with all our preparations.  Allow us to both plan and trust.

 

 

 

 


A visit to Mount Hebron Methodist Church cemetery in summer
       
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*photo credit)

July 17, 2009      Realizing Mortality in Endless July

      Most youngsters who enjoy summer vacation dream, as I did when young, that the summer will never end.  The locust and cricket songs together with the burning rays of the summer sun seem to be unchanging.  Freedom from school ran through my bones.  This is generally not a mood conjured  up in fresh busy June when the previous year's academic activities are closing down;  nor is it an August phenomenon when the summer vacation ends and school starts up with fresh expectations and frenzied activities.  Rather, time's seeming endlessness arises in the July of youth but can continue under different guises long after youth abandons us.  Why do good things I now experience have to end?  What if they lasted forever?

     We use world resources as though July is endless.  This fiction extends to all ages, even to elders whose mortal life spans shorten at ever quickening speed with each passing day.  The middle-aged and the healthy retirees think vacations will last, good health will last, their life situations will endure.  Hasn't the recent mood of bankers' bonuses and average citizen borrowing binges been somewhat a reflection of the July dream?  Good times are here to stay, but are they?  Isn't there a certain theological aspect to this dream and wish -- a longing for what will endure in eternity, a vague hope for endlessness, and yet a momentary vision of a future that is right now present? 

     This daydreaming atmosphere is entertained but somewhat haunting for folks of all ages.  The realities of school ahead, of an upcoming medical report, or of a home crisis this evening brings us back to our senses.  Rather, the hope for present endlessness is a temptation not to regard this life span as it really is -- terminal.  But is that persistent dream of endlessness so very foolish?  Is the caution, "Don't even think about such things" on target?  Are people correct in the admonition, "Don't talk about death, but rather about the unfortunate person's 'passing'"?  How many times at a wake have we heard visitors say how much the corpse seems to be asleep?   On the other hand, have you ever gone into the funeral parlor and in viewing the coffin wondered if you are in the right room?

     When we hear that a terminally ill person goes to pick out the coffin, we regard it as unusual, quaint or, at best, heroic.  It resembles life insurance, something that must be considered though the task is disdained.  Preparations are for survivors and really acts of charity.  Unforeseen accidents do occur, and that causes much consternation on the part of survivors who are already saddled with grief and a host of funeral details.  I occasionally update my own funeral arrangements folder, even though it is an uncomfortable task; some regard this as weird -- but is it?  July will end as will our current status in life.  As surely as we live in July, August will follow.  So will endless life follow this mortal one.  The wise person knows this, and finds July a happy reminder. 

     Prayer:  Lord, teach us to see the shortness of life.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Aluminum pie plate on string, deterrent for wild turkeys at berry patch
       
(
*photo credit)

July 18, 2009         Implementing Wildlife Controls

      In dry hot July, various wildlife looks at our gardens and lawns hungrily.  The phenomenon is widespread as exemplified by a friend, "You talk about wildlife protection, but we are inundated with deer and rabbits and groundhogs;  what about lawn and shrub protection?"  Such a question occurred in various forms over and over, until I became convinced that wildlife control is a major urban and suburban problem.  It was not enough to simply plead that increasing wildlife populations (deer, geese, rabbits, and wild turkeys) lack sufficient numbers of predator species for natural wildlife control.  Most likely, excess wildlife will be  controlled to some degree by the coyote's US advance and its filling the absent predator's niche.  These animals have an appetite for smaller wildlife, and if foxes and wildcats were to expand in number they would also devour the shrub and veggie eaters.

      But coyotes cannot act alone; we have to help do more. In the past I have protected my garden produce by fences, hot pepper spray and keeping dogs near the area where sensitive beans are grown, and more recently through growing specific plants that wildlife avoid.  Much of our current wildlife problem has been the result of the deliberate introduction of game species such as deer and wild turkeys, which invade areas in search of foliage.   Better game control would reduce this problem.  Double fencing to keep out deer has been highly effective, but many do not want to construct two expensive parallel fences just to prove that other wildlife controls are not sufficiently effective.

     Wildlife is selective in what it eats.  I have learned to grow crops that local wildlife dislike, adjusting my human tastes to wildlife tastes.  Obviously, this has its drawbacks, and so one finds that certain vegetables liked by wildlife can be interplanted and hidden within a larger garden.  By putting garlic and mustard greens around the border you can dissuade rabbits from searching beyond the outer boundary to find what they would like beyond.  Hot pepper solutions applied to plants in some semi-permanent soap or emulsion form can be quite effective against rabbits and deer, but rains can wash them away.

     The critics say that the deer population in America is out of control and that we have more than when the first white settlers came to these shores.  When performing environmental resource assessments, we encouraged all who eat meat to consider eating their local produce -- and that includes nutritious and organic venison -- and perhaps their geese and turkeys as well.  That is one ultimate control that should be considered in a world that should not be patronizing corporate cattle, chicken and hog operations.  Think locally; think deer sausage.  This culling operation replaces livestock-raising that has a heavy carbon footprint, and helps control wildlife at the same time.

     Prayer:  Lord, teach us to protect and help balance the treasure of the wildlife that surrounds us.

 

 

 

 


An abandoned home, fading into history
       
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*photo credit)

July 19, 2009     Striving to Lead the Floundering

     He pitied them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd;  and he began to teach them at great length.  (Mark 6:34)

     Just before we take up the discussion of the Eucharist in the coming weeks, let us develop a context, a setting in which we search for and find the Lord's words of advice and guidance.  What Jesus says and does is what we are to say and do in our own lives.

He has compassion on the crowds, and thus is willing to take off time that could have been spent in rest and leisure.  Instead he chooses to devote attention to these who are in obvious need.

     To expend time and resources on those in need demands a sacrifice.  We do need to take sufficient care of ourselves, so we can be good instruments as other christs to our fellow human beings.  Still we must be open to human needs and adaptable in order to change course and assist others.  Jesus shows a sensitivity for those who are his followers and students, those who can become exhausted through the work before them.  "Come by yourselves to an out-of-the-way place and rest a little."   While Jesus is solicitous of the disciples, he is also aware of the needs of the crowds who keep coming and seeking him.  While the disciples rest, Jesus takes on the arduous task of teaching the people.  He sacrifices for both disciples and for the general population.

     Remotely, we are to become other christs, taking on a leadership role.  This requires a sense of solidarity in order to perceive the need, prayer because we cannot do it all alone (for the task is beyond our ordinary abilities), a willingness to help as best we can, and the enthusiasm that allows the Lord to work within us helping through our unique gifts.  Taking on a difficult task requires preparation and pacing in order to avoid over-exertion and burn-out.  Resting is part of pacing.  We find in the passage that the disciples report back to Jesus all that they have done and what they have taught, an enthusiastic learning process.

     Today the shepherdless stand out in our shaken culture.  Many ordinary consumers are at a crossroads;  for years they have been badgered by advertising, peer pressure and a national policy to borrow, buy, and consume -- and go back and do it again.  This unsustainable policy is ultimately destructive to the planet and individual inhabitants.  Nevertheless, many of the leaderless consider it unpatriotic to refrain from such practices and to conceive of saving, burning credit cards and forsaking advertisements as wrong.  The consumer is adrift and a consumer's ship is sinking in a sea of red ink and rising oceans from melting glaciers.  It is unchristian to abandon these wandering souls and expect that they will fend for themselves.  Being leaders means we must advance a service-based economy, energized by compassion for others, not a consumer-culture based on greed.

     Prayer: Lord, teach us to be shepherds to our wandering and indebted consumers.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Almost full moon, July 2009
       
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*photo credit)

July 20, 2009     Recognizing Light Pollution and Moon Day

      And then the moon, always punctual, to mark the months and make division of time; 

     the moon it is that signals the feasts, a luminary that wanes after her full.

      The month derives its name from hers, she waxes wonderfully in her phases, banner of the hosts on high, shining in the vault of heaven.             (Ecclesiasicus 43: 6-9)

   

      Today we observe Moon Day and regard this, our nearest heavenly body with special attention.  We know that the moon shines brightly in certain rural places but that is not the case everywhere on the Earth, especially in urban areas.  I once camped in Montana, "Big Sky Country," and was amazed at the expanse and clarity of the sky;  it rivaled only another sight I had the privilege to observe in the Peru/Bolivia border regions on a clear night in the southern hemisphere with virtually no electricity to create a glare or "light pollution."

     Weather conditions affect visibility on any particular night.  However, in populated modern urban areas the glare of street, business and residential lighting along with vehicular lights makes the heavenly bodies fade into a misty distance.  The clarity of the brilliant outer space and the Milky Way is not visible to many nature-starved urban residents who would love to see the heavenly glory known to ancestors of old;  the ancient Greeks and primitive tribes had such a scenic vista denied to many people today.

      Light pollution is a major problem in areas such as Tucson, Arizona, where urban telescopes and observatories are located -- and the city is trying to take steps to reduce light pollution.  That problem extends to observational equipment in many  metropolitan centers.  The places are lit well, too well, as we can observe when flying; the lights of a distant city send a glow that is seen for miles from an airliner.  This lighting was highly restricted during war, as in the famous blackouts during the Second World War, when drivers drove about with dimmed lights, street lighting was curbed, and windows were blackened.

      Can light pollution be restricted without blackouts? Reflection shields can direct light rays downward.  Unnecessary lighting, especially on highways, could be reduced, though some drivers may complain.  We have come a long way from the old street lamps of the 19th century, and some expect night lighting of sufficient illumination to allow them to read a book anywhere at night.  In order to reduce crime, the trend is for increased  lighting of streets, parking areas, practice fields, and campuses. One university plant manager said during an environmental resource assessment that I was the first to complain to him about too much lighting; he said most parents and students want more lighting.

     Prayer:  Lord, You are the light of the world.  Help us to bring this light to others.

 

 

 

 

 


Ripened mulberries from garden tree
       
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*photo credit)

July 21, 2009     Fighting Hunger in America in 2009 

     It is approaching the end of the month, and the number of those coming to my door for food is starting to pick up.  Our parishes give out bags of dried and canned food to tide people over until the next month.  However, I often suspect that many could live within their limited resources (food stamps and WIC food allotments) provided they apportioned their food stamps according to the right types of foods, and stretched these carefully throughout the month. When I inquire about how much people receive, most tell me it is more than what I budget resources for my food (I budget three dollars a day and share this with an orphan in India).  I wonder just how well these people are working to budget food needs properly, and to seek to improve their own lot according to the limited resources at hand. 

     Variation is possible.  Some complained that my style of living is not for everyone, since it consists of nothing but the traditional Appalachian beans and cornbread.  While these are  food staples in this region, I have attempted to modify the non-varied diet in several way:  cooking new dishes,  gardening with variety of vegetables and herbs, and doing some gathering of tasty natural flora.  The cooking must be done, for there is simply not enough low-cost food from a supermarket to sustain a person through a month on a low budget.  However, in a special issue in this website is my refutation of that lack of variation argument by naming all daily soups I intend to concoct this year -- a new one for every day.  Today's is the 205th soup-of-the-day for 2009 (organic butternut squash, tomatoes and garlic served cold).  

     Supplementing by gardening is possible.  Along with cooking, one can raise different vegetables, which many of my neighbors are now doing.  It does not take much space (flowerbeds and pots can do, along with backyard garden plots).  Gardening adds otherwise costly vegetables to the dinner table during the growing portion of the year -- and this addition can be organically grown and of known quality.  From April to October I have a garden salad meal, with tomatoes being the mainstay between July and September.  By using seasonal extenders fresh vegetables can last to the year's end.

     Food gathering is possible.  A second approach is to gather goods from the natural world around us.  This is more easily done in rural areas than in urban ones, for the practice includes both gathering flora and hunting fauna to supplement our diets.  That task is quite difficult in congested areas.  For those of us near forestland, it includes gathering spring greens, summer berries, autumn fruit and nuts, and winter roots.  We are pestered by a host of wildlife (see July 18).  Thrifty hunters turn the deer into venison sausage, which I distribute to the hungry who are willing to cook with it.  All of this gathering and hunting yields food that is very low in cost and very high in nutrition.

     Prayer:  Lord, teach us to eat simply, locally, and nutritionally and to encourage others to do the same.

 

 

 

 


Sunset over rural Kentucky land
       
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*photo credit)

July 22, 2009       Observing Space Week 2009

     Space Week involves the great "out there" -- the unexplored vastness beyond which no human has ventured.  It is hard to imagine that much of Earth was part of this unknown until about the sixteenth century, and frigid portions remained unexplored until a century ago.  Ocean explorers speak of the vast unknown marine sea bed.  Looking outward, we see today that outer space is the vast space measured in light years, and only a hint is known of the millions of heavenly bodies that astronomers are discovering.

Human beings want to reach beyond the current limits, and so the legitimate search for the unknown is part of our very nature.

     The current space program goes beyond the Cold War contest between the Soviet Union and the United States.  For those of us who remember the Russian Sputnik challenge of the 1950s, the space program became a game of material and technological advancement and who could prove a greater claim to preeminence.  Billions of dollars have been spent and other nations (Japan, the European Union, China, even North Korea) seek to enter the exclusive space club.  While this is being written, the Hubble Space Telescope has been refurbished by another team of space adventurers.  The EU space program continues with missions to outer space.  China has plans to go beyond weather and communications satellites and to become a space leader.  Exploration and scientific research at the International Space Station have had cooperative successes.

     Space programs have had their down side; space probes are expensive in an age of limited resources needed for such down to earth problems as world hunger and AIDS.  Space pollution (an assortment of debris from launch equipment and spent parts) is emerging as a problem for existing weather and directional satellites and could be harmful to future space mission vehicles.  The amount of such junk is growing and requires some degree of international regulation.   

     Furthermore, a few super-rich have taken advantage of the hard-strapped Russian space program, and they have hitched rides as a form of exotic tourism, thus diminishing the basic purpose of the programs.  One gets an awful feeling that taxpayers are expected to pay for such nonsense.  Venture capitalists are striving to develop a private traveling vehicle that could carry the super-rich tourists out to the reaches of moon and planets.  Again, it is a program conceived for the elite, while impoverished people down on Earth die from lack of sufficient food and medicine. 

      An emerging question that we hardly want to mention for fear this might cause it to happen: "Will a combination of permissiveness by taxpayers, imperialism by leaders, and greed by the defense industry give birth to space weapons?  Are we so "spacey" as to lack common sense?   Perhaps.

     Prayer:  Lord, keep us down to Earth through proper use of limited resources; help us explore the unknown in a moderate way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Countless droplets of dew, jewels from the Earth
       
(
*photo credit)

July 23, 2009   Skygazing and the Perseid Meteor Showers

      Tonight, in the middle of Space Week, we realize that the Perseid Meteor Showers are beginning.  This is a natural night light show that is entertaining for all ages.  We stop and gaze to the heavens in a sense of wonder.  What about the rising and setting of planets, the appearance of comets, and the beginning and end of the cosmos?  We have the example of the mystic, St. Ignatius of Loyola, who would spend night time gazing at the heavens in a more pollution-free Roman environment;  he would find this an ideal time to converse with the Creator through prayerful meditation. 

      Many eager potential sky-gazers are hindered by light pollution from viewing heavenly spectacles.  However, the degree of hindrance varies depending on weather conditions, the local topography, which can shield areas from night glare, and the magnitude of night lighting in the vicinity.  The hope is that all who are hindered will have opportunities to travel to areas with clearer skies;  maybe they can be part of a low-budget camping trip and spend the time seeing sky wonders that are hidden from where they live.  As noted in Monday's reflection, the percentage of the world's population who can truly skygaze declines each year through urbanization and increasing light pollution.  Curb tv and video games and seek simpler forms of night pastimes. 

     Primitive people were keen observers and developed  sophisticated knowledge of the heavens.  They learned about the changing constellations through the seasons, the exact position of stars with reference to local directions, the rising and setting of the planets, the phases of the moon, and the position of the sun in summer and winter, the length of day and night.  Skygazing was thus more than an entertainment;  it was an opportunity to refine one's observational skills.  The star formations led to tales woven according to various cultural traditions.  We westerners learn the ancient Greek names for constellations; the bodies of the heavens became gods and goddesses for Greeks, and the deities interacted through the imaginative weaving of stories.  For these earlier peoples, the heavens were their easily available national libraries and the source of their oral and written traditions; they observed that the heavens were in dynamic motion seasonally.

     Very ancient traditions recorded extraordinary events in the dawn of human awareness, when an unexpected heavenly body came close to the Earth on its journey to the sun.  The close call caused the possible breaking up of a planet in our solar system, and affected our Earth's polarity and rotational patterns, as well as created a violent wind, water, volcano, and earthquake super-phenomenon of a magnitude never before or since recorded.  Read the well documented book Cataclysm: Compelling Evidence of a Cosmic Catastrophe in 9500 B.C. by D.S. Allan and J.B. Delair (Santa Fe, New Mexico: Bear & Company, 1997).

     Prayer: I look into the heavens, made by your fingers, at the moon and stars you set in place -- (Psalm 8: 3)

 

 

 

 


Morning comes to rural Kentucky farm
       
(
*photo credit)

July 24, 2009       Assisting the Landless

      We need space to live, reside, recreate and enjoy life.  Both as individuals and as social groups we seek our own places, whether a room, garden plot, or farm.  Our physical and psychic well-being demands privacy, a chance to contact the soil, and some ample moving space. We often have to be satisfied with a small room, a potted plant, a short walkway, a frequented park.

     Population pressures deny some folks the space essential for a higher quality of life.  This leads some to be usurpers on others' "property."  Landless folks do not have the privileges of their ancestors to purchase low-cost farmland on the Great Plains for one dollar an acre.  While many suburbanites have space, half the American people do not.  Maine's two thousand miles of coastland are privatized to such an extent that only a small fraction of shore can be enjoyed by the landless citizens.  This privatized condition extends beyond beach rights to vast tracts of interior lands.  The Earth contains over fifty million square miles of surface land (36.8 billion acres or about six acres per person).  A sizeable portion of this land is uninhabitable, but only a relatively small amount is needed for supplying basic human needs.  Unfortunately, productive land is often used for livestock raising, golf courses, and lawns, or is cluttered by urban development.

      Human beings have a right to land, to the commons in order to meet basic needs.  In many primitive cultures, land is held communally and is distributed through community authorities.  The Creator intended land for all.  These programs may help:

     * Urban homesteading of unused, mismanaged and abandoned lots, buildings and open space;   

     * Turning over of excess private, religious and non-profit landholdings for the use of the neighborhood for community gardens and recreational space;

     * Making state and national forestlands available for meeting non-destructive recreational needs, and forbidding the logging of such lands by special interest groups;

     * Regulating foreign agricultural land investment by food- importing countries like China and South Korea, and guaranteeing that local growers are not driven off of their farms but are party to the investment projects;

     * Helping support Third World redistribution projects and assistance with tools and basic supplies for pioneer families as well as small-scale growers; and

     * Encouraging backyard gardens and use of available public free space for urban gardening projects.

     Prayer:  Lord help us to reclaim the commons for the landless.

 

 

 

 


Learning to cook by using an online recipe database
       
(
*photo credit)

July 25, 2009     Starting a Cooking School

       People come to our door in increasing numbers, both because of hard times and because it is getting near the end of the month.

Bad buying practices, poor budgeting and minimal food preparation cause them to run out of food before the next food stamps or WIC cards.  At the start of the month some buy soft drinks and resell that and some food to others.  Non-food-stamp people complain that those on welfare can afford better cuts of meat and other foods than they can -- and do not deserve to be given supplementary food at the month's end.  These are tough times.  Granted some folks fall through the cracks;  they go without food because someone in the household sold their food for drugs, or they are unable for one or other reason to obtain government handouts.  Others who could live more modestly are not helped by church handouts that cause them to stop trying to improve their budgeting and home economics. 

      In one of my parishes (Our Lady of the Mountains in Stanton, Kentucky), Sister Mary Jane Kreidler, the parish life director, has initiated a "cooking kitchen" program.  She has gathered seven or so, mostly young mothers, with few food preparation and purchase skills and moved them patiently through a process of astute buying and cooking.  The class plans a menu; they go together to the grocery store and purchase basic nutritious food ingredients; and then return and split the food into two portions:  one they use for their own prepared lunch according to a traditional recipe; the other portion is allotted in individual sub-portions according to the number in each household.  After finishing the lunch and conversing, these homemakers return to their families and cook the ingredients for supper in the same fashion as done earlier in the day at the shared lunch in the church hall kitchen.   

     The process certainly excels mere charitable giving of actual food items (never money because of lack of control), for that food is limited to use by those who cook the basic ingredients given.  The churches never give market cards either, for fear the cards will be used for junk food or cigarettes.   The basic problem in America is not lack of food, but lack of willingness to purchase nutritious food and to prepare meals at home.  Many are food junkies along with other substance abuse problems.  Confronting bad food habits goes beyond distributing food that could be sold or wasted.

     The church becomes a good steward.  All the needy who are able to bake their own bread, prepare their own main dishes and create nutritious desserts are able to stretch food stamps and WIC money  -- and do not need to beg for additional food except in rare circumstances (e.g., tragic occasions of natural disaster or need to feed visitors).  Far better in these difficult times is to furnish money and supplies for class work, and to teach people how to properly purchase and cook nutritious items.

     Prayer:  Lord, show us how to be teachers who follow your example and multiply food supplies, so others can eat their fill.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Fruit from a volunteer squash from her compost pile
               (photo by Sally Ramsdell)

July 26, 2009          Multiplying Loaves

      Today's reading (John 6: 1-15) parallels that of the other Gospels (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:32-44; Luke 9:10-17).  The various passages contain some common elements: the basic trust in Jesus and in what he says; distrust by disciples and followers as to whether there is enough food; a miracle of either physical multiplication of the food or the opening of the stored food by the many for others who are nearby (a miracle of charity); the example of a youth who is willing to risk radical sharing of what are his bare essentials; the gracious God giving us well above what is needed to feed the hungry; the ultimate satisfaction on the part of believers; and the need not to waste the gifts given.

      A story is told about a concentration camp in the Second World War, where a Jewish lady was given a vial by a priest on the way to his death.  The lady was asked to distribute these bread fragments to all who asked her, and she observed that the vial never went empty, though she did not recognize the importance and the miracle at the time.  Truly, it was a miracle, but it was only years later that another priest explained the significance to her.  The vial never went empty; it contained the Bread of Life, the Lord's presence to a suffering people.

      On our journey of faith we need energy to sustain us for we are spiritually hungry.  Without nourishment we will lose heart, for the tasks ahead of us are immense, and only God's presence can sustain us.  Certainly the world's poor understand the pangs of hunger, and they can vividly picture the kingdom of heaven where there will be no want, only plenty;  however the spiritual hunger is just as deep and real.  We may ask whether we will feel comfortable in any banquet, when we are forgetful of the hungry folks around us.  We are blessed to satisfy our spiritual hunger, and doubly blessed to share concern and compassion for those who are so often forgotten and overlooked.

      The Eucharistic Feast is a foretaste of the heavenly banquet.  Thus we extend thanks to God for the gift given, the time to partake, and the energy to respond and use gifts properly.  The disciples gathered the fragments left over so there would be no waste, and these filled twelve wicker baskets -- one for each apostle, an over-abundance from the hand of God.  We resolve to waste less time and fewer opportunities, talents and resources.  Leftovers show the plentitude of God and must be reused as tomorrow's gifts.  Partaking in the Eucharist is connecting ourselves with the sacrifice of Jesus. 

     Some will not understand and will even ridicule our faith in the Body of Christ,  Others will believe for a moment and then fall away, for the saying is too hard;  and still others will allow the great mystery to grow and then they will enter into the Lord's sacrifice.  Multiplication of the loaves continues unto today.

     Prayer:  Lord, help us to believe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Spiders' webs, naturally green building materials
       
(
*photo credit)

July 27, 2009      Building with Green Materials

     Many people today want to build green, but they hardly know what it means beyond using more insulation or installing energy efficient windows.  However these are good starters.  A major consideration in either hot or cold climates is to save the domestic air whether heated or cooled.  The heat and cooling sources are of prime importance for long-term savings and carbon imprint.  Building green is not as much a matter of the materials as of the size of the structure.  An oversized structure tarnishes the luster of the entire project even if it is made of the greenest of materials.  Non-toxic building materials are obviously desired, but compared to structure size and location they carry little weight as factors determining "greenness."

     Know the site.  The primary green determining factor is where the structure is or is to be located.  A desert site would favor certain construction materials differing from those used on a wooded mountain side or a north country valley or seashore urban home.  The degree of heating or cooling required calls for different construction, and wind or water protection techniques for winter or summer should determine structural materials.  The specific site may be well or poorly protected and some berming or shade-tree planting may be in order.  The way the structure faces and where windows are located are part of this primary green planning phase.  A Florida design is not meant for the Alaskan woods.  Most of all, the site may be near some local building materials and at a distance from others. 

     Know what is available.  The builder may look about and talk to commercial outlets about standard building materials.  The owners may soon feel quite limited due to differences in prices between asphalt or metal roofs and tile roofs, or between wood and brick.  They may hear about non-traditional building materials such as cob walls or straw bales (see Special Issues at this website for the latter).  Still the bold do-it-yourselver may want to use cordwood or field stone or pressed earth for the walls.  While these materials help define the type of structure, the building materials are generally only a quarter of the total home cost.

     Know recycled possibilities.  The green builder needs to know that recycled or "deconstructed" materials of quite high quality and at bargain prices abound in many places -- for there are four million unoccupied homes in America, some of them awaiting deconstruction.  A first-time builder is cautioned that obtaining these materials without proper assistance can be dangerous work.  However, demolition materials are abundant and of high quality; builders can get bargains in the quality of older framing, flooring, logs, brick, block, plumbing, windows, doors and even trim.  If building with virgin materials, hunt locally for stone, rough-cut timber, cordwood or locally produced brick.

     Prayer:  Lord, give us right judgment so as to properly plan, and not attempt to build a "green" structure on sand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


A skyward view above marsh vegetation
       
(
*photo credit)

July 28, 2009             Traveling by Air

     I travel by air less and less each year. I used to find this form of travel quite exciting.  Now in post 9-11 days and through getting older, I find air travel worrisome.  Granted using small airports is nice, but generally one or other terminus is in a big city, where the rush and bustle of hoping flights stay to schedule and standing in line for ticket clearance prove disconcerting.  Seasoned travelers are more accustomed to taking off shoes and sending everything through the x-ray machine -- and they don't crack jokes with the inspectors either.  I'm getting better with those inspections, but they still demand severe concentration and present the possibility of a thorough search.

     We tend to take our annoyances out on neighbors.  Check-in or parking delays, plane delays in boarding or departure, or delays in arrival and deplaning at the terminal gate can be immensely frustrating, especially if the time span from one operation to the next is limited.  After some flying, we are supposed to get used to the unexpected, but I find surprises more intolerable with age.  I would prefer to drive to a destination of less than five hundred miles and, if accompanied by another in the car, can arrive just as fast, far more conveniently, and actually using about the same amount of fuel.  It takes me longer to travel to an airport (60 miles away), go through ticketing, waiting, boarding, flying, disembarking, getting transportation and arriving at the final destination than to drive 500 miles.  Carrying more auto passengers allows for still more savings per person-- but maybe it is less comfortable.  Traveling by train and bus is greener still.

     Besides the air travelers can be quite annoying -- as I'm sure we all are for others.  Maybe it's their looks or gestures or way of acting or talking.  The cell phone user next to you will cut loose in a loud voice and continue the generally innocuous conversation right in your face.  Or maybe it's that difficult moment when the fellow in front decides to lean his seat back into your own limited space.  Or it is that last arrival with far more packages than can ever be placed in the already filled overhead rack.  Maybe it is the anticipated difficulties clearing or just thinking about clearing customs.  Frustrations in scheduling changes are balanced by reaching a destination goal rapidly and in relatively good shape.       

     Some travel hints are worth remembering:  travel light, super light; limit the number of loose items, for you only have two hands;  know the terminals by studying the particular layouts found in available airline magazines; wear identification tags around your neck instead of fingering into pocket or purse or billfold each time; attempt to use automatic ticket machines for convenience; carry snacks in your pack; take good reading material; and smile. 

     Prayer:  Lord, help me to be satisfied to stay at home and communicate electronically or through other means.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Gardener's helper - the lady bird bettle
        (photo by Walter Para)

July 29, 2009        Learning about Medicinal Herbs

     Many rural Americans grew up knowing the benefits of certain native plants, and especially culinary and medicinal herbs.  Over the years many of those knowledgeable about these varieties and remedies have passed from the scene without conveying their expertise to others.  Modern sufferers prefer to run to the pharmacy or the caregiver for a prescription that is not necessarily better.  We often forget that the origins of many modern medicines such as aspirin are traditional herbal treatments.  At this time of year, when the garlic is harvested, we remember that many of the world's people highly favor it and tout its medicinal effects, many of which may actually exist.  Elderly people have a common love for garlic -- and everyone in the household has to love it also, in order for peace to endure.  Garlic is one of many medical herbs used by Appalachians.  Others include:

     * Black cohosh -- used for hot flashes;

     * Comfrey -- used as an overall cure, and as tea for coughing and for wounds, burns and ulcers.  Overuse causes complications;

     * Damask rose -- brewed and used as a mild astringent tonic;

     * Dill -- brewed to relieve flatulence, colic and hiccups;

     * Elderberry -- juice taken for flu and colds;

     * Fennel -- same as dill for flatulence;

     * Ginseng -- root and leaves taken whole or as teas for a wide variety of treatments;

     * Horseradish -- simmer roots with sugar water for allergies;

     * Jewelweed -- bruised leaves for relief of rashes and irritated skin;

     * Mullein -  well cooked leaves used as cough drops;

     * Parsley -- bruised fresh leaves for relief from insect bites and for improvement of mental powers;

     * Pokeberry -- swallowed whole for arthritis/rheumatism;

     * Rosemary -- brewed alone or with other herbs for relief of colds, colic and nerves;

     * Sage -- brewed to relieve coughs and cold symptoms;

     * Salad burnet -- leaves for diarrhea and hemorrhage;

     * Sassafras -- brewed with damask rose for relief of inflammation of the eyes;

     * Sweet basil -- brewed as tea to relieve vomiting;

     * Tansy -- rubbed on the body or hung in the room to repel flies, mosquitoes and ants; leaves are used for inflammations.

     This listing is intended to be informational, rather than to present recommendations.  Some of the herbs are quite effective as recommended, but all ought to be used only in moderation.  They can save money, but differ in effectiveness. It is always best to talk herbal practices over with your primary health care provider before launching into their regular use.  Non-professional self-diagnosis, even in hard times, is often faulty.    

     Prayer:  Lord, give us the patience and ability to listen to the wisdom of the past and to accept it in a balanced manner.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Monarch on joe-pye-weed
       
(
*photo credit)

July 30, 2009      Pirating and Corporate Accountability

      During the earlier part of this year we read with somewhat increasing alarm about the small-time Somali ex-fishermen who were working in teams and attacking the massive shipping off the coasts of their homeland, a failed state.  The western media stood solidly on the side of the shipping companies, some large, some struggling, and some even bringing food relief to Africa.  Hijacking of major oil tankers has occurred, been thwarted, and even in some cases pirates killed or brought to some resemblance of justice in Kenya.  But the piracy story is often quite a one-sided saga. 

     In fact, widespread sympathy for the pirates is building in the Middle East and other countries.  A number of pirates are ex-fishermen, because the corporate factory fishing vessels from richer lands have drained the fish resources of their normal fishing grounds, and the pirates can not compete on corporate ground rules.  The factory ships send their hoard of fish to the tables of the world's affluent;  pirates return to their homeland where half the Somali people today face imminent starvation due to drought, lawlessness and lack of governmental structure.  The case is certainly two-sided and calls for a multi-faceted approach including shipping protection, control of factory ships and policing of the Somali coast.  

     Corporate Accountability International (CAI), a nonpartisan membership organization, seeks to hold corporations accountable for their actions.  For twenty-five years, CAI, formerly known as Infact, has pressured such corporations as Nestle, General Electric and Philip Morris/Altria to change business practices.  The group seeks to stop the human and environmental toll wrought by transnational corporations.  The CAI is concerned about the human right to water (against privatization of public water supplies by corporations) and challenges the food giants such as Cargill, Monsanto and Dow, corporations that control the world's food supply, promote and use dangerous pesticides that poison people and the natural world and increase our dependence on biotechnology and genetically engineered crops and food.

    We suggest here that CAI is well equipped to handle this quite complex corporate accountability issue that involves water and food.  Piracy is in low regard because it threatens the "business as usual" approach to modern commerce.  Thus navies of a dozen countries are contributing to protecting the shipping and apprehending pirates.  Who is challenging the factory ships that are robbing the locals of needed protein sources as well as depleting the fisheries of the world?  If you agree, apply pressure within the public interest movement for those with proven records to take up this complex issue.  Piracy is now spreading to other poor regions and these folks may be less gun slingers than modern day Robin Hoods.  Contact: CAI,  46 Plympton Street,  Boston, MA   02118-2425  <www.stopcorporate abuse.org>

     Prayer: Lord, teach us to see all sides of an issue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Black-eyed susan in summer's garden
       
(
*photo credit)

July 31, 2009      Defending Human Rights

      During difficult times when foreign trade is haphazard, markets are iffy, unemployment is high, and protectionism is raising its ugly head, the rights of minorities in individual nations are often overlooked.  The temptation on the part of national policy is to wink at human rights violations "for the greater good" and to be silent in order to further the good will of commercial partners.  Is it right to deny the inhabitants of Gaza the basic construction materials to rebuild their destroyed housing?  Is it right to go easy on Tibetan human rights for a cozier trade relationship with economically powerful China?  Is it right to forget about the oppression of certain minorities in various Indian states?  What about Kurds or Christian minorities in parts of the Middle East?   In many parts of the world human rights are being violated in large and small ways, but in none of these is this justified.

     Our own country is trying to recover from torture accusations and possible misdeeds in prison camps at Guantanamo Bay and in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Human rights advocates asked searching questions as to whether it is morally right to flaunt international laws about treatment of prisoners.  Don't these prisoners have a basic right to fair trials and hearings in court?  If these are combatants in war, how could we as a people ignore the demands of the Geneva Treaty for proper treatment of war prisoners?  This seemed to go counter to our long tradition of liberty.  Terrorist suspects were held indefinitely without fair trial.  Reports circulated involving torture, water boarding and other means for making supposed terrorists talk. 

     Now that such actions are officially out of place, the question is rising as to who knew about it and when.  Human rights are often overlooked in at times of combat.  In past times of lapses, such as the internment of Japanese Americans in the Second World War, the actions afterwards were recognized as temporary and needing some form of compensation for victims.  We cannot excuse our past failures such as the Alien and Sedition Act of the 1790s, and yet in troubled times people will tend to look away from restrictions on liberties and actions that step on the human rights of people caught in the cross fire. 

     America is a home of the free and the brave, and at times like these we must bend over backwards to do the right thing.  Our record must be consistently for people whether they are those at home or in foreign lands.  Other governments may be angered, if we focus on their human rights violations, but that we must do if we are to be true to our constitutional guarantees and defense of freedom.  Civil liberties and freedom are always at stake, and thus we must go the extra mile in human rights matters.

      Prayer:  Lord, teach us to speak up for the rights of individuals and never to let the risk of economics or political considerations hold us back as a nation.

 

Copyright © 2009 Earth Healing, Inc.  All rights reserved.

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

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