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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

September, 2016

Copyright © 2016 by Al Fritsch

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Passionflower, Passiflora incarnata (*Photo credit)

September Reflections, 2016

       The heat of summer, which seems to be more difficult to endure each year with climate changes and the hottest months on record (5/15 to 3/16), gives way to blissful autumn breezes and cooler nights.  The flowers foretell a more gentle season.  Deep green foliage of August now yields to brilliant patches of red and yellow flowers that speckling the landscape.  September means first persimmons, elderberries that can be squeezed and baked in various ways, and the sanitary smell of walnuts now dropping from the trees and begging to be hulled and dried.  September is gathering firewood, insulating, taking hikes, preparing the late autumn garden, enjoying final picnics and festivals, and watching waning days, busy squirrels and flocking birds.  Times are a changin'.

                                Purple Passionflower

                      Does the title signal discomfort?
                         Really it does the opposite for me.

                       I like deep-hued flowers, yes purple ones,

                         but this one garners added attention.

                       It sensitizes me to beauty and
                                                  awakening passion in doing so.

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Small Kentucky family farm. Mercer Co., KY.
(*photo credit)

September 1, 2016  Extending the Garden Growing Season

      The seasonal extender covering (tent) can lengthen our autumns (and winter) if properly planned -- and at very little extra cost.  I use Remay or breathable fabric that covers late summer beds to protect seedlings against the sun and preserve moisture in autumn.  By continuing coverage the protective gauze will also allow for growth in winter and hopefully obtain a snow layer in case of deep freeze conditions.  Even with one low twenty Fahrenheit day last winter, my collards, mustard, kale, turnip greens, oregano and garlic kept fresh shape and could be used in middle and late winter as well as early spring.

     Protective devices come in all sizes and shapes and are made with a variety of materials, including tunnels and greenhouses with light (solar) or heavy heating supplements.  The goal in any winterized gardening is to insulate the edges of the patch quite well and then capture and preserve as much of the solar rays as possible.  Positioning in a southern direction allows for better solar heating qualities.  If the seasonal extender is a solar greenhouse attached to a building, it can serve as a heating device for the adjacent interior space. 

     Preparation of winter beds should be done in late August or early September at the latest.  The goal is to establish the plants to a reasonable size before the first cool spell or frost.  For this reason, choice of plants should be those more resistant to cold weather; select brassicas (broccoli, kale, collards, etc.) rather than lettuce that many people naturally pick for spring gardens.  Japanese radishes and members of the onion family also do well.  If turnips have the chance to mature they can be surrounded by insulated material and thrive in our climate throughout the winter months and continue being fresh.

     Using a tent made from Remay is the cheapest approach.  Keep as little air space as possible above the tops of the vegetables.  One can use cover ribs made from American bamboo (lasts about two years), PVC arched pipe, rebar or other materials.  Pin the edges down with stakes or weigh down using garden tools or bean poles laid along the edges.  Make sure the wind does not disturb the tent.  On warm autumn days the entire covering could be loosened and rolled back to allow fresh air.    

     In the spring the wintered vegetables will go to seed rather quickly, but this can be slowed by topping the seeding plants, while the tops are fresh before blooming and consumed together with harvested leaves.  This extends the plant life by two to three weeks.  A cover crop of vegetation can be tilled under and the wintering green vegetables are as good as non-edible vetch.  It is always a telling sign of progress to see a fully green garden cover long before others even think about spring gardening.

     Prayer: Lord, give us the energy to work with productive nature throughout the year.







Heal-all, Prunella vulgaris, traditional Appalachian medicinal plant.
(*photo credit)

September 2, 2016    Honor the Cherokee National Holiday

     The history of the noble Cherokee nation, one of the so-called "five civilized nations" of the Southeast (in TN, GA, NC and KY), included great promise that turned to sorrow upon further contact with the waves of white settlers in the nineteenth century.  The promise included development of the Cherokee written language and government.  A German-born activist, Christian Priber (who a hostile English government accused of being a "Jesuit" though not a Catholic), came among the Cherokees in the early eighteenth century.  He sought to set up a "Kingdom of Paradise," which triggered concern among colonialists because he wanted to include the French and black slaves as citizens of this commonwealth.  Priber encouraged Cherokee trade though constantly shortchanged by English agents, which brought Priber's imprisonment and death.

     With Anglo American expansionism the Cherokees saw treaty after treaty broken and more and more of their ancestral land taken over by white settlers.  A proud people with their deep culture along with a non-warlike nature became the target of land-grabbing that culminated in destructive actions during the Jackson Administration.  The  Cherokee people's cohesiveness was broken in the 1830s when a major tribal component was forced to march on the "Trail of Tears" across the Mississippi Valley and into Indian Territory of present day Oklahoma.  Though difficult to defend, the expulsion was promoted by Jackson, who said this was one way to save the integrity of these tribes in Oklahoma's "Indian lands." 

     Some of the Cherokee people escaped from the round-up and forced march.  These fugitives hid in the Appalachian hills, intermarried with homesteaders and melted into the local residents.  Their Cherokee blood still courses in the veins of quite a number of Appalachians.  A more pure-blooded component of this Eastern Cherokee Band set up a reservation in North Carolina, first under private and then governmental auspices; this reservation prospers today in Swain County adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  The people in and around Cherokee, North Carolina, pride themselves on their heritage and maintain an informative museum and a theater, both giving highlights about Cherokee history and culture.  The reservation thrives on tourism and gambling.

     The western band was settled in Oklahoma in and around Cherokee County east of Tulsa.  This band is quite conscious of its history but does not have a land-based center like the North Carolina reservation.  However, its history is highlighted on the website <www.cherokeehistory.com>.  Among the descendants of this band of Cherokee is the humorist and actor Will Rogers, who had Cherokee blood from both his father's and mother's sides.  Rogers said his folks did not come over on the Mayflower; they met it here.  His remarks include: "I have Indian Blood in me.  I have just enough white blood for you to question my honesty."  One can understand this in the light of Cherokee-American relations. 

     Prayer: Lord, help us honor our Cherokee brothers and sisters.






Eastern tailed-blue, Cupido comyntas.
(*photo credit)

September 3, 2016    Laboring to Save Our Wounded Earth

     Three steps are needed to begin the process of healing our Earth: knowing what is wrong; stopping the perpetrators of the wrongdoing; and mustering the will power to take corrective action.  All of these take effort or work -- and that is what we are focusing on during this Labor Day weekend.  In recent years this holiday has come to mean fun and games, the kickoff of an election campaign, and honoring the labor union movement.  All of these are to be encouraged.  Climate change triggers a work ethic that is directly related to our responsibilities as citizens of a troubled Earth.  The dignity of work is more than making a decent living; it involves uniting to save our Earth.

     Learning.  It takes a certain amount of concentration to focus on what is wrong with use of nonrenewable resources, practices causing excessive carbon dioxide and methane generation and buildup in our environment, who the culprits are, and what we must do about them, and individual practices that must be undertaken as part of a conservation ethic.  There are still climate change deniers out there who some say ought to be tried for treason to the planet.  I still think non-violent efforts are better choices.      

     Public interest action.  We are tempted to deny the current environmental problems, but upon learning about them we are drawn to identify and publicize culprits.  This takes a special effort, for the task is too big for individuals and requires joint action.  Joining involves more than an occasional monetary donation or signing a petition; it includes letter-writing, phone calls, interesting others to the issue, demonstrating, and a host of actions that can bring about change -- all labors of love.

     Remedies.  We are all partly to blame for the mess in which our troubled Earth finds herself.  Conserving resources is troublesome and yet needs to be undertaken.  Such measures include using and maintaining compost bins, walking when we could drive, and recycling various sorted materials, installing solar panels, substituting LEDs for incandescent electric bulbs, refraining from TV use or even removing the set, driving fuel efficient vehicles, using fewer electronic devices, curbing paper product use, and airing out the house during the night to replace air conditioning.

     Changing to simpler ways.  Consider a resource conscious diet of less animal products, little or no processed foods, and home grown or locally-grown vegetables and fruits.  Yes, living more simply and getting others to do likewise takes some effort and a little inconvenience at first -- but even this can turn into benefits over a longer period.  We can continue to break with the habits of peers and regard this as a religious commitment.  Quite often the art of changing lifestyle practices can become a pleasant game that can involve partners and friends.

     Prayer: Lord, give us the mental and spiritual alertness needed to live as "family" with those who lack essential resources.







Bergamot (bee-balm), Monarda fistulosa.
(*photo credit)

September 4, 2016  Discipleship and Spiritual Discipline

     As for your intention, who would have learnt it, had you not granted Wisdom and sent your holy spirit from above? (Wisdom 9, 17)

          We can become godly in our way of acting by becoming disciples of the Lord.  This can be realized through suffering with Christ and taking up our cross and joining in the salvation of the world.  To be godly as holy Wisdom (Jesus himself) is to discern how to act through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit -- and to suffer with and for others.  It makes me happy to suffer for you, as I am suffering now, and in my own body to do what I can to make up for all that has still to be undergone by Christ for the sake of his body, the Church. (Colossians 1:24)

     Let's expand the theology of redemption from saving our own individual souls to saving our troubled world, which is really very closely associated.  We have the gifts of wisdom and discernment so that we can plan effectively what to do.  We come to know right and wrong; we help develop proper remedies; and we pray for the will power to put these into effect.  Knowing occurs through the entire enterprise of formal and informal education; effecting changes to reduce the wrong being done is the work of public interest in this age; bolstering will power to do this work on both an individual and group level takes prayerful attention and discipline. 

     As church people doing godly work it is utterly important that we undertake practices of self-denial and conservation, and do so not as individuals apart from others, but as part of a community moving to the united end of a healed Earth.  As the Gospel (Luke 14: 25-33) today testifies, we must strengthen our will power through deliberate planning, not a hit or miss approach to salvation.  We are like architects preparing to build a sturdy building that must withstand the storms of life.  We are to prepare for battle like a military leader.  If the image shocks us a little is it because we lack discipline, a Church age-old emphasis.

     Without methodical planning and discipline our troubled Earth will not be saved.  Our consumer-based economic system is unchecked and so greed has its sway and permits vast accumulations of wealth: get money, buy things, consume them up and buy again, toss the discards, and buy again.  A driving force is personal satisfaction, and when it is delayed, materialists say "Try harder." 

     Discernment by spiritually wise people calls the consumer rat race into question.  We are to strive for love, joy, peace, patience and justice.  Yes, this is not a quest for convenience and ease; changes needed take effort and are often quite inconvenient.  Good will ultimately triumphs but there is a sacrificing cross along the way -- and it is dishonest to deny it.  Our vocation to save this troubled Earth is a privileged vocation -- and that brings its own satisfaction.  It is time to start.

     Prayer: Lord, teach us to become disciples through discipline. 





A "wild" petunia in Kentucky, Ruellia strepens.
(*photo credit)

September 5, 2016          Promote Urban Forests

     Experts admit that strips of vegetation near roadways can decrease highway traffic noise.  This is quite true where there is a thick undergrowth; the Federal Highway Administration says that thirty meters of dense vegetation can reduce noise by five decibels.  Some observe that these tree and other vegetation belts are luxuries that cannot be afforded by every community.  In this age of decreasing urban forestry existing vegetation is becoming more highly valued.  Recall the shady lanes of rural villages and the tree-lined streets of small-town America.  However, few tree plantings with all their benefits (shade, beauty, etc.) are done to reduce land-based noise, and yet most forms of urban forestry can reduce land-based and air traffic noises considerably. 

      Urban forestry can become a metropolitan planning goal.  Unfortunately, trees produce leaves that some find worrisome in the autumn; trees can become the victims of air pollution; the removal and replacement of aging trees is expensive.  Within the past few decades San Diego has lost one-quarter of its tree cover, Washington, DC half and Chicago and Philadelphia even more.  This is equivalent to what is occurring in the rain forest, and this tree loss results in less cleaning of polluted air, less retention of rain water, less shading that retards the heating of hardened road surfaces (and could reduce temperatures up to eight degrees).  Today's global warming and energy conservation consciousness trigger urban dwellers to regard trees as natural air conditioners as well as noise dampening instruments. 

     Tree planting programs can be initiated and encouraged by civic, religious and school groups, as well as by metropolitan governmental agencies.  For instance, Los Angeles is seeking to plant one million trees over a thirty-year period, although the city realizes that benefits will be rather slow to accrue.

     Several types of trees with dense foliage cover are more advantageous from an environmental standpoint.  Traffic tolerant evergreens can be favorites since they are laden with greenery year-round.  Some managers and homeowners do not like falling leaves and fruit/nuts, and so prefer light-leafed deciduous trees or evergreens.  Trees that are pollution tolerant should be a less important factor in selection, as stricter air-pollution and especially ozone standards are enforced. 

     Urban forestry target areas are widespread -- residential areas, roadways, cemeteries, malls and parking lots.  Most surfaces could use tree strips, strategic tree islands, or trees interspersed in open space.  Snow-belt maintenance crews often object to many trees because it is hard to negotiate around them -- but global warming means less snow.  Trees have too many advantages to allow inconveniences such as fall leaves or hindrances to snow plows to stand in the way of massive urban tree plantings.

     Prayer: Lord, teach us the good of natural things in life.  







Flowering in Kentucky, September, annual fleabane, Erigeron annuus.
(*photo credit)

September 6, 2016       Climate Change and the Poor

     For virtually every month in the last year the global temperature has reached modern records.  Glaciers and ice sheets are melting with greater rapidity than predicted even a decade ago; oceans are becoming more acidic and rising.  Coal's replacement by natural gas has not reduced this temperature rise because of the added greenhouse effect of its major component methane.  The United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) cites four areas where populations are most vulnerable: the Arctic, such as northern Canada and Alaska, Sub-Saharan Africa, small island nations in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, and Asian mega-deltas.

     All these areas are inhabited by people who are of lower income.  The Arctic is already experiencing more severe climatic change effects though more thinly populated.  Ethiopia and other parts of Eastern Africa are experiencing drought conditions this year.  At the Paris Climate Conference last December the Pacific Island nations pleaded for assistance from the global community as they watch their land area diminish through serious storm events and rising ocean levels.  The tens of millions in Bangladesh and the coastal regions of China and India await damaging changes in the forecast.  Both Arctic and Oceanic groups could be moved to more favorable locations through minor adjustment of world resources; however, this is not the case with Sub-Saharan regions of Africa and with the Asian mega-delta and coastal regions.

     The truth is that the affluent in much of the world could move to higher ground, but that is not the case of the poor who are caught in the rising tide.  Asians will suffer reductions in meltwater runoff from the receding mountain glaciers in the Himalayas, with negative effects on more than one billion people by 2050.  Australia will experience restricted water availability; America will expect declines in agricultural harvest; North America may experience extremes in weather; and Europe, perhaps the least negatively affected continent, can still expect coastal erosion and more climate-related natural catastrophes.  And in all these lands the poor will suffer most.

     When disasters occur, all too often as was exemplified in the Katrina Storm in New Orleans in 2005, poor people have the most difficult time moving to safety, much less starting afresh to rebuild their lives after the disaster.  The possible flooding and droughts that will undoubtedly come in the years ahead due to global warming will affect poor folks most, whether Inuit in the Arctic or Bangladeshi.  We still have precious time to cut climate change disastrous effects.  Flood walls and irrigation projects are expensive.  However, governments can provide potable water reservoirs and food distribution and health centers for people who suffer from increased malnutrition and burdens of diarrhoeal, cardio-respiratory and infectious diseases.  Yes, we can all work to bring on a renewable energy economy to reduce climate threats. 

     Prayer: Lord, make us compassionate to those who could suffer.







Lovely flowers of garlic chives.
(*photo by Sally Ramsdell)

September 7, 2016  The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Restive

     This election year has many talks and debates on a variety of subjects; some are on gross inequality and the decline of the Middle class in America.  Over and over, differences between the rich one percent and poor fifty and higher percents have been mentioned -- and yet few seem overly affected by the injustice expressed.  In April, when this reflection was first composed the Dow Jones Stock Market went above 18,000 for the first time since July 2015.  Business as usual.  China vies with the U.S. in the number of billionaires; few question this economic culture of accumulated wealth that seems to continue to grow. 

     Certainly the revelation of the "Panama Papers" help bring the tax-haven matter (maybe as high as thirty trillion dollars) to public attention.  Efforts to regulate large banks and financial institutions have been touched upon by the candidates from both political parties.  More rigid regulations, especially on escape industries with headquarters moving to countries with lower taxes, are being promised.  But the entire system is rigged with large sums spent on politicians who wink at laxity while the poor suffer.   

     Growing concentration of wealth and power does not mean that the lower ends of the human wealth spectrum are likewise growing richer (a trickle down myth).  And the upper end of the economic spectrum actually expects to continue to consume more of the resources of Earth.  Furthermore, China's growing upper class show that the "passion for luxury" is growing; in fact, the cost of luxury goods and services is growing twice as fast as the cost of everyday consumer products.  This is why increased ivory demand in luxury items could render a demise of elephants in two decades.

     Concentrated riches are extending over the Earth and so is the chasm between rich and poor.  Some might say this is all roses and that means if the rich get richer so do the poor -- but that is not the case.  In fact, those lacking basics of life (food, water, housing, etc.) actually increase while the percentage of total wealth of the lower quarter of the people of the world shrinks.  What we fail to realize is that this economic difference has a profound unsettling effect on our human family.  Too often power rests with wealth, and democracy erodes in the face of such differences.  The poor are poor, not dumb; they know.

     A world of immense wealth does violence to the world of people scratching for life's essentials.  This becomes an unsettling condition, especially when the un- and underemployed realize that there is no relief in sight.  By espousing a materialistic set of goals as propagated today, discontent means the poor thrashing out in violence and they becoming culprits, not the rich who support unjust causes precipitating the actions.  Differences in wealth lead to growing insecurity, and military reaction is no final solution.  The best security is redistribution of wealth.

     Prayer: Lord, make us see the situation and act justly.









Deptford pink, Dianthus armeria, small burst of color at garden's edge.
(*photo credit)

September 8, 2016    Champion Literacy for Everyone

     This is International Literacy Day and a time to appreciate the power of knowing how to read, obtain information, understand basic instruction, and prepare documents to assist in basic human living.  Literacy has been written about before in these daily reflections, from the general problem of total illiteracy to cultural illiteracy (literate people who no longer read for one or other reason), and functional illiteracy (those who do not read well, in English or native language).  Let's go beyond basics.

     Give quality time to reading.  TV and radio can make people lazy and cut back on their reading.  It is astounding that few read serious books, even when they buy them; some read novels but the majority do little reading at all beyond road signs and the gender of the restroom sign.  I lack TV and have concluded that TV access diminishes reading.  Literacy practice seems to be related to the media used for communication and the amount of time given to such media.  The best way to improve one's literacy is to give reading some quality time each day; however, this is more easily said than done, for reading takes more effort than switching on a TV set.

     Simplify lingua franca.  All too often indigenous languages are not the focus of attention.  It is the global (six UN languages) or "national" languages that needs to be read for the sake of widespread communication.  Why should not English-speakers or other UN language (Spanish, Chinese, French, Russian, and Arabic) pay a tax to assist those burdened to learn the lingua franca of trade and the Internet world? 

     A fraction of one-percent tax on sales of items and commerce would fund a global learning process available to all non-UN language speakers.  Furthermore, these major languages should be simplified for the sake of learning.  "Globish" or basic English language should become the polite vocabulary of people who are native English speakers, thus allowing larger numbers of those with English as a second or third language to have a better facility in basic communications.

     Support ongoing literacy programs.  Regard literacy as of global importance.  Some of the most vulnerable programs that are traditionally government funded are literacy ones.  Is this because benefactors are not public, or results take time to observe, or because the work is highly intensive as to labor demanded?  Every person who is able to read is a more valuable citizen and can be more effective for one's country and world -- plus this being a gratifying experience and liberation for individual citizens.  On the international front, literacy programs within developing countries afford excellent opportunities for volunteers to give service to others -- though even their volunteering requires a certain monetary investment.  Globally it is worth the effort.

     Prayer: Lord, inspire us to spread literacy so the Holy Word can be read and understood by all.

Resonance: The Echo of Our Triune God
By Al Fritsch, SJ

This, my final work has been in the germination stage for a decade. It is based on the Christian insight that a Triune God is manifested throughout the physical, chemical and biological worlds, and most especially in the social, artistic, musical, caregiving, and global collaboration of human beings. Click here to access.






End-of-summer pies.
(*photo credit)

September 9, 2016  Twelve Steps for Consumer Addicts        

     Social addictions must be addressed.  Jane Farmer gives us permission to copy her rendition of the 12 Step Consumer Anonymous program similar to AA and Drug Anonymous --

    1. We admitted that we have allowed ourselves to be manipulated by advertising, peer pressure, and our consumer culture into adopting a lifestyle that is wasteful, unsatisfying, and unsustainable for a planet with 7 billion people.

     2. Came to believe that something greater than ourselves, whether a spiritual Being or an awareness of our responsibility to the greater good (i.e., all of humanity, generations to come, and Earth herself) could deliver us from our egocentric lifestyles and restore us to sanity.

     3. Make a decision to take responsibility for every aspect of our lives and to devote ourselves to living ethically, trusting that our basic needs will be met by doing so.

     4. Made a searching and fearless inventory of ways in which we are living which harm other people, creatures, or the environment.

     5. Admitted to God, ourselves and each other our excesses and challenges in moving toward a sustainable lifestyle.

     6. Were entirely ready to consider and learn new ways of living, drawing on inspiration, creativity, and the help and encouragement of others.

     7. Humbly set about changing our priorities, and valuing people and relationships above things.

     8. Made a list of ways in which our lifestyle has knowingly or unknowingly hurt others or the environment, and became willing to change this as far as possible.

     9. Made concrete changes wherever possible, except when to do so would be injurious to others.

     10. Continued to take inventory of our lifestyle and when we found new challenges, promptly acting on them.

   11. Sought by prayer, meditation, education, and involvement to improve our understanding of the common good or God's will for us, asking only for an understanding of this and the power to carry it out.

     12. Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps and the fellowship of likeminded people, we tried to carry this message to other consumer addicts, and to demonstrate by our lifestyle that it is possible to live simply, freely and joyfully through mutual help and support. 

     Prayer: Lord, give us courage to squarely face our addictions.







Rudbeckia patch, the brown-eyed susans.
(*photo credit)

September 10, 2016    Environmental Beatitudes in Autumn 

    Every season of the year has its beatitudes.  We find these blessings as we prepare for the Autumn Equinox.

   1. Colored foliage appears -- Blessed is the temporary beauty that only lasts a short time and reminds us that life itself has its passing beauty; this prepares us for a glimpse of eternity.  The change of seasons remind us that another growing year will awaken vegetative life after a winter's rest.  And blessed is the composting of the fallen leaves for next year's benefit.

     2. Harvests occur -- Blessed are the ones who cultivate the fields; they sow in tears but now find satisfaction in a joyful harvest from an Earth which is their heritage and resting place.

     3. Heat dissipates -- Blessed are the ones who suffer from the heat of summer, with each month being hotter than any recorded in the last 150 years; they will be relieved when they see the flocking of the birds and the cooling nights.

     4. Species are threatened -- Blessed are all who strive to live rightly on this planet -- especially the threatened and endangered species; they will be comforted through the actions of their protectors who seek to safeguard their habitats.

     5. Life becomes simpler -- Blessed are those who seek to live simply and treat limited resources with respect; they will have enough and show others that enough is enough, and quality of life is to live with less quantity and better quality. 

     6. Winter needs appear -- Blessed are those who remember the needs of others during this changing season of the year.  Those who care for their neighbor have a special joy that comes with service and acting in a godly manner.

     7. Terror continues -- Blessed are they who strive to bring peace to a troubled world; they will be seen as people who are willing to share radically with others.  Especially blessed are those who are compassionate for the refugee and migrant, as winter will soon make their lives all the harder.

     8. Stockholders meet -- Blessed are they who attack unjust corporate structures and who work to get institutions and individuals to divest themselves of fossil fuel stock in an effort to move more quickly to a renewable energy economy.  Such actions may be considered by some as unpatriotic, but is it?  Remember that the same opposition happened to the prophets of old.

     9. Home life -- Blessed are all who spend more time indoors and prepare the place to be more comfortable.

     Prayer: Lord, help us to always consider blessings as part of every season -- even this rapidly passing beautiful autumn one.






Late summer evening thunderstorm.
(*photo credit)

September 11, 2016  Appalachia's Overlooked Worker Safety Issue  
     On the 9-11 anniversary of the attack in 2001 we recall that the Portsmouth Diffusion Facility (see Daily Reflections November 7, 2012) has had a toll equal in shortened worker lives to the losses at the destruction of the New York Twin Towers.  The most recent mortality studies indicate at least 1,800 to date. 

     The U.S. Department of Energy takes great pains to minimize the effects on the over eight thousand workers over the decades at this one Southeast Ohio atomic energy enrichment plant.  Further data from ex-workers from Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia is hard to assemble due to movement and lack of contact.  Other such facilities at Paducah, Kentucky and Hanford, Washington show similar patterns with respect to worker safety.  Today, the Portsmouth plant is being torn down and some 1,200 worker involved are said to lack proper protective gear as had occurred over the past several decades when the plant was in operation.  They use blow torches to cut piping that is encrusted with radioactive materials and other residues quite harmful to human health.

     The Injured Worker's Advocate (IWA) based in Lucasville and Portsmouth has been consistent in demanding recognition of the safety issues for over twenty-one years.  Neglect has been criminal because of the deliberate destruction of worker badges showing radiation levels at times of periodic counts.  Yes, it is a highly touchy issue and one needing general public attention, but deliberate efforts by Federal and corporate sources have cut short all past efforts to bring this to the nation's full attention.  Billions of dollars are at stake if the workers were fully compensated.

     Finally, yes finally, the Governor and attorney General of the state of Washington are comparing notes between Portsmouth and their own Hanford facility.  The vast IWA file of documents is at their disposal.  This hopeful movement is still insufficient but is a start.  See our latest <earthhealing.info> YouTube with struggling Beryllium-poisoned victim Chick Lawson (IWA co-director); it is entitled "Nuclear Workers Whistle Blower" and gives clear firsthand information of what the enrichment plant has done to him and others.  He has survived threats for not keeping quiet and continuing to fight; his story tells in graphic fashion the slow progress in making the safety issues known.  The YouTube lists some of this recent publicity at the end of its narrative.

     In some ways this is the most serious worker safety issue in Appalachia and exceeds in degree if not in numbers those coal miners suffering from black lung and mine accidents.  Radiation poisoning is a slow killer and occurs after many workers have moved on to other jobs and places.  Yet it is real and continues to demand the attention of all public interest advocates.

References for IWA: 






Trailside view of September field.
(*photo credit)

September 12, 2016       Premium Arable Land

     Arable land for growing food crops is outside the price range of many of the world's people.  A growing world population and one with an increasing taste for foods that take more resources to grow (especially animal products) is occurring.  Rapid industrialization of China, India and other lands where arable land has always been a premium is having an effect on agricultural production worldwide.  China is now a net importer of food and is showing an interest in buying arable land in Sub-Saharan Africa to grow basic grain and oil crops.  The rising Asian middle class likes more eggs, cheese and meat products, while rice fields are being converted to highways, factory sites, parking lots, and business establishments with ever increasing demands for space to meet an expanding auto culture.  Worldwide available arable lands tend to diminish, but could have more efficient uses:

     * Urban gardening and land reuse.   Vast quantities of prime farmland in such spreading cities as Chicago, Columbus, St. Louis, Detroit and St. Paul have been taken up with urban development, which does not mean only parking and buildings.  Millions of acres of space surrounding many of these metropolitan areas have been converted to well watered, fertilized and tended lawns and greenspace.  This space could easily grow gardens or fruit/nut trees for human food consumption.  In fact, a great part of the vegetable needs of the Second World War generation were met by the "victory gardens" in many backyards -- products of patriotic war-effort endeavors.  That was prior to an age of suburban sprawl.

   * Multi-use practices.  Often in warmer climates two crops can be grown on the same tract of land each year.  As temperatures increase the same could extend into our temperate agricultural areas.  I grow two crops on all my garden space.  Where wind farms are sprouting up, there is the added possibility of cropping over 90% of the windfarm area.

    * Tobacco land reuse.  Tobacco's future rests with many who foresee tobacco's unique benefits in a world striving for lower-priced custom-made pharmaceuticals to combat rising medical costs.  Tobacco can be used to produce the protein food supplements that are needed in an undernourished world.  A world short of arable land could benefit from the production of massive amounts of protein on smaller and smaller total acreage of available land.  A sunset in tobacco misuse can be a plus for arable land.

     * Animal feed croplands reuse.  Protein-for-protein, some land areas are more efficient in food production than others in what is produced for food.  Much farmland in America goes into corn production for biofuels, with waste products for animals, or directly for animal feed.  If people would move to more vegetarian diets, croplands would become more efficient as food producers; and cereals and soybeans could be used primarily for human consumption.

     Prayer: Lord, inspire us to use land resources efficiently.












Help the monarch butterfiles - grow milkweed!
(*photo credit)

September 13, 2016    Challenge the Bottled Water Epidemic

     In a world in which one billion people have no reliable source of drinking water...conspicuous consumption of bottled water that we don't need seems wasteful, and perhaps cavalier. Charles Fishman

     We all desire safe drinking water in the amount that is needed for human health.  We want it to be available and low-priced.  That wish is not always met by local supplies, and so people strive to take various initiatives: secure water in the most economical and convenient fashion from distant sources, or purify the polluted local water by community or individual efforts.  Lead in Flint, Michigan drinking water raises concerns about other water systems. 

     Use local water where possible.  Water is a basic necessity that is bulky and should come from local sources if possible.  Americans buy popular brands of bottled water from France or Fiji; this water is shipped thousands of miles and can hardly be called a green practice; rather the fad is part of affluent people's attempts to pretend to be green in their daily lifestyle.  Environmental impacts in transporting water over such distances are immense and worth pondering.

     Secure water economically.  The attraction for higher quality drinking water makes some consumers go to great lengths.  The average American drank 28.3 gallons of bottled water in the first decade of this century in contrast to 1.6 gallons three decades before.  We discover that up to 40% of bottled water is filtered tap water or comes from public water sources.  The basic ingredient of beverages is often less expensive than containers, which must be disposed properly.  Note people at rest stops buy bottled water when a tap of free water is available.  A fad is a fad is a fad.  One of their excuses is that bottled water is better for you than an equally priced bottled carbonated soft drink.  True, but many are programmed to drink bottled water rather than water from the tap -- a programming yielding profits to beverage processors.

     Secure conveniently.  The containers are key to resource use.  Buying water in five-gallon quantities poured into containers that the consumers bring from home seems quite sensible.  But what about the small bottle user and tosser (40 billion bottles ended in  American landfills each year)?  Water bottle disposal is a recent phenomenon, especially since many containers are not recycled.

     Purify the water.  Some of this bottled water (and some tap water) does not pass muster, even though it may not contain dangerous bacteria.  Some water contains polluting chemicals that have proven to be hard to remove.  Consider having your own cistern that is sealed from exterior pollutants and can be used for domestic washing, feeding pets, and with care is potable.  Water can be filtered, aerated and boiled and then flavored by making sun tea with locally grown mints.  Do be on a domestic water watch.

     Prayer: Lord, lest we forget you are the Living Water.








Flowers of the trumpet creeper, Campsis radicans.
(*photo credit)

September 14, 2016  American Military Expenditures: A Cross of Iron

     Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed.  This world in arms is not spending money alone.  It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children...This is not a way of life in any true sense.  Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron. Dwight D. Eisenhower 

     On this Feast of the Holy Cross it is wise to realize the major crosses that confront our world's people -- especially the poor.  What President Eisenhower said a half century ago when  military expenditures were far smaller than what they are today (in 2016 the U.S. expends almost half the world's military budget of well over a trillion dollars a year).  And this is a world in which resources are limited and what is expended for one item or service is excluded from another.  What makes excessive militarism so unjust is that it concentrates the expenses in the hands of a few profit-making corporations and within the hands of a few elite.

     Thus, the major cross that the poor bear is the lack of resources when others grab Earth's limited treasures.  This nation can requisition excess world resources through a defense apparatus, which provides less defense and less security from year to year.  Annually, our country spends 600 billion dollars on defense, about one hundred dollars for every person on earth.  That's enough money to give every person basic medical protection against malaria and dysentery and even have funds left over for some basic food commodities -- true defense against emerging terrorism.

     In a very real sense the threat of starvation on the part of tens of thousands of refugees in the Middle East and the basic threat to human life through lack of easily available disease remedies for millions of Africans is the primary form of modern terrorism.  A disease that kills so many stands as terror for victims and loved ones alike.  The inequality of resource distribution exacerbates these threats and helps create a climate where insecurity and dissatisfaction foments, especially among young radicalized and unemployed youth throughout the world.  Terrorism is best combated by bringing justice to the poor and not by excessive militarism.  Try to convince the "practical" folks -- and the iron cross will continue to cast its deep shadow on all.  But it is more than practical differences; it is the conventional thinking of a current American government that is mesmerized by ISIS.  Rather, the parent's terror of a sick child is heard.  

     Note: Lest we forget, the military expenditure of the late fifth century A.D. Roman Empire was the largest in its millennia of existence -- and still Rome fell.  Our American military budget is the highest ever.  Can we learn a lesson from history?

     Prayer: Lord, improve our insight into the weapons of war.







Quiet view of hidden pond.
(*photo credit)

September 15, 2016  End National and Domestic Debt Domination

     1. Together, we the undersigned participants of the World Social Forum are determined to achieve an end to debt domination...Indebtedness is still robbing the peoples of Africa, Latin America and Asia of their rights...their rights to independence and political autonomy, as well as to health, education, water and all other essential goods and basic services which should be available to all.

     2. The debt crisis is not just a financial problem for the countries of the South.  It is also a political problem that is based on and reinforces unequal power relations.  Debt continues to be used as an instrument of control, through conditions attached to loans and debt relief.  It is an instrument of leverage used by lender countries and lender controlled institutions to: aid the entry of their transnational corporations, enforce their foreign policy options and military and invasive strategies; secure favorable trade deals; and promote resource extraction from recipient countries.

     3.  It is also the responsibility of the North: Their reckless, self-interested, irresponsible and exploitative lending has fostered this crisis, and their imposition of policies has deepened it.... We also recognize the role of unaccountable and corrupt governments of the South in increasing this debt.  These governments must make restitution for their theft from and exploitation of peoples of the South.

     5. We know that our strength lies in the commitment and determination of social movements, campaigns and individuals working in solidarity around the world...This over many years, has forced the debt crisis from being an issue that few knew about and that governments did not acknowledge, to being a subject of debate around the world.  It has also brought successes such as that in Norway, and the realization of official debt audits in Ecuador and other countries.  We, Southern and Northern people's movements and organizations, are determined to work and raise our voices together  until the call for an end to debt domination becomes irresistible.

     6. We assert that the South is the creditor of an enormous historical, social, cultural, political and ongoing ecological debt.  This must be acknowledged, and reparations made.

     7.  We are calling for just economic relations between and within countries...We assert the rights of peoples to hold their own governments to account, and call on governments to uphold those debts.  We are calling for  -- officials and citizens' audits of debt and a citizens' audit of the international financial institutions; a systematic social control of public indebtedness; debt cancellation without the imposition of conditions by lenders for restitution and reparation.  We stand in solidarity with governments who choose to repudiate illegitimate debt.  We are calling for the total elimination of illegitimate, odious, unjust and unpayable debt. 

     Prayer: Lord, make us aware of the e,brnslavement resulting from debts that can only be repaid at terrible cost to those afflicted; give us a sense of forgiveness that extends to the deeply indebted.








Ripe corn, on the cob.
(*photo credit)

September 16, 2016        Full Corn Moon

     The moon is full and the corn is growing, and if you go out on a warm September evening you can hear it grow -- the expanding corn stalk leaves makes a certain crackling noise quite unique to grain crops.  Corn not only is beautiful to behold in its dark greenery, but it smells fresh and the soft milky ears are most tasty right now.  Even the fuzzy side of the leaf is pleasant to touch.  But it is the sound of corn at full moon that makes it the most special of all American crops.

     Maize, or our American corn (the old English word "corn" means grain) is a staple in the Western Hemisphere, much as rice is in Asia and wheat and barley are in the Mediterranean lands.  Many of the poor of this Hemisphere depend on reasonably priced corn being available for their tacos.  With time corn has become the basic grain for much American processed food as well as for cereal, cornmeal, popcorn, corn chips, corn syrup, and corn oils, and it is the main feed for production of meat, egg and milk products.  I grew up at the border of the corn-growing belt and the end of the hand- and horse- work in raising corn (replanting with a seed jobber, chopping out weeds, cutting corn by hand, and shucking corn at harvest time). 

     September is when field corn is completing its growth and when the roasting ears or "roshunears" as we called them have peaked; the forming corn ears are full of milky kernels that are roasted or boiled into corn-on-the-cob, a dish so American that we forget it was first Native American.  When I once asked an English friend whether he liked corn-on-the-cob he replied, "Only hogs and Americans eat corn-on-the-cob."  I reminded him that hogs are one of the smartest of animals, but that did not modify his comment. 

     Today, the large investment in growing corn to feed the world is being diverted to growing corn for use in making ethanol as a subsidized biofuel to replace petroleum -- almost one million barrels per day being processed in the corn belt this year.  What a travesty, for this is driving up the price of corn-related food products!  All the while, ethanol takes petroleum to grow it (farmers don't use ethanol to plant, harvest or dry their corn).  Granted, ethanol production results in some byproduct feed for livestock, but the goals are still flawed.  Ethanol is less fuel intensive than petroleum products and so it takes more -- and there are still carbon dioxide emissions along with other air pollutants.

     Returning corn from biofuel to food use is necessary to feed the world's hungry masses.  The selfishness that triggered the so-called biofuel advantages of corn is reprehensible; fortunately, other economic pressure groups beside ethanol manufacturers are getting their say at this time.  Corn is meant for everyone, not just those with their roadhog vehicles or the ones being fed at the trough of governmental subsidies.  Grow corn for people, not cars.

     Prayer: Lord, inspire us to use our gifts for essential needs.






Crimson clover, Trifolium incarnatum, at garden's edge.
(*photo credit)

September 17, 2016   Enhancing Our Sense of Citizenship

      Today is Citizenship Day and it is a good opportunity to find in President Kennedy's words what "we can do for our country and not what our country can do for us."  Citizenship and selfishness cannot flourish side by side -- and many American citizens have too much of the latter.  Citizenship in its pure form goes back to the Greek city state and the republican form of government where all were entitled to full civil rights.  The citizen is a member of a state or nation by birth or naturalization and bears responsibility along with privilege.  In time of crises, this responsibility takes on far deeper meaning and draws us to enhance our privileges of citizenship that include:

* Voting at regular elections in an intelligent manner for those best suited to be our representatives in government;
* Serving on juries of our peers to help decide the cases of people who are brought before the courts on criminal charges;
* Assisting others who come to our country to settle down, learn the proper procedures, and move towards full citizenship;
* Following the record of those in public office as citizen overseers and monitors.  This includes petitioning and directly communicating with these elected officials from time to time on matters with which we are acquainted and about which we have a deep concern;
* Looking out for the commons that includes local, state and federal parks and places of public interest.  We become the citizen monitors when law enforcement is stretched thin;
* Speaking up in this age of cynicism for our democratic way of life and especially against corrosive influences, such as the erosion of our personal liberties and the taking of the commons by the greedy and profit-mongers;
* Paying fair taxes for the upkeep of the state, and being willing to see these taxes increased so that those who have much will be relieved of more in order to reduce concentration of wealth through controlled redistribution;
* Volunteering when services are needed as has been so evident in the past history of the United States in regard to needed militia in time of war.  This willingness to sacrifice for others in troubled times when so many are in harms way is a continued necessity of good citizenship:
* Showing common civility in all matters from common courtesy to the manner in which we show respect to all our citizens;
* Following the just laws of the land and especially with reference to highway practices and regulations, for all too often discourtesy leads to unsafe traffic conditions;
* Knowing the history of our land and showing respect for our sacred emblems such as the flag and the graves of those who helped defend our country; and
* Being willing to see global citizenship as going beyond the ancient city states of Athens and Sparta or modern states of France and Germany, and now embracing all inhabitants of the world.

     Prayer: Lord, help us be good citizens in a troubled world.







The gift of the rainbow.
(*photo credit)

September 18, 2016   God or Money?  Fair Taxes or Tax Havens?

     Listen to us, you who trample on the needy and try to suppress the poor people of the country.   (Amos 8:4)

The signposts of life can get quite confusing, and we need to pause at times and reflect on where we are going.  Some places may be to our benefit and others a waste of time or effort.  And we have only so much time to spare, for the days are short and growing shorter as we know with aging.  In our confusion we attest to everyone that we mean well and yet we need to take a second look at our collective tax avoidance practices in a world starved for funds for general structure maintenance and rebuilding.  

     Economic literature in the business world around us is filled with ways to cut taxes, make extra money and spend more and more time investing money wisely.  At times, even in this heated presidential campaign it seems the total attention is given to modifying the status quo, which in many cases involves more income than we take in right now.  Money can overshadow moral inclinations and become the goal of average citizen efforts.  But let's consider how so many of our people want to increase that money cache by keeping taxes low and full of exemptions for the wealthy -- and in a lesser degree to the middle class.  At least the super rich are hell-bent on lower taxes and patronizing tax havens.  If some (generally the poor) are deprived of the basics of life through lack of financial resources, the unfair exemptions are essentially stealing from the commons.  The rich may say, "I am only doing what is legal or lawful."  But affluence fashions what is legal.

    Is seeking ways to cut taxes proper when the poor do not have equal influence on Capitol Hill?  Obtaining exemptions for individuals or corporations when others could never manipulate the complex tax system is to favor rich over poor and erode our democratic processes.  The wealthy can afford lawyers; the retained exempted funds could do so much more for the poor if properly collected and used. Some will say that finding exemptions is a proper pursuit and that money "saved" will be  more properly used than by the government.  But what will saved money be used for if expended on personal luxuries?  And still more importantly, is not an alert citizenry needed to ensure that taxed money is well spent?

     Unfair taxes are a gross violation of the rights of the poor of the world to a livelihood.  Thus, mere charity by the excessively wealthy is far inferior to fair taxes through a governmental system in which citizen action is afforded through consent of the governed.  But charity placates those who could become revolutionaries and take what they regard as rightly theirs.  Thus this third way of taxing, rather than redistributing wealth through charity or revolution, is something everyone should espouse with all their hearts.  But let justice flow like water, and integrity like an unfailing stream."  (Amos 5:24)

     Prayer: Lord, help us to choose you rather than mammon.







The last of late summer ironweed, Vernonia gigantea.
(*photo credit)

September 19, 2016    Battlefields in America

     Two days ago was the anniversary of the Civil War battle of Antietam or "Sharpsburg," which was the bloodiest one day of strife in America's long military history; on September 17, 1962 there were about ten thousand casualties on each side of the battle.  The remains of one Federal soldier were recently discovered in the rugged terrain and were given a final proper burial 150 years after death.  Many Civil War enthusiasts visit that battle scene each year in western Maryland, and also other American battlefields. 

     Actually, I researched every state in the Union and found that all of them list battlefields but one (New Hampshire), and it even lists that a battlefield in North Carolina was named after one of its towns.  Some states list as many as thirty battlefields and several have naval battles in harbors or coastlines that count. One in Washington state had a single contestant killed where many had hundreds and thousands.  We recall that the battle of New Orleans is one of the most one-sided in casualties.

     Of the battlefields, some predated our own nation in fights associated with colonial struggles.  Ten northeastern states list Revolutionary War contests, including the critical decisive Battle of Saratoga.  The War of 1812 includes northern Midwestern lake states along with DC and other northeastern areas and Louisiana.  The Mexican-American Conflict included both Texas and California.  Conflicts involved early Native American struggles found in the Midwestern states and still omitted the great evacuations of Eastern and Midwestern tribes from traditional settings, all part of the sorry history of American conflict. 

     Some twenty states, from New Mexico to Pennsylvania, are included as locations for the Civil War's hundreds of defined battles.  A large number of these conflicts were in Virginia, but it may be surprising to know that Missouri and other border states had sizeable numbers of raids that were often defined as battles.  The Native American struggles that resulted after the Civil War were found in what was 17 states or then territories mostly in the West.  Then finally we look at the two newer outlying states and find that Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and the remote Aleutian islands of Attu (May 1943) and Kiska (August 1943) were occupied by and recaptured from Japan in the Second World War.  Ohio lists the Kent State Shootings (May 4, 1970) as one of its internal conflicts.   

     It is instructive reviewing the listings, for it make us aware that the United States has had a bloody past; we need a growing sense of respect for many, but not all of those engagements.  American history is spotty, for in some instances we deeply appreciate the sacrifices, often of youngsters who gave up their lives for a cause they regarded as just.  The local battlefield of Richmond, KY (another one-sided conflict) brings me mixed emotions.

     Prayer: Lord, give us respect for the struggle of America and help us see that peaceful resolution is always less costly.







Thorns of the honey locust, Gleditsia triacanthos.
(*photo credit)

September 20, 2016   Fortitude as a Gift of the Spirit

     The gift from the Holy Spirit of fortitude helps us to receive the courage to overcome the obstacles and difficulties that stand in the way of the practice of our religious duties.  Here one may go beyond the individual duties of keeping the commandments of God and the Church, and regard "religious" in its more public and demonstrative manner: a public profession of where we stand on a certain difficult issues and the power to actualize the convictions that we hold. 

     Fortunately, we are blessed with many examples of courageous persons and, since bravery is more expressive when performed by an individual rather than a group, those most striking models of martyrs, warriors, caregivers, and leaders are people who deserve imitating.  Courage is exemplified in our age by those taking great risks to life, reputation, or limb.  A peer-dictated society requires no courage, only conformity.  To be one of the crowd and nod assent to each and every popular opinion does not take virtue.  On the other hand, to call popular social issues (e.g., counter to abortion) as part of examples of cultural decadence takes special courage.  Saints, whistleblowers and prophets show courage. 

     However, courage may involve the efforts of a community or group who do not succumb to pressures from a dysfunctional society. Communal difficulties are always present when we are at the cutting edge of change; these often call for communal creativity that is not always seen as a form of bravery.  "Buck up your courage" is said during major struggles when our basic truths are threatened.  For instance, simplifying our lifestyle to meet the demands of an emerging strict conservation ethic in this age of dramatic climatic change takes collective courage. 

     At this time of the rise of ISIS, we can single out the courage of the Coptic workmen in Libya who would not deny their Christian faith when threatened with beheading.  Each had a family of wife and young children who depended on them for livelihoods and yet they professed their faith in martyrdom -- though most of us are not called to endure such a supreme sacrifice. 

     Courage consists in taking actions that risk being misunderstood by others.  Courage and risk seem to go together and thus we may have to accept unpredictable circumstances as part of public profession of faith.  Courage differs from recklessness or temerity; it embraces justified need to act and a willingness to do so in face of difficult obstacles that can become opportunities.  Overcoming barriers emerges as a formidable task; we cannot deny obstacles, excuse ourselves from action, or escape to other concerns that remove us from the scene.  Fortitude demands that we bear responsibility; it goes beyond heroic feats of soldiers, police and fire personnel; we find courage in ordinary life.

     Prayer: Lord, give us courage to show our moral duties in our everyday religious, civic and community activities.









Water lily brings splash of color to small garden pond.
(*photo credit)

September 21, 2016       Hosea Speaks Today

     This is why the country is in mourning, and all who live in it pine away, even the wild animals and the birds of heaven; the fish of the sea themselves are perishing.  (Hosea 4:3)

     What Hosea accepts in an unfaithful wife and even an uncertainty as to the parentage of his "own" children is worth remembering -- for he is a compassionate person.  Why does God allow all of this to happen?   Perhaps even amid the extraordinary circumstances recounted in Hosea's life is the emerging story that infidelity of Israel to the God who deeply loves her continues through the ages.  Infidelity is countered by faithful love.   

     We too are to immerse ourselves in a materialistic world and some of the things we seek to achieve are of uncertain attribution, namely our individual efforts to do good.  And this can make us depressed.  Does the little good we see result from our own efforts or those of others?  Often we experience what we estimate to be good efforts presented through love and yet these are distorted by others.  Why do we attempt to change a world that seems hell-bent on its own destruction?   In our moment of depression we find that compassion abandons us and the inclination to love others seems to recede.  But we are called back to act in a godly fashion, meaning we love our neighbors as God loves us. 

     The challenge for us is to imitate Hosea today not on an individual level, for few would ever have to make such existential choices with a spouse.  Rather, we must see our dealing with our fellow human beings through our own imperfect ways of serving -- and the good we do is certainly of imperfect and unspecified parentage (attribution).  We risk in our dealings with others that they falsely interpret our intentions.  What we must affirm, even when it is quite difficult, is that harm done to our world is real -- as the above quotation shows; our efforts are to correct these disasters that happen to the community of people or to Earth herself.  We must be faithful to the call for renewal.  

     We are somehow "married" to this troubled world, and we need not eject ourselves.  Escapes will destroy our mission and make us hardened of heart -- and this should not be.  Love must conquer all and it must spring from our own hearts.  It is because we love others, especially all creatures who suffer, that we become all the more compassionate.  At the end of her insightful treatment of the prophet Hosea, Marjorie Kimbough prays that she could have done what Hosea did, for she does understand God's unconditional love for her. Strong in Heart: Biblical Men of Compassion (Nashville, Tenn.: Abingdon Press, 2004, p.88).  Perhaps her prayer could be extended to include the circumstances in which God allows us to enter into relationship with this unholy world. 

     Prayer: Lord, even amid these troubled times, allow your divine love to shine through, while we seek to deal with our marriage to an imperfect and yearning world.








Spotted caterpillar (Noctuid moth) blends with stone walkway.
(*photo by Sally Ramsdell)

September 22, 2016  Hispanic Heritage and Fair Trade Practices

     Tomorrow, a year ago, Pope Francis canonized Junipero Serra in Washington, DC.  He was the Hispanic apostle to California and builder of the first famous Missions of that state.  The Pope's action was a corrective that replaces the myth that all American contributions are Anglo in nature.  Hispanics have played a significant role that needs to be better appreciated in this year, when too much talk is on building walls of separation.  Hispanics who come and work in this country exhibit a strong work ethic; they live decent lives and send their surplus wages back to folks in Latin America.  Granted, some few do not follow these practices but, for the most part, the Hispanic traits have been highly beneficial for filling in the difficult and lower paying positions in large portions of our country.  The Hispanic heritage of hard work has enriched the U.S. and deserves honor through future fair immigration and naturalization policies.

     Quite often, Hispanics labor under conditions imposed by others who own factories, farms or homesteads that need maintaining.  Workers have little say on wages received.  Often products of individual artisans (Hispanic and others) are vulnerable, but the producers lack economic clout to demand fair prices for ceramic pots, sweaters, or coffee.  Hispanic, Native American, and other lower income folks from Africa and Asia suffer.  I recall at a train station in Peru a woman at the tracks begged for five dollars for a beautiful alpaca sweater, and our traveling associate put up three fingers; she traded the sweater (worth $50 a quarter of a century ago) for a meager three bucks.  Not fair?

     The Fair Trade Movement (FTM) covers several aspects of commerce: it empowers the poor to sell their products in developed lands; it helps set standards for international trading of items.  FTM means getting fair market price for items made in the Hispanic world and capturing the differences (between $3 sales and $50 potential worth) that so often go to traders and distant corporate stockholders.  The FTM replaces middle people who make vast profits at the expense of artisans.  A host of projects have sprung up, including Beyond Coffee.  Participants include Catholic Relief Services, Oxfam, Amnesty International and Caritas International and many non-profit groups.  Products are high quality, meet accepted standards for excellence (FTM mission), and are reasonably priced with direct returns to primary producers.

    Monetarily, FTM is quite small, though it is growing with over almost two billion dollars in fair trade certified sales.  But it is a model of what the world should be heading towards where all partners are equal, not with some rich and able to bargain, and some so poor they must take what they can get for valuable products.  FTM and Hispanic heritage go hand-in-hand, though FTM is now larger in African countries, and growing in Asian countries.

     Prayer: Lord, inspire us to be fair with our neighbors and to call attention to products obtained through FTM. 








Firewheel, Gaillardia pulchella.
(*photo credit)

September 23, 2016  Native American Day, Gratitude and Respect

     The world before me is restored in beauty.
     The world behind me is restored in beauty.
     The world below me is restored in beauty.
     The world above me is restored in beauty.
     All things around me are restored in beauty. (Navaho Prayer)

    These two celebrations, of gratitude and Native Americans, did not arise from the same sources, but work well together on the same day.  Gratitude stems from all that we have that we are to be thankful for, and Americans have so much to be thankful for from our Native Americans forebears, as this partial list suggests:

    * Corn and food -- Corn is one of the world's most staple crops and yet we forget those who cultivated, fertilized, protected, harvested, stored and prepared corn in so many interesting ways as  a basic food that we enjoy.  Lest we forget, we receive many other culinary delights through Native American tutelage such as pumpkin, squash, tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, hot (chili) peppers, cranberries, persimmons, papaws, and turkey and bison, and more.  
    * Wildlife and environment -- Native Americans lived in a symbiotic relationship with all the various birds, fish and mammals that are so threatened today.  They honored them, spoke to them, protected them, and used them for food -- and Native Americans taught us to value physical environment for the betterment of all.  These early natives even conducted controlled grass and forest burns so as to keep landscape more productive.
    * Communications -- Native Americans have a wide diversity of languages but were able to communicate among nearby tribes through a common sign language that was known by all.  In this manner the different peoples who resided in this hemisphere prior to the coming of the Europeans could trade and even travel extensively and in relative peace (however, tribal conflicts did arise).
     * Respect -- Native Americans thank God for gifts given and have for millennia shown the deepest respect to the creator of all things.  A basic human respect was shown in the first pilgrim encounters.  What native peoples teach us is to manifest the same respect in our own prayer and ceremonies.  Native Americans taught the more active Europeans the need to sit and rest in silence, to speak less, to value ceremonial symbols and to exchange tokens of respect.  Even tobacco was ceremonially used with respect.
    * Travel networks and means -- Newcomers to these shores were welcomed as strangers and guests and discovered a valuable network of paths and rivers through which commerce occurred.  The light-weight canoe is a Native American contribution to easy travel on our river systems.  The hurdles of lack of familiarity with the terrain were mainly overcome by native Americans who risked much to allow visitors to feel at home -- a practice that was not always reciprocated by guests; grievances often followed initial welcome.

     Prayer: Lord, help us retain the best of Native American traditions but most especially gratitude and respect for nature and the abundant resources of our land.   






Friendly visitor at the garden gate.
(*photo credit)

September 24, 2016  Coexisting with Wildlife as Gardeners

      Wildlife in the wild is a delight to sight and photograph.  However, it is another matter when hungry varmints get into our garden.  Surprisingly, this is becoming a suburban and urban gardening problem as public interest groups find deeper concerns.  How do you protect from deer, coons, rabbits, squirrel, mice, and groundhogs?  There is much written about wildlife control and attraction (bats, bees, birds, butterflies, frogs and other friendly wildlife).  While we can take steps to invite wildlife that enhances this particular plot, we also tell meat eaters that one ecological principle to consider is to eat what grows locally.  Some want, or encourage others, to harvest for deer sausage or capture these pesky small mammal strays.  They may prefer have-a-heart traps and dump captured animals at someone else's garden -- hardly a charitable solution.  We only grow vegetables in unguarded garden plots that deer, rabbit and coon do not like (okra, the nightshade, onion and brassica families, some melons, and turnips).  Ring a plot with mustard greens and no rabbit will touch it.  Dogs are the best protection against stray wildlife.  Some build double fences to confuse deer.

      We attract beneficial wildlife.  Song birds have been decimated through loss of habitat and need to be welcomed as refugees and as partners in promoting organic gardening.  This can be done by affording winter feeding areas, nest locations and bird baths.  Some nature purists disagree with such positive attraction, but if human activity has threatened birds by destruction of rain forests and other habitats, then we can take positive steps to protect songbirds.  The same could be said for having frog ponds with pure rainwater or attractants for butterflies or hummingbirds. Reference: Sally Roth, Attracting Birds to Your Backyard: 536 Ways to Turn Your Yard and Garden into a Haven for Your Favorite Birds, Rodale Press, Emmaus, PA  1998.

     Proliferation of certain species of animals make hunting a necessity to help rebalance wildlife when predator species have been decimated -- though coyote are filling the gap.  Introducing  exotic species (e.g., kudzu) or reintroducing native species (wild turkeys having domestic turkey blood with strong appetites) have had detrimental effects.   Yes I hunted aggressive crows when young, but found non-aggressive species (quail or rabbit) far too gentle to shoot.  Let green hunters be encouraged to bring back wildlife balance.  These "wild" turkeys simply must be controlled in order to preserve our regional ecosystem and save wild ginseng.  Deer, wild geese and turkey are excellent meat sources -- and organic wild meat for non-vegetarians is better than products from feed lots and corporate farms.  Target only over-populated species; dress meat for eating either by hunter's family or neighbors; work to reintroduce bear, wolf, fox and elk to former native territory.

     Prayer: Lord, help us to see that a balanced wildlife population adds quality to the life of native animal species.








September signs of autumn.
(*photo credit)

September 25, 2016     Lazarus =  Laz(y) Are Us (We)

     Woe to those ensconced so snugly in Zion and to those who feel so safe on the mountain of Samaria...You think to defer the day of misfortune, but you hasten the reign of violence.  Lying on ivory beds and sprawling on their divans, they dine on lambs from the flock and stall-fattened veal...   (Amos 6: 1, 3-4)

     The words of Amos, as well as the parable of Lazarus (Luke 16: 19-31) have a certain foreboding about them.  Something is about to happen and yet those fully immersed in their wealth pay little or no attention.  Something is about to happen and yet an insensitive atmosphere surrounding those unaware of the immediate environment brings on the cry of woe from prophets.  Things are not right and, if they are not corrected, worse things will happen when it is too late.  Thus the disconcerting message contains encouraging words: change and become sensitive to the poor's needs.

     Through the graces of our baptism and confirmation we are called to be prophetic in our Christian stance -- and this means that we read the Gospel carefully and try to apply what we learn.  We find that wealth may be concentrated in the hands of a few; rampant consumption embraces entire cultures including our own.  Here it is considered patriotic to consume more; modern aspirations include spacious homes, inefficient vehicles, and a plentitude of electronic devices.  It is expected that we are privileged to consume, with distant resources ensured through military might.  

     Let's not dismiss current wasteful practices purely as laziness, for the picture is a complex mixture of corporate pressure, peer influence, selfishness, and insensitivity coming through affluence.  The situation cannot remain permanent, for lack of accessible resources will challenge opulence and at the same time accelerate destitution.  What our instant communications and ample information sources tell us is that Lazarus is at the gate and knows he is destitute; our transportation and distribution expertise tells us that we are to give out more than crumbs to keep Lazarus alive; what our knowledge of world resources tells us is that power controls the distribution of those resources and that the privileged receive the greater part.  What our moral mandates move our hearts to do is to radically share those resources.  In the event that we are too lazy or greedy or selfish to move, then we are only condemning ourselves as Dives was in the parable.

     Prophets warn us that our window of time closes on lives of wealth and greed.  Classes of have and have-nots will soon clash unless we find non-violent ways of redistribution through fair taxes, all through the grace of the Lord.  We can make the changes necessary for improved lifestyles, but the time to act shortens.  Wisdom is knowing the shortness of our life, and that resources are to be radically shared with all during this brief stay.

     Prayer: Lord, move our hearts so that we can see the unfair conditions of our people and give us the courage to act.








Flowers of tobacco. University of Kentucky, Pin Oak Farm.
(*photo credit)

September 26, 2016  Discernment: Reasons for and against Smoking

     If we can encourage a single smoker to go cold turkey and quit smoking this has achieved a positive result.  A discerning process to curb smoking includes listing reasons for and against the habit.     

Reasons for:

* Personal pleasure --  Smoking serves as entertainment.
* Individual weight-control -- Cessation of smoking invariably leads to weight gain and this becomes its own health problem.
* Individual stress relief -- Smoking reduces nervous tension, especially when preparing for exams or major events. 
* Quality of life -- Tobacco use overcomes a bad disposition and makes a few more pleasant though with a telltale cough.
* Improvement in community relations -- Smokers exude an air of contentment and control, and ease communications barriers.
* Personal freedom -- Smoking allows for the development of personality and involves a sense of freedom; they even sport signs that say "Opposing smoking can be hazardous to your health."
* Home atmosphere -- The aroma of a good pipe tobacco gives a sense of flavor to a homestead and may mask disagreeable odors.
* Peer acceptance -- Smoking can be social and lead to pleasant breaks and bonding.
* Social capital -- Smokers cultivate companions.
* Economics -- Smoking pays much into the excise taxes and helps support those engaged in the tobacco industry.
* Outdoor protection -- Smoking keeps away the gnats and flies and other unpleasant insects, which can get into one's eyes.

Reasons against

* Individual health costs -- Health costs in shortening of life are quite well known along with a host of illnesses: shortness of breath, emphysema, lung cancer, lip cancer, throat and larynx cancer, heart diseases, and susceptibility to colds.
* Individual economics -- Smoking costs three to five or more dollars a day for cigarettes, and this mounts over time.    
* Individual restrictions -- The smoker is addicted and can experience loss of control over himself or herself.
* Personal appearance -- Smoking and other uses of tobacco can cause wrinkles, gaunt appearance, stained teeth, and bad breath.
* Bad role models -- Smokers induce others to start the habit.
* Career curtailment -- The loss of health or untimely death will cut short many contributions to society.
* Community health -- Environmental tobacco smoke from both main and side stream smoke affects health of partners or neighbors.
* Citizen rights violations -- Apart from the actual health effects, the smoker infringes on the rights of others to clean air.
* Road safety -- Smoking is a major source of inattention in driving, especially if the hot ash/butt is lost within a vehicle.
* Family discord -- Nonsmokers can be irritable to smokers.
* Property safety -- Smoking and especially discarded cigarette butts have started numerous fires of carpets and homes.
* Disarray -- Homes and cars reek with stale smoke.

     Prayer: Lord, lead smokers to kick the habit ASAP.








Wild senna, Senna hebecarpa, a legume.
(*photo credit)

September 27, 2016   Make Gardening a Family Affair

      On the radio this morning was a young budding Appalachian farm lady who regretted that she did not learn gardening pointers from her experienced granddad before he passed away.  Gardening can definitely be a social enterprise engaging the family, involving the handing down of experience.  This intergenerational family could include the expertise of elders, enthusiasm of youth, energy of the able‑bodied, and the attentiveness of learners and part‑time observers.  Elders know what and when to plant and harvest; youth take pride in their own budding gardening skills and ability to store memories for years to come.  They seek opportunities to experiment and are relieved to know that elders continue to learn as well.  However, even enthusiastic youth may tire easily of garden operations while the able‑bodied have stamina to continue.  All are bonded in sharing together the sheer joy of helping a garden grow. 

      A loving and entirely functional family has much to say for itself, and some families do this better than others.  Families working together instill pleasant memories -- even in gardening.  Youth are often inexperienced and fail to hoe properly or identify weeds from intended plants -- but they learn quickly.  Since gardening has economic benefits for a frugal family watching its bills, then the struggle is one of making the ends meet.  For families existing on minimum wage even simple food items are given second thought.  Gardening can furnish fresh greens that are quite costly at the supermarket.  Choices of what to grow could be gauged on prices being paid at the vegetable outlet.

     Gardening when done reverently can become a family prayer.  Father Peyton, the inspiration for the Holy Cross Family Institute, said that "the family that prayed together, stayed together."  If gardening is a prayer then it becomes a domestic glue and together with joint church attendance can have a solidifying effect on all family members.  Some of my most pleasant memories were the times our entire family was united in certain occupations on the farm and seemed actually to enjoy each other's company.  It was never a thought that we would shirk or find an excuse, only try to get the job done as expeditiously as possible.  Maybe distance in time has idealized sweat and toil, but working together is a binding force.

    In the busy world in which each family member has his or her own special activities, participative practices can become rare.  The garden can become a source of "time together" with its social, psychological, spiritual, and even economic benefits.

     Prayer: Lord, bring our family closer together and cement our growing togetherness with your kindly love.  Where families are dispersed, invite them to return with reunions and some precious time together.  Bonding is itself a gift, though through kindness and mutual activity we can help cement it all the more.  Help us create our gardening space, which becomes an Eden of solidarity and a resurrection garden of renewal.  You allow us to steward your land for a short time.







Arrow-shaped leaves of the Sagittaria latifolia.
(*photo credit)

September 28, 2016      Neutral Carbon: A Shell Game?

     Saving our Earth is really too serious a matter to allow some to play misleading games with conservation of precious resources.  One possible game may be talking about "carbon neutral," which means neutralizing the effect of one's personal greenhouse gas emissions, so that individual practices seem to no longer contribute to the dangers of climate change caused by carbon dioxide emissions.  The problem is not in wording or rules of the game.  Rather, it is as dangerous as youth playing warfare using automatic weapons and ammo. 

     What is positive and what is negative?  By game rules I burn a stick of wood; that is negative. I plant a tree that takes up carbon dioxide and that is a positive "carbon offset."  Supposedly  the two add together and neutralize each other. Take another scenario: a poor Indian burns wood to make a meal, but she does not have time to plant a tree that day because it took eight hours to gather wood; totally negative.  I burn the wood because I like fireplace burning; also negative, but I have resources and so I pay someone to plant a tree.  I am absolved; the Indian is not because that person is too poor to be carbon neutral.  Hypocrisy! 

     Is this the reasoning of the power elite, a generation bent on making others feel good?  The privileged live higher on the hog (eating ham and not pig's feet).  However, doing a wasteful practice such as using fossil fuels does not get absolved by planting extra trees, some of which are eaten by goats or die in a hurricane.  Wasteful habits should be changed, not neutralized.  

     Let's go farther and talk about another carbon neutralizing practice called "carbon trading" among institutions and corporations.  I know someone who is putting his car up on blocks and forsaking his job because commuting takes gas.  Any group out there interested in driving extra and paying him for his halting negative energy use?  The entire enterprise reminds us of Civil War practices of paying $300 for a substitute to take one's place in the draft.  The Union army hated this practice, for substitutes were those who sought the first opportunity to go AWOL and start all over again.  China got a fair chunk of carbon trading funds and yet both increased coal burning (but with heavy pollution) and recently became first in renewable energy growth. 

     No one or no group should be allowed to consume the commons wastefully, for it belongs to present and future generations.  We have no right to waste, for this causes pollution and harms the social order that needs to be restored.  There is no substitute for knowing how to conserve and doing it, but don't absolve a wasteful practice through a "carbon offset."  A better game exercise is to develop a carbon tax as well as a penalty for wasting resources -- and to move ASAP to a renewable energy economy.

     Prayer: Lord, teach us not to play harmful games and help us to be honest and restore environmental damages. 








Creekside view in early autumn. Mercer Co., KY.
(*photo credit)

September 29, 2016  The Costs of Nuclear Weapons

     We believe in order to deal effectively with this new and dangerous era, the United States and the international community must embrace the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons and pursue critical measures towards achieving that goal.
Senator Sam Nunn, Testimony before Congress, March 29, 2007

     We have grown complacent of the dangers associated with materials that can be used for the holocaust of atomic and nuclear bombs, or the materials comprising dirty bombs that could make entire cities uninhabitable for decades.  Organizations still exist to continue our awareness of the continued production of nuclear materials.  However, a program to destroy nuclear warheads has been on hold, even though the victory of diplomacy has occurred this year in checking Iran's nuclear ambitions.  Nuclear weapons are costly. 

    * Retaining nuclear materials is costly.  Billions are spent by the nations with nuclear weapons to store and maintain them.

     * Hypocrisy is costly.  To attempt to stop other nations from getting nuclear weapons while making no effort to reduce our own American nuclear stockpile is not healthy as a national policy.

     * North Korean threats are costly.  Apparently the renegade government of North Korea periodically raddles the nuclear saber  and elevates tensions on the peninsula and neighboring nations.  The answer is not that South Korea should get a comparable bomb.

     * Security is costly.  Keeping materials from making a dirty bomb takes sophisticated effort on the part of all nations.  We have a world where terrorists are working to steal or obtain in other ways the radiated materials that could play havoc for long lengths of time if they exploded a dirty bomb in a major city.

     * Workers are developing costly cancers.  The guards and process workers in the Piketon (Portsmouth), Ohio former nuclear enrichment and gaseous diffusion facility were denied proper reports of personal health dangers (some records deliberately destroyed) and are now coming down with cancers with no workmans' comp to pay the bills.  Whistleblowers are trying to make this a national issue at the Ohio-based Injured Worker's Advocate (see our recent YouTube on this subject.

     * Continued nuclear powerplants are costly.  The terrorist threat extends to existing powerplants and stockpiles of spent fuel that have not been moved to safer places (if such exist).  The move to have peacetime use of the atom has been ill conceived, for the dangers have never been or will never be eliminated.  Unfortunately the energy produced was never too cheap to meter and continues to come from inherently unsafe facilities -- with some being built.       Reference: <http://footprintsforpeace.tripod.com>.  

     Prayer: Lord, may we work constantly for a nuclear-free world.








A closer look at monarch's wing.
(*photo credit)

September 30, 2016  Consider Migratory Birds and Butterflies

The flocking of birds alerts us to the fact that many Western Hemisphere bird species migrate each year to warm winter homes in the south and then back here in summertime.  A majority are songbirds, but some are shore birds, raptors and waterfowl.  Most of us hear that the cliff swallows of San Juan Capistrano, California, return to the Mission each year around March 19th and depart around October 23rd -- a 5,000 mile trip to Argentina.  This feat is not unique, for an estimated 350 bird species are migrants, all to abundance of food -- flying insects, fruits and nectar.  One expert volunteer counted over 200 varieties of birds passing through or residing near the ASPI Nature Center at Livingston, Kentucky, in one springtime alone. 

     Other bird species are more permanent and remain around us year round.  We may expect that both migratory and non-migratory birds could have difficulties with our changing and troubled world.  Those that migrate see resting places diminished through development, and thus they are less protected in crucial times when they are on the road from one destination to another.  Furthermore, their wilderness end points may be undergoing changes, and thus they must make major adjustments on either end of the route.  Being "migratory" they are considered more able to move about when  habitats become damaged, but that is not always the case.  Birds that remain also have adjustment problems, but are better able to avoid fires and floods than many less mobile land-based wildlife.

     Though birds (and butterflies) are more mobile, still those who count birds report declines in population of various species due to damage of either terminus or the resting places on the route itself.  However, those who know from previous bird counts tell us that a number of species are in decline, though hopefully that is a temporary matter.  Experts cite not only the paving over and destruction of habitat, but also the presence of pesticides and herbicides that reduce the birds' food supply and often kill the birds themselves.  Monarch butterflies are threatened by the use of Roundup, a Monsanto herbicide that is killing many of the milkweeds, which are part of their life cycle.  One development that we would hardly expect is that shade coffee-growing tracts in Latin America have been replaced by "sun" coffee plantations and the latter are home to far fewer birds.  The shaded areas were  habitats for some summer bird species.

     Migratory birds are regarded as a key indicator of the health of our environment -- like canaries in the coal mine.  They give us a true sense of spring with their arrival and gladden the hearts of all after winter's drought in birdsong, and they depart with far less fanfare this time of year.  Upon migrating, their appetite is voracious since it takes effort to travel.  In travel, birds and butterflies need quiet temporary lodgings that are chemical free, and hospitable.  We must remain protective of the migrants.

     Prayer: Lord, inspire us to be compassionate to all migrants.

Copyright © 2016 Earth Healing, Inc. All rights reserved.

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

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

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