Loretto Earth Network News Divest/Reinvest/Commit Winter 2014
Vol. 22, No. 1
An Energy Vision from the Heart of Kentucky’s ‘Holy Land’
s an increasing number of pipelines carrying natural gas liquids are proposed to connect hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) operations in the northeast with chemical processing plants in the south, we, members of three communities in the “Kentucky Holy Land”—the Dominican Sisters of Peace, the Loretto Community, and the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth—have joined countless other citizens in opposing the construction of such pipelines in our state. We stand with all those who oppose the widespread risks to natural ecosystems and human well-being caused by the rush to achieve national “energy independence” through the creation of vast infrastructures for the extraction, refinement, and combustion of more fossil fuels. We urge instead the development of national policies and infrastructures that will facilitate a swift and steady transition to renewable energy sources. Because of our love for God and for God's creation, Earth and all its species, we here offer a set of beliefs, rejections, and commitments. We invite you to join us.
E BELIEVE that Earth does not belong to us, but that we belong to Earth, our home planet that is alive with the creative energy of God. God's desire that all creation may have fullness of life means that we are called to cocreate by cooperating with all life systems. We believe that we are now also called to face the potential catastrophe of global climate change and, in solidarity with many others, to help solve this problem. We believe that cooperation and ingenuity can make renewable energy resources efficient and affordable within this decade.
E REJECT the assumption that access to the resources needed by all Earth's people can be limited to the ownership and profit-taking of a few. We reject corporation tactics that threaten, exploit, and coerce landowners and residents and that risk public health and safety. We reject an economic system that promotes wasteful consumption of energy and other natural resources. We reject the extraction of energy sources by plundering Earth, endangering and destroying forests, wildlife, flora, the health of all species and polluting land, air, and water. We reject the belief that climate change is not caused by human activity, and we equally reject the assumption that humanity is incapable of making the changes needed to reverse the trends leading to climate change.
E COMMIT ourselves to care for God's creation, upholding both the ideal of the common good now and the well-being of future generations. We will learn, teach, and model alternative ways of viewing energy sourcing and conservation that reduce risks to water, land, air, climate, and human safety. We commit ourselves to use our spiritual and social resources and our public credibility in all possible ways to promote the transition from fossil fuel energy to renewable energy resources. We commit ourselves to stand in solidarity with those landowners and residents who resist the abuses of corporate power and greed. We will advocate for adequate government regulation of all energy sources. We will examine the options of divestment and shareholder actions for our investments in fossil fuel industries and for increasing our investments in renewable energy sources.
Mary Ann Coyle SL
he last three days of January 2014 will linger in our collective memories for a long time. Why? What was happening? Something I never dreamed could happen just did. If your paper (January 30, 2014) carries the cartoon featuring Fred Basset, take a look at it. Freddie is pleased as punch, his whole body fitting neatly into a box frame, and his thoughts on the open cloud holding his dream…“Today I’m thinking outside the box!” he says. Sometimes when I see a World Bank article my eyes gloss over and I quickly skim through. However when I saw this article, I read more carefully. The World Bank, begun in 1944, certainly has expressed its mission in many different words and with focuses varying to meet world conditions and needs. When the World Bank was conceived, the rebuilding of Europe was the prime-world need as the constituents saw it. Thus, they began restoring the infrastructure needs in France, Denmark, and Switzerland. If you Google “World Bank,” you will find an interesting, interactive website that, history buff or not, will entice you with its “history in a capsule” site. Initially the World Bank had a pretty homogeneous staff of the usual folks; e.g., engineers and financial analysts. All were based in our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. Today’s staff is much more diverse. It is multidisciplinary and includes economists, public-policy experts, country advisers, and social scientists. More than one-third of the World Bank staff now are based in individual country offices.
The current World Bank president is a medical doctor, Jim Yong Kim. At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, at the end of January, he called for a price on carbon, asking companies to disclose their climate risk exposure, and make greater investment in green bonds in the fight against climate change. “Now is the time to act for future generations before it is too late,” Kim said. In the press release we read that corporate boardrooms are all abuzz wondering if Dr. Kim has simply gone overboard or if climate change is actually a real and present danger. Will it disrupt water supplies and interfere with all businesses working in the global arena and as diverse as Coca-Cola and ExxonMobil? The release goes on to say that rising sea levels and more intense storms put all infrastructures at risk, and costs will only get worse. If the World Bank is to adhere to its current mission of ending extreme poverty and of boosting shared prosperity, time is of the essence. It is the time, according to Kim, for doubling the market for green bonds in the portfolios of all corporate constituents; the World Bank Group of economic leaders would then be able to report a significant increase by the time a new
international climate agreement is reached in Paris in 2015. Failure to act will have a profound effect on human life and on investments lost. The data show that globally weather-related losses and damage rose an average of about $50 billion a year in the 1980s to close to $200 billion a year in the last 10 years. This makes climate-resilient and disaster-resilient development critical. In the poorest countries we see development gains moving backward, and millions of people thrust back into poverty. “We have to help poorer countries in this transition,” President Kim said. “We have to reduce the risks of low-carbon investments, especially in developing countries, but we can do it—development financial institutions can leverage their capital and use the Green Climate Fund (GCF) to reduce that risk and catalyze new investment in resilience.” This entire issue of Loretto Earth Network News has been devoted to Divest-Invest-Commit. Our writers— Maureen Fiedler, Eleanor Craig, Elizabeth Peredo Beltran, Karen Cassidy, and Peter G. Brown—have faithfully carried forward our theme, and I am grateful to them. It is always good to get your reactions to our newsletter. If you know of others who might like to get a copy, please let us know.
LENN Winter 2014
Sisterly Solidarity for Planet Earth By Maureen Fiedler SL
n Guatemala, I was a guest of the Hermanas de la Sagrada Familia (Sisters of the Holy Family), a “sister community” to Loretto. These are great Guatemalan women who have served the poor of Guatemala for decades. On this visit, I was struck by a special sisterly solidarity between us ... our commitment to save Planet Earth. One day, the Hermanas drove us into the countryside to a place called La Puya where a hearty group of campesinos has been protesting a gold mine that threatens to pollute their water supply — and literally alter their way of life. They have been at a roadside protest “camp” night and day for 23 months! Campesinos stay on both sides of a rural road, where they have tried, sometimes successfully, sometimes not, to stop mining equipment that attempts to get to the mine. At times, they have put their bodies in the middle of the narrow dirt road to stop the movement of mining machinery. Often, the women put themselves
in front, holding pictures of Jesus or Mary. At other times, they have had to confront the military (who side with the mine owner), but they have done this in a spirit of nonviolence which they say was inspired by Ghandi. Thus far, the blockade has worked and the mine is not operating. But no one thinks the struggle is over. And all this protest takes incredible courage in a country famous for political repression and violence. The scene is inspiring. The local people take 24-hour turns at the camp. Protest banners from the U.S., Canada and other parts of Latin America hang from the trees, with solidarity messages. Our Guatemalan Sisters have joined the protests from time to time and are in total solidarity with these people. The local bishop and some priests have also been vocal and supportive. They have a Mass in the camp once a month to give thanks that they actually survived yet another 30 days. Some local evangelicals are also supportive.
As I stood at the site of this protest, I recalled our refusal to allow the Bluegrass Pipeline, which would carry toxic natural gas wastes, to cross our Motherhouse land. The fundamental issue in both cases is water, and underlying that, the integrity of Planet Earth. In fact, the same concerns motivate protests against “fracking” nationwide. In Guatemala, it is this same concern for nature that inspires our Guatemalan sisters and their friends in La Puya. I was proud to discover yet another dimension of our “sister community” relationship with the Hermanas de la Sagrada Familia — solidarity in defense of Planet Earth.
Cambridge Friends Minute on Divestment
Cambridge Quaker Meeting Minute to Friends Fiduciary Corporation A “minute” is an official communication from a Quaker business meeting. This particular minute, on divestment and reinvestment, is directed to the Friends Fiduciary Corporation, the investment arm of the U.S. Quaker community.
Minute to Friends Fiduciary Corporation
Spiritual and ethical grounds lead us to this request. Our commitment to stewardship of the earth combines with recognition that at this time we need some energy from fossil fuels. Recognizing that shareholder advocacy has a place and has somewhat impacted the policies of fossil fuel companies, we are nonetheless concerned that the pace of response to climate change is inadequate to address the current crisis. We wish to demonstrate commitment to stewardship and our future. Accordingly, we request that FFC invest no further funds in fossil fuel companies, divest its current holdings in such companies, and seek to invest in companies active in alternative sources of energy. While FFC’s divestiture may have no major immediate or financial impact on fossil fuel companies by itself, this action is consistent with our core Quaker beliefs. In light of recent weather-related damage to our environment and economy, we especially support a greater focus on alternative sources of energy. Further, we hope that the commitment demonstrated by divestiture will prove valuable by raising awareness and providing more leadings on energy, spiritually-led investment, and concerns of Friends Meeting at Cambridge. Friends’ part in reducing our dependence on fossil fuels is small but significant. It is also consistent with our principles as we invest in the manner of Friends, led by Spirit, and to educate others about the effects of our current energy use. Oct. 13, 2013 Printed with permission of GreenFaith http://greenfaith.org/programs/divest-and-reinvest/religious-and-moral-resources-on-divestment-and-reinvestment LENN Winter 2014 Page 3
WATER: A SOURCE OF LIFE, CONNECTION AND HOPE* By Elizabeth Peredo Beltran - Bolivia
ater is the source of life. Humans are part of the water cycle, and through water we can connect with the small details of life and to the very complex problems of water on the Planet. We all come from a big drop of water and this is something that moves me so deeply. Water has the power to drive our feelings and our thoughts to the sky to give thanks for life. It connects us to the possibility of a utopia. I became conscious of this vital importance of water in 2000. Just after the Water War in Cochabamba, the people’s courage reminded us of a very simple concept—WATER IS LIFE. Such a simple phrase mobilized thousands of people, forcing out the powerful U.S. multinational Bechtel. The people won and since then, we are connected to the World. While we realized that for us water is life, for corporations it means money. It is a commodity, and all of the regulations that reign over commodities apply. We saw this when Bechtel began its trial against Bolivia for having removed them from Cochabamba. In 2002 we won again; Bechtel had to “sell” us their water company for two dollars. From 2000 to 2010, the Bolivian people did so many things both for the country and for its activists. We struggled against free trade agreements and corporate power. We changed our Constitution. We produced a narrative, which inspires the World—the Living Well and the Rights of Mother Earth concepts — bringing Pachamama to centre stage for life. But then our contradictions began to become more and more evident; Rights for Mother Earth are more of a discourse than a practical approach on the ground. We have problems. Bolivia makes a high per-
biodiversity and where indigenous communities live. Many people protested against it. Even the Viceminister for the Environment Juan P. Ramos resigned in July 2010, but the social criticism was not heard. In a world governed by corporate interests, the addiction to economic growth and to over consumption as a measurement of wealth is destroying our territories. In this dynamic, governments and leaderships can easily become simple functional adjuncts. I felt trapped inside empty words, in discourses that have been hollowed out, trapped by the substitution of action by words. But the world urgently needs us to change our paradigm from thinking to acting. capita contribution to climate change because of deforestation produced mainly by agricultural corporations and local emigration. Bolivia has reopened its economy to monoculture and extractive enterprises. The new laws accept GMOs. All this is poisoning our waters, destroying the environment and jeopardizing human and indigenous rights. This redistributive and productive scheme has become a perverse cycle where poverty is supposed to be overcome at the cost of vast environmental destruction. Although we have made many advances in fighting social injustice and racism, there are many examples that demonstrate how this process became something we can no longer identify with if we truly wish to go further in transforming this unfair world. The TIPNIS Road scheme is a special keystone encapsulating this phenomenon. Approved for completion in 2010, something officials called the ecological road, the TIPNIS Road through the Isiboro Sécure National Park, is a road crossing a territory extremely rich in
It is not enough to be from the south to defend life or Mother Earth. It is not enough to have political power to change societies. We need a new ethic and civilizing construction of global consciousness based on an ecological and humanist vision. Love and Care are the commons we have to maintain as social values to rebuild new societies. We may need to stop talking about “models of development” and begin restoration experiences and social commitments. There are no models, only experiences. There are no receipts, only creativity. There are no heroes, only one responsibility tied to the community. We need empathy, creativity, and courage to keep on caring for Water as our fount for Life. Tamera, Portugal, June 2013 Elizabeth Peredo Beltrán is a Bolivian social psychologist, researcher and activist.
LENN Winter 2014
A Dilemma: Good Crops, Good Beef and Four Decades Experience of the Land Institute in Salina Kansas
By Eleanor Craig SL
he Prairie Festival Conference at The Land Institute in Salina, Kan., is an annual September gathering of lots of folks with interests in ecoagriculture, sustainability, alternative crops and alternative landmanagement practices, as well as people with very large perspectives on global warming, rural community regeneration, world food production, world resource crises, and so on. The conference consists of a continuous stream of high-powered talks interspersed with equally highpowered arts and culture events, and down-home eating and barn dancing. Many attendees have been present year after year through the nearly four decades of the existence of The Land Institute. So there is a lovely warm sense of community, enhanced by the presence of a goodly number of children and even larger numbers of young adults from the world of environmental studies and agricultural programs at universities all over the Midwest. The Prairie Festival is a great celebration of Midwestern rural culture! I went to the Festival at the urging of Co-member Libby Comeaux with funding from the Loretto Earth Network. The cost of my flight to Kansas City and car rental to Salina made me wonder if it could possibly be worth it. But it was! I came away with concrete ideas for a possible future for our Motherhouse farm and the conviction that our vision for the Motherhouse is shared by many people across the country. The work of The Land Institute for nearly four decades has been to develop perennial food crops, which can be grown in polycultural fields. That has primarily meant taking plants from among the prairie grasses, which have extremely deep root systems (twelve feet!), and blending them
in one way or another with annual crops, like wheat, sorghum and other seed plants. The goal is to develop grain and legume crops that can be established in permanently planted fields where the annual “harvest” consists of cutting the grain heads and leaving the plant body to continue growing and producing the next year. In order for such perennials to thrive without commercial fertilizers and other inputs, they are to be established as part of a polycultural field that includes the types of plants that add nutrients to the soil like phosphorous and nitrogen that the grain crops need. A balanced polyculture imitates the natural prairie: it has no need for inputs; the dense growth conserves water and is droughtresistant; and the only fossil fuel or other fuel needed is for the oncea-year cutting. The Land Institute scientists estimate that before the end of the decade they will have seeds for trials in farm fields across the country. I like the idea that our Motherhouse farm could include some of those fields. As I heard people describe and discuss these perennials, and then as I walked through the research fields and saw the perennial sorghum and wheat grass already growing, (although not yet in the polyculture setting proposed for them), I kept picturing our fields of native grasses. Then on a tour of a large field of original prairie, our guide said that one way of maintaining such fields is to graze them with cattle that also add needed nutrients and provide other benefits, just as the huge herds of buffalo once did on the prairie of old. I have begun to imagine our own
Loretto prairie nourishing the land while growing nourishing, grass-fed beef!
This is a new vision for me. I used to think maybe Loretto shouldn’t be involved in producing beef because of the
way commercial cattle are raised. The meat is overly fat because the animals are fed grains at the end of their growth cycle. Both the grains—mostly corn—and the cattle are generally grown with harmful chemicals, and the corn requires more fossil fuel to produce. But grass-fed and grassfinished cattle don’t have these deficiencies. The meat is healthier and the land is, too. Plus, Loretto would make a valuable contribution by removing beef from the corn-finishing processes and adding grass-fed cattle in their place—healthy animals that have lived their entire lives on our very own prairie!
LENN Winter 2014 Page 5
Democracy in the Anthropocene By Peter G. Brown
ontemporary science radically reframes a fundamental idea at the heart of democratic theory and practice: that each person is free to act as he or she wishes so long as that action does not harm other persons. Two important sources of this idea are John Locke’s A Letter Concerning Toleration (1689) and John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty (1859). Locke held that our religious beliefs are internal matters and hence should be beyond the legitimate reach of the state, whose principal tasks are external—to secure “life, liberty, and property.” Mill held that the state has no right to interfere in what he called “purely selfregarding acts”—though interpreting this phrase has proved contentious, even for Mill. Despite the pedigree of these two philosophers, the assumptions their ideas contain have become problematic. Locke’s ideas about what one thinks is private have been transformed into the idea that one can live however one wants. And, in the tradition of Veblen (1899), Clive Hamilton (2005) and others have noted that consumptive goods became key markers of social status in the twentieth century. When we connect this foundational principle of political liberalism to the basic laws of chemistry and Earth systems science, there are two distressing implications. First, in normal chemical reactions, matter is neither created nor destroyed. This means that the carbon released when fuel is burned in, say, a Toronto traffic jam directly affects the interests of people and the composition of the atmosphere and ecosystems around the world. Second, the process of burning fuel inevitably creates waste heat (most of which is radiated into space, causing a net decline in usable energy on the Earth). And in the case of fossil fuels used in the production
of inexpensive fertilizer, the burning raises the price and/or reduces the availability of food, thereby especially critically affecting those at the margin.
Peter G. Brown and Eleanor Craig SL at the Prairie Festival Conference
We must see that how we live is harmful to others. There are no actions that affect us alone. The conceptual and moral underpinnings of economic and political liberalism were flawed from the beginning. We have no choice but to recognize that, as Thoreau says in Walden (1854), “Our whole life is startlingly moral. There is never an instant’s truce between virtue and vice.” It is critical that we interrogate the idea of responsible liberty. What does it mean once we consider it in the context of a scientific understanding of the world? And what is its relationship to justice? In a world of limits, liberty may only be legitimately exercised if one is using only one’s fair share of low-entropy sources and sinks. Properly understood, true liberty lives in a modest room within the mansion of justice. Hence “justice” for us must be understood, as it was for Aristotle, both as a particular virtue and as one overarching concept that holds the rest of morality in balance. As a result of our fresh understanding of ourselves, what we know, and what
we should do, we must start from a realization of our embeddedness. From this point of view, economics, finance, and, above all, democratic governance must rest on at least three straightforward, interconnected premises. Today, we must update Jefferson and hold these truths to be self-evident: (1) that persons are fundamentally interdependent members of communities that include humans and other life, which all depend on the Earth’s biogeochemical processes that obey the laws of the Universe; (2) that it is a fundamental duty to care for where we and our communities live; and (3) that care for life requires the respectful use of what makes life possible. I call these, respectively, membership, householding, and entropic thrift. Living in keeping with these three truths may be summarized as living in right relationship with life and the world. As a result of our fresh understanding of ourselves, what we know, and what we should do, we must start from a realization of our embeddedness. Reprinted in two parts with permission from the Center for Humans and Nature, www.humansandnature.org. See Part Two in the next LEN News!
Peter G. Brown is a professor in the School of Environment at McGill University in Montreal. His primary interests revolve around issues combining ethics, governance, and protection of the environment. To learn more about his thinking, you might check out his 2013 book: Right Relationship: Building a Whole Earth Economy. Eleanor Craig SL and Peter first met at the Bioneers Conference Eleanor attended in Kansas. Article on page 5 in this issue.
LENN Winter 2014
Let’s Turn Our Thoughts to Dirt By Mary Ann Coyle SL
ust a night or two ago I fell asleep and found myself busy dreaming. It was a repeat dream. There were many neatly stacked cartons of vegetables waiting to bring healing dirt into my body. I do know that just before I fell asleep I was engrossed (with my yellow highlighter pen in hand) in an article from the WINTER 2014 Yes! Magazine. A traditionally trained medical doctor, Daphne Moore, wrote it. She was wondering how and where the food we put in our bodies is grown and was encouraging all of us to join her in her “dirty thoughts!” Dr. Moore writes: “The scientists investigating this soil-health connection are a varied bunch— botanists, agronomists, ecologists, geneticists, immunologists, microbiologists—and collectively they are giving us new reasons to care about the places where our food is grown.” I find it hard to think of a more diverse group of people interested enough in dirt to allude to some sort of gut-level gene swapping happening right under our noses! Maybe we should be questioning our primary-care physicians about their prescription pads. Is the “dirt” prescription even a part of their consciousness? Dr.
Further, she continues, “A group of French microbiologists identified the exact same sequence of DNA in two different bacteria species, one living on seaweed and the other in the intestines of Japanese people. They concluded that the marine bacteria had hitchhiked their way into the human gut via sushi and other seaweed dishes, and have passed their seaweeddigesting bacteria on to resident microbes of the human host. The end result is that many Japanese and possibly others from seaweedeating cultures have acquired a greater ability than the rest of us from their nori (edible red algae) diet.”
Moore asks, “Why is it that children raised on ecologically managed farms in Central Europe have much lower rates of allergy and asthma than urban children raised on industrialized farms?”
Dr Moore’s article concludes: “Thinking of a healthy body as an extension of a healthy farm, and vice versa, is a paradigm shift for many of us. But when we consider that all of our cells get their building blocks from plants and soil, then suddenly, it all makes sense. In fact, it is not too much of a stretch to say: ‘We are soil’.”
I’m sure we’re aware of the present “over-the-counter” drugs being prescribed by our doctors. What if they saw you and their other patients as belonging to or being an essential part of a farm eco-cycle, where as Dr. Moore says, “The flow of heath is bidirectional.” The farms’ health depends on us, the consumers of the produce. We should be encouraging our neighbors in our local area to compost, to protect our soil just like we care for our own health.
Where does this leave you? Are you as intrigued by these thoughts as I am? I encourage you to read Dr. Moore’s article and ponder where playing in the dirt may lead us.
Courtesy of YES! Magazine
Loretto Earth Network News
Loretto Earth Network Beth Blissman Karen Cassidy Libby Comeaux Mary Ann Coyle Maureen Fiedler Maureen McCormack Nancy Wittwer
A publication of the Loretto Community
Editor: Mary Ann Coyle SL 3126 S Osceola Street Denver, CO 80236-2332
Layout: Nancy Wittwer SL
LENN Winter 2014 Page 7
A Return to Paradise
By Karen Cassidy CoL
ave you ever enjoyed a second reading of a book and been excited by new insights, some that your worldview didn’t even suggest earlier? Recently I did a second read of Sister Kathleen Deignan’s book, When the Trees Say Nothing, a collection of Thomas Merton’s writings on Nature. In this book, Kathleen, a member of the Congregation of Notre Dame, connects the dots between contemplation and liturgical arts. In your mind’s eye, just listen ...
Listen my soul this is your task; to bless the Earth and all her creatures. And come home again to Paradise. And to walk the way of mindfulness. Kathleen’s study of Merton has led her to label Merton “the prophet of paradise.” He experienced ecological dark nights with a paradise mind and came to Gethsemane with Thoreau in one hand and John of the Cross in the other. We need a paradise mind and a new consciousness to keep awakening. There is a misperception that we need to steal what is freely given. The crisis of the planet is the crisis of the person. Having lost our orientation, I think we forget that our original vocation is to be a gardener. Paradise is the self in this uninhibited freedom. Everything is ours under one condition, it is a gift. Listen! Listen to the silence of vegetables and plants. The power to generate imaginative life is a kind of rediscovery of our paradise recovery.
For, like a grain of fire smoldering in the heart of every living essence God plants His undivided power – Buries His thought too vast for worlds In seeds and roots and blade and flower. Thomas Merton “The Sowing of Meanings”
Whether or not we choose to enter into the “dance of evolution,” the dance will go on. Humankind is being taken to the point where it will have to choose between suicide or adoration (Chardin). Mother Earth in some mysterious way is purifying herself and making ready for a new beginning. Her “anger” is not a form of punishment, but a mere calling for us to change our ways. There are endless choices and opportunities offered to us to return to our Eden home.