SEASON OF CREATION 2017

From September 1— proclaimed a Day of Prayer for Creation by the Orthodox in 1989 and repeated by Pope Francis in 2015 — through the feast of St. Francis on October 4, Christians of all denominations and locations are invited to participate in an ecumenical SEASON OF CREATION. 

People of all faiths or no faiths can certainly join. International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer, Sept. 16; International Day of Peace, Sept. 21; and World Habitat Day, Oct. 2, obviously fall within the Season of Creation.

Pope Francis quotes Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, “the Green Patriarch,” several times in Laudato Si’’. In the following quote, Bartholomew lays a foundation for the Season of Creation. He says that we are called “to accept the world as a sacrament of communion, as a way of sharing with God and our neighbors on a global scale. It is our humble conviction that the divine and the human meet in the slightest detail in the seamless garment of God’s creation, in the last speck of dust on our planet.” (par. 9)

During the Season of Creation we are asked to ponder that sacrament. Pope Francis’ provides many quotes to contemplate. For example: “The universe unfolds in God, who  fills it completely. Hence, there is a mystical meaning to be found in a leaf, in a mountain trail, in a poor person’s face. The ideal is not only to pass from the exterior to the interior to discover the action of God in the soul, but also to discover God in all things.” (par. 233)

Caring for creation, then, is a religious, moral, and ethical matter, and should never have become a divisive political one. Earth’s vitality is required for all life on our planet and it affects every industry and occupation. It is not an optional choice, nor should it be a grim one. Laudato Si’ bids us to “sing as we go. May our struggles and our concern for this planet never take away the joy of our hope.” (par. 244)

Please mark your calendars for the Season of Creation and note the days left to prepare for it. Time to get planning!

Among actions you might consider taking are the following:

  • PRAYER: Initiate or join an ecumenical prayer service. The Season of Creation serves as an important witness of how Christians, regardless of their denominational line, are united in prayer and action for the planet. For extra significance, assemble in front of sites of ecological destruction (e.g., fossil fuel site, polluting or polluted area).
  • Components of prayer services (for groups or individuals) could include gratitude for Earth’s beauty and life-sustaining abilities; contemplation of our interrelationships with creation; sharing grief and sorrow for the destruction currently underway; pledging action for earth. Be sure to include singing! Suggestions for prayers services can be found here: seasonofcreation.org. Pope Francis’  Prayer for Our Earth concludes this blog.
  • ACTION (group and private): Include a positive action to heal “the last speck of  ust” in your area. Perhaps plant a tree, bless solar panels, collect and recycle plastic pollution, write letters to legislators, etc. Maryknoll  suggests this action: Join the “Big Shift Global” Campaign to ask the World Bank to shift all of its projects away from fossil fuels and to 100 percent renewable energy. Here’s a fact sheet that explains the campaign.
  • LIFESTYLE CHOICES: Patriarch Bartholomew does not soft-pedal his advice in Laudato Si’ (par. 9): “… replace consumption with sacrifice, greed with generosity, wastefulness with a spirit of sharing, an asceticism which ‘entails learning to give, and not simply to give up.’ ”   Deepening our consciousness and understanding during the almost-five weeks is another good option. Try reading a book and discussing it with others. (See suggestions at ecospiritualityresources.com.)
  • If you are not already part of a local group, this would be a good time to join one or to start one with people who attended the prayer/ action.

Pope Francis’ Prayer for our Earth, which follows paragraph 246 in Laudato Si’, is as follows:

All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe

and in the smallest of your creatures.

You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.

Pour out upon us the power of your love,

that we may protect life and beauty.

Fill us with peace, that we may live

as brothers and sisters, harming no one.

O God of the poor,

help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth,

so precious in your eyes.

Bring healing to our lives,

that we may protect the world and not prey on it,

that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.

Touch the hearts

of those who look only for gain

at the expense of the poor and the earth.

Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,

to be filled with awe and contemplation,

to recognize that we are profoundly united

with every creature

as we journey towards your infinite light.

We thank you for being with us each day.

Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle

for justice, love and peace.

 

How can “they” believe THAT?

Almost twenty years ago, Jim Carrey starred in the critically acclaimed film, The Truman Show, written by Andrew Niccol. I loved the thought-provoking premise, and I find even more applications now than I did then.

In case you missed it, here’s a summary: A corporation adopts infant Truman Burbank in order to use him as the star of a TV reality show watched 24/7 throughout the world. Truman, unaware of the fact that everyone he knows and every situation of his life is programmed on an isolated island, is just beginning to question his reality. Ed Harris plays the show’s director, Christof, who goes to any length to keep Truman ignorant of reality, which would ruin the show’s success.

Christof’s statement towards the end of the film really struck me: “We accept the reality of the world with which we are presented.” Well, sure. Why question it? We’re secure in it. And, if we become aware of life outside ours, it’s easy to blame “outsiders” for problems and it’s comfortable to believe “our” way is better than “theirs.” Hasn’t that been a successful political, religious, economic, and social tactic throughout history? Think about it!

What I loved about the show in 1998 was how it exemplified those who accepted without question, for example, advertisers’ sales pitches that our value lies in the “stuff” we have. Or how we are slow to become aware of our ingrained prejudices and stereotypes of whatever kind. Or how we accept our religious stories, all written before discoveries in cosmology, quantum physics, and even evolution. It’s challenging to move beyond the reality in which we grew up and/or to understand those who live outside it!

By now you have probably guessed why I find The Truman Show’s imaginary premise especially applicable today. In the U.S., at least, we seem to be captive within the world presented by various media. Echo chambers thrive in social media. Listening to “the other side” can be judged disloyalty to “our” side. Those who live in “the other reality” actually do threaten ours, and thus it is easy to fear them and even think them evil. This seems true regardless of which “show” one currently stars in. Christof spoke truth when he said that we accept the reality of the world with which we are presented. We barely notice, or we excuse, its exaggerations or errors.

Even with willingness to be empathetic, many are ignorant of other cultures. When I read Hillbilly Elegy (which I highly recommend), I was stunned to realize that here was a world about which I knew just about nothing. How easy, then, to judge those who act — and vote — from it. I had to consider that, given the same circumstances of education, culture, and heritage, would I have been any different?

It’s no secret that some news choices can reinforce our prejudgments and make exaggerated statements about our chosen “team” (think Breitbart, FOX, MSNBC, Daily Kos). Ditto for social media. Both sides can perceive the other as spiritually and morally degenerate, a threat to American values, and conspiring to defeat what they hold dear. Because we came from a dualistic, either-or mindset (us and them, good and bad, true and false, etc.), we have been programmed to accept one and reject the other.

At least we are aware of the biases some stations and papers will present and that other news and opinions will be absent, refuted, and judged “fake.” What about sources we watch such as local news, that present biased news and opinions without indicating their source? Because of mergers and acquisitions, massive corporations dominate the U.S. media landscape and control what we see, hear and read. In many cases, these companies control everything from initial production to final distribution.

When one or two entities own local news channels and demand that they air slanted news and opinion pieces, we might have no warning. How is our reality altered when, for example, a newscast has a daily series on Terrorism Threats? Who gives balanced statistics of where our deaths and dangers really come from? The emphasis on what is not a major threat both increases fears and neglects genuine concerns. No wonder fortunes are spent preventing problems that either don’t exist or are minor, causing money needed for real concerns to be not available. Perhaps we are called to write or call and make our viewpoints known.

I periodically receive emails marked something like “You won’t believe this.” I usually don’t, and I  check with one or more of the sites created to monitor factual accuracy and debunk rumors. These three are reliable: FactCheck.org, PolitiFact.com, and snopes.com. (I then return this information to the sender and the other receivers.)

The Truman Show spoiler alert: Truman begins to notice and to question inconsistencies. He begins to doubt the validity of his environment. He becomes aware that his life’s package is somehow incomplete. He risks his life to resolve his growing discomfort — and in the end he literally pokes a hole through his fake sky-dome and exits beyond it. There he is united with his true love, whose campaign to “Free Truman” was not in vain.

As I see it, the moral of The Truman Show for those who care about ecospirituality is this: Like Truman, we are exiting, or have exited, the world and consciousness in which many of us grew up. We feel called to live in a world, a universe, that is intrinsically interconnected, in which everything and everyone deserves respect. We all came from the same stardust; we all share it within us. Because the world, and each of us, is constantly evolving, we are becoming new each moment. We can create a future where people — starting with ourselves — are accurately informed, discerning, and contributing to a win-win future where all life is mutually enhancing and the accepted goal is the greater good of all creation.

Speaking with those who — because they live in another show — reject the threats to all life from climate change, nuclear proliferation, violence, pollution, poverty, inequality, trafficking, species extinction, etc., can be very challenging. We can do it better if we try to understand the “show” in which each of us “stars” and listen to others with respect and patience.

Good law schools “demand that [students] imaginatively and sympathetically reconstruct the best argument on the other side,” I read recently in TIME (July 24, 2017, Heather Gerken, dean of Yale Law School). “Lawyers learn to see the world as their opponents do ….” We should fight for what we believe, but “it’s crucial to recognize the best in the other side and the worst in your own.”

Trying to understand the “reality show” that defines opponents and informs their fears and judgments might not always, or immediately, be effective, but it is the most successful method to date.

I welcome your suggestions/ stories of how to escape, or help others to escape from, faulty or incomplete reality shows.

EIGHT REASONS … PLASTIC WATER BOTTLES

EIGHT REASONS TO RETHINK USING PLASTIC WATER BOTTLES: 

June 21st marks Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. The other half of our planet will move into winter then, but for those who share my half, we’ve already had proof that we’re headed to heat. (E.g., In mid-June Oman’s highest temperature for the day touched 49 ˚C —120 ˚F — in the capital.)

However, this blog is not about heat, nor about climate change, nor about the refugees it causes due to droughts and floods — though please note that June 20th is World Refugee Day. This blog is about bottled water. (Statistics vary; I did my best to use generally accepted numbers.)

About Water

First let’s rethink the value of water — the gift that dates to the stars and required billions of years to accumulate on our planet. All life (that we know about) started and survived because of it. Presumably, all future humans and species will depend on it. Water plays a key role in religious rituals such as baptisms. Water is essential for growing crops, providing beauty and renewal; it cools us …. Sister Water merits our respect and care!

About Plastic Water Bottles

In 1973,  a DuPont engineer patented polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles, the first to be used for bottling water. Its light weight and resistance to breaking seemed advantageous. But would people buy a free product?  Indeed they have, and while it’s sometimes necessary, the rest seems to be nothing but clever advertising and dependence on convenience. What follows applies to all plastic bottles, but focuses on water because there are easy alternatives.

Even Pope Francis has asked us to reduce use of both plastic and water. From Laudato Si’:

There is a nobility to care for creation through little daily actions, and it is wonderful how education can bring about real changes in lifestyle. Education in environmental responsibility can encourage ways of acting which directly and significantly affect the world around us, such as avoiding the use of plastic and paper, reducing water consumption  ….. (par. 211)

Here are eight reasons to rethink the use of plastic water bottles:

1. You testify that drinking water is a human right, not a for-profit commodity —

Water is absolutely essential in maintaining human life, and nothing can substitute for it. On 28 July 2010, the United Nations General Assembly explicitly recognized the human right to water and sanitation and acknowledged that clean drinking water and sanitation are essential to the realization of all human rights. ( Resolution 64/292)

2. You save the water used to make plastic bottles — 

For a true water footprint, consider all freshwater used in production: water used for drilling the petroleum for the plastic, water used in production, water used making packaging. It takes a minimum of 3 liters of water to produce 1 liter of bottled water, but amounts could be up to six or seven times greater when everything is considered.

3. You save the water put into the bottles — 

Activists throughout the world strongly object to having their water bottled and sold back to them. The damage to their loved locales cannot be repaired. Companies take scarce water and sacred water. It’s a matter of justice! There are 50 billion water bottles consumed every year, about 30 billion of them in the U.S. Do the math.

4. You save the energy used to make and transport plastic bottles — 

Producing, packaging and transporting a liter of bottled water requires between 1,100 and 2,000 times more energy on average than treating and delivering the same amount of tap water, according to the Pacific Institute. Scientists of the Pacific Institute estimate that just producing the plastic bottles for bottled-water consumption worldwide uses 50 million barrels of oil annually—enough to supply total U.S. oil demand for 2.5 days. We all know how fossil fuels damage our climate.

If you imagine that every bottle of water you drink is about three-quarters water and one-quarter oil, you’ll have a pretty accurate picture of how much energy it takes to put that bottle of water in your hand.

5. You prevent pollution from bottles which, even if recycled, take years to disintegrate — 

There is no “away” to throw things to. About 13 percent of empty bottles are recycled, where they are turned into products like fleece clothing, carpeting, decking, playground equipment and new containers and bottles. (Three cheers for the companies that do this!)

The bottles not properly recycled end in landfills or in the ocean. Those fragments absorb toxins that pollute our waterways, contaminate our soil, and sicken animals. Plastic trash also absorbs organic pollutants like BPA and PCBs. They may take centuries to decompose while sitting in landfills, amounting to endless billions of little environmentally poisonous time bombs.

Plastic bottles and plastic bags that break down into smaller fragments over time are the most prevalent form of pollution found on our beaches and in our oceans. Every square mile of the ocean has over 46,000 pieces of floating plastic in it! Millions of pieces of plastic debris float in five large subtropical gyres in the world’s oceans. But even more plastic might be on the oceans’ floor, doing damage we can’t yet study.

“Besides providing food and raw materials, the oceans provide various essential environmental benefits such as air purification, a significant role in the global carbon cycle, climate regulation, waste management, the maintenance of food chains and habitats that are critical to life on earth.” (from Cardinal Turkson’s recent statement to the United Nations)

6. You protect fish, birds, and humans from effects of plastic pollution —

Birds and their young die from eating and being strangled by plastic debris in oceans and on land strewn with plastic pollution. These ingested chemicals can then affect humans when we eat contaminated fish. Not only are we severely harming the land, air and water around us, but the rest of the world has to pay the price for our thoughtless over-consumption. Our children and generations to come will be dealing with the problems we caused.

7. You avoid the toxins that can leach from plastic bottles — 

A thorough study by CertiChem found that more than 95 percent of the 450 plastic items tested proved positive for estrogen after undergoing sunlight, dishwashing, and microwaving. Even BPA-free products tested positive for released chemicals having estrogenic activity.

8. You save lots of money!

And so

Where safe drinking water is not available due to scarcity or pollution, plastic water bottles are needed. Otherwise, to protect the future of our beloved (and only) planet, our water and food supply, our climate, our oceans — use a thermos with tap water. Many varieties of faucet filters and pitcher filters exist. Group events can supply pitchers of water and glasses — or drinking stations with compostable cups. Some cities, universities, stores (e.g., Selfridges) and tourist areas (e.g., the Grand Canyon) have banned the sale of bottled water; some supplied drinking stations. Alert those who are unaware. To quote Pope Francis again: There is a nobility to care for creation through little daily actions.