Friday, May 4, 2018

5/18 CCC: June 5, World Environ. Day, Beat Plastic Pollution

May 2018 Creation Corner Column

June 5, World Environment Day: Beat Plastic Pollution

You may recall this quote from the 1967 movie, The Graduate.

Mr. Maguire:  I want to say one word to you, Benjamin.  Just one word.
Benjamin Braddock:  Yes, sir.
Mr. Maguire: Are you listening?
Benjamin Braddock:  Yes I am.
Mr. Maguire: Plastics.

Now over 50 years later, we are reaping what we have sown, plastics everywhere.

You have read the descriptions:  "planet waste crisis," "world's plastic binge," "global plastic littering," "marine plastic litter crisis", etc.

The World Health Organization (WHO) analyzed some of the world's most popular bottled water brands and found more than 90% contained tiny pieces of plastic, thus the concern about plastic in drinking water.  

For two billion poor and vulnerable people who live in communities without rubbish collections, trash-filled rivers flood, causing disease, and hundreds of thousands of premature deaths occur from the toxic fumes cause by the burning of waste.

That is why the Environmental Sabbath this year during the UNEP's World Environment Day week features a focus on the plethora of plastic confronting us.

You have read of the concern that certain kinds of plastic can and should be recycled, and that appears to be all for the good.  And some communities ban plastic bags.  Companies should try to reduce plastic packaging, help collect the waste, and support community recycling efforts. 

Yes, plastic is ubiquitous.  Not a good thing.  Plastic out-lives us; not much is biodegradable. 

Solutions have been suggested.  Of course, assume more personal responsibility to avoid bringing plastic into your household, "Refuse" is a "re" prefix-word, along with reduce, reuse and recycle.  Use less and  "Wake Up"  to what you are consuming.  Can you go to the supermarket and come away without any plastic packaging?

Governments need to be encouraged to implement Deposit Return Schemes (DRS) whereby single-use, "throw-away" drink containers (plastic, glass, metal) can be deposited in "reverse vending machines" that automate a small cash return or voucher. Recycling machines can be equipped with shredding mechanisms.  As plastic waste increases, so can recycling efforts reach 99% as in Germany.  The DRS solution is found in 39 countries.

Another solution, distant into the future, is the use of a mutant enzyme (Ideonella sakaiensis) that breaks down plastic drink bottles, thus fully recycling the bottles of PET (polyethylene terephthalate).

Thus, the effort this year to draw our attention to the problem, and solutions.  To learn how to refuse using plastic, to reduce, reuse and recycle plastic waste; to find guides on #BeatPlasticPollution for government partners, education partners, and organizations and businesses, go to  World Environment Day

For the Environmental Sabbath Service Call to prayers, of awareness, sorrow, healing, and gratitude, go to The United Nations Environmental Sabbath Service | Earth Ministry


Monday, April 2, 2018

4/18 CCC: Thomas Merton's Environmental Vision

Creation Corner Column, April 2018

Book Overview:  The Environmental Vision of Thomas Merton.  Monica Weis, SSJ.  University. Press of Kentucky, 2011.

Monica Weis here traces the evolving environmental consciousness and committed conscience of Cistercian monk Thomas Merton, just one aspect of his legacy, especially during his 27 years at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Trappist, Kentucky.

From his birth in France (1915) to his accidental death in Bangkok, Thailand (1968), she records his various "kairos" or "epiphonic" experiences that transformed his attitude and behavior, as well as his spiritual development, vis-a-vis God's gift of creation.

These "touchstone" moments, or "spots in time", found expression in his prose, poetry, photography, journaling, prayer life and his love and friendship with others.

He, as with us, began life with seeing and appreciating nature, but gradually began to "see with a new eye", with a "waking up" to the interdependence of all creation (air, land, water, animals, humans, etc.).  With contemplation of the "outer landscape" (DDT, nuclear weapons, etc.) his "inner landscape" became aware of how we are destroying ourselves spiritually, morally, and in many other ways.

One might say he sought to enlarge our environmental vision, to go beyond our hubris, anthropocentrism, speciesism, and racism to eco-justice and an "ecology of humility" wherein we have a "reverential awe and desire to preserve nature's beauty in the face of mystery that is larger than humankind".

Merton urges us to move away from what we often think of as our "mastery" of, or "wise use" of nature, and instead seek to have "responsibility for" creation.  Thus: defending, preserving, conserving, and restoring.

He further urges us to have an ecological consciousness because it is required if we are to be non-violent to the earth.

Merton's work addresses us today, those of us with a superficial view of the world, especially in view of our exterminating capability.  So many of us speak of "adapting" to climate change; he would find such talk of blind optimism as absurd.  And for the church to bless some futuristic technological paradise?  Blasphemy!

Of course one reads this life course of Merton with one's own life trajectory in mind.  What events have we experienced that had a "renovating virtue" whereby  we were "nourished and invisibly repaired"?  As each day dawns (our own re-creation and genesis), might we see beyond the "shadows and disguise" and find the presence of God within us, and encounter the holy in the day-to-day ordinariness?

What does an Incarnational Theology mean for us?  What is our response as we "recognize the holiness of all creatures and the spark of divinity in all matter"?

We too can experience turning points in our lives that lead us to have a peace-making ecological conscience with compassion.  We strive to discern God's will for His creation, and be obedient to it.  Merton urged that.


Thomas Merton (b. 1/31/1915, d. 12/30/1968).  International Thomas Merton Society.

The Environmental Vision of Thomas Merton, by Monica Weis, SSJ, 2011, is a well-documented 197 page book, with 40 Thomas Merton primary sources cited,  9 pages of footnotes, an 8 page bibliography, and an 11 page index. It is one book in the "Culture of the Land: A Series in the New Agrarianism", University Press of Kentucky.  Series Editor is Norman Wirzba.

Weis previously published Thomas Merton's Gethsemani: Landscapes of Paradise (2005) . She draws on that, and nine other articles by her on the Merton legacy, in the 2011 book.


Wednesday, March 7, 2018

3/18CCC: John Dear's "They Will Inherit the Earth" book

3/18 Creation Corner Column

Book Overview: They Will Inherit the Earth: Peace & Nonviolence in a Time of Climate Change, by John Dear.  2017, Orbis Press, 161 pages.  $20.

The thesis of John Dear's book, intended for readers of the Christian religious faith, but also useful to non-Christian and secular readers, is that if we are to have (inherit) an inhabitable earth, we must practice non-violence.  

We need to turn away from violence in our personal lives, institutions, policies, systems, structures, and within the "powers and principalities," etc.  For Dear, it is as simple and fundamental as that.

He offers biblical justification for his view (the Beatitudes, Sermon on the Mount, scriptural passages, The Lord's Prayer) and quotations from the 2015 ecology encyclical by Pope Francis,  Laudato si': On Care for Our Common Home. 

In seeking the "Kingdom of God" (may "Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven") we are to practice nonviolence for such is what God intends for his earth to flourish with integrity and wholeness.  In that way nonviolence enables us to inherit the earth as it is designed.  

By following a nonviolent Jesus we may live in, with, and under God's reign of nonviolence.

Ways in which we violate the earth are mentioned, in our personal lifestyles (food consumption choices, fossil fuel dependence, etc.), and he extrapolates the multiplier effect of such with carbon footprint data, and offers remedies in a chapter on sustainable rules for the planet.

Often he uses the two-word admonition phrase of "Wake Up!" to alert us as to how the earth's balances are being imperiled.  But he also encourages us to "Let Go" and not be burdened by beating up on ourselves with self-guilt, giving up or giving in to the point of depression and despair, sitting back, doing nothing while the earth "groans in travail."

While some people of faith employ the phrase "Let Go, Let God", Lutherans might add that it is "God's Work, Our Hands."

Book chapters offer examples of hope, from the USA grassroots efforts (Santa Clara pueblo near Los Alamos NM; among the indigenous Lenca people of Honduras; those who took a stand against a pipeline at the ND Sioux Nation Standing Rock; the Nonviolent Cities Project; and the Oakland CA Canticle Farm.

Nonviolence can be applied to many social problems (racism, sexism, classism, militarism, war, nuclear weapons and other forms of violence).  Cooperation and solidarity can help to solve earth's problems, with work among environmentalists, scientists, those who are young, labor and anti-corporate groups, interfaith coalitions, indigenous people, antiwar/pro-peace folks, women advocates for Mother Earth, etc.  

One chapter raises up global interfaith voices, another is on the Call of Pope Francis.  Especially valuable, and most challenging, are passages in chapter 14 (the longest one of 21 pages), wherein he narrates attitudes, beliefs and practices that go beyond the usual
"re-" words (restore, reconciliation, reparations, etc.).

A study guide for personal reflection and small group discussion concludes the book.  Overall it can be recommended as an important and welcomed addition to the growing literature on caring for creation as it adds the dimension of advocacy for nonviolence in our efforts to prevent climate chaos.

John Dear (b. 1959), a vegetarian for 35 years, author of over 35 books on peace and nonviolence, is a Catholic priest who grew up in NC and currently lives in NM.  A Nobel Peace Prize nominee, he has often been arrested for non-violent civil disobedience in opposition to the "war machine."

This newest book of his is based on the Third Beatitude: "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."  For John Dear "the meek" refers to those who are non-violent.

He will speak March 27 in Williamsport PA in the Mary Welch Honors Hall of Lycoming College, corner of Basin  and E. 4th Streets, at 7 p.m. 

For a timely article on the various forms of non-violence, from letter-writing on, see Shane Claiborne's "Why We Go to Jail" in the April 2018 issue of Sojourners magazine.

On communicating climate change concerns, see the cover story in March 14 issue of the Christian Century, "How to Talk to climate change skeptics": an interview with Katharine Hayhoe.

Also see the life-long work of Gene Sharp (1928-2018) documenting non-violence.


Tuesday, February 6, 2018

2/18 CCC: Quotes for Quotation

 Quotes for Quotation: Creation Corner Column for February 2018

1.  An interview with Katharine Hayhoe appeared in the Fall 2017 print edition of Catalyst, a quarterly publication of the Union of Concerned Scientists:  The initial question was: 

Dr. Hayhoe, you're a climate scientist and an Evangelical Christian.  Many in your faith are among the loudest voices denying the reality of climate change in our country today.  How do you personally reconcile your religion and your life's work?

Answer from Katharine Hayhoe:  "One of the most interesting things I have learned from talking to people is that every major world's religion's core values are care for creation, nature, and the world, and care for people who are poor, who have fewer advantages.  The Bible doesn't mention climate change, but it has a lot to say about our responsibility for this world that we live in, and our responsibility to care for people, especially the poor and vulnerable of this world, who are being disproportionately affected by a changing climate."

For more discussion of Dr. Hayhoe's efforts, see .  For her biweekly YouTube series called "Global Weirding with Katharine Hayhoe", see .

Dr. Hayhoe is the director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University, and also is the founder and CEO of ATMOS Research, a consulting firm that helps industry, nonprofit, and government clients understand how climate change will affect the way they work.

2.  "When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe."  John Muir

3.  "One touch of nature makes the whole world kin."  William Shakespeare

4.  "Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better."  Albert Einstein

5.  "It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment."  Ansel Adams

6.  "Whenever there's a huge spill of solar energy, it's just called a nice day."  unknown

7.  "When you throw something away, where is away?"  unknown

8.  "May the FOREST be with you."   unknown

9.  "The climate is changing faster than we are."  unknown

10.  "God's original plan was to hang out in a garden with some naked vegetarians."  unknown

11. "One generation plants the trees, the next gets the shade."  Chinese proverb

12.  Gardening is cheaper than therapy---and you get tomatoes!"  unknown

13. "The good thing about science is that it's true, whether or not you believe in it." Neil DeGrasse Tyson

14.  "Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored."  Aldous Huxley

15. "The Most Powerful Mind-Altering Substance Is The Truth."  unknown

16.  "Give Bees a Chance." unknown

17.  "Get Lost in Nature and You Will Find Yourself."  unknown

18.  "It's the end of the world, said the caterpillar.  It's just the beginning, said the butterfly."  unknown

19. "Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's needs, but not every man's greed."  Mahatma Gandhi 

20.  "Whatever happens to water happens to people."  unknown

21.  "There Is No Planet B."  unknown

22.  "My Species Disappoints Me."  unknown

23.  "Trees Are the Lungs of the Earth."  unknown

24.  "Use It Up, Wear It Out, Make Do, Or Do Without."  unknown

25.  "Our victories are never permanent."  David Brower, founder of Earth Island Institute.

Note:  Mike Ochs compiles this column from Williamsport PA, where he is a member of the Responsible Drilling Alliance, one of whose slogans is "Keep It Wild." 


Friday, January 5, 2018

CCC 1-18 Winter Reading Suggestions

 Creation Corner Column, January 2018

                                 Winter 2018 Reading Suggestions

"This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." Psalm 118:24

Ask the Beasts: Darwin and the God of Love..  Elizabeth A. Johnson.
Birth of a New Earth: The Radical Politics of Environmentalism.  Adrian Parr.
Blue Sapphire of the Mind: Notes for a Contemplative Ecology.  Douglas E. Christie.
A Child's Book of Animal Poems and Blessings.  Eliza Blanchard, collector. Joyce Hesselberth,    
Christians and the Environment: A Guide for Personal Reflection and Group Discussion.  Sojourners   eBook.
Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis.  T.F. Stocker, D. Qin, G.-K. Plattner, et al.
Climate Change and the Health of Nations.  Anthony J. McMichael.
Climate of Hope: How Cities, Businesses, and Citizens Can Save the Planet.  Michael Bloomberg and  Carl Pope. 
The Climate Swerve: Reflections on Mind, Hope, and Survival.  Robert J. Lifton.
Creatures Born of Mud and Slime: The Wonder and Complexity of Spontaneous Generation.  Daryn Lehoux.
Deep Woods, Wild Waters: A Memoir.  Douglas Woods.
Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver.  Mary Oliver.
Dinner with Darwin: Food, Drink, and Evolution.  Jonathan Silvertown.
Down to the Wire: Confronting Climate Collapse.  David Orr.
Earth Community, Earth Ethics.  Larry Rasmussen.
Eco-Lutheranism: Lutheran Perspectives on Ecology.  Karla G. Bohmbach and Shauna K. Hannan, editors.
Facing Gaia: Eight Lectures on the New Climatic Regime.  Bruno Latour.
Finding Purpose: Environmental Stewardship as a Personal Calling.  Andrew J. Hoffman.
For the Beauty of the Earth: Daily Devotions Exploring Creation. Kathrin Burleson, watercolorist.     Episcopal Church voices,  Compilation/Forward
The Future of Ethics: Sustainability, Social Justice, and Religious Creativity.  Willis Jenkins.
Grand Canyon For Sale: Public Lands versus Private Interests in the Era of Climate Change. Stephen Nash.
How To Survive a Plague: The Story of How Activists and Scientists Tamed AIDS.  David France.
Inheritors of the Earth.  Chris D. Thomas.
The Journal 1837-1861, Henry David Thoreau.  Edited by Damion Searls.
Making the Most of the Anthropocene: Facing the Future.  Mark Denny.
The Meaning of Human Existence.  E. O. Wilson.
The New Cosmic Story: Inside Our Awakening Universe.  John F. Haught.
The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative.  Florence Williams.
Nature's Fabric: Leaves in Science and Culture.  David Lee.
On the Trail: A History of American Hiking.  Silas Chamerlin.
On Trails: An Exploration.  Robert Moor.
Opening the Book of Nature.  Fred Krueger.
Pilgrims of the Air: The Passing of the Passenger Pigeons.  John Wilson Foster.
Pioneers of Ecological Humanism: Mumford, Dubos and Bookchin.  Brian Morris.
Reckoning With Apocalypse: Time To Turn Around.  Dale Aukerman.
The Secret Life of Cows.  Rosamund Young.
The War on Science: Who's Waging It, Why It Matters, What We Can Do About It.  Shawn Otto.
We Are Home: A Spirituality of the Environment.  Shannon Jung (1993).
Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science.  Carey Gillam.

Titles by Richard Cartwright Austin (Presbyterian Church USA):

Baptized Into Wilderness.
Beauty of the Lord.
Hope for the Land.
Reclaiming America.
Spoil: A Moral Study of Strip Mining for Coal.


The Best of Nature---25 Years (DVD). PBS Nature series first 25 years, Lynn Sherr, host.
Food Chains DVD documentary (2014).  Eric Schlosser and Eva Longoria.
For the Beauty of the Earth: Celebrating Creation.  CD, Gabriel V brass ensemble.

"Climate and Creation: An interfaith conversation about religion in the Anthropocene."  Pastor Don Mackenzie (United Church of Christ) with Rabbi Ted Falcon and Imam Jamal Rahman. Orion magazine, May/June 2017. 

"The Ecology of Prayer: Faith and resistance in the age of climate change."  Fred Bahnson, School of Divinity, Wake Forest University. Orion magazine, Thirty-fifth anniversary issue, 2017.

                         "The Earth Belongs to God...and Everything in it."  Psalm 24:1.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

12/17 CCC: Advocacy for Sustainability & American Indian Wisdom

Creation Corner Column, December 2017
                             Advocacy for Sustainability and American Indian Wisdom

Advocacy:  supporting, recommending, promoting, championing, backing, pleading, arguing in favor of, defending a cause or proposal.

Sustainability: the endurance of systems and processes for long-term ecological balance; the quality of not being harmful, or permanently damaging, to the environment, or depleting natural resources.

Advocacy for sustainability takes many forms, as within the Lutheran (ELCA) and Episcopal churches, and with the "2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development" promoted by the United Nations.  The latter includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and both religious denominations share a similar vision.

Clean water and sanitation; affordable and clean energy; climate action, life below water and life on land are five UN examples (see others at .  The Lutheran and Episcopal emphases encompass those of the UN, so as to create a "sustainable and sufficient world where there is enough for all to thrive."  These churches seek to do this by "working through their service, reconciliation and justice ministries."  The Lutheran effort may be seen at .

Those who lived on our soil of this USA nation prior to Europeans, and whose descendants live here still, were advocates of sustainability and from whom we can learn much, and we would be wise to pass along their wisdom to our children and grand-children, our descendants.

Consider the Iroquois:  "In our every deliberation we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations."

Chief Seattle:  "All things are connected.  Whatever befalls the Earth befalls the children of the Earth."

Chief Seattle:  "This we know.  The earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth."

Chief Seattle: "Humankind has not woven the web of life.  We are but one thread within it."

Shawnee Chief Tecumseh:  "No tribe as the right to sell, even to each other, much less to strangers.  Sell a country! Why not sell the air, the great sea, as well as the earth?  Didn't the Great Spirit make them all for the use of his children?" (in a speech to William Harrison, Governor of the Indiana Territory, on August 11, 1810).

Cree proverb:  When all the trees have been cut down, when all the animals have been hunted, when all the waters are polluted, when all the air is unsafe to breathe, only then will you discover you cannot eat money."


Monday, November 20, 2017

11/17 CCC: Thankful Prayerful Responses for Creation's Blessings

Nov. 2017 Creation Corner Column (CCC)

Thankful Prayerful Responses for Creation's Blessings

Including prayers in church liturgy is one of many ways to express our care for creation, as we are instructed to by the "First Commandment" in Genesis 2:15, to "serve and protect" the creation.  Consider these:

Creator God, you provide daily for our nourishment.  Bless fields and orchards, oceans and lakes, birds and animals, insects and fish.  Sustain those who harvest your life-sustaining bounty.  Help us share the gifts you have freely given.  Hear us, O God.  Your mercy is great.

Reveal your will for your creation, mighty God.  Renew waters, lands, and skies that are threatened by our carelessness.  Teach us to honor and care for the works of your hand.  Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for the renewal of creation: for a shared, plentiful harvest, for lands unable to bear fruit, for what is neglected or destroyed by our hand, and for the earth's advocates.  Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

You rejoice in your good creation.  Provide moisture for parched places, wind and sun for flooded lands, and shelter and sustenance for creatures of every kind.  Hear us, O God.  Your mercy is great.

Restore what is broken in creation, gracious God.  Revive farmlands and vineyards, protect waters needed by all living things, and move us to care for this earthly home.  Hear us, O God.  Your mercy is great.

Give bountiful pastures, safety and health to herds, livestock, and all animals.  May our care for all of your creation reflect the shepherding love for all that you have made.  Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for parks and open spaces, for clean air and clear water.  Help us protect places where we are reminded of God's work in creation and find renewal.  Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Note:  The above Prayers of Intercession are derived from recent 2017 "Celebrate" bulletin inserts and are reproduced by permission of Augsburg Fortress.  No future reproduction is allowed without written permission.