Thursday, December 6, 2012

12/12 Creation Corner, Nature: What's It Good For?

Creation Corner Column for December 2012

Nature: What’s It Good For?

“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.”  Genesis 1:31

The science of wellness is showing us what we know intuitively: that getting “outdoors”, taking the first step outside, is good for us.  This awareness of nature’s importance to human health is the subject of Your Brain on Nature: The Science of Nature’s Influence on Your Health, Happiness, and Vitality, by Eva M. Selhub, MD and Alan C. Logan, ND (Wiley, paperback, 2012).

Many of us experience much time “indoors”, our being “digitally distracted” by looking at one screen or another (computers, televisions, checking e-mail, cell phone text messages, using smart phones, tablets, Kindles, I-pads, playing indoor video games, etc.).  This can become an overload of streams of technological data, and increasingly too many of us experience mood disorders (stress, anxiety, depression, attention-distractions, hyper-activity), inertia, addictions, immune and sleep issues, cognitive deficiency, creativity lapses, “brain fade” and “senior moments”, etc.  A malaise seems to accompany our life in urban civilization.

Such “videophilia” leads to people becoming “denatured”, removed from nature and withdrawn into an inside world.  It is nature deprivation.  Richard Louv has spoken of this in his work as “nature-deficit disorder”.  Some warn that nature-withdrawal can lead to a “less empathic view of nature”, and that one cannot be “green” without a meaningful exposure to nature.  Videophilia competes with “biophilia”, the latter, as hypothesized by Edward O. Wilson, being an inherently human preference, emotional affiliation and contact with nature.

Many studies illustrate the benefits of immersing our five human senses in nature.  This is variously called nature exposure, eco-therapy, forest-walk therapy, light-therapy, nature-based recreation, the slow-nature movement---all representing the healing power of nature.

Some of the “nature cures”, footnoted at , that improve our mind and body, include lower blood pressure and heart rate; feeling more relaxed; enhanced attention, memory and creativity; more positive thoughts and less hostility; boosts to white and red blood cell counts; a decrease in blood cholesterol, improved production of some immune functions; less mental fatigue (“fog”); an improved sleep-wake cycle; vitamin D and calcium absorption; improved performance on cognitive tests; less impatience and irritability, etc.

This all makes sense biblically.  We were created in a natural environment, and we physiologically adapted to it.  Unless we have lost our way, our everyday rhythms are attuned to those of the environment.

So a prescription for what ails some of us can be as small as stepping outside our door for a five-minute “dosage” of activity.  Park the car far from the store entrance.  Visit a park. Walk under trees.  Seek a quiet, natural place, preferably near water.  If you vacation, go to a natural area, not a city.  Do gardening.  Lie on the grass.  Sit near a window and watch the clouds.  It’s free medicine!  Walking-therapy!!  Nature nurtures us!!!  God’s creation is indeed very good for us.

Note: My interest in this subject stemmed from an article in Outside Magazine by Florence Williams  in the December 2012 issue, “The Nature Cure: Take Two Hours of Pine Forest and Call Me in the Morning”  (

Thursday, November 8, 2012

November 2012 Creation Corner Column: Faith Partnership Initiative of the Sierra Club

Faith Partnership Initiative of the Sierra Club
With more than 30 short essays (averaging 8 pages each) in an accessible paperback edition, a recent title from the Sierra Club's faith partnership initiative provides the groundwork for further stimulating thought and discussion about the environment.
The broad range of authors and their perspectives (Mormon to Eastern Orthodox, Protestant to Buddhist, evangelical to nature writers) is sure to engage the reader, in one way or another, in the book, Holy Ground: A Gathering of Voices on Caring for Creation, edited by Lyndsay Moseley.
Four main themes include "the biblical call to stewardship, the concept of creation 'groaning' under its burden of abuse, our human relationship with animals, and the growing movement for environmental justice as an expression of the commandment to love others as oneself."
As the essays are arranged alphabetically by the names of the authors, here is an alphabetical list of some specific topics addressed:
  • animals as companions on earth or exemplars of sacrifice
  • baptismal water imagery and meaning
  • building hopeful activism in congregations
  • childhood insights into creation that grow in power with maturity and study
  • the grace by which we live and our obligatory thanks for our sustenance
  • green energy in American churches
  • the life and teachings of Jesus (baptism, testing in the wilderness, garden parables, the exalting of the poor and marginalized)
  • putting our beliefs into practice
  • the Samaritan story and Jesus's promise of "abundant life"
  • shattering boundaries around whom and what we should care for
  • teaching the young about endangered cultures and creatures worldwide
  • trees as rooted angels or messengers, living things that reach to heaven
  • why did God make humans so powerful?
Founded in 1892, the Sierra Club is the largest (1.3 million members and supporters) and most influential grass-roots environmental organization.  A Club theme is encouraging people to "explore, enjoy and protect the environment."
To see their 2008 report highlighting one exceptional faith-based environmental initiative in each of the 50 states, "Faith In Action: Communities of Faith Bring Hope For the Planet", see .
Somewhere it has been written: "If you take care of creation, creation will take care of you."  Does your vocation, your "calling", include taking care of creation?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

10/12 Creation Corner Col., 15th Anniversary, Spiritual Ecology, PA-IPL

15th Anniversary of Creation Corner Column, Spiritual Ecology, PA-IPL

15th Anniversary of Creation Corner column
This marks the 15th year anniversary of this “Creation Corner” column in the print and on-line newsletter of the 65-year-old ecumenical organization, United Churches of Lycoming County, based in Williamsport PA (  Material compiled by Lutheran layman Michael Ochs is provided with an educational hope that people of faith will be motivated to take action on behalf of the integrity of God’s creation, in their lifestyles, churches, communities and advocacy.
“The earth is the Lord’s” (Ps. 24:1); our vocation is to “tend and keep it” (Gen 2:15); to “do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God” (Micah 6:8) inasmuch as “the whole earth has been groaning in travail, waiting to be set free from its bondage” (Romans 8:19-23).
                                                       Spiritual Ecology
Spiritual Ecology, by Leslie E. Sponsel is a 2012 book that brings to light some history of what many understand as the connection of religion and nature by examining the lives of selected people(s), from animists and indigenous people to the Buddha and St. Francis of Assisi, to, more recently, the likes of Thoreau, Muir, Steiner and Buber, and into the 21st century, with profiles of the Dali Lama, Wangari Matthai (1940-2011, Kenyan Green Belt and Green Party leader, Nobel Peace Prize awardee in 2004), and the Ecumenical/Green Patriarch Bartholomew’s leadership within the 250 worldwide million members of the Orthodox Church in promoting environmentalism as a sacred duty.
Because, to paraphrase what the late Rudolf Bahro has said, there is no crisis in the environment, but rather, it is within ourselves, each of our souls, our spirit, the need to change our relationship to the earth is primary.  We must have “an internal change in our intellectual emphasis, loyalties, affections and convictions” (Aldo Leopold).
Our priorities can change as we are transformed by our spiritual or religious traditions that uphold creation’s integrity, or redeem it when it is broken.  As a Lutheran hymnal offertory prayer says, “…we dedicate our lives to the care and redemption of all that you have made.”  Thus: creation care’s spiritual basis.
Sponsel’s book, the  web site, and his course on the subject at the University of Hawai’i , bring together in a comprehensive way the foundation for understanding how an evolving spirituality can inform our experiences in nature and our ecological values, our attitudes and behavior, morals and ethics, what we revere and hold in awe, inspiring our active energy and achievements.
Clearly, the secular approaches to a sustainable future, the science and technology, the politics, the regulations (or lack of same), etc., have proven to be inadequate; indeed, the dysfunctional or blow-back consequences are real and devastating (war’s effect on earth, fossil fuel dependence, increasing CO2 and global warming, conflict over natural resources, etc.).
So, informed by Spiritual Ecology, “Do no harm” could become our credo, for “the whole earth is filled with God’s glory” (Is. 6:3).
                              PA Interfaith Power and Light Conference
The annual PA Interfaith Power and Light conference will be in Harrisburg October 14.  The theme is “Power for PA: Climate Change and Faith-Based Action” ( .
PA-IPL is one of 39 state affiliates nationwide as a religious response to global warming ( .  IPL’s intent is to protect earth’s ecosystems, safeguard the health of all creation, and ensure sufficient, sustainable energy for all.  The means to do this is by being faithful stewards of creation by responding to global warming through the promotion of energy conservation, energy efficiency and renewable energy.
Speakers include PSU’s Dr. Richard Alley, host of the PBS series “Earth: An Operator’s Manual,” and Rev. Fletcher Harper of , speaking on “Greening Our Faiths: Educating and Mobilizing our Communities to Protect the Earth.”
Green Faith’s next conference is Oct. 21-22 in Milwaukee WI, “Ground for Hope: Mobilizing Interfaith Partners in Action for the Earth.”  Speakers include Lutheran eco-theologian Peter Bakken of the Wisconsin IPL, and Native American leader Winona LaDuke, whose Honor the Earth organization has received many awards.  She was the Green Party vice-president candidate in 1996 and 2000.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

9/12 Creation Corner Column: GREEN BOOK FESTIVAL WINNERS, ETC.

In upwards of twenty-two categories annually for the past several years the Green Book Festival has announced winners, runners-up and honorable mentions.  The competition honors "books that contribute to greater understanding, respect for and positive action on the changing world environment."
Among the winners in the "spiritual" category are, for 2012
Francis Woke Up Early--Josephine Nobisso (13th c. Assisi, children's picture book, many awards from other festivals)
God is Green--Diane Holland (Bible verses, children's book). Easy to be Green activity books by same author; publisher is (re: earth).  Motto: "Educating Children for a Greener Tomorrow."
2011: Twelve by Twelve: A One-Room Cabin Off the Grid and Beyond the American Dream--William Powers won the over-all contest.  It details "Powers' stay at a stark cabin without running water and electricity...with a smaller carbon footprint."  The book "is inspirational" and has a "page-turning style " with a "deeply introspective analysis."
2010: Green Like God--Jonathan Merritt ("mandatory reading for church goers", said Publisher's Weekly; the author is spokesman for the Southern Baptist Environment and Climate Initiative).
The Gospel According to the Earth--Matthew Sleeth (basic to promoting Christian earth stewardship).
An Altar in the World--Barbara Brown Taylor (prolific author, Episcopal priest, university professor, Christian Century editor-at-large).  Sub-titled "A Geography of Faith."
Other categories in the contest, besides spiritual, are animals, audio-spoken word, biography/autobiography, business, children's, comics/graphic novels, cookbooks, e-books, fiction, gardening, how-to, legal, mystery, non-fiction, photography/art, poetry, science fiction, teenage, white papers, wild card, young adult.
For more information: 
Of related interest to readers may be:
On a Farther Shore: The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson--William Souder, published on the 50th anniversary of Silent Spring.
"How We Know Global Warming is Real and Human Caused" is the cover story from a recent Skeptic magazine.
Climate Change Q & A
Climate Deniers' Arguments and Climate Scientists' Answers
Engaging With Climate Change: Psychoanalytic and Interdisciplinary Perspectives--edited by Sally Weintrobe.  "Written for the general reader, Engaging with Climate Change is the first book of its kind to explore in depth what climate change actually means to people.  It brings members of a wide range of different disciplines in the social sciences---the human sciences---together in discussion.  The important insights that result have real implications not only for how policy makers relate to people about the issue, but for us all."
Among the comments by reviewers are these, advertised in the 30Aug12 issue of the London Review of Books, p. 20:
"By bringing together some of the most cutting-edge and creative thinkers on the ecological crisis, this anthology builds a persuasive case for how a greater understanding of human psychology---including the psychology of denial, compassion and cruelty---can help break the climate deadlock.  A powerful riposte to the notion that climate communicators have only two options: relentlessly terrify the public, or try to fool them into action without mentioning the word 'climate.'"
                                                               Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine
"I read this book straight through in two days.  More shocking than a fantasy novel, more touching than an individual intimate story, it is an interdisciplinary book of high quality that shows how people hardly dare to face the truth about climate change and how psychoanalysis helps us explore the reality, inside and out our minds, beyond defensive illusions and tragic disavowal."
  Stefano Bolognini, MD, President Elect of the International Psychoanalytic Association
"Throughout the book, we are repeatedly reminded of two most basic facts: that we are all much less rational than we care to think, and that we are of, not above, the natural world."
        Chris Ripley, CBE, Professor of Climate Science at University College London UK

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Creation Corner Column, August 2012: Audio Resources for Creation Care

Audio Resources from the Getting Green Faithfully 2012 Spring Convocation at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg (LTSG), PA, April 17-18, 2012
Topical/Seasonal Resources
Getting Green Faithfully (Sound files of Presentations at 2012 Spring Convocation)

1.  Gil Waldkoenig  "A Theology of Care for Land, Air, and Water from a Lutheran Perspective"

Rev. Dr. Waldkoenig is LTSG Professor of Church in Society and teaches courses in ecology and religion; interfaith environmental ethics; ecology and stewardship; greening of religion; eco-theology in northern Appalachia, and the environmental history of Christianity.

2.  Fletcher Harper "Survey of Environmental Teaching from World Religions"

Episcopalian Rev. Harper is director of the interfaith coalition known as GreenFaith (, helping people , through education, inspiration and mobilization, to become religious leaders in building a just and compassionate society.

3.  David Rhoads "A Lutheran Theology of Creation: Foundations for a New Reformation"

 Professor Emeritus, Lutheran Theological Seminary at Chicago, Dr. Rhoads helped initiate an on-line environmental service for congregations (, and edited Earth and Word: Classic Sermons on Saving the Planet.  He was instrumental in starting .

4.  Cynthia Moe-Lobeda  "God's Lovers as Un-Creators: Morality in the Face of Systemic Evil"

Associate Professor of Environmental Studies, Theology and Religious Studies, at Seattle University, Moe-Lobeda teaches feminist and ecological ethics, and liberation theology.  Her forthcoming book is Ethics for the Un-Creators, and she appears on Talking Stick TV (You Tube.)

More information on these presenters, and others for which audio versions of their talks are not yet available, can be found at .

Michael Ochs, this blog participant, did not attend the above-referenced event, but is endeavoring to prepare summaries of these talks.  For such he may be reached at .

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Creation Corner Column, July 2012, Ecology Resources: Rio + 20, Books, etc.

Ecology Resources:  Rio + 20, Books, Young People's Selections, Business Issues, Films and DVD Series, Web Sites, Photography Exhibit
Rio + 20
"Rio + 20: An Endangered Species?" article by Timothy O'Riordan et al. (Mar/Apr '12) and
"Greening the United Nations Charter" article by Frank Biermann (May/June '12)
A Tear at the Edge of Creation: A Radical New Vision for Life in an Imperfect Universe by Marcelo Gleiser (2010).
 A World Without Bees, by Allison Benjamin & Brian McCallum (2009).
The Carbon Age: How Life's Core Element Has Become Civilization's Greatest Threat, by Eric Roston (2008).
The Global Warming Reader: A Century of Writing About Climate Change, edited by Bill McKibben.  Scholar/activist collects writings of Elizabeth Kolbert, Rev. Sally Bingham, James Hansen, Arundhati Roy, Al Gore, Naomi Klein, George Monbiot, Van Jones, Svante Arrhenius, Paul Crutzen, and others (2012).
The Great Animal Orchestra: Finding the Origins of Music in the World's Wild Places, by Bernie Krause (2012).  The author, who helped define the structure of soundscape ecology and coined the term biophony ("the sound of all living organisms except us"), has spent decades recording and archiving wild/pristine sound environments ("soundscapes") from around the world, and produced an impressive discography (In a Wild Sanctuary, Gorillas in the Mix, Amazon Days Amazon Nights, are examples).  Together with his books (some with a companion CD), the collections are a guide to nature's sonic treasures, and as such beg us to pay attention to their fate.  The Wikipedia site for Krause notes that "Sadly, it is now estimated that over half of these habitats have been destroyed or so compromised by human intervention that Krause's recordings are all that is left of their original diversity."  What do you hear when you experience the native habitat of your local symphony orchestra? (2012).
The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution, by Richard Dawkins (2009).
The Illustrated Atlas of Wildlife by Channa Bambaradeniya et al (2009).
The Race for What's Left:  The Global Scramble for the World's Last Resources, by Michael T. Klare.  Is combative conflict for arable land, minerals and energy resources avoidable?  Might adaptive cooperation solve increasing consumer demand for the world's remaining resource reserves?  Are extreme extractive technologies for exploiting fossil fuels accelerating climate change and destroying the environment?  (2012)
The Social Conquest of Earth by Edward O. Wilson.  Our latter-day Darwin and Thoreau, Pulitzer Prize-winning author asks: "Where do we come from?; "What are we?"; and "Where are we going?"  (2012)
The Thoreau You Don't Know:  What the Prophet of Environmentalism Really Meant, by Robert Sullivan (2009).
The Wealth of Nature: Ecosystem Services, Biodiversity, and Human Well-Being, by Cristina G. Mittermeier, series editor (2009).
Change Comes to Dinner: How Vertical Farmers, Urban Growers and Other Innovators are Revolutionizing What America Eats, by Katherine Gustafson.
"Hoperaking" positive ideas and trends to offset our pessimism.  (2012)
Climate Change and Climate Modeling by J. David Neelin (2011 CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title).
Cultivating an Ecological Conscience: Essays from a Farmer Philosopher, by Frederick L. Kirschenmann (2010).    The author, also an academic philosopher/theologian, is a leader in sustainable agriculture who manages his North Dakota family's 3500 acre certified organic farm.
Ethics and Animals by Lori Gruen. (2011 CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title).
Fevered:  Why a Hotter Planet Will Make Us Sick and How We Can Save Ourselves, by Linda Marsa, forthcoming from Rodale Press.
Fruitless Fall: The Collapse of the Honey Bee and the Coming Agricultural Crisis, by Rowan Jacobsen (2008).
Global Warming Gridlock by David G. Victor.  (One of the Best Books of 2011, rated by The Economist).
Gunfight at the Eco-Corral: Western Cinema and the Environment by Robin L. Murray and Joseph K. Heumann (in paperback).  "Most film critics point to classic conflicts---good versus evil, right versus wrong, civilization versus savagery---as defining themes of the American western.  In this provocative examination of Westerns from Tumbleweeds (1925) to Rango (2011), the authors argue for a more expansive view that moves beyond traditional conflicts to encompass environmental themes and struggles" (from the advert for the book). 2012
Vedic Ecology: Practical Wisdom for Surviving the 21st Century, by Ranchor Prime, a Worldwide Fund for Nature advisor, (2002).
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail by Cheryl Strayed relates her journey in solitude from grief, seeking for a cure by taking a hike.  2012 
 Young People's  Selections
Richard Louv's The Last Child in the Woods and latest The Nature Principle: Reconnecting with Life in a Virtual Age have helped launch the New Nature Movement, thus planting a seed for re-envisioning the restorative power of the natural world.  See his blog at; The Children and Nature Network at  For a catalog of resources, go to .
A Stick is an Excellent Thing: Poems Celebrating Outdoor Play by Marilyn Singer and illustrated by LeUyem Pham, might make kids want to run outside and play. 2012
Nasty Bugs by children's poetry expert Lee Bennett Hopkins and illustrations by Will Terry includes a "biography" of each bug described. 2012
A Meal of Stars: Poems Up and Down by Dana Jensen and illustrated by Tricia Tusa is another book on outdoor poems. 2012
In the Garden by Elizabeth Spurr and illustrated by Manelle Oliphant is for kids age 1-3.  Peachtree, .  2012
Better Ways of Doing Business
Certified B Corporations meet rigorous independent social and environmental performance standards.  They create greater economic opportunity, strengthen local communities and preserve our environment.  
Films and DVD series
Frozen Planet: The Complete Series, from BBC Earth, follows their 2007 nature documentary film Planet Earth.  This 7-part effort looks at the Arctic and Antarctic.  Narrated by naturalist David Attenborough, the final episode, On Thin Ice, examines the changes in these two regions and their implications.
Extreme Ice aired on PBS as a Nova-National Geographic special 12/28/11.  It documents the world's melting ice with time-lapse photography, thus updating the 2007 Academy Award winning An Inconvenient Truth.  Causes and consequences are examined. by writer/director Markus Rothrant (who also wrote Heal Yourself 101) is inspired by actual events happening right now.
Last Call at the Oasis documentary reminds us of water issues (scarcity and access, pollution, our habits with it, recycling of it, etc.) and our stewardship responsibility.  Participant Media .
Web Sites The day's arguments for and against climate change.
Photography Exhibition
Edward Burtynsky's series Oil is "an essential visual document of our times", according to one reviewer, and took more than a decade to complete.  A book by the same name appeared in 2008.  Images of a "vast, human-altered landscape" are "astonishing," "dramatic", "haunting", and "disturbing."  See at [photographic works]
A critical reflection on Earth Day:

Monday, June 4, 2012

Creation Corner Column, June 2012: Interfaith Advocacy of Environmental Responsibility; 'Silent Spring' at 50; David Brower's Centennial

Interfaith Advocacy of Environmental Responsibility;
'Silent Spring' at 50;
David Brower's Centennial

An amendment to the U.S. Constitution, to promote environmental and social responsibility, is being advanced by the Network of Spiritual Progressives (, an affiliate of Tikkun magazine (

"Tikkun olam" is a Hebrew phrase that means "repairing the world" (synonyms: healing, restoring, transform), and the quarterly magazine has been published since 1986.  The practice of 'tikkun' is our shared responsibility with our Creator, and should be followed, not necessarily because it is required by Biblical law, but because it helps avoid social chaos.

The Network of Spiritual Progressives (NSP) is the interfaith advocacy arm of Tikkun magazine, and seeks to transform our materialistic and corporate-dominated society through consciousness-raising, advocacy, and public awareness campaigns that emphasize generosity, peace and social transformation.  The NSP was founded in 2005 by Rabbi Michael Lerner, Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister and Princeton University Professor Cornel West. 

One of their campaigns is for an Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment (ESRA) to the U.S. Constitution. Essentially the proposal is to have chartered organizations pledge to exercise responsibility in promoting the ethical, environmental and social well-being of planetary life.  Corporations with receipts of over $100 million would need to be rechartered every five years, and they would be evaluated according to several criteria by a jury.  Governmental offices of a certain level would also be required to submit an Environmental and Social Responsibility Impact Report.

The over-arching goal, to enhance human community and environmental sustainability, would be assessed yearly in a Congressional report to the American people.  Among the objectives would be alleviating global warming, reducing all forms of pollution, restoring the ecological balance of the oceans, and assuring the well-being of all forests and animal life.

Educational initiatives would be implemented to prepare persons to live as environmental and socially responsible citizens.  Specific skills and capacities would be taught on K-College levels.

Economic components of the proposed ESRA include defining the First and Fourteenth Amendments as applicable only to human beings; that financial currency would not be considered as a form of speech; that political campaign costs would be Congressionally-funded; and chartering factors would include considering payment of a living wage to employees, a 1:10 pay scale ratio, the value of employee benefits, etc.

For fuller details of the ESRA, see the web sites noted in the first paragraph above.  A second NSP campaign is to implement a Global Marshall Plan, calling upon the U.S. to donate two percent of its GDP to end poverty and hunger.

'Silent Spring' at 50

Rachel Carson's Silent Spring began its serialization in The New Yorker magazine 50 years ago in June 1962, and was published as a book later that year.  The title alluded to a springtime devoid of song birds.

Since then, it seems appropriate to ask "have we learned anything?", as one writer does this month in a magazine cover page article, "Our Silent Spring" by Molly Bennet  (

One lesson may be that we have learned to apply the "precautionary principle" in our relationship to chemicals---that unless they have been proven to be innocent, we ought to be very cautious toward them.  Thus we ought to have a "right-to-know" (RTK) about their environmental impacts.

A second lesson, or reminder, (as in "repetition is the key to all learning) is the ecological one---the interconnectedness of all nature.  Recall the quotation attributed to Chief Seattle, that we live in the great web of all-being, and "whatever we do the web of life, we do to ourselves."  Thus, as another writer this month notes in her article "Happy Anniversary, 'Silent Spring'" by Carol Carson in The Progressive Populist of June 15, 2012, vol. 18, no. 11, p. 6 (, "Carson described how DDT not only killed insects but also entered the food chain, so that even though DDT did not harm (for example) brown pelicans directly, the birds were becoming extinct because the toxins caused their shells to thin.  Whenever they tried to nest, their eggs shattered beneath them.  (DDT was discharged by chemical companies into waterways, where it was absorbed by fish that were eventually eaten by pelicans).

A contemporary question thus arises:  Inasmuch as bees have a significant economic impact worldwide as they play a major role in reproducing wild and domestic plant communities, what is causing honeybee colony collapse disorder (CCD), and could a cause of pesticides/insecticides (the neonicotinoids/clothianidins) become the primary theory?  The chemical is in a seed treatment that works its way up through the plant to flowers and leaves a residue on the nectar.

A third lesson, or perhaps better said, a third question, arises.  And this has personal meaning for many readers, and it also has a wider societal meaning,  Less than two years after Silent Spring was published, Rachel Carson died of breast cancer.  Has the environmental movement she helped launch, to stop the poisoning of our air, land, and water, remained unfinished, so that we cannot rule out environmental toxins as cancer-causing triggers?
                    David Brower Centennial (born July 1, 1912)      

Many tributes to David Brower will occur on the 2012 centennial anniversary of his birth, July 1, 1912.  A prominent 20th century conservationist (and a friend of Rachel Carson), Brower helped to found the Friends of the Earth (1969), the League of Conservation Voters (1970), the Earth Island Institute (1982) and other groups, but he is probably best well-known and remembered in his association with the Sierra Club, which he began as its first executive director in 1952.

His place in history may not yet be secure, but he may eventually be recalled along with such 19th century conservation advocates as Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, and George Perkins Marsh, or early 20th century preservationists as Teddy Roosevelt, Gifford Pinchot, and Aldo Leopold.  He is among the late 20th century environmental heroes such as Carson, Edward Abbey, and Wendell Berry.  Perhaps the reader would also include the likes of Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, Dave Foreman, Bill McKibben, Amory Lovins, Jeremy Rifkin,  Jane Goodall, Wangari Matthai, and Lester Brown among others.  Or Francis Moore Lappe, Lois Gibbs, Vandana Shiva, Judi Bari, Julia Butterfly Hill and Dian Fossey?

Among his achievements were helping win passage of the national Wilderness (preservation) Act of 1964; issuing (writing, editing) many publications, facilitating many environmental campaigns, and starting various groups.  He was a mountaineer and an outspoken critic of overpopulation.  The day before he died, November 5, 2000, he cast his absentee ballot for Ralph Nader, the Green Party environmentalist presidential candidate.

Some quotes for consideration from David Brower:

"Environmentalists make terrible neighbors, but great ancestors."

"When vultures watching your civilization begin dropping dead, it is time to pause and wonder."

"Polite conservationists leave no mark save the scars upon the Earth that could have been prevented had they stood their ground."

"Politicians are like weather vanes.  Our job is to make the winds blow."

"I'm not blindly opposed to progress.  I'm opposed to blind progress."

"All technology should be assumed guilty until proven innocent."

(See summer 2012 issue for other remarks on Brower).
This column was posted June 4, 2012, a day before the United Nations World Environment Day, June 5 ( and a day after the U.N. Environmental Sabbath "Earth Rest Day" celebrated on the weekend closest to the World Environment Day.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

May 2012 Creation Corner Column - From Biosphere to Bioregion to Bible: Resources for Entering Unknown Territory

With 7,775 USA weather stations recording broken high temperatures in March, it seems imperative that we, in the words of Peter Maurin, recognize "the need for ongoing clarification of thought." *
Thus, here are resources from various media to help us understand the potential impact of climate change, the environmental consequences of energy endeavors, and biblical guidance for charting our earthly future.
Blowout in the Gulf: The BP Oil Spill Disaster and the Future of Energy in America by William R. Fruedenburg and Robert Gramling.
Changing Planet, Changing Health by Dan Ferber and Paul R. Epstein
Climate Wars: What People Will Be Killed for in the 21st Century by Harald Welzer
The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines by Michael E. Mann
HOT: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth by Mark Hertsgaard
Methodist layman Bill McKibben, a columnist for Sojourners magazine and founder of, is an author of many books, including The End of Nature (1989, now in 20 languages); Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age; Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet.
Reinventing Fire by Amory Lovins
World Environment Day 2012 theme is "Green Economy: Does It Include YOU?"  Held yearly on June 5, and the UN Environmental Sabbath that week.  This year is the 40th anniversary of the United Nations Environmental Programme.
"Fueling Our Future with Efficiency" 2012 Summer Conference, 
The Island President (film re: Maldlives Islands threatened by rising ocean waters, see )
FUEL (film) re: global warming and climate change myths re: cutting our global warming emissions
For and about young people: 
Big Miracle (film: see (books that connect children and nature); Companions in Wonder: Children and Adults Exploring Nature Together, edited by Julie Dunlap and Stephen R. Kellert.
Bioregion Chesapeake Bay Foundation Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund Pa. Assoc. of Environmental Educators Pa. Interfaith Power and Light re: Marcellus Shale drilling re: Marcellus Shale
DVD "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" re: Marcellus Shale Gas extraction.  Info via e-mail to ; also see Organizations United for the Environment
Civic Empowerment in an Age of Corporate Greed by Edward C. Lorenz
The End of Country by Seamus McGraw (re: Marcellus Shale)
Under the Surface: Fracking, Fortunes, and the Fate of the Marcellus Shale by Tom Wilber
Spring/Summer Hike Schedule for Northcentral Pa:
Biblical Resources
May 12 "Green & Just" Virtual Conference of the Lutheran World Federation.  Register at .
DVD of the PA Interfaith Creation Care Symposium (4/19/2012, Selinsgrove PA) four sessions on Marcellus Shale natural gas forest fragmentation and restoration ecology; climate change; sustainable communities; eco-theology.  Info. via e-mail to Rick Smith .
Resources from the "Getting Greener Faithfully" April 17-18 Spring Convocation at the Gettysburg Lutheran Theological Seminary.  See or e-mail to .
* Peter Maurin (1877-1949) and Dorothy Day (1897-1980) co-founded the Catholic Worker movement.  Their monthly "penny press" publication newspaper "The Catholic Worker" will observe its 80th anniversary in May of 2013.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Creation Corner Column, April 2012: Energy and Ethics: Earth Day Sunday 2012 and beyond

With secular debates on energy policy and practices come a host of questions that perhaps only a community of faith believers can address. Toward that end, consider the following and then see the Earth Day Sunday materials at .

How do we, as Christians...

,,,fuel our families, communities and world in ways that are Christ-centered and honor God's gift of Creation? the complexity of the involved issues, discern how God wants us to respond?

...advocate for energy sources that provide for all without degrading the very land that God so cherishes? we reflect on environmental disasters that have resulted from an economy dependent upon extraction, answer the question of "are we doing all we can to ensure that such disasters will not occur again"? that we value the interests of others for clean air, clean water, and just energy sources?

...reconcile ourselves to the role our energy needs play in harming God's people and creating inequality? to embrace appropriate emerging technologies that will allow us to be better stewards of God's Creation and decrease our energy consumption?

...ensure that the decisions we make regarding our energy sources include our Christian values---justice, stewardship and love for our neighbor?

...serve communities in need so that they can experience the bounty of God's good Creation? people who strive for justice, sustainability and sufficiency, eliminate our own wastefulness while also advocating for others who lack access to energy?

For more specific resources, from a faith-based point-of-view, that address concerns in your region, for example, those of hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") for natural gas, Gulf oil spill, Mountain top removal coal mining, Power Plant Pollution, see


Earth Day 2012, now a world-wide observance involving one billion people, is always on April 22. See Earth Day Network (EDN for the Campaign for Communities "Global Day of Conversation" and EDN's "A Billion Acts of Green ( Also see for carbon output reductions. EDN also has a Green Schools campaign and an Educators Network.


A Global Day of Prayer for Creation Care, April 26, 2012 is coordinated by the Evangelical Environmental Network ( EEN has eighteen co-sponsors. See .


Two events in Pennsylvania this April that blog readers may wish to learn from and duplicate in their areas are these:

1. A Creation Care Symposium on a local basis, in this case a bioregion where natural gas drilling and transmission pipelines are being placed (the north and west branches of the Susquehanna River), will focus on the goals of informing attendees about environmental issues, bringing together clergy and lay faith leaders, sharing experiences and resources, encouraging one another to consider action options, celebrating Creation and praying for inspiration.

Organized by two Lutheran ministers, they will be joined by a restoration ecologist and a board member of PA Interfaith Power and Light. An authorized ELCA lay worship leader will moderate the panel for the 7-hour event at a Catholic church in Selinsgrove PA on April 19. Info at e-mail

2. The Gettysburg PA Lutheran Seminary "Getting Green Faithfully" Convocation April 17-18 will bring scholars together for lectures and workshops on such topics as ecological theology; world examples of religion-based creation care; congregational "greening" in education, liturgy, facility management and advocacy; providing a moral presence in the face of evil; etc.

Speakers include Rev. Fletcher Harper, Stacey Kennealy, Dr. Cynthia Moe-Lobeda, Debbie O'Halloran, Rev. Amy Reumann, Rev. Dr. David Rhoads, Rev. John Spangler, Jr., Rev. Dr. Gilson Waldkoenig.

An updated version of the "Of Land and Seasons Liturgy" will provide the Eucharist setting. See more details at .


Sacred Acts: How Churches are Working to Protect Earth's Climate by Mallory McDuff is a recent book from New Society Publishers. With a foreword by Bill McKibben, it is about "acting in good faith---environmental stewardship through worship, education, advocacy and action. Also available as an e-book.


For the kids: The animated 3-D film adaptation of Dr. Seuss' The Lorax illustrates how important individual actions on behalf of the environment can be. Help a child learn that one can take personal responsibility in trying to make the world a better place.


"Renewal", the first feature-length documentary film to tell the stories of America's grassroots religious-environmental movement is now available. Order the DVD, or see the trailer, at It won the Best in Fest Award at the Hazel Wolf Environmental Film Festival. "Renewing the Earth, Renewing Faith."


Three E magazine (The Environmental Magazine) features on "extreme weather" (also known as "freak weather", "weather out of whack") appear in their March/April issue. Web links there help the lay person understand scientific findings. See

Thursday, March 1, 2012

March 2012 Creation Corner Column

2012 Stewardship Week theme is "Soil to Spoon: Connecting Food Back to Soil"

"Soil to Spoon", the theme for the 57th Soil and Water Stewardship Week, Sunday April 29---Sunday May 6, 2012, sponsored by the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD), heralds the ethic of personal and social responsibility to be good stewards of land, water and natural resources. Thus stewardship "is essentially a synonym for conservation," so as to leave a "rich legacy for future generations."

Especially helpful materials from the NACD, besides the PDF Educators Guide, is the PDF "Church Leaders Guide." Over fifty biblical scriptural passages are woven through the Guide to lift up the narrative concept of being in HARMONY with God and His creation. The letters in HARMONY are used as an acronym (Humble yourself; Act; Reconcile; Mercy extended; Own your tongue; Never hold a grudge; Yield to others).

A homily on world hunger, a farmer's point-of-view, hymn suggestions and a litany are also proposed.

The NACD "Soil to Spoon" education materials for children would be good for those in an urban context---those who are most separated from "the land." Four levels of objectives, vocabulary, activities, worksheets and standards are appropriately informative for grades K-6 and up. Churches from farming communities will also benefit from the materials in their VBS or Sunday School curriculum, and secular classrooms will also appreciate the recommended book list devoted to raising our agricultural literacy.

Other resources include Soil to Spoon bookmarks,posters, clip art, placemat/activity sheets, PSAs, bulletin inserts, etc. Future upcoming yearly themes are Water/Watersheds (2013), Soil (2014), Wildlife/Habitat (2015) and Forestry (2016).

Because the origin of Stewardship Week preceded the founding of Earth Day, and because it follows the annual April 22 observance of Earth Day, and also occurs at the same time as National Arbor Day (the last Saturday of April), people of faith have many opportunities at this time of year to emphasize their caring for creation.

NACD marketplace:
NACD, 509 Capitol Court, NE Washington DC 20002-4937
P 202.547.6223
F 202.547.6450
Or contact one of the 3000 U.S.A conservation district offices nearest you.
The mission of the NACD is "conserving natural resources for our future." It is one of the rare secular organizations that has outreach materials for churches.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Feb. 2012 Creation Corner Column

Religious Responses in Confronting the Challenge of our Climate Crisis

"Climate change is perhaps the gravest calamity our species has ever encountered. Its impact could dwarf that of any war, any plague, any famine we have confronted so far. It could make genocide and ethnic cleansing look like sideshows at the circus of human suffering." -- George Monbiot*

Engaging efforts with the secular scientific community, religious approaches to the global issue of climate change are many and varied. The February 10-12, 2012 "National Preach-In on Global Warming" is one. Coordinated by Interfaith Power & Light (IPL), many resources are available from and their usefulness extends beyond their mid-winter religious response to global warming.

Examples include denomination-specific sermon preparation notes and guides for reflections, devotionals, Bible studies and youth activities. Hand-outs explain what global warming is, why we should care, and how it is a faith issue. Putting faith into action by encouraging safeguards for clean air quality receives a high priority of social commitment.

Of especial interest is the IPL 30-minute DVD, "Preaching for the Planet: Interfaith Messages on Global Warming," with narrators from the Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Buddhist and Islamic faith communities.

This is another visual media example in the tradition of earlier efforts, such as the DVD, "Blessed Earth: Serving God, Saving the Planet" that was a simulcast on the April 21, 2010 eve of the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, featuring Dr. Matthew Sleeth ( .

Prior to that were the 2006 DVDs named "ReVision: What If?" and "The Great Warming" ( narrated by Alanis Morissette and Keanu Reeves, produced in association with the National Association of Evangelicals.

Documentary films originating in the secular community include "The 11th Hour", produced and narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio, 2007 ( and, of course, the 2007 Academy Oscar Award for Best Documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth" based on Al Gore's book by the same title.

No matter what your source of information on climate change, be it The Union of Concerned Scientists, the leading science-based nonprofit working for a healthy environment and a safer world (; also see, or the church and climate resources from the ecojustice program of the National Council of Churches ( and their upcoming Earth Day 2012 emphasis on "The Ethics of Energy", it seems imperative that our faith communities have much to offer and apply in providing a dialogue toward a solution in confronting the challenge of our climate crisis.

*George Monbiot quote taken from the liner notes of the music CD "Rhythms Del Mundo/Cuba" produced in cooperation with Artists' Project Earth (APE), that "aims to help create a better world by bringing the power of music and other arts to 21st century challenges. It will bring appropriate action, raise funds and facilitate awareness with regard to environmental disasters, climate change and related challenges." See . The Music Rising Foundation received donations from the sale of the CD ( .

Monday, January 9, 2012

January 2012 Creation Corner Column

Secular Environmental Groups

To follow up with the theme from last month, planting seeds of hope and action for the integrity of God's creation ("As you sow, so shall you reap," Gal. 6:7), we now look at investing in secular environmental organizations. Earlier columns listed Christian faith-based groups as cited in The Green Bible (NRSV, Harper Collins, 2008: See "Creation Corner Column" for Dec. 2008, Jan. 2009, Feb. 2009 at .

There are many not-for-profit environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs). Some, such as the National Audubon Society and Sierra Club, have local affiliates. Some are international in scope, such as the World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace. You may have received solicitations to join others: Defenders of Wildlife, Environmental Defense Fund, EcoTrust, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, The Nature Conservancy, The Ocean Conservancy, Oceana, The Wilderness Society and others. These are some of the "Big Green" ENGOs (see ).

One challenge to the "Big Green" groups from 1994, that apparently has not been adequately responded to, can be found at .

Other national/state/regional/local secular efforts exist, and they also "compete" for your charitable dollar. When you decide to give to a group because of your biblical-based motivation to care for creation, and know what goal you hope to achieve with your financial contribution, how do you decide what to support? Some guidance can be gained by seeking answers to such questions as:

1. What impact does each have (read an annual statement)?
2. Is there a voting membership?
3. To whom is the group accountable?
4. What are the programs (activism, lobbying education, etc.) and how effective are they?
5. What are their ties with corporations, such as funding or representation on their board of directors?
6. What are their partnerships with grass-roots environmental efforts?
7. How large are the salaries paid to their CEOs (be wary of 7-figure incomes; see ?
8. Are they officially registered, and is their financial information available, at a state consumer service (in PA, call the PA Dept. of State, 1-800-732-0999) ?
9. Has it met standards of the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, which evaluates national charities based on comprehensive standards for charitable accountability ( )?
10. Is the group really pro-environmental, or does it merely have a green-sounding name (see )?
11. Is it rated by The Charity Navigator, which has a "Guide to Intelligent Giving" and looks at 225 environmental protection and conservation organizations ( ?

To see an example of a "charity of the week" that has earned the highest ranking (four-star) from The Charity Navigator, the largest independent evaluator of charities in the U.S.A., see any current issue of "The Week" magazine (, click on "charity of the week" in the selection box). Charity Navigator ranks not-for-profit organizations on their financial strength, the effectiveness of their programs, the control of administrative and fund-raising expenses, and the transparency of their operations.

Some recent environmental examples from the 2011 issues of The Week are:

4/29 (American Wild Horse Sanctuary)
11/18 (African Wildlife Foundation)

Examples of groups doing work on natural and built environmental restoration following natural or human-induced disasters, such as Katrina, British Petroleum (BP), Haiti, post-earthquake/tsunami Fukushima, are:

4/1 (Partners in Health)
5/6 (Greater New Orleans Foundation)
8/19-26 (International Rescue Committee)
12/9 (International Relief Teams)

Other evaluators of non-profits include:

Readers searching for directories of environmental organizations might see click on activism in menu bar, then Environmental Organization directory and search by state click on organizations in side bar


Thanks to the staff of the Madigan Library at the Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport, PA for their on-going assistance to me in compiling information for this column and in helping to post it to this blog.