Nature Noted

Notes on a changing Nature

Location: Bellville, Texas, United States

I never would have predicted this one

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Signs of Hope

With all the bad news recently, I thought it might be nice to highlight a couple of positive developments. First, let's travel to an unlikely place for a nature blog.... The Vatican. While fights over homosexuality and celibacy are getting the headlines, a gathering of the world's Roman Catholic bishops is also looking closely at how respect for the environment is integral to being a Catholic. According to John Allen in the National Catholic Reporter, bishops from the developing world are pushing for linking the Eucharist with ecology.
“Climactic change presents a serious threat to world peace. It is an authentic ‘sign of the times’ that demands of us an ‘ecological conversion,’” said Archbishop Pedro Ricardo Barreto Jimeno of Huancayo, Peru, on Oct. 4.
“The church has a huge responsibility in this spiritual field,” said Barreto Jimeno, a Jesuit.
“As ‘fruit of the earth’, the bread and the wine represent the creation which is entrusted to us by our Creator,” Barreto Jimeno said. “For that reason the Eucharist has a direct relationship with the life and hope of humanity and must be a constant concern for the church and a sign of Eucharistic authenticity.”
“[In] the Archdiocese of Huancayo, the air, the ground and the basin of the river Mantaro are seriously affected by contamination,” he said. “The Eucharist commits us to working so that the bread and wine be fruit of ‘a fertile, pure and uncontaminated land.’”
Bishop Gabriel Peñate Rodríguez, Apostolic Vicar of Izabal in Guatemala, made much the same argument in his Oct. 5 intervention.
“Guatemala is a country menaced by mineral exploitation,” Peñate Rodríguez said.
“Many licenses have been granted in this field to companies from developed countries who do not guarantee the care of the environment, and show no respect for the rights of the indigenous communities; and that are not fair in the distribution of profits, from which they leave hardly one per cent in form of royalties.”
Using much the same language as his fellow Latin American Barreto Jimeno, Peñate Rodríguez issued a plea: “We also hope that the bread that is converted in the body of the Lord and the wine which is converted into his blood may be fruit of a fertile, pure and uncontaminated land,” he said.

For those of you a little fuzzy on the meaning of Eucharist in the Catholic sense, this is a big deal. Catholics (as you might guess, I'm one) believe that bread and wine becomes literally the body and blood of Christ during the Consecration of the Mass. (known as Transubstantiation.) It's a central part of being a Catholic. So linking care for the environment to the Eucharist means that Church leaders understand the seriousness of the challenge ahead of us.
By the way, I realize that more than a few environmentalists (maybe most) don't consider themselves to be religious. Many people reading this might think the previous paragraph is just so much mumbo jumbo. That's fine. Just because I believe in it doesn't mean you have to, too. But the import is this. In recent months, there has been much discussion about broadening the base of active environmentalists. Now leaders of the world's largest religious denomination have announced they want to join the fight. Just a guess, but I'd say this is a pretty good opportunity to find common ground with a whole bunch of folks.
From the Religious to the Secular
And there's been an interesting back and forth recently over at DailyKos with Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer. Again, for the uninitiated, Daily Kos is an influential Democratic blog, one that Dave Roberts over at Gristmill has lamented doesn't pay enough attention to environmental matters. Gov. Schweitzer recently proposed that making synthetic fuels from coal could be an answer to the country's energy future. One Daily Kos blogger took issue with the plan, saying that the Governor was understating the environmental cost of the conversion.
Now, Schweitzer, in what is becoming a very smart political tactic, is talking back directly to the bloggers with a strong, direct defense of his plan. It's worth reading, and the proposal is pretty interesting.
Okay, there you have it. Where else are you going to learn about the ins and outs of both the Eucharist and synthetic fuel all in one place?!


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