World Day of Prayer for Care of Creation; or, pope links and quotes

posted by Mike on September 1st, 2015

As a lifelong Catholic and environmentalist, I am happy that today Pope Francis has decided the Roman Catholic Church will join the Orthodox Church in marking the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.

The big Catholic environmental news of the summer was, of course, the release of the pope’s environmental encyclical, Laudato si’ (Praise Be). It covers a wide range of environmental and theological issue, often in a depth that surprised me. I think it’s the sort of document that, if you think you’d appreciate it, you would, and if you think you wouldn’t, you wouldn’t. You don’t have to be Catholic: as Pope Francis writes, “In this Encyclical, I would like to enter into dialogue with all people about our common home.”

The letter is 45,000 words long, and there have probably been 450,000 articles published about it. Fr. James Martin’s overview is pretty good. Most of the articles I’ve seen have tried to understand it in the context of American politics. My favorite on the left is Elizabeth Bruenig’s “Pope Francis’s Vision of a Moral Ecology Will Challenge Both Republicans and Democrats: His encyclical almost dares politicians to politicize it.” My favorite on the right is Rod Dreher’s more personal “Harmony, Communion, Incarnation.” The one article that touches on theological aspects that are a bit beyond me is Mark K. Spencer’s “Pope Francis, Platonist Traditionalist.”

But before you read more than one thinkpiece, you should be sure to read the encyclical itself. It’s full of great stuff like this line from Pope John Paul II, a quote which surprised me:

[Saint John Paul II] clearly explained that “the Church does indeed defend the legitimate right to private property, but she also teaches no less clearly that there is always a social mortgage on all private property, in order that goods may serve the general purpose that God gave them”.

“Social mortgage.” That’s a great way of framing it.

Even if you don’t read the whole thing, anyone reading this blog will want to check out the prayers at the end, “A prayer for our earth” and “A Christian prayer in union with creation.”

I’ll end by quoting my favorite long passage, “A Universal Communion”:


The created things of this world are not free of ownership: “For they are yours, O Lord, who love the living” (Wis 11:26). This is the basis of our conviction that, as part of the universe, called into being by one Father, all of us are linked by unseen bonds and together form a kind of universal family, a sublime communion which fills us with a sacred, affectionate and humble respect. Here I would reiterate that “God has joined us so closely to the world around us that we can feel the desertification of the soil almost as a physical ailment, and the extinction of a species as a painful disfigurement”.

This is not to put all living beings on the same level nor to deprive human beings of their unique worth and the tremendous responsibility it entails. Nor does it imply a divinization of the earth which would prevent us from working on it and protecting it in its fragility. Such notions would end up creating new imbalances which would deflect us from the reality which challenges us. At times we see an obsession with denying any pre-eminence to the human person; more zeal is shown in protecting other species than in defending the dignity which all human beings share in equal measure. Certainly, we should be concerned lest other living beings be treated irresponsibly. But we should be particularly indignant at the enormous inequalities in our midst, whereby we continue to tolerate some considering themselves more worthy than others. We fail to see that some are mired in desperate and degrading poverty, with no way out, while others have not the faintest idea of what to do with their possessions, vainly showing off their supposed superiority and leaving behind them so much waste which, if it were the case everywhere, would destroy the planet. In practice, we continue to tolerate that some consider themselves more human than others, as if they had been born with greater rights.

A sense of deep communion with the rest of nature cannot be real if our hearts lack tenderness, compassion and concern for our fellow human beings. It is clearly inconsistent to combat trafficking in endangered species while remaining completely indifferent to human trafficking, unconcerned about the poor, or undertaking to destroy another human being deemed unwanted. This compromises the very meaning of our struggle for the sake of the environment. It is no coincidence that, in the canticle in which Saint Francis praises God for his creatures, he goes on to say: “Praised be you my Lord, through those who give pardon for your love”. Everything is connected. Concern for the environment thus needs to be joined to a sincere love for our fellow human beings and an unwavering commitment to resolving the problems of society.

Moreover, when our hearts are authentically open to universal communion, this sense of fraternity excludes nothing and no one. It follows that our indifference or cruelty towards fellow creatures of this world sooner or later affects the treatment we mete out to other human beings. We have only one heart, and the same wretchedness which leads us to mistreat an animal will not be long in showing itself in our relationships with other people. Every act of cruelty towards any creature is “contrary to human dignity”.[69] We can hardly consider ourselves to be fully loving if we disregard any aspect of reality: “Peace, justice and the preservation of creation are three absolutely interconnected themes, which cannot be separated and treated individually without once again falling into reductionism”. Everything is related, and we human beings are united as brothers and sisters on a wonderful pilgrimage, woven together by the love God has for each of his creatures and which also unites us in fond affection with brother sun, sister moon, brother river and mother earth.

Spencer approves $700K to preserve 350 acres

posted by Mike on December 14th, 2011

The citizens of Spencer, Massachusetts yesterday voted 337-144 to use town money to help buy the Sibley and Warner Farm properties, 350 acres of undeveloped land that connects many more undeveloped acres.

I was happy to pitch in on the project by making a video tour of the property, cablecast on local TV.


The total cost of the purchase is $2.8 million, but officials expect grants and private fundraising from Mass. Audubon to be used in conjunction with the town’s contribution.

508 #172: Empower Energy Co-op

posted by Mike on October 13th, 2011

508 is a show about Worcester. This week’s panel is Joshua Swalec, Luis Bajana, Scott Guzman, Sarah Assefa, Brendan Melican, and special guest tourist Adam Villani.

Contact info.

You can watch 508 Fridays at 7pm on WCCA TV13.
Read the rest of this entry »

Mature politics, fantasy Cabinet

posted by Kaihsu Tai on May 16th, 2010

Imagine a British coalition Government with Liberal Democrats and Conservatives, with Nick Clegg and David Cameron as prime minister and deputy.

But add to this coalition the Greens and the Scottish National Party, each having Cabinet posts. Caroline Lucas is the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions; Baroness (Jenny) Jones of South Camberwell, the Secretary of State for Justice.

The opposition parties in Parliament include Labour, United Kingdom Independence Party, Christian Peoples Alliance (yes, seriously), and Respect. Read the rest of this entry »

Prayers of concern for new government

posted by Kaihsu Tai on May 9th, 2010

We prayed this prayer at a joint communion service, marking the beginning of Christian Aid Week, of the four Oxford city-centre ‘Faith in Action’ churches: New Road Baptist Church, Wesley Memorial Church, Saint Columba’s Church, and Saint Michael-at-the-Northgate. My friend Dr Martin Hodson preached.

Will you join me in the prayers of concern. Let us pray.

God the Creator, we adore you for creating the universe, full of potential to unfold; for creating our world, teeming with life and the possibility to develop.

God the Christ, we marvel that you have come among us; that we can find you in the least of these, the most unassuming of our neighbours.

God the Holy Spirit, we ask you to fill us with your power, now comforting, now challenging, as you invite us to participate in the continuing creation, transformation, and renewal of our cosmos. Read the rest of this entry »

Gulf of Mexico: postcard to Bobby Jindal

posted by Kaihsu Tai on May 2nd, 2010

Gulf of Mexico display at the Audubon Aquarium of Americas: sponsored by the oil companies In December 2002, before we knew about hurricane Katrina, I visited New Orleans for a last piece of Americana before moving to Europe. I saw the Gulf of Mexico display at the Audubon Aquarium of Americas, and was struck uncomfortable that it was sponsored by the oil companies. Now we know how these do not sit well together, thanks to the reminder that was the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe. So this afternoon we wrote a postcard to Bobby Jindal, Governor of Louisiana (PO Box 94004, Baton Rouge, LA 70804):

Dear Governor,

We here in England note with concern the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Along with hurricane Katrina, it should serve as another reminder of the devastating consequences of our addiction to oil and other fossil fuels. The animals grieve with humanity the destruction of the ecosystem. We hope you will reorientate your leadership of the great State of Louisiana, so it soon becomes a pioneer in zero-carbon economic models, in partnership with the federal government. We look forward to your response.

posted by Kaihsu Tai in Creative Resistance, Environment, Green Party | on May 2nd, 2010 | Permanent Link to “Gulf of Mexico: postcard to Bobby Jindal” | Comments Off on Gulf of Mexico: postcard to Bobby Jindal

Green and Yellow

posted by Kaihsu Tai on May 2nd, 2010

A brief note on British politics to a friend. This Thursday we shall elect a new Parliament. Feel free to skip if you are not interested.

If the results of the the present elections turn out to be (as Nick Clegg intimated) a ‘two-horse race’, that is to say a return to the Tory–Liberal duopolistic hegemony, tactically perhaps I (as a Green) can comfortably say ‘bring on the Liberal surge’, expecting electoral and other important reforms to follow. But the obvious strategic concern is whether by this we are indeed catapulting British politics into the 21st century, or we are actually taking a retrograde step back to 19th-century politics. Read the rest of this entry »

posted by Kaihsu Tai in Environment, Green Party | on May 2nd, 2010 | Permanent Link to “Green and Yellow” | 2 Comments »

Reflection on the Accra Confession

posted by Kaihsu Tai on April 25th, 2010

For a service at Saint Columba’s Church, 2010-04-25.

Cross at NatWest, Easter

Last time I spoke from this lectern, I started by talking about a bank branch a few metres down High Street. I am going to talk about banks again. A nationalized bank at that. Seventy percent of the Royal Bank of Scotland is owned by Her Majesty’s Treasury … well, the better name is the taxpayers’ Treasury, our Treasury. In turn, RBS owns the NatWest bank in England; we have a branch down the road. Before I get too much into the banks, let me take a detour, and talk about oil. I promise to come back to banks … ’cause that seems to be where the action’s at, these days.

Read the rest of this entry »

posted by Kaihsu Tai in Catechism, Creative Resistance, Easter, Environment, Oxford, Pentecost | on April 25th, 2010 | Permanent Link to “Reflection on the Accra Confession” | Comments Off on Reflection on the Accra Confession

Hungarian Parliamentary Commissioner for Future Generations

posted by Kaihsu Tai on February 26th, 2010

Sándor Fülöp As I mentioned earlier, I went to a talk by Dr Sándor Fülöp, Hungarian Parliamentary Commissioner for Future Generations, at the British Ministry of Justice headquarters on Thursday evening (2010-02-25). Here are some notes I took. Any inaccuracies are mine.

The Commissioner is one of four ombudspersons in Hungary, appointed by a two-thirds supermajority by Parliament for a 6-year term (good), eligible for reappointment (not so good). It is the only such commissioner for sustainability in the world. The legal basis is the Ombudsman Act, passed only a couple of years ago.

The name is poetic, but really the job description as provided in the Act is that of an environmental ombudsman – a complaints officer. It would be unwise to reopen the Act to include socio-economic concerns of future generations, for fear of industrial lobbying that would erode the environmental focus. Read the rest of this entry »

A Green Senate? A Sustainability Commissioner?

posted by Kaihsu Tai on February 24th, 2010

I wrote this note 12 November 2009 and recently sent it to my friend Dr Rupert Read. After discussion with him – who turned out to be in support of a Green Senate or a Sustainability Commissioner – I added a moderating amendment (see below). Rupert and I are going to hear the Hungarian Parliamentary Commissioner for Future Generations, Dr Sándor Fülöp, at the Ministry of Justice on Thursday, at an event organized by the Foundation for Democracy and Sustainable Development.

In the past 5 years or so, I have heard from time to time impatient proponents of a Green Senate, a committee for sustainability, a parliamentary chamber with a built-in long-term view and overriding power in favour of measures for sustainability. Famous proponents include Norman Myers, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, and (most recently, this past Tuesday) John Strickland. I do not think such a constitutional arrangement would work.

First, who would we appoint to this Senate? Would they be 70-year-olds, having accumulated years of experiences and (one hopes) accompanying wisdom? Or would they be 20-year-olds, or even teenagers, who have a stake, with realistic interests, in the future? Or a mixture thereof? Then, what about the midlifers? Are they totally disinterested, and should only be shoved around by the young and the old? Read the rest of this entry »

posted by Kaihsu Tai in Environment, Green Party, Lent | on February 24th, 2010 | Permanent Link to “A Green Senate? A Sustainability Commissioner?” | Comments Off on A Green Senate? A Sustainability Commissioner?