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Historic flooding in Australia, severe snow and deadly storms in the American heartland, a soggy US West Coast and an unsettled Europe are making for unhappy New Year celebrations for many. The resulting homelessness, destruction, and death should make us pause and pray for the victims of this wild weather.

As for the why of all this meteorological drama, some say it's evidence of climate change--and they may be right. While no individual storm or cluster of events can be attributed to climate anything, trends can. Which is why the appearance of so many events occurring with so much more severity and precipitation amounts makes one wonder.

Scientists have noted for sometime that climate change will alter the way the planet distributes thermal energy and moisture. Some of us will be dryer, some wetter, some warmer, some cooler. Remember, climate and weather are not the same thing.

There's lots of resources to learn about all this ... but not now. It's New Years. And for most of us, it is a time of celebration, reflection...

One of the great misunderstandings perpetrated in popular culture and the mainstream media is that the Church is anti-science. After all, just look at what the Church did to Galileo! But for Catholic ecologists, science and faith blend naturally.

And so the question, how did a Church that some say was so anti-reason ever become engaged in the natural sciences?

The truth is, the Church was never anti-science.

But this lie has been told so often that it's become ingrained in our popular culture. Take for instance a story sent out by the Associated Press in November, 2009. The piece was about archaeological findings at Galileo's burial site, but it contained the following paragraph that was as misleading as it was irrelevant to the story.

“Galileo, who died in 1642, was condemned by the Vatican for saying the Earth revolved around the Sun. Church teaching at the time held that the Earth was the center of the universe.”

There was never nor is there any official Church dogma on particular matters of science. While in Galileo’s day many scholars embraced the teachings of Aristotle, who did maintain a geocentric worldview, the Church...

Catherine the Great is quoted as saying "a great wind is blowing, and that gives you either imagination or a headache."

For those of us in the 21st century, one question to ponder is whether we will use the wind with imagination even if  proposed uses of it will bring us pain. We live in an age that does battle with itself over the building of (and investments in) large scale wind farms--especially the off-shore variety. Sadly, we too often forget that anything we do for the common good may mean sacrifice.

In the northeast Unites States, at least two off-shore wind projects are vying to be the first or the biggest or the best loved. Both Deepwater Wind, proposed mainly for in, and off, Rhode Island Sound, and Cape Wind, to be built off Cape Cod, seek to snatch clean energy from plentiful and vibrant ocean air. Which project will be built first? Which one makes the best economic sense?

Time will tell.

But the good news...

AsiaNews reports that Bartholomew I gave quite the address last week before an influential audience of the Orthodox world. His talk defended his unyielding intentions for inter-faith dialogue.

"We will insist on dialogue, despite the criticism that we suffer," he said. "There is, unfortunately, a certain religious fundamentalism, a tragic phenomenon, which can be found among Orthodox and Catholics, among Muslims and Jews. These are people who think they alone have the right to exist on earth, almost as if they alone have the right to rule on this our planet according to the Old Testament. And they say there is no room for anyone else, and are therefore opposed to any dialogue."
The strong tone of the talk made all the more notable his insertion of the ecology within it. But this makes sense, because dialogue works best when one can speak of what is shared--and what is a more shared reality than the natural environment? And so Bartholomew I noted that in speaking of those of other faiths, "we do not discuss purely theological issues as...

I drove home from Mass this morning as New England's first big winter storm made its entrance. Luckily the roads were bare as the snow began falling. And as I did my pre-storm errands--getting gas for the snow blower, picking up take-out Thai and a good bottle of Shiraz--the plows were out treating with salt and sand to keep the roads as drivable as they are on an August afternoon.

The problem is, we're learning now that road salt use is having a big impact on the environment--on plant life along the roads, on water bodies around them, on the food chain, and the ground water that people drink. And so, what price safety? And might there be better solutions to keep people moving?

A report by the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission tells the whole, scary story. But setting the science aside for a moment, here we see (once again) how attempted human solutions to our problems often create new ones. Such is life in a fallen world.

You can be sure that in the coming years, you'll be hearing more about the impacts...

From the Midnight Mass Responsorial Psalm

Ps 96: 1-2, 2-3, 11-12, 13


Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice;
let the sea and what fills it resound;
let the plains be joyful and all that is in them!
Then shall all the trees of the forest exult.
R. Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord.


And with the Good News of Christmas comes a more recent hymn ...

Joy to the World, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the World, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.


All this to say...

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About the Blog

Catholic Ecology posts my regular column in the Rhode Island Catholic, as well as scientific and theological commentary about the latest eco-news, both within and outside of the Catholic Church. What is contained herein is but one person's attempt to teach and defend the Church's teachings - ecological and otherwise. As such, I offer all contents of this blog for approval of the bishops of the Church. It is my hope that nothing herein will lead anyone astray from truth.