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The real people in the real town of Bethlehem, Israel, live in world very far removed from familiar Christmas hymns. The region's economy is depressed, and the Christians who live in the birthplace of Our Lord are suffering. The good news is that many of them have banded together to build better lives for their families, and they're doing so mostly out of available natural resources, like wood--as did a famous carpenter from Nazareth some 2,000 years ago.


And so we meet the group called the Bethlehem Fair Trade Artisans, which, in their own words, is

a non-profit, holistic development initiative formed in 2009 by members of the Bethlehem community.  We want to provide local artisans with access to global markets while also engaging in development projects. Many local craftspeople are the sole providers for their families, but are unable to sell their products at a fair price due to the economic crisis, language barriers and other outside forces. We want to give artisans the opportunity to be connected to

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Critics of climate change like snow. They like it cold. And all the harsh weather experienced these past few days in Europe is, for them, glorious proof positive that "global warming" is a farce. After all, if Lady Gaga had to cancel her show in Paris because of snow, snow and more snow, then how could anyone say that the planet is warming up?

Here in the real world, where climate and weather are two different realities, the recent amounts of snow and bitter cold suggest that the planet is distributing thermal energy and moisture in new and odd ways. Indeed, a changing climate would probably do just that. So is this all a sign of the new normal? Will places that never had to worry about snow removal--like, oh, airports in Europe and Great Britain--now have to buy plows and salt by the ton?

If so, what is behind the uncommonly (and unwelcome) white Christmas across much of Europe? The AFP explores the questions in a recent article by Marlowe Hood. In part, we read that
new research, however,...

Peter Canisius (d. 1597), who's feast we celebrate on December 21, seems a worthy patron of our own age. He was a tireless teacher of the faith during a particularly difficult time for the Church. He fought error with logic and love. His passion was for teaching to all--royalty and peasants, scholars and children. For him, rank didn't matter. Truth did. He knew that God's revelation was a gift to all people, and he gave his all to instruct by action and word. One of his most notable quotes resonates strongly with this author: If you have too much to do, with God's help you will find time to do it all.

Come to find out, his namesake Jesuit college, Canisius Collge in Buffalo, NY, has found the time to do very good work in ecology and conservation.

Once again, faith and reason blend nicely in this Catholic institution of higher learning. For instance, here's what they say about their Animal Behavior, Ecology and Conservation Program ...

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If I may interrupt these O Antiphon days of Advent with an alternate "O," I'd like to remind us that Christmas need not be filled with waste, and that there are some wonderful ways we can make Christmas simpler and more meaningful while reducing the mess we leave behind. The Ecology Center's Tips for an Eco-Friendly Holiday Season has some good suggestions for simple time-talent-(and not so much) treasure gift giving; creative and fun gift wrapping, etc.

As for our Christmas Tree--O Christmas Tree--you'll read

It takes 7 to 10 years to grow a Christmas tree, whose useful product life is about one month. Christmas trees are usually grown on tree farms that use large amounts of pesticides and petrochemical fertilizers. These toxic chemicals pollute the land and waterways and can poison wildlife. At the end of the Christmas season, the cut tree is disposed of either in the landfill or through a yard waste program.

A better choice is to use a live potted tree that can be used over the years...

Recently announced news showcases cutting edge research about the importance of inter-related species on the evolutionary family tree, and what the loss of some means to others. (And a tip of the hat to one of the researchers, Pablo Marquet of The Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, showing once again that faith and reason work well together in Catholic universities the world over.)

But to the topic at hand:
The message from the study, appearing online ahead of publication in Ecology Letters, says lead author Hélène Morlon, is that evolutionary diversity -- the millions of years of evolutionary innovations contained in present-day species -- is more sensitive to extinctions or loss of habitat than long thought. And that, she adds, means conservation efforts really need to take into consideration how species are evolutionarily related.
In other words, as policy makers and conservationists work to slow the planet's dizzying array of extinction, it will be helpful to know how evolutionary, genetic relationships may or may not impact biodiversity. It is research like this that will help save humanity...

By mid century, the northern islands of Canada and the north coast of Greenland may represent the only remaining region in the Arctic where polar bears and the marine animals that sustain them can survive if greenhouse-gas emissions continue to climb at anywhere near their current levels.

So opens a story by Pete Spotts in the Christian Science Monitor. The piece goes on with updated insights on how current and predicted climate change may shift or destroy the habitats of so many species. Understanding where species may end up settling as our planet's climate changes, and what new predators they may find in their new homes, is part of the never-ending guesswork underway in the climatological and biological sciences.

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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.