Thursday, May 7, 2020

when nature is sick, we're sick

Today in the National Geographic Daily Newsletter, bRachael BaleANIMALS Executive Editor

One year ago, a landmark global report announced a shocking finding: One million species are at risk of extinction. Over the past 50 years, it found, populations of land-based species have fallen 40 percent, freshwater species more than 80 percent, and marine species 35 percent. The evidence was overwhelming: It’s our fault.

It can be hard to contemplate putting energy into environmental protection when global COVID-19 cases have surpassed 3.7 million. But the pandemic is a result of humankind’s destruction of the planet. “Rampant deforestation, uncontrolled expansion of agriculture, intensive farming, mining and infrastructure development, as well as the exploitation of wild species have created a ‘perfect storm’ for the spillover of diseases from wildlife to people,” the reports’ authors wrote a few weeks ago. (Pictured above, an endangered baby Bornean orangutan with her adoptive mother.)

The authors issue a stark warning: Future pandemics will happen more frequently, will kill more people, and will cause greater economic damage unless we start recognizing the inextricable links between human health and the health of the planet, its ecosystems, and its nonhuman living creatures. This is not a radical concept. The framework of OneHealth, recognized by the CDC, the World Health Organization, and governments and organizations around the world, does just that. 

It’s easy to think—especially for those of us who live in urban areas—that ecosystems are something separate from us. But the coronavirus crisis has shown that even people in the most advanced, developed cities around the world are vulnerable when ecosystems are degraded.

The bottom line: When nature is sick, we’re sick. 

Sunday, March 29, 2020


I've simmered down a little, but not much. The image of the Holy Father alone in St. Peter's Square really pacified me.


A friend wrote:

“I have to confess I am dumbstruck at the seeming credulity many Americans have for President Trump and the right-wing anti-life pro-mammon ideology. I am outraged that no one is outraged that we are now discussing explicitly choosing money over lives. The fact that this is abetted by self-described Christians is galling––but this has been a long-time coming.[1]

No wonder young people are increasingly “spiritual but not religious”. Who would countenance the thinking, let alone the company, of such people?  These time call for prophetic voices.

I then see Pope Francis, as someone wrote on an internet meme- "an 81 year old man with only one lung and limping with sciatica, standing alone in a vast piazza under a cold rain, imploring God on behalf of everyone, and reminding us to care for each other.  An image of hope.”


It feels a little skewed to be celebrating the silver lining of the cloud when it is overhead and terrifying people, given that the wave is just starting to crash on our shores. But I found this more sobering that celebrating the clean canals and clear skies at the cost of human misery. It's called “An Imagined Letter from Covid-19 to Humans” by Kristin Flyntz

Stop. Just stop.
It is no longer a request. It is a mandate.
We will help you.

We will bring the supersonic, high-speed merry-go-round to a halt
We will stop
the planes
the trains
the schools
the malls
the meetings
the frenetic, furied rush of illusions and “obligations”
that keep you from hearing our single and shared beating heart,
the way we breathe together, in unison.
Our obligation is to each other,
As it has always been, even if, even though, you have forgotten.

We will interrupt this broadcast, the endless cacophonous broadcast of divisions and distractions,
to bring you this long-breaking news:
We are not well.
None of us; all of us are suffering.
Last year, the firestorms that scorched the lungs of the earth
did not give you pause.
Nor the typhoons in Africa, China, Japan.
Nor the fevered climates in Japan and India.
You have not been listening.
It is hard to listen when you are so busy all the time,
hustling to uphold the comforts and conveniences that scaffold your lives.
But the foundation is giving way,
buckling under the weight of your needs and desires.
We will help you.
We will bring the firestorms to your body
We will bring the fever to your body
We will bring the burning, searing, and flooding to your lungs
that you might hear:
We are not well.

Despite what you might think or feel,
we are not the enemy.
We are Messenger.
We are Ally.
We are a balancing force.
We are asking you:
To stop, to be still, to listen;
To move beyond your individual concerns
and consider the concerns of all;
To be with your ignorance, to find your humility,
to relinquish your thinking minds
and travel deep into the mind of the heart;
To look up into the sky, streaked with fewer planes,
and see it, to notice its condition: clear, smoky, smoggy, rainy?
How much do you need it to be healthy so that you may also be healthy?
To look at a tree, and see it, to notice its condition:
how does its health contribute to the health of the sky,
to the air you need to be healthy?
To visit a river, and see it, to notice its condition:
clear, clean, murky, polluted?
How much do you need it to be healthy
so that you may also be healthy?
How does its health contribute to the health of the tree,
who contributes to the health of the sky,
so that you may also be healthy?

Many are afraid now.
Do not demonize your fear, and also, do not let it rule you. 
Instead, let it speak to you—in your stillness,
listen for its wisdom.
What might it be telling you about what is at work, at issue, at risk, 
beyond the threats of personal inconvenience and illness?
As the health of a tree, a river, the sky tells you about the quality of your own health, 
what might the quality of your health tell you about the health of the rivers, the trees, the sky, 
and all of us who share this planet with you?

Notice if you are resisting.
Notice what you are resisting.
Ask why.

Stop. Just stop.
Be still.

Ask us what we might teach you about illness and healing,
about what might be required so that all may be well.

We will help you if you listen.

* * *

Friday, March 27, 2020

the Earth is the Lord's!

Ralph Drollinger (the so-called "cabinet pastor") wrote that the U.S. is “experiencing the consequential wrath of God” because the “forsaken,” which includes environmentalists and members of the LGBTQIA+ community, have “given over” to their “degrading passions.” Betsy DeVos, Mike Pompeo, Ben Carson, and Rick Perry all regularly attend Drollinger’s bible study sessions, with Perry describing him as a “brilliant, knowledgeable bible instructor.” (NBC News / Independent)

Somebody should tell these culpably ignorant people that they got it wrong: it’s more likely their/our wanton allowance of the destruction of God’s creation, the beautiful gift of Mother Earth, that has ruptured human beings’ relationship with it and God’s perfect plan for it. As Jim Robbins wrote back in 2012: “If we fail to understand and take care of the natural world, it can cause a breakdown of these systems and come back to haunt us in ways we know little about. A critical example is a developing model of infectious disease that shows that most epidemics—AIDS, Ebola, West Nile, SARS, Lyme disease and hundreds more that have occurred over the last several decades—don’t just happen. They are a result of things people do to nature.”[1] 

On the other hand, just see how the skies over Beijing and Los Angeles are clear, and the canals of Venice clean and full of fish and algae for the first time in decades. In only two weeks! We can do this, people. The Earth can survive without us. We cannot survive without her.

And while we’re at it let's tell that fox in the White House (cf. Herod, Luke 13:33) that today we are casting out demons, the ones who are bowing before Mammon (Mt 6:24/Lk 16:13), the supposed Right-to-Lifers who are willing to sacrifice their elderly on the altar of the economy. And you know what Jesus does with demons, right? (Mt 8:32.)

I would not say that the president of the U.S. is the Antichrist. It would only go to his head. But all this that the president and his henchmen from the swamp are up to is anti-Christ. I can hardly believe that anyone with any intelligence could read the gospels of Jesus––let alone the social teaching of the Catholic Church––and still support this man and his ilk in any way. Let’s send them into the sea with the swine, and for sure vote them all out of office in 2020.

Stay close to Tony Fauci instead, the marvelous Italian immigrant; and to the Holy Father, that Argentinian immigrant; and to Secretary General of the UN, Antonio Guterres, who recognizes that this is a time for us to put down our arms and work together as a world, across the world, for the whole world and all its people.

The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it,
the world, and those who live in it;
for he has founded it on the seas,
and established it on the rivers.

Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
And who shall stand in his holy place?
Those who have clean hands and pure hearts,
who do not lift up their souls to what is false,
and do not swear deceitfully.

Be well, everybody. Stay safe, stretch and breathe, say your prayers, and Restiamo distanti per oggi per abbracciarci domani––"Let's keep away from each other for now so we can hug each other tomorrow (Giuseppe Conte)."

[The opinions expressed here are those of a private citizen and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the monks of New Camaldoli Hermitage.]