First, a study reported by EurekAlert tells us about what Indiana University scientists found when studying pet dogs: startlingly high levels of potentially dangerous flame retardants, especially polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs.
The story notes that
the current study also detected newer flame retardants that have come onto the market as PBDEs have been removed, including Dechlorane Plus, decabromodiphenylethane, and hexabromocyclododecane. The chemicals are largely unregulated but pose concerns because they are structurally similar to organic pollutants that have been linked to environmental and human health effects.Another news story, this one from MercuryNews.com, reports findings of trace levels of rat poison being found in places it shouldn’t be.
The poison is turning up in wilder parts of California, too, alarming scientists. One such place is the central and southern Sierra Nevada, including Yosemite National Park, where it has been discovered in the livers of a rare weasel-like carnivore, the Pacific fisher.You can read the flame retardant story here, and the rat poison story here, and you can get some excellent in-depth and easy-to-find information here on all sorts of toxins that we come across in our daily lives. Scary stuff, but as Someone once noted, the truth will set you free.
"They are obviously getting this poison from somewhere," said Reg Barrett, professor of wildlife management at the University of California at Berkeley. "But we don't know where.
The timing of these reports is interesting for Catholic Ecologists. We’ve just begun the 50-day celebration of Easter—the definitive moment when God’s re-creative promise began in human history—and here we are 2,000 years later still struggling with a toxic world. Of course, much of this is our fault. We’re the creatures who are creating and using many of these compounds, and doing so without fully understanding them. But still, that these toxic chemicals exist would seem to flow against much of what we Catholics profess about the inherent goodness of creation and the promise of a new Earth.
But actually, these reports reflect exactly what our faith teaches. We do not presuppose that the post-resurrection world comes without the Cross. Indeed, its meaning carries on well past Calvary because the response of love is still very much needed. How we humans construct our world is limited by our pervasive inner faults of greed, laziness, ignorance and more. How we respond to human suffering—such as disease caused by toxic elements in our air, water or food—is unlimited, and it defines who we are.
So who are we?
We’re made in the image and likeness of God, who is love, and love sometimes means sacrifice—as the Cross teaches. All ecologists know this: sacrifice is necessary to heal the wounds of the poisons of pollution. Catholic ecologists know that sacrifice is needed to overcome all sin.
Indeed, the Holy Father’s observations about climate change in the book Light of the World speaks equally to this issue of environmental and household toxins:
There is more or less pronounced awareness of a global responsibility for it; that ethics must no longer refer merely to one’s own group or one’s own nation, but rather must keep the earth and all people in view . . . the question is therefore: How can the great moral will, which everybody affirms and everyone invokes, become a personal decision? . . . this is a challenge for the Church. She not only has a major responsibility; she is, I would say, often the only hope. For she is so close to people’s consciences that she can move them to particular acts of self-denial and can inculcate basic attitudes in souls.