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Friday, May 27, 2011

Moonlight becomes you

Nature is almost foolproof at boosting your mood and self-esteem. And, amazingly, it only takes five minutes.
So we read in this story, which covers a report by Professor Jules Pretty and colleagues at the University of Essex in the United Kingdom. The story notes that Dr. Pretty’s work
analyzed findings from 10 separate studies that measured self-esteem and mood after people engaged in "green exercise": cycling, walking, running, gardening, farming, and water-based activities like fishing or sailing. In each of the studies, participants' self-esteem and mood were measured before and after the activities using a standard psychological test. The Essex researchers also assessed study variables such as exposure time outdoors, exercise intensity, type of green space (urban parks, rural setting, forest, and so forth), as well as subjects' age and mental-health status.
Regardless of what they were doing or where they were doing it, all subjects saw improvements in self-esteem and mood after exercising outdoors. People saw the greatest self-esteem changes while doing light-intensity exercise and after being outside for just five minutes. The biggest mood changes occurred after light- and vigorous-intensity workouts—also after just five minutes.
This isn’t news to the Catholic ecologist. The delightful relation between man and all creation permeates the Old Testament
The heavens declare the glory of God; the sky proclaims its builder's craft. One day to the next conveys that message; one night to the next imparts that knowledge. (Psalm 19:2-3)
and continues in the New Testament.

Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made." (Romans 1:20)
Indeed, the very nature of the Incarnation tells us of the new link between the created order and the transcendent God. In other words, in Jesus Christ comes an entirely original and unexpected revelation of how God, humanity and all creation are in relation. This relation is rooted in the Triune God, which is of its very essence love and relation. Nothing like this Christian proclamation existed prior to Christ, and nothing like it exists in any other religion today. If you think otherwise, dig deeper. And I'd be glad to help, because it's quite a journey of discovery.

For now, in brief know that through the centuries, Church theologians, mystics and everyday people would embrace the order and beauty of nature as realities imprinted with signs to better discern and know and love the creator. St. Bonaventure's Journey of the Mind to God is a prime example of this particular Christian view of nature as a stepping stone to God.

In any event, its no wonder that today—in a world seeking to deny God—science is telling us what scripture has already revealed and Christians have been aware of ever since: Nature heals. Being in it—in silence especially—allows us something of a reminder of that first garden in which we were happy, the very one that God promises to recreate for us again. If only we’d cooperate.

So great job Dr. Pretty, and for the journalists that have covered this story. God help you in your work reminding an often sad world that we need only spend time in the splendor of creation to feel the love of God, and thus to benefit from it—even after just five minutes.

Oh, and because I love the song used for the post title, let's hear it in the original Road to Morocco. By the way, does the imagery remind you of any particular story? Hint: A guy and gal strolling through a garden, admiring each other and the heavenly light around them.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Joplin needs love, not debate

  After the Storm: St. Mary's Catholic Church, Joplin
From the Diocese of Springfield website.
Ecology is more about climate than it is about weather. And while nature has been vicious of late—leading some to speculate why—when a single weather event causes so much damage to so many, one must momentarily step away from the science and share in the suffering of the moment. This is what it means to be human.

Of course, many are using the recent tornado outbreaks (or floods, or droughts) as "proof" of climate change. But single events, or even a season's trends, is not what climate researchers look at. What they examine is the trends of many years—of decades and centuries.

But that's a discussion for another moment. For now, let us continue the millennia-old trend of the Church: Giving to those in need. Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy are needed now, not debate.

And so below is a posting from the Diocese of Springfield, Missouri. Share this abundantly, so that God's graces may find a conduit through you and the many.
Those wishing to send financial aid to the victims of Sunday evening’s devastation in Joplin my send them to the Catholic Charities of Southern Missouri Office:

601 S. Jefferson Ave.
Springfield, MO 65806

Please note on the donation “Joplin”. As we work through this tragedy we will discover more ways we can best serve the needs of Joplin.

Critical Needs:
We received word from St. Peter’s Parish and Fr. J Friedel of the immediate needs of the victims in Joplin. St. Peter Parish in Joplin has acquired storage space AT THE PARISH to accept the following donations:
Shoes of all sizes
Feminine products
Hygiene items (toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, etc.)
Disposable diapers, wipes and formula
Towels/wash clothes
Disinfecting wipes –
cleaning supplies (bleach, etc.)
paper towels
rubber gloves
tash bags
Toilet Paper
Disposable paper goods (plates, cups, napkins, silverware)

Drop off or send items to: St. Peter Parish in Joplin, 812 S. Pearl Ave., Joplin, MO 64801
On the devastation in Joplin
Please keep the people of Joplin in our prayers, especially those whose lives were taken as well as those who lost loved ones. We pray especially for the people of St. Mary’s Catholic Church and school who suffered a total loss as well as St. John’s Mercy hospital which sustained major damage.  Bishop Johnston
For more, see a story from the Catholc News Agency and a local television report at Catholic Online.

Update: From Vatican Information Services, the following includes the text from the Pope's telegram of support to the people of Joplin.
VATICAN CITY, 26 MAY 2011 (VIS) - Yesterday afternoon, Benedict XVI sent a telegram through Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, S.D.B., to Bishop James Vann Johnston of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, USA after receiving news last Sunday of the tornado that devastated the city of Joplin, Missouri, killing more than 120 persons and wounding over 750 others.
The text reads that "the Holy Father has followed with deep concern the aftermath of the catastrophic tornado which struck Joplin on Sunday and he asks you to convey to the entire community the assurance of his closeness in prayer. Conscious of the tragic loss of life and the immensity of the work of rebuilding that lies ahead, he asks God, the Father of Mercies, to grant eternal rest to the departed, consolation to the grieving, and strength and hope to the homeless and the injured. Upon the local civil and religious leaders, and upon all involved in the relief efforts, his holiness invokes the divine gifts of wisdom, fortitude, and perseverance in every good".

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Water and the fifth Sunday of Easter

Remembering our Baptism on this, the fifth Sunday of Easter, we also remember the need of water for all life, eternal and earthy.

Lord God almighty,
hear the prayers of your people:
we celebrate our creation and redemption.
Hear our prayers and bless this water
which gives fruitfulness to the fields,
and refreshment and cleansing to all.
You chose water to show your goodness
when you led your people to freedom
through the Red Sea
and satisfied their thirst in the desert
with water from the rock.
Water was the symbol used by the prophets
to foretell your new covenant with man.
You made the water of baptism holy
by Christ’s baptism in the Jordan:
by it you give us a new birth
and renew us in holiness.
May this water remind us of our baptism,
and let us share the joy
of all who have been baptized at Easter.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

B16, space station astronauts make history

Faith, humanity, science and creation intersected today as Pope Benedict XVI became the first pontiff to speak to an international crew in outer space.

The Telegraph has a good take on the exchange. Here’s a portion:

"When we look up at the limitless heavens and meditate on the creation of it all, we are struck by the mysteries of His greatness. In the midst of your intense work and research, do you ever stop and reflect like this, perhaps even to say a prayer to the creator?"
Italian astronaut Roberto Vittori told him that he did, and floated a silver medallion coin in the weightlessness of space, given to him by the Pope prior to his launch from Florida aboard the shuttle Endeavour last week. The medallion depicts Michelangelo's Creation of Man. Astronaut Paolo Nespoli, who returns to Earth next week after five months on the ISS, will return the memento - which will have flown more than three million miles by the time it gets back to Earth - to the Vatican.
In a moving exchange, the Pope paused to comfort Major Nespoli, 54, on the loss of his mother, who died two weeks ago while he was aboard the outpost 220 miles above the earth.
"Dear Paolo. I know that a few days ago your mother has left you and in a few days when you come back home you will not find her waiting for you. We are all close to you. Me too. I have prayed for her," he said.
The subject of ecology came up. MSNBC noted that

Benedict also asked about the future of the planet and the environmental risks it faces, and wanted to know what the astronauts' most important message would be for young people when they return home.
Space station astronaut Ronald Garan Jr. spoke of the paper-thin layer of atmosphere "that separates every living thing from the vacuum of space." And shuttle crewman Mike Fincke described how he and his colleagues "can look down and see our beautiful planet Earth that God has made."
"However, if we look up, we can see the rest of the universe, and the rest of the universe is out there for us to explore," Fincke said. "The International Space Station is just one symbol, one example, of what human beings can do when we work together constructively."
Once again, Benedict XVI has shown the world that there’s much more to this pope—and to the Church—than stereotypes.

God bless Benedict XVI, and all who labor for the betterment of mankind.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Eco-muscles flexing in China

There’s good eco-news from China.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the nation’s environmental protection ministry has halted construction of a high-speed railway because builders didn’t get the right permits. From the report:
China's Ministry of Environmental Protection said in a statement on its website Wednesday that project managers from eastern China's planned Tianjin-Qinhuangdao high-speed railway failed to submit to required environmental inspections after they made location changes. 
A woman who answered the phone at the Tianjin-Qinhuangdao Passenger Dedicated Line Co., which is managing the project, said the company declined to comment. The environment ministry didn't respond to a written request for comment.
It was the second time in two months the environment ministry has ordered the suspension of a high-speed rail project. The ministry ordered a completed line to cease operation in April because the project was never submitted for environmental evaluation. That line runs between the coastal city of Qingdao and Jinan, the provincial capital of eastern China's Shandong province.
As noted elsewhere in Catholic Ecology, China has serious ecological issues. Its frenzied attempt to build its industrial prowess is hurting the health of its people and damaging its environment. That the Ministry of Environmental Protection is able to take such actions shows that the Chinese government is getting its priorities right—at least when it comes to protecting and preserving its land, water, air and biological diversity.

Of course, in other areas, Catholic ecologists shudder at the damage the Chinese government brings to its people, especially our brothers and sisters in Christ who seek only to worship the Triune God—who breathed creation into existence and saves it with an infinite love, mercy and promise of eternal life. For more on that, see the video from Rome Reports below.

Still, that we’re seeing progress in Chinese efforts to bow to ecological laws is a sign that we may see progress in matters of faith.

As always, may God bless the Chinese people, and may He protect its environment and the many loyal Catholics who wait patiently and in hope for better days ahead.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Infrastructure takes care of people, but it doesn’t take care of itself.

You might think that America would excel at caring for the life-support systems of our economy and public health. But . . .  not so much. Especially when it comes to water, as can be found in
this US EPA report.

If you don’t want to read the report in its immense entirety, American Rivers sums the study up by noting that “the nation must invest $390 billion over a 20 year period to update or replace existing wastewater systems or risk having water quality regress to mid-1970s pollution levels.” And that's just the wastewater side of the equation. Drinking water has many more billions needed.

One solution is a bill currently in the US Senate. S936: The American Infrastructure Investment Fund Act of 2011 is described as a “bill to establish the American Infrastructure Investment Fund and other activities to facilitate investments in infrastructure projects that significantly enhance the economic competitiveness of the United States by improving economic output, productivity, or competitive commercial advantage, and for other purposes.”

The bottom line is this: the bill will help states and local communities begin to repair, rebuild and restore the reservoirs, pumps, pipes, treatment plants, distribution systems, sewers and wastewater treatment facilities. All this is what keeps us supplied with fresh, clean water, and keeps our polluted water safely in systems that purify it before being discharged back to nature.

You can follow the fate of the bill at And you can encourage your Senator, and hopefully your Representative, to support it.

After all, clean water is a basic necessity of civilization. Human dignity demands it and the health of all people depends on it.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Get your climate change report here

Read "Fate of Mountain Glaciers in the Anthropocene," a report by climate researchers and the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, here. My commentary on it is two posts below; my column is here.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Growing old with grace

I was reading about a study that examined old age in the animal kingdom. Next to the online story was an ad promising septuagenarians the body of a twenty-something year old. I won’t link the ad here, but it shows a 72 year-old "doctor" with no shirt, looking like an Olympic gymnast.

Whether or not the ad and the product are legitimate—which I doubt—the irony of its placement next to a story about the reality of biological aging is telling.

We live in a world of material impermanence. Life especially comes and goes. According to a story in Science Blogs, Wild animals age, too, this is news in the scientific world. Here's part of the story:

Until now, the scientific community had assumed that wild animals died before they got old. Now, a Spanish-Mexican research team has for the first time demonstrated ageing in a population of wild birds (Sula nebouxii) in terms of their ability to live and reproduce.

“It was always thought that senescence was something particular to humans and domestic animals, because we have an extended life expectancy”, Alberto Velando, lead author of the study and a researcher at the Ecology and Animal Biology Department of the University of Vigo, tells SINC.

However, the idea that wild animals are killed off by predators or parasites before showing signs of ageing has changed “totally” in recent years: “Senescence exists in wild animals’ reproduction and living capacity”, confirms Velando.

The study, which has been published in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology, used a database stretching back over 30 years to study a population of the blue-footed booby (Sula nebouxii), long-lived birds that inhabit the Pacific coasts of Mexico, the Galapagos Islands and Peru, to determine their ageing patterns.

The results show for the first time that their germline (the DNA sequence passed from one generation to the next) is not damage-free. “The DNA of the sperm of older individuals is damaged. This means their offspring have a greater likelihood of suffering from congenital illnesses”, the biologist explains.
Get that? According to this study, creatures reproduce best at specific, younger ages. And so when moral theologians weigh the desire of the current age to have fun, use artificial birth control, and then wait till later in life to reproduce, they have a scientific study offering biological proof why this isn’t a good idea.

Moreover, this study offers a wakeup call to a culture obsessed with youth and the desire for a beautiful, unending pain-free life. Apparently, such a wish runs counter to the order of this fallen world.

Perhaps, then, we might wish to re-orient our priorities to the natural order, grow old with grace—God’s grace, preferably—and remember that it is God alone that promises us eternal life. Hence, the powerful passages of Genesis, Ezekiel, and the New Testament.

Once again, God’s revealed truths show up in the natural sciences. And again, theology and biology find themselves singing the same, wonderful song of life, loss and promise.

And while we're on the topic, how about offering a prayer for the elderly of the world, especially those suffering with no one in their lives to care or pray for them:

Lord Jesus Christ, you heard the prayers of your two disciples at Emmaus and stayed with them at eventide. Stay, we pray you, with all your people in the evening of their life. Make yourself known to them, and let your light shine upon their path; and whenever they pass through the valley of the shadow of death, be with them to the end. This we ask through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Friday, May 6, 2011

A Pontifical report on climate change

This morning at work, I delighted in emailing colleagues with the day’s big news on climate change. In doing so, I was allowed to write the word “Pontifical” in my official government capacity. That email not only helped share breaking news on climate change research, it also demonstrated the faith-reason link within Catholic thought and practice.

The big news is, of course, the publishing of "Fate of Mountain Glaciers in the Anthropocene," a report by leading climate researchers and the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. You can read the full report here, but these few snippets will help you understand its focus:

Warming of the Earth is unequivocal. Most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperature since the mid-20th century is ‘very likely’—defined as more than 90% likely—to be the result of the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations. This warming is occurring in spite of masking by cooling aerosol particles—many of which are co-emitted by CO2-producing processes.

The widespread loss of ice and snow in the world’s mountain glaciers is some of the clearest evidence we have for global changes in the climate system. The present losses of mountain glaciers cause more than 1 mm per year of sea level rise, or about one-third of the observed rate. In the most recent part of the Anthropocene, much of the reduction of glacier mass and length in tropical, temperate, and polar regions results from the observed increases in greenhouse gases and the increases in sunlight-absorbing particles such as soot, from inefficient combustion processes, and dust, from land cover change.

Because of the time lag between mitigation action and climate response, vulnerable ecosystems and populations will face significant climate impacts and possibly unacceptable risks even with ultimately successful mitigation. Therefore, in addition to mitigation, adaptation must also start now and be pursued aggressively.

We cannot adapt to changes we cannot understand. Adaptation starts with assessment. An international initiative to observe and model mountain systems and their watersheds with high spatial resolution, realistic topography, and processes appropriate to high altitudes is a prerequisite to strengthening regional and local capacities to assess the natural and social impacts of climate change.

Humanity has created the Anthropocene era and must live with it. This requires a new awareness of the risks human actions are having on the Earth and its systems, including the mountain glaciers discussed here. It imposes a new duty to reduce these risks. Failure to mitigate climate change will violate our duty to the vulnerable of the Earth, including those dependent on the water supply of mountain glaciers, and those facing rising sea level and stronger storm surges. Our duty includes the duty to help vulnerable communities adapt to changes that cannot be mitigated. All nations must ensure that their actions are strong enough and prompt enough to address the increasing impacts and growing risk of climate change and to avoid catastrophic irreversible consequences.

Throughout today’s news cycle, the report garnered increased attention. The news was even more impressive when noting that His Holiness Benedict XVI would be presented a copy.

Now, this is all a big deal on a number of fronts, and I’m sure there will be other posts on this story in my pages, as well as a column or two. But for now, this isn’t just about science. It’s also about how this report will force people within and outside of the Church to face their demons and misconceptions.

For those who see the Church as irrelevant and backwards—or as a religious body that has lost its moral authority—this major piece of science, and the attention it's garnered, demonstrates otherwise.

For those who see climate change as somehow antithetical to the Christian faith—or who think it’s all a hoax—the report also demonstrates otherwise.

And certainly for those who don't get the Church-science link, this news may prompt them to learn something about it.

Either way, over the next few days watch for stories that misinterpret this report as a de fide proclamation about a scientific matter, when in fact it is not. The Church does not make dogmatic pronouncements on particular scientific issues. The report is one generated by an organ of the Church by members who are not necessarily in the Church. While this remains a worthy document, it is not one that every Catholic must agree to. (Although, it will be interesting to see what His Holiness has to say.)

Similarly, watch for some of my brothers and sisters in Christ to respond with huffing-and-puffing and pouting about how this report "proves" that the Church has been infiltrated by pagans and leftists. You’ll also find a few Catholic commentators shrug off the report, while others use it as a weapon to prove their own eco-agendas. Sadly, truth and charity may sometimes be victims as the drama unfolds because of this report. But then, welcome to the human race.

For now, we must offer our profound thanks to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, and to its head, Chancellor Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo. They have done a great service for the work of the Church, as well as for that of research. In particular, they have given shelter to scientists who normally are not allowed to discuss the moral and religious aspects of their work. But because this was the work of the Vatican—of a religion that naturally blends faith and reason for the common good—climate change was able to take on a human face and so engage more fully our shared cultural awareness. Indeed, as quoted in the New York Time/Climate Wire piece by Lauren Morello, researcher Veerabhadran Ramanathan had this to say:

"I have never participated in any report in 30 years where the word 'God' is mentioned . . . I think the Vatican brings that moral authority."

There will be much more to come in the realm of science and the media’s reaction. I pray that what will prevail is the very title of our Holy Father’s most recent encyclical, Caritas in Veritate.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Justice, mercy and ecological oversight

News from the State of New York’s Rural Wastewater Association notes that, due to the souring economy, the state Department of Environmental Conservation will have to cut its technical assistance programs to communities with wastewater treatment systems.

The news reads in part:

NYSDEC’s Division of Water has performed a comprehensive review of its legal obligations, environmental priorities, and available resources and determined that it can no longer deliver the operator certification, training, and technical assistance programs at the level they deserve. NYSDEC will respond to violations in accordance with its compliance and enforcement guidelines. If formal enforcement is warranted, NYSDEC will assess penalties in accordance with their guidelines. There may be cases in the past where NYSDEC would provide some technical assistance to help deal with operational problems or violations. NYSDEC is no longer able to provide these services. So the lack of technical assistance may result in prolonged violations that NYSDEC must address through formal enforcement.
This hits home because my job involves just this type of technical assistance to local communities that have wastewater infrastructure. But my office—me and my two engineers—have inspection and enforcement roles while also providing technical assistance when appropriate. Having seen this model work so well for over two decades, I am not a fan of segregating enforcement from assistance.

In a way, there’s a faith element to this. Catholic thought often holds two opposing constructs in tension but in unison. The Church had to learn how to do this in its early days, when figuring out exactly how to understand Jesus Christ—true God and true man. From there, “both/and” thought entered into Christian thought, over and against the prevailing worldview, especially today, that sees things as either A or B. Moreover, as a disciple of Jesus Christ, it comes naturally to offer assistance—technical and otherwise—to all in need.

And so, government officials who seek to separate justice and mercy—enforcement and technical assistance—do so by denying what it means to be human. That is, we’re meant to be both followers of God’s law and, at the same time, ambassadors of his mercy. These roles and qualities are not antithetical; they work best when achieved simultaneously.

Perhaps government officials should think more like Catholics going forward. Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and all these other needs will be met, too. In eco-regulation parlance, seek to blend support, assistance and mercy while recognizing that sometimes justice requires enforcement tools as a consequence for someone’s willful harming of the goodness of creation.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Blessed JPII and "ecological conversion"

With today's beatification of John Paul II, we Catholic ecologists should be rejoicing. This great pope, outdoorsman and athlete was a profound lover of nature. Our friends at the Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha Conservation Center provide much of his eco-writings—and there's a fast-paced video overview of his pontificate at the bottom of this post. And directly below is the actual ceremony and celebration of Pope John Paul II's recognition of the status of "Blessed."

As for his certainty of the importance of ecology, one of his most important ecological treatises is his January 17, 2001 General Audience, which reads thus:

God made man the steward of creation

1. In the hymn of praise proclaimed a few moments ago (Ps 148: 1-5), the Psalmist summons all creatures, calling them by name. Angels, sun, moon, stars and heavens appear on high; 22 things move upon the earth, as many as the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, in order to give an impression of fullness and totality. The believer, in a sense, is "the shepherd of being", that is, the one who leads all beings to God, inviting them to sing an "alleluia" of praise. The Psalm brings us into a sort of cosmic church, whose apse is the heavens and whose aisles are the regions of the world, in which the choir of God's creatures sings his praise.

On the one hand, this vision might represent a lost paradise and, on the other, the promised paradise. Not without reason, the horizon of a paradisal universe, which Genesis (chap. 2) put at the very origins of the world, is placed by Isaiah (chap. 11) and the Book of Revelation (chap. 21-22) at the end of history. Thus we see that man's harmony with his fellow beings, with creation and with God is the plan followed by the Creator. This plan was and is continually upset by human sin, which is inspired by an alternative plan depicted in the same Book of Genesis (chap. 3-11), which describes man's progressive conflictual tension with God, with his fellow human beings and even with nature.

2. The contrast between the two plans emerges clearly in the vocation to which humanity is called, according to the Bible, and in the consequences resulting from its infidelity to this call. The human creature receives a mission to govern creation in order to make all its potential shine. It is a delegation granted at the very origins of creation, when man and woman, who are the "image of God" (Gn 1: 27), receive the order to be fruitful and multiply, to fill the earth and subdue it, and to have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air and every living thing that moves upon the earth (cf. Gn 1: 28). St Gregory of Nyssa, one of the three great Cappadocian Fathers, commented:  "God made man capable of carrying out his role as king of the earth.... Man was created in the image of the One who governs the universe. Everything demonstrates that from the begining his nature was marked by royalty.... He is the living image who participates by his dignity in the perfection of the divine archetype" (De Hominis Opificio, 4:  PG 44, 136).

3. Man's lordship, however, is not "absolute, but ministerial:  it is a real reflection of the unique and infinite lordship of God. Hence man must exercise it with wisdom and love, sharing in the boundless wisdom and love of God" (Evangelium vitae, n. 52). In biblical language "naming" the creatures (cf. Gn 2: 19-20) is the sign of this mission of knowing and transforming created reality. It is not the mission of an absolute and unquestionable master, but of a steward of God's kingdom who is called to continue the Creator's work, a work of life and peace. His task, described in the Book of Wisdom, is to rule "the world in holiness and righteousness" (Wis 9: 3).

Unfortunately, if we scan the regions of our planet, we immediately see that humanity has disappointed God's expectations. Man, especially in our time, has without hesitation devastated wooded plains and valleys, polluted waters, disfigured the earth's habitat, made the air unbreathable, disturbed the hydrogeological and atmospheric systems, turned luxuriant areas into deserts and undertaken forms of unrestrained industrialization, degrading that "flowerbed" - to use an image from Dante Alighieri (Paradiso, XXII, 151) - which is the earth, our dwelling-place.

4. We must therefore encourage and support the "ecological conversion" which in recent decades has made humanity more sensitive to the catastrophe to which it has been heading. Man is no longer the Creator's "steward", but an autonomous despot, who is finally beginning to understand that he must stop at the edge of the abyss. "Another welcome sign is the growing attention being paid to the quality of life and to ecology, especially in more developed societies, where people's expectations are no longer concentrated so much on problems of survival as on the search for an overall improvement of living conditions" (Evangelium vitae, n. 27). At stake, then, is not only a "physical" ecology that is concerned to safeguard the habitat of the various living beings, but also a "human" ecology which makes the existence of creatures more dignified, by protecting the fundamental good of life in all its manifestations and by preparing for future generations an environment more in conformity with the Creator's plan.

5. In this rediscovered harmony with nature and with one another, men and women are once again walking in the garden of creation, seeking to make the goods of the earth available to all and not just to a privileged few, as the biblical jubilee suggests (cf. Lv 25: 8-13, 23). Among those marvels we find the Creator's voice, transmitted by heaven and earth, by night and day:  a language "with no speech nor words; whose voice is not heard" and which can cross all boundaries (cf. Ps 19 [18]: 2-5). The Book of Wisdom, echoed by Paul, celebrates God's presence in the world, recalling that "from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator" (Wis 13: 5; cf. Rom 1: 20). This is also praised in the Jewish tradition of the Hasidim:  "Where I wander - You! Where I ponder - You! ... In every trend, at every end, only You, You again, always You!" (M. Buber, Tales of the Hasidim [Italian ed., Milan 1979, p. 256]).

Blessed John Paul II: Pray for us!