no. 2   april - june 2007

What the UN Document Did Not Say

The latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was written by 450 lead authors, 800 contributors, and 2,500 expert reviewers. One of those reviewers wrote "It would be a mistake to assume all the experts endorse everything in the report, including its bottom-line assessment ‘Most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in greenhouse gas concentrations."

According to Ross McKitrick, who served as one of the expert reviewers, many disagree with the conclusion itself. But, more disturbing, is that no one was ever asked if that is a factual statement before it was printed as such.

Most participants worked only on small portions of the report, handed in final materials in the summer of 2006, and never gave opinions on the claims made in the summary. Due to be distributed in May 2007 although it was "released" on February 2, the IPCC is going over the document word for word to make sure it is consistent with the summary.

That is the problem: months are being spent to revise a detailed report prepared by hundreds of scientists to insure it agrees with a brief summary drafted by a few dozen scientists and edited by hundreds of bureaucrats and politicians.

Eco-Palm Project Brings Justice to Parishes

Fair-trade coffee and fair-trade crafts have been available for purchase for some time. Now your parish can buy fair-trade palms!

With backing from the Catholic Relief Services, a program known as Eco-Palms hopes that parishes across the USA will eventually buy palms produced by impoverished workers in Mexico and Guatamala. Palms purchased from Eco-Palms help provide fair wages for Latin American workers, as well as guarantees to buyers that palms are being harvested in an environmentally sustainable way, according to the Catholic Relief Services.

In 2005, the pilot year for Eco-Palms, a small number of fronds were sold in just three States in the USA. Last year, in collaboration with Lutheran World Relief and the Presbyterian Church USA, 80,000 fronds were sold. In 2007, orders for more than 250,000 fronds have been received from 48 states and Canada. US Churches purchase more than 3 million palms each year for Palm Sunday services.

Catholic Relief Service economic justice program tries to find "as many ways as possible to improve the livelihoods of farmers," according to the program advisor.

Eco-Palms cost about 24 cents per frond, depending on the quantity ordered, a slightly higher cost than traditional palms, which are usually a type of grass grown in Texas and Florida.

Because the program buys directly from "community concessions" in Mexico and Guatemala, the harvesters get two to three times better prices than when the fronds are sold to US floral markets. Eco-Palms offers an additional 5-cent premium per frond.

The funds help to provide educational scholarships from young girls, to bring in health care providers and to pay teachers’ salaries.

The Catholic Relief Services website contains more information on the program.

Based on an article written by Patrick O’Neill in National Catholic Reporter, March 23, 2007.

Ten Ways to Save Fuel AND the Environment

These ten fuel saving tips can help you improve your car’s fuel economy and take some of the sting out of high fuel prices. They will also help keep the environment cleaner.

Most of these tips will give you a very slight increase in miles/kilometers per gallon— but use several together and the gas mileage improvements will really add up.

1) Check your air filter

Consider a "permanent" filter which is cleaned rather than changed; they are much less restrictive than throw-away paper filters, plus they’re better for the environment.

2) Check your tire pressure

Buy a reliable tire gauge, check your tires when they are cold (driving the car warms up the tires and the air inside them, increasing the pressure), and keep them properly inflated and save gas.

3) Slow down

As speed increases, fuel economy decreases exponentially.

4) Hang with the trucks

A constant speed, which trucks generally maintain, keeps shifting to a minimum and also aids economy, as it takes much more fuel to get a vehicle moving than it does to keep it moving.

5) Accelerate with care

Jack-rabbit starts are an obvious fuel-waster! If you accelerate to speed then have to brake right away, that’s wasted fuel.

6) Get back to nature

Consider shutting off the air conditioner, opening the windows and enjoying the breeze. It may be a tad warmer, but at lower speeds you’ll save fuel. That said, at higher speeds the A/C may be more efficient than the wind resistance from open windows and sunroof.

7) Keep away from wide tires

New wheels and tires may look cool, and they can certainly improve handling. But if they are wider than the stock tires, chances are they’ll create more rolling resistance and decrease fuel economy.

8) Clean out your car

The more weight your car has to haul, the more gas it needs to do the work. It doesn’t take much to acquire an extra 40 or 50 lbs. of stuff.

9) Out with the new, in with the old

The costs of keeping the car may or may not be less then the fuel saved, but it does allow for more predictability in your budget.

10) Don’t drive

If you can avoid driving, you’ll save gas. Take the train, carpool, and consolidate your shopping trips. Walking or biking is good for your wallet, your health and it does wonders for the environment.

The Christian Brothers’ Model

"I am trying to say ‘Love your local ecosystem,’" said Br. Moy Hitchen, an Australian Christian Brother. "Get out there and find the rocks, the soil, the trees, the bushes, the birds that belong to your part of the world, and then think, what does the world want us to do?"

Hitchen is the Christian Brothers’ international promoter of environmental justice. His travels have taken him around the world, allowing him to see much.

In a sprawling slum in Nairobi, Kenya, he was struck by the contrast between environmental disaster—a "filthy black river of industrial waste, human sewage, and plastic bags full of household garbage" and vestiges of the natural world that were struggling to survive.

Part of Hitchen’s job is to visit Christian Brothers around the world and encourage them to understand that ecology is an issue rooted in both spirituality and justice.

"The great spiritual traditions are in partnership with the earth. And the Congress of Consecrated Life in Rome in 2004 had 16 recommendations, one of which was to maintain a triple dialogue—dialogue with the poor, dialogue with the world religions, and dialogue with the earth."

Hitchen sees a close connection between social justice and ecological justice. The cry of the earth, he said, can be heard in the cry of the poor. "Every piece of damaged countryside sends another family to the city. So environmental degradation and poverty are interconnected."

While indigenous people and farm families in developing countries are keenly aware of the need to live in balance with nature, that bond has been lost in industrialized countries, he said. One result of that disconnection from nature, Hitchen said, is that people in industrialized countries consume more than their share of the earth’s resources.

"That’s my biggest challenge," he said. "I am talking to people about their ‘ecological footprint. The ecological footprint of my own country, Australia, is four times what the earth can sustain. If everybody lived like we live, you would need four Planet Earths."

In his visits to Christian Brothers around the world, he urges them to find ways to simplify their lifestyles.

"It might be things like no cars," he said. "There might be quite hard decisions to be made about diet, about lifestyle, about where you live."

Top 10 Things You Can Do to Reduce Global Warming

Burning fossil fuels such as natural gas, coal, oil and gasoline raises the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and carbon dioxide is a major contributor to the so-called greenhouse effect and global warming.

You personally can help reduce the demand for fossil fuel with 10 simple actions:

1) Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Choose reusable products instead of disposables. Buy products with minimal packaging. Whenever you can, recycle paper, plastic, newspaper, glass, and aluminum cans.

2) Use Less Heat and Air Conditioning

Insulating your house or monastery and install weather stripping or caulking around doors and windows can reduce heating costs by more than 25 percent. Lower the heat when you are sleeping or away from a room.

3) Change a Light Bulb

When possible, replace regular light bulbs with compact florescent light bulbs (CFL). CFLs last 10 times longer and use

2/3 less energy and give off 70% less heat.

4) Drive Less and Drive Smart

Besides saving gasoline, walking and biking are great forms of exercise. If you drive, keep your tires properly inflated. That improves your mileage by 3%.

5) Buy Energy-Efficient Product

Buying a new car? Choose one that offers good gas mileage. Appliances in the home come in energy-efficient models.

6) Use Less Hot Water

Wrap your water heater in an insulating blanket if it is more than 5 years old. Using low-flow showerheads saves hot water and energy. Washing clothes in warm or cold water saves pumping carbon dioxide into the environment.

7) Use the "Off" Switch

Turn off lights when you leave a room. Turn off your television, stereo, computer when you are not using them. Turn off the water when you are not using it: while brushing your teeth, shampooing your hair or the dog. Keep the water off until you need it to rinse.

8) Plant a Tree

Trees absorb carbon dioxide and give off oxygen. A single tree will absorb approximately one ton/908 killos of carbon dioxide during its lifetime.

9) Encourage Others to Conserve

Share information about recycling and energy conservation with your friends, neighbors, parishioners, students, co-worker. Take the opportunity to encourage public officials to establish programs and policies that are good for the environment.

10) Reread this List and Decide to Do Something!