Peace & Justice Blog

Stay up to date on peace and justice issues, both locally and internationally, and learn how you can take action.


 

What’s the big deal about methane?

Blog by Sr. Barbara Kane, OP

In the spirit of the Season of Creation, I’d like to reflect on the complexity of the climate crisis today by looking at the story of Methane.  Methane is a naturally occurring gas that comes from everywhere –  us, cows, marshes, rice patties, rotting rubbish in landfills, and permafrost, as well as wells and pipelines.  It’s considered a greenhouse gas with a “high global warming potential.” It’s also the primary ingredient of natural gas.

As scientists learned about the environmental problems associated with carbon, like coal, they found that natural gas (composed primarily of methane) was a good alternative. Methane does burn cleaner than any other fossil fuel producing fewer greenhouse gases when burned than oil or coal.  That’s good and why it’s become so popular. It’s a large reason why the coal industry is declining.  In fact, the Department of Energy reported that for every 10,000 U.S. homes powered with natural gas instead of coal reduces annual emissions of 1900 tons NOx, 3,900 tons of SO2, and 5,200 tons of particulates which translates into reductions in problems like asthma, bronchitis, lung cancer, and heart disease. Great!

But there’s a problem.  When methane leaks into the environment its heat-trapping effects are very strong – 100 times more potent at trapping energy than carbon dioxide, the principal contributor to man-made climate change.  This is called the “global warming potential” and indicates the amount of global warming that is caused by that substance.

So where does all this leaking come from?  The gas infrastructure is the biggest culprit – leaky pipes, spillage at the well site, improper installation or maintenance of infrastructure. Methane is leaked during extraction, storing, and burning.  Unfortunately, a lot more is leaking than originally forecasted.  (As an aside, most natural gas today is gained from fracking and that process causes many more environmental problems.)

A study published in the journal Science in 2018 concluded that the amount of methane leaking from the nation’s oil and gas fields may be 60% higher than official estimates.  This means that 2.3% of all natural gas produced in the nation is leaking during production, processing, and transportation of oil and gas each year.  That’s a lot of heat holding gas.

To make matters worse, the administration has just proposed eliminating federal requirements (from the Clean Air Act) that oil and gas companies control these leaks. Any of the benefits from using natural gas to protect the environment from the effects of greenhouse gasses will now be destroyed. The EPA acknowledged that this proposal, if adopted, would result in the release of an additional 370,000 tons of methane annually, the equivalent of the emissions of 1.8 million additional cars per year.   In fact, scientists are worried because as the planet warms, even more methane will be released from soils or other places adding to the global warming problem.

If we are going to make a difference in this global climate crisis, state and federal regulation protecting us – all of us – must remain in place and be enforced.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

Closing Down the Southern Border

Blog by Sr. Barbara Kane, OP, Justice Promoter

When Sr. Manuela and I went to El Paso in July, I noticed a big difference from when we went in January.  That difference was the reduction in the number of asylees who were actually getting into the United States and staying at an Annunciation House hospitality center.  The reason for the decline was primarily due to the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) also called the Back to Mexico Policy that requires asylees to wait in Mexico for their immigration process.  Now these numbers will be decreased even more because of a new rule published in July stating that migrants who pass through another country must seek asylum there rather than passing to the U.S. border and seeking asylum here.  This means that anyone from Central or South America coming through Mexico would be required to seek asylum there.

Since 1980, the U.S. has said that those who are fleeing persecution and violence in their home countries have the right to apply for asylum.  National and international asylum laws give them these rights.  Christian values of caring for the marginalized requires us to welcome them and help them to build new lives in peace.  After all, didn’t Jesus say that how we treat the least of our brothers and sisters, we treat him?

This new rule change which recently passed through the Supreme Court overturns long-standing convention that the U.S. hears asylum claims no matter how people have arrived at the border.  Justice Sotomayor wrote in a dissenting opinion, “Once again the Executive Branch has issued a rule that seeks to upend longstanding practices regarding refugees who seek shelter from persecution.”  The rule also didn’t go through the regular process of public comment that would have allowed the public to provide input on the change.

Part of the rationale for this rule is that asylum seekers should go through the ‘legal’ process of obtaining papers to come to the U.S.  Often this means applying at a USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) Office in their home country.  According to the USCIS Website, the purpose of these offices is to reunite families, enable adoptive children to come to join permanent families, and provide information services and travel documents to people around the world. There were 20 offices in 18 countries but now the administration is closing all but seven including the office in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico which is the city across from El Paso. It will be almost impossible for asylum seekers who are already in fear of corrupt governments and military to get documents to leave their country.  These efforts would put them in even more danger.

Manuela and I heard many heartbreaking stories during our time in El Paso. Now, there will be no hope for those seeking a safe and secure life for their children.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

The Pan-Amazonian Synod and its Challenges

Blog by Sr. Mary Ellen Bennett, OP

The Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazonian Region will take place in Rome from October 6—27, 2019. Its topic:  Amazonia:  New Paths for the Church and for an Integral Ecology.  I’m interested in this Synod because it will address grave issues of these times:  ecological disasters caused by unregulated and unauthorized development, exploitation, egregious violations of human rights, and the dignity of vulnerable Amazonian and Andean indigenous communities.

The Amazon Basin, roughly the size of the contiguous U.S., with a population of 2.8 million, divided among 400 tribes, includes all or parts of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Venezuela and Suriname.  It includes the world’s largest tropical rain forest covering 21 million square miles, and is unmatched for its biodiversity and influence on the health of the entire planet.

Currently, climate change and the increase in human intervention – deforestation, fires, and changes in the use of land – along with forced population displacement and pollution, are putting its ecosystems at risk, exerting pressure on local cultures, and driving the Amazon to a point of no return.

The key discussion points for the Synod will be:

  1. The threat to life in the Amazon region by environmental destruction and exploitation.
  2. Systematic violations of the fundamental rights and traditions of the indigenous people such as the right to land, self-determination, and prior consent.
  3. Possible suggestions for greater access to the Eucharist in a region with few priests. (This point is covered extensively elsewhere)

Challenges to be examined by the Synod are:

  1. The concept of “development” projects is questioned, especially concerning who benefits and who suffers violence.
  2. Certain industries are called out such as mining and logging, hydro-electric dams, large-scale agriculture, conservation projects which are more concerned with protecting ecosystems than human and territorial rights, the criminalization of and violence against people who protest these projects.
  3. Drug and arms trafficking, corruption, violence against women, forced migration, and the exploitation of indigenous people and their territories.

The Synod will reflect on system challenges that require holistic solutions such as “integral health”.  This recognizes that human health and the health of other species are deteriorating because of extractive industries (industries that remove product from one country to sell in another such as deforestation or mining) that introduce new diseases, toxic exposures, and deforestation.  Everything is related to everything else because all exists as one living being, e.g. when we subject a forest to mining, the water becomes contaminated, the animals become homeless, the health of human beings is damaged, and ultimately, communities are fractured.  Nothing is done in isolation; every action has repercussions on everything and everyone.  Clean water, air, food, access to gathering, hunting, and fishing are named as essential to integral health, as is access to indigenous and traditional medicine.

The commitment to caring for the earth and defending the human rights of its inhabitants can be dangerous.  Some political leaders in the Amazon Region (and probably their sponsors in the U.S.), view the Synod as an attack on their sovereignty.  Even a Catholic bishop has called it pagan.

Many people who defend the Amazon face serious threats.  Currently the members of CIMI (The Catholic Church’s Indigenous Missionary Council) are in hiding for fear of their lives.  The number of martyrs in the Amazon is enormous.  The church must support those who risk their lives for others, and remember its martyrs, among whom are women leaders such as U.S. born Dorothy Stang, SSND who defended the land rights of the poor and was assassinated in Brazil in 2005.

The Amazon Basin is one example of situations that are common to many areas of our planet.  We look forward to learning from the Synod for Amazonia about ways to balance technology, consumption, ecology and human rights.

In writing this blog I relied heavily on the following resources, and am very grateful for the material:

Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns

Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns Newsletter 7/19.  “Synod for the Amazon:  What to Expect”

National Catholic Reporter.  6/28—7/11/19.  “Amazon Synod Document Raises Possibility of Married Priests” Catholic News Service:  Junno Aocho Estevens

REPA–Pan Amazonian Ecclesial Network

CELAM—Council of Latin American Bishops

In July 2019  The Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns launched a series of 2 page bulletins titled:  One Amazon Many Voices at http://bit.ly/OAMV2019

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

Take the Challenge

Blog by Sr. Barbara Kane, OP

Over the past 29 days, we’ve prayed for the victims of mass shootings in our daily prayer on Facebook.  Twenty-nine was the number of those killed in El Paso and Dayton and we started our litany right after those shootings.  We prayed for 432 individuals killed and 794 injured in mass shootings.

These are only a faction of the mass shootings occurring in the U.S. on a regular bases and don’t include the average of 100 people killed each day by gun violence. Those killed are men and women, sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, siblings, friends, co-workers, neighbors… all killed by gun violence. Is this the reward of living the second amendment in such a broad way?

In a study by the Children’s Defense Fund in September 2018, children were asked about what worried them the most. The top two responses?  Being bullied (42%) and a shooting happening at school (33%). One third of children go to school anxious about their safety.

At a Big Table gathering in Columbus, I sat with four high school students from both inner city and suburban high schools.  They described being afraid that their school would be the next site of a shooting or strategized about the best place to hide from a shooter. (Not under the desk – too obvious.)  Kids should think about their futures not their deaths.

What’s next?  Will everyone need to lose someone close to them to do something? Anything?

So here’s my challenge, sisters and associates – write a personal, handwritten letter to one of your senators and demand that they act on common sense gun safety legislation.  Tell them how gun violence has touched you… your family… your students. Use your righteous indignation to demand change.  Remember gun safety is a pro-life issue.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

400 Years of Slavery

Blog by Sr. Barbara Kane, OP

In August, 1619, a ship docked in Fort Comfort, Virginia. “Twenty and odd Negroes” were sold for food. It marked the beginning of the slave trade in the United States. This past weekend, there were many ceremonies to commemorate the 400th anniversary of slavery.  They were not celebrations because how can you celebrate that human beings were considered chattel – to be used and sold. But they were vital events to recognize the role of slavery in so many lives.

Take a minute to think about this concept.  How would you feel if you were considered someone’s property?  You could be bought or sold, forced to work long hours, beaten and raped. Your children could be taken away.  All because of your color, nationality, or gender.

The legacy of slavery includes the Civil War, Jim Crow, lynching, race riots, segregated schools and housing, the school to prison pipeline and the deaths of innocent black boys and men. It touches each of us regardless of our color – black, brown, yellow or white. “If [one] part suffers, all the parts suffer with it.” (1 Corinthians 12:26)

In Columbus, the Spirituality Network (an organization that we have longed worked in and sponsored) hosted a programs called 400 Years – Africans in America: I Am an Answered Prayer. Each presenter provided some insight in how slavery touches the very DNA of each person and our country.  If one is taught that he/she is not valued, in fact, not even fully human, is it surprising that they would struggle to value their own lives or the lives of others?  Or that others – immigrants, LGBTQ, or individuals with disabilities – would also be treated as less valuable?  Entire communities are treated as not deserving of clean water, clean air, quality education, safety, et cetera because of their color.

So we have reached a cross-road.  Which way America? Will we agree to face the last 400 years, recognize what we have done and are doing to others, acknowledge our own white privilege, and recognize the humanity of all people? Will we help young black and brown children who think their future is to be poor reverse that vision? Will we continue to perpetuate Mafaa, the great tragedy, that stereotypes people of color and enslaves them in hopelessness?

Frederick Douglass once said “The white man’s happiness cannot be purchased by the black man’s misery.” It’s time to stop the misery of all people of color.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog