Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Considering the Conference - the UN Conference on Climate Change That Is!

D&P Statement on Durban
"Canada does not even meet its reduction targets of the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, having INCREASED greenhouse gas emissions rather than reduced them".

As a Canadian this statement glares at me from the recent Development and Peace statement on the UN Conference on climate change. In the face of the monumental task of resolutely pursuing justice for those countries of the Global South disproportionately impacted by global warming it is too easy to leave the nitty gritty work up to UN conferences and regulatory bodies other than ourselves.  It is too easy to choose not to be informed at the moment and leave conversations about "carbon offsets" and REDD and Redd+ to scientists. We are urged in this paper to sit up, pay attention and "consider how our movement should respond to a crisis foretold". In fact, we should not only sit up but speak up about living sustainably. 

Take time to read this D&P statement. Let it link you to the COP17 conference in Durban, South Africa - now in its second day . As part of the D&P movement be part of this important conversation. Sit up, speak up- speak out!

 This blog entry brought to you by D&P member and sometime guest blogger on the Muse, Elizabeth Stocking. Enjoy!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Square Box/Round Earth: The Campaign Workshops Begin

Ecological Justice: from seed to flower
"I was just struck by this idea of the big box store," reflected Tom, building on an earlier comment, "What we are trying to do is take the Earth, which is round, and turn it into a square box."  A big box is efficient, economical etc. etc. but is not our planet.  We can't turn a round planet into a square box. But we are trying and we are destroying our home in the process.

It was an apt reflection by our Simcoe County zone rep as we kicked off a new five-year campaign on ecological justice in a three and a half hour formation session.  I am so grateful for Becky Johnson and her team at St. Mary's parish in Barrie (Jack, Darlene, Joanne).  They do such a great job hosting these annual gatherings for the northern part of the Toronto Archdiocese. Thank-you!

Fifteen people spent the morning of October 15th exploring the meaning of ecological justice and looking at how supporting small-scale agriculture can help reduce climate change. This was the first of 6 similar workshops offered across the whole archdiocese. For information to attend other dates click here

What a 'silent discussion' looks like.

Participants delved into this year's D&P campaign materials by rotating through 5 different stations each named for one of the five theological principles guiding our work for the next five years: Integral Human Development,  Sacredness of the Earth, Option for the Poor, The Common Good, and Solidarity.  Activities ranged from negotiating climate deals to 'silent group discussion'.

 We ended our time together by watching the campaign DVD for this year and praying the litany for the earth: "Encourage us Lord, that we might have the courage to press for changes by the principalities and powers of our society." 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Cyclical Inspiration

 There were oohs and ahhs as the river of justice (now appx. 1500+ drops strong) was unveiled to the high school students. They added their own water drops to a river I have committed to keep growing until all school boards in my region are bottled water free zones. Each drop contains reflections on why Water is God-Given Gift.

The river grows
I am in Kingston at the diocesan center where 45 students gathered together from the ALCDSB's five high schools for a Development and Peace workshop.  They have come from Belleville, Trenton and Kingston.  ALCDSB is one of the few school boards in the province that has a policy on single-use plastic water bottles, making it a bottled water free zone.  Because this policy passed two years ago, many of the students were aware their schools did not sell bottled water, but not necessarily aware of the issues surrounding it.  We talked about the issues.  I shared with them how teachers and students from their schools had inspired teachers and students in other schools to work to make their schools bottled water free.  They saw the pictures from the bottled water free day rally last March held by TCDSB students. These students can now take inspiration from what TCDSB students did and can build on the bottled water free culture in their own schools.  Cyclical inspiration - ALCDSB inspires TCDSB inspires ALCDSB. It's a pretty thing. 

ill-fated farm.
Following lunch we did a session on our new campaign on ecological justice.  Our basic message this year is that by supporting small-scale farmers, especially in the Global South, we can help to reduce climate change.  I used stories from my trip to Paraguay to show students how sustainable small-scale farming can help the earth.  I gave them some farm animals, some crayons and a piece of land (i.e. bristol board) so they could make their own farm using these principles.  Then I surrounded all their lands with tape, marking my new soya plantation. I informed them that the land legally belonged to me and chased them off with a large super-soaker.  This is the fate of many campesinos - not just in Paraguay but all over Latin America.

These students will now go back to their schools and collect postcards of solidarity with these small-scale farmers.  Our time together ended in prayer.  They stood on the edge of the taped line and held hands.  In God's powerful silence we sent a pulse through the circle - each student squeezing the hand of their neighbour in turn.  Then they raised their hands in the air and jumped back onto their land with a large amen.

St. Paul C.S.S., St. Theresa C.S.S., Regi, Nicholson C.C., and Holy Cross C.S.S.:  thanks for the great day and good luck on your journey of Solidarity with us! 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Two Dinners, One Meal.

Back in the saddle. A beautiful/restful holiday this summer included a long 8yr overdue honeymoon with my amazing wife Joanna (La Ville-Lumière, what they say about you is true). 

Last Thursday I attended two dinners in one evening. 

Dinner #1...was at the Ritz-Carlton. Unfortunately I did not get to eat here thanks to the $1000 price-tag.  Even if I had the money the police would not have let me anywhere near, given my intentions to protest. The CCA was honouring the president of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, with their statesman of the year award. If dinner wasn't enough for you, a yearly $25 000 gold sponsorship would have got you a private reception with the president and his ministers.  This would be money well invested if you were looking to take advantage of Canada's newly minted free trade agreement with Colombia.

our new Toronto council banner debuts on the sidewalk.

By all means let's trade with Colombia. But let's make sure that trade is fair. Let's make sure the bounty of resources that has Canadian corporations like Barrick Gold drooling at the new trade agreement (Peter Munk was honoured the same night with a lifetime business achievement award), doesn't lead us to turn a blind eye to stories like that of murdered indigenous leader Kimy Pernia Domico, who has yet to see justice.

For the rest of us concerned about human rights being trumped by trade, we had to stay on the sidewalk outside.  About forty people gathered here and it was a nice opportunity to unveil our new diocesan council D&P banner.  Development and Peace supports many projects and partners in Colombia. In fact as we were gathered, there were D&P members in Colombia visiting these partners.  This is a country with more internally displaced people than any other in the world with the exception of the Sudan - 5 Million. Our partner Justicia y Paz works with communities who have watched countless people murdered to make way for the expansion of african oil palm plantations (to feed our cars with ethanol). They have helped stop this expansion and set-up humanitarian zones - where no guns (guerrilla, state or paramilitary) are welcome.

The sidewalk seemed to be the best place to be standing as I remembered the testimony I have showed over and over again to students across my region.

Muriam and Alex
Dinner #2 ...was a 5 minute subway ride to St. Michael's College, my Alma Mater. Not only do I get to eat here, but my children are welcomed too! The price tag for the tasty 3-course meal with local wine? $5.  This is the chaplaincy dinner subsidized and hosted by the religious and community affairs commission of the student union.  I've been invited to speak as the keynote by Muriam Salman and Alex Zappone.  God Bless them both - hearts of gold. "I want students to know there is more to university than books and booze," Alex tells me.

I tried to express the Catholic Call to social justice without using the words "social" and "justice".  Instead I sang for them from a song I wrote my mother for Christmas, "My mother she raised the five of us right, she sang us lullabyes and did prayers each night. She taught us to seek out the good, do what you love and live as you should."

It was a warm reception and conversations with students afterwards left us the last to leave.

The first meeting of the new St. Michael's Development and Peace group happens tonight. If you go to St. Mike's and want to join, let me know.

There were two dinners last Thursday, but only one meal. One place where God's desire for us to come to the table to share the abundant resources of creation was truly present.  Thank you Alex and Muriam.