Remember Friday is Earth Day! Do something nice for your Mother Earth.

The sun is out. The air is warm. And as Minnesota begins to resemble a habitable place once more, it is much easier to remember why protecting the Earth is actually a good idea. (Alright, I’m over exaggerating—but isn’t Spring nice?!?)

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Ahhh. Goose-feeding season.

Earth Day is this week, and while we are bombarded with reasons why and how we should live sustainable lives, sometimes it just seems like so much extra effort. Like any good habit I’ve tried to employ, my green living game tends to be strong for a week or two before I really just want to grab a prepackaged meal of artificial flavors/textures instead of waking up early to make a sandwich. On top of the extra time, the sheer amount of information out there is overwhelming. Why can’t saving the Earth just be easy?  Or better yet, fun?

I decided to take a Justice Office approach to the quest for sustainable living; which is why I will be posting opportunities for Education, Action, and Advocacy every Wednesday right here on the Justice Matters blog! Check these weekly updates, which will include my own experiences with different online tools, experiments to search for the best homemade cleaning solution, and legislation to watch out for.  I’ll be continuing these updates for the foreseeable future, and it would be great if you could join in!  Reply with your own tried-and-true experiments, tips, and tricks so we can share in the wisdom of this community. With these resources, we can use these warm weather months to make a real difference in and for creation!

Education & Action

How much energy do I use? How much do I waste? How much impact does one person—i.e., me—actually have?

To find out the answer, I went on the search for resources that aren’t just informative, but are also interactive. So without further ado, I present this week’s review:

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Yousustain is a great catch-all resource. The website includes articles, actions that show their impact in tons of CO2 reduced and amount of money saved annually, and five different calculators for different aspects of your life. Whether you want to calculate your base carbon footprint, see how much your daily biking habits are making a difference, or simply want to see how much money you can save by switching to green living, this site has it all.

Pros: Yousustain is simple and accessible, and its many calculators are a definite plus. In addition, there are community challenges for simple, everyday actions, like using cloth napkins instead of paper for a week.

Cons: Yousustain’s last article was posted in 2012, leading me to doubt the continued veracity of some of its calculations, and the site itself isn’t as aesthetically pleasing as more recent/updated resources.

See: http://www.yousustain.com/solutions/recommendations

Eartheasy

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You don’t have to go this far to conserve water.

Now that you’ve calculated your carbon footprint or how much electricity your household uses, the next step is to reduce your impact. There are plenty of challenges on Yousustain to take advantage of, but perhaps you’re looking for some practical advice for long-term action. I’ve found the website eartheasy to be an invaluable resource. After hearing from Ann Bancroft, Liv Arnesen and the Access Water Expedition Team earlier this week, I thought I’d share part of an eartheasy article on water conservation.

25 Ways to Conserve Water in Home and Yard lives up to its name, offering options for people at the beginning of their conservationist journey to those who are already experts. Not only is it a great tool, it includes plenty of information, such as the following:

Water Conservation Summary

In 1990, 30 states in the US reported ‘water-stress’ conditions. In 2000, the number of states reporting water-stress rose to 40. In 2009, the number rose to 45. There is a worsening trend in water supply nationwide. Taking measures at home to conserve water not only saves you money, it also is of benefit to the greater community.

Saving water at home does not require any significant cost outlay. Although there are water-saving appliances and water conservation systems such as rain barrels, drip irrigation and on-demand water heaters which are more expensive, the bulk of water saving methods can be achieved at little cost. For example, 75% of water used indoors is in the bathroom, and 25% of this is for the toilet. The average toilet uses 4 gallons per flush (gpf). You can invest in a ULF (ultra-low flush) toilet which will use only 2 gpf. But you can also install a simple tank bank, costing about $2, which will save .8 gpf. This saves 40% of what you would save with the ULF toilet. Using simple methods like tank banks, low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators you can retrofit your home for under $50.

By using water-saving features you can reduce your in-home water use by 35%. This means the average household, which uses 130,000 gallons per year, could save 44,00 gallons of water per year. On a daily basis, the average household, using 350 gallons per day, could save 125 gallons of water per day. The average individual, currently using 70 gallons per day, could save 25 gallons of water per day.

When buying low-flow aerators, be sure to read the label for the actual ‘gpm’ (gallons per minute) rating. Often, the big box retailers promote “low-flow” which are rated at 2.5 gpm, which is at the top of the low-flow spectrum. This may be needed for the kitchen sink, but we find that a 1.5 gpm aerator works fine for the bathroom sink and most water outlets, delivering the same spray force in a comfortable, soft stream. Eartheasy’s online store carries a full range of low-flow aerators and showerheads.

Finally, it should be noted that installing low-flow aerators, showerheads, tank banks and other water-saving devices usually is a very simple operation which can be done by the homeowner and does not even require the use of tools. Water conservation at home is one of the easiest measures to put in place, and saving water should become part of everyday family practice.

You can find the whole article at:  http://eartheasy.com/live_water_saving.htm

Eartheasy includes an online store, and many of their articles will direct you to different products available onsite. As with anything, take this information as you will. If you are looking to patronize local businesses that are as concerned with sustainability, check out the Do it Green! Directory.

 

Advocacy

If you’re looking for some environmental legislation to get behind this session, there are two bills you should definitely be following.

First, I suggest checking out this article from the House Public Information office for a good overview of some Urban Agriculture bills in both House and Senate, and their potential impact on racism, poverty, and, of course, the Earth.

 

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Click here to read the article

There are several bills on Urban Ag, several of which are included in the linked article.

HF0153 is another Urban Ag bill to look out for, and its information can be found here. It is currently in the Ag Finance committee. That, and bill HF3300 (the Pollinator bill) were suggested to me by Jennifer Tacheney of Celeste’s Dream – so be sure to check them out!

I’ll be posting updates on where the bills are at next week, but if you want to find out more right now, contact the House Agriculture Finance committee. Ask if they have any information on the Urban Ag bill’s progress by calling Committee Legislative Assistant: Nick Lunneborg 651-296-5998

The Pollinator bill – HF3300 – was last heard by the House Agriculture Policy committee. You can get in touch with them through Committee Legislative Assistant Tyler Webster: 651-296-7881

If you’re interested in contacting the House in regards to the status of these or any other bills, the House Index office is responsible for recording all official House action on legislation, and can give you an update on where bills are in the legislative process of the House. Contact them at:  651-296-2314

Whether you read this whole article (congrats) or simply skimmed through it, thank you for taking the time to learn a little bit more about what you can do to help the Earth! I’ll be back next week with another (shorter) update!

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Written by Elea Ingman, SJW
Justice Office Program Assistant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Were the Magi the kings of returned Christmas presents?

A couple of days before Christmas, I was listening to a local Christian radio station near my hometown when a modern rendition of “We Three Kings” came on. After the song, one host announced that she had always been irked by the impractical kings.

I mean, you’ve got this little baby laying in a stable in the cold, and these guys are coming in and bringing him gold…it would have been better to at least give him a blanket!

That host’s indignation over this ancient story got me thinking. It’s the sort of common sense response that children use to stump their elders, leading frazzled parents and faith formation teachers alike to respond with the faith-killing “because that’s the way it is.” I fell in love with theology for the precise reason that it encourages everyone and anyone to ask hard questions. Rather than dismissing the hosts’ comment, I have set out to provide a few possible answers stemming from different ways of reading the story.

Why did the Magi bring Jesus gold, frankincense and myrrh? Couldn’t they have come up with something more practical?

  • Literary Lens. (This is probably the most common answer to why the Wise Men/Three Kings/Magi bring Jesus gold, myrrh and frankincense.) The gifts are little more than representations of Jesus’ kinghood and status as self-sacrificing Messiah—all the more necessary for his being born in a stable. The gold is for his status as King, the frankincense for his role as High Priest, and the myrrh to preserve his body after death. The gifts are foreshadowing for the life of Christ.
  • Historical Lens. The Magi, a class/tribe of Persian scholar-priests, are bringing gifts for a King just as modern diplomats bring gifts to the leaders of other states. If you have ever been to the UN building in New York, you may have seen many beautiful and varied objects from around the world, gifted to the UN in a sign of peace and support. The Magi, as demonstrated in Matthew 2:1-12 are bringing a royal dignitary a gesture of goodwill. Especially since they, too, were waiting for a savior- one they called a saoshyant,  who could “defeat the forces of evil, resurrect the dead, banish old age and decay from the world, and would usher in a new age for humanity“.
  • Scientific Lens. According to some researchers at Cardiff University, frankincense holds medicinal use as an anti-inflammatory, and is still used in some countries today to help arthritis. As learned men, it is likely the magi would have known of the many uses of frankincense.
  • Theological Lens. This answer is coming from the opposite direction; namely, Jesus’ own teachings. This hits on the modern frustration of giving money vs. giving objects which makes so many people uncomfortable (or irate) about panhandling or social services.

An example:

While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table. When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”  Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”  (Matt 26:6-12)

Now, for many people this verse is problematic in and of itself. What I’m concerned with here is the fact that the disciples are using an argument that is still used today. Here, a woman has “wasted” an expensive oil that could have been sold, and the money donated. Why doesn’t Jesus tell her off?

Though the disciples are well-meaning, what they miss is that the woman is providing Jesus with exactly what he needs right then and there. Similarly, the Magi are providing Jesus with what he needs, as strange as it seems to us. Symbolically, they are paving the path down which the adult Jesus will trod, and bringing a reminder of divinity to a young couple who just brought a child into the world in a stable behind an overfilled inn. Practically, Mary and Joseph have to buy food and shelter for themselves, not to mention that they are about to flee their country soon after the Magi visit.

Perhaps the Magi were God’s way of bringing some stability to the life of Their Son. Symbolically and practically, the magi’s gifts are gifts of possibility. A blanket might have kept Jesus warm (presuming he was cold to begin with) but it would not have provided him or his family with lasting shelter, or his parents with food. Maybe the gifts were sold, and the money used by the Holy Family. Maybe they were donated to the Temple in thanksgiving and glorification of God. Maybe they were kept safe, and that same gift of myrrh included in the oils and spices prepared by the women for Jesus’ embalming.

Whatever the true answer may be, it is clear that God led the Magi (and later, the woman with expensive oil) to give exactly what was needed, despite all our confusion and our outrage. How often are we proud of our helpfulness, like the disciples, only to discover that the person who we are ‘serving’ has needs completely opposite of those we were trying to fill? It is easy to give from our places of logic and self-righteousness, rather than asking what it is that the presence of God truly requires. And often, as in so many things, what God requires seems contradictory to what we think is reasonable.

As we enter into this New Year, let us all be unreasonable and humble in our service to the God who is present in the midst of our spiritual poverty.

This week is National Migration Week. Consider asking what is needed by those who are migrating, immigrating, or seeking asylum in the Twin Cities area. We will celebrate 11th Day Prayer for Peace: A Stranger and You Welcomed Me from 6:30-7 :30 at the Our Lady of the Presentation Chapel, co-sponsored by the Anti Human Trafficking, Dismantling Racism, and Immigration Working/Task Groups.

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Written by Elea Ingman, Program Assistant

 

Joint Religioius Legislative Coalition (JRLC) Day on the Hill 2014

Once again the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and Consociates are among the four Lead Sponsors for the JRLC Day on the Hill.  JRLC and the Sisters of St. Joseph have long collaborated on a variety of issues that affect the marginalized among us. Once again the Justice Office is hosting the Sisters of St. Joseph display table with information available representing a variety of departments, including a our Justice Commission 2014 Upcoming Events and websites bookmark which remains the number one take-away from our table.

Many also come to hear about how a sister is now doing, ask if we know a sister, and so on.  So here are a few of the JRLC Pearls so far this morning:

~~ I just wanted to stop by and congratulate the sisters on National Catholic Sisters Week

~~ How do you say that any way, is it Carondelet (let) or Carondelet (lay).  Will I ever remember it is Carondelet (let)?

~~ Will Sister Gina be here today?

~~I hope Sister John Christine will be here. ~~ I just had to stop and say that Sister Mary Heinen was from my district.  I can hardly believe she has passed.  She was such a knowledgeable and inspiring woman.  I especially miss her here today!

~~ Do you offer social justice retreats?

~~ Do you happen to now where Anika Walz is now?

~~ I don’t suppose you know Sister Althea? I know her from retreats and workshops we have shared.

~~ Did you ever know Sister Carmella who started the school patrol?  I am her nephew.

~~ Wisdom Ways is fabulous.  I have been attending their offerings for years.  Their retreats, events and offerings are always fabulous.

~~ I feel so hopeful after hearing about what you are doing on so many fronts.  I could go home right now and the day would be a success.

All this by the time I started writing this blog at 9:30!
As the morning continues…
~~ A woman just dashed up … grabbed the bookmark and enthusiastically said, “I JUST LOVE THE SISTERS!!”
~~I mentioned to a Rochester Franciscan how thrilled I am that they are hosting Rev. Daniel G. Groody, C.S.C. Director of the Institute for Latino Studies at the University of Notre Dame in April. She said she was not signed up and asked if she should be. I suggested it would be very worth her while and important for the passage of immigration reform. She said “I will when I get back today!”
~~ “How is Sister Char Madigan? We traveled the state educating people on the reality of domestic violence. She was the Catholic and I was the Lutheran! Will you please greet her for me?”

 

Posted by Ginger K. Hedstrom, Justice Associate

Investing to Make a Difference

wim cri logo

Last night, Joänne Tromiczak-Neid, Justice Coordinator and I attended the 40th Anniversary of wim cri: Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota Coalition for Responsible Investment at the Marquette University Alumni Memorial Union in Milwaukee.  While Joänne has been working with wim-cri for over 20 years, my role the past six years has been more peripheral.  I came knowing I had a lot to learn!

First of all the event was hosted by the Marquette University Center for Supply Chain Management.  I did some research before the event to ground me in their work.  As I read about the complexity of supply chains, I soon realized that my first exposure was in the late 1970s when the toy company I worked for sent raw materials, equipment and technical design patterns to a factory in Haiti where some of our products were being “assembled.”  Before I went on a quality control trip to this factory in Haiti, I was enthused by our work there.  Upon arrival, my perception changed immediately when I recognized that we were literally using the Haitian people (almost exclusively women) to further our needs by reducing our costs and therefore our prices, giving our products an edge in the marketplace. At that time we did not have the language of supply chain management, I only knew I did not like what we were doing!

In 1973 while the Vietnam War was being waged and a surge in the manufacture of nuclear weapons was underway, several Capuchin Friars from the Capuchin Franciscan Province of St. Joseph in Milwaukee went to Washington D. C. seeking a more peaceful world.  While there they came to the realization that business and the economy were central to their quest.  The outcome of that trip was the formation of the Corporate Responsibility Action Group (CRAG), the precursor to wim-cri.   Founding members were:  Michael H. Crosby, OFM Cap, Charlita Foxhaven, SSSF and Alphonsa Puls, SSSF (School Sisters of St. Francis).  They set to the work of inviting other religious communities to join them in their quest and connected with the recently formed Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR).

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, Saint Paul Province have been active leaders in wim-cri for over 20 years during which shareholder resolutions have been filed on tobacco, worker’s rights, health care, corporate transparency, affordable prescription medications and ongoing successful dialog with Xcel Energy. 

Founders Awards honoring their vision and commitment to mission were presented to Mike Crosby, OFM Cap, Clarita Foxhoven, SSSF and posthumously to Alphonsa Puls, SSSF.

Tim Dewane, Shalom – Justice, Peace, & Integrity of Creation, School Sisters of Notre Dame, Central Pacific Province moderated a panel dialog that included Terry Nadeau, Global Vice President of Procurement, Johnson Controls, Inc.; Robin Jaffin, Director of Global Supply Programs Verité; Rev. David Schilling, Project Director, ICCR and Dr. Douglas Fisher, Director, Center for Supply Chain Management, Marquette University delving into the complexities of supply chain sustainability and sourcing responsibility.

Tim concluded with this reflection:

From A Reflection on the Vocation of the Business Leader (Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace)

Good business decisions are those rooted in principles at the foundational level, such as respect for human dignity and service to the common good, and a vision of a business as a community of persons. Principles on the practical level keep the business leader focused on:

  • producing goods and services that meet genuine human needs while taking responsibility for the social and environmental costs of production, of the supply chain and distribution chain (serving the common good, and watching for opportunities to serve the poor);
  • organizing productive and meaningful work recognizing the human dignity of employees and their right and duty to flourish in their work, (“work is for man” rather than “man for work”) and structuring workplaces with subsidiarity that designs, equips and trusts employees to do their best work; and
  • using resources wisely to create both profit and well-being, to produce sustainable wealth and to distribute it justly (a just wage for employees, just prices for customers and suppliers, just taxes for the community, and just returns for owners).

Posted by:  Ginger K. Hedstrom, Justice Associate

The more I know … the more I know I don’t know!

I grew up in rural southeastern Minnesota immersed in the rich “country” colloquialisms that permeated our conversations in the 1950s and 1960s.  It seemed to me as a child that one stood out and was used far too often!  It incessantly showed up when someone spoke in absolute certainties or thought they were “so smart,” the colloquialism was often directed towards a teenager!  In that moment, I knew I was going to hear AGAIN, “Mama always said if you don’t learn something new today, you might as well stay in bed!”

Early in the New Millennium, I was introduced to Kay Mill’s book, This Little Light of Mine: the Life of Fannie Lou Hamer, which examines the life of MS Hamer, a powerful African American woman from Mississippi, who was a member of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), in 1964 she helped found the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party which strongly influenced the 1968 Democratic Convention, was active in civil disobedience (and as a result savagely raped beaten for her commitment) and registered countless people to vote.  “This Little Light of Mine” opened my eyes to the powerful ways strong, powerful African American women leaders were central figures in the Civil Rights Movement and made me want to know more!

In 2011, Joänne Tromiczak-Neid, Justice Coordinator and I went to Alabama to participate in the 40th Anniversary celebration of the Southern Poverty Law Center and to take a self-guided Civil Rights tour while we were there.  All along the way, in Birmingham and in Selma, I kept looking for more about the history of women in the Civil Rights Movement.  I was really simply looking to find more about Fannie Lou Hamer. Each time I came away disappointed. Nothing on Fannie Lou Hamer, though there was some information about Rosa Parks.

As I drove over the Edmund Pettus Bridge to return to Montgomery for the opening of the 40th Anniversary celebration on that quiet sunny mid-April morning, I found I could not drive the speed limit, “we both felt the power of the march and the marchers” as we left Selma.  We pulled over several times to reflect on the experience.  Halfway back to Montgomery we found the Lowndes Interpretive Center which opened earlier that year to tell the story of the March on Montgomery and the Loundes County Tent City which for two years became home to many Black Americans and sharecroppers who were evicted because they had exercised their constitutional right as citizens to register and to vote.

There on the counter I discovered Hands on the Freedom Plow, an unprecedented women’s history of the Civil Rights Movement, from sit-ins to Black Power prominently displayed.  It is now in the Justice Resource Room Library and powerfully tells the stories of women who worked, more often than not, behind the scenes keeping the wheels Civil Rights Movement moving forward!  Though Fannie Lou Hamer died March 17, 1977, her story is included and told by the powerful women leaders who worked alongside of her.

Well, here I am on August 27, 2013, reading the St. Paul Pioneer Press.  My eye was drawn to the William P. Jones opinion piece titled “Content, coverage, effect:  5 Myths about the March on Washington.”  The intriguing title drew me in immediately.

Jones, a history professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and the author of The March on Washington: Jobs, Freedom, and the Forgotten History of Civil Rights, this morning opened my eyes and changed my perceptions on several fronts.

As we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington tomorrow, Jones writes “The National Council of Negro Women also supported the march,” but the male leaders “refused to include its president, Dorothy Height, in the official leadership.  Despite vigorous protest from black women, they insisted that women could be represented by men.”

As we commemorate the March on Washington, federal laws protecting the right of all citizens to vote, I encourage you to take the time to read Jones column, and the other resources I have linked to in this blog post.

Once again, “mama” was right! There are lots of great reasons to get out of bed, including but not limited to, learning more about the world, changing my perceptions and being reminded again and again that “the more I know, the more I know I don’t know!”

Posted by: Ginger K. Hedstrom, Justice Associate

Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and Consociates, Saint Paul Province