Category Archives: Action

Monday Starter: Sr. Dorothy Stang’s legacy lives on in newly discovered owl

A wooden cross marks the spot in June 2012 where U.S. Sr. Dorothy Stang, a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, was killed Feb. 12, 2005, on an isolated road near the Brazilian town of Anapu. (CNS/Reuters/Lunae Parracho)

The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur have announced that a newly discovered screech owl in the Amazon rainforest has been named after the martyred Sr. Dorothy Stang.

Stang, a longtime champion of farmers’ land rights in rural Brazil, was assassinated in 2005 in the northern Brazilian state of Pará in the Amazon Basin. A native of the United States, Stang became a naturalized citizen of Brazil. Her death led to the creation of a reserve of more than 1 million hectares devoted to sustainable use of rainforest land by the local population, whose rights she championed.

Earlier this year, researchers from Brazil, Finland and the United States discovered, or “described,” two new species of screech owl in Brazil, and one of those species, the Xingu screech owl, received a scientific name in honor of Stang. The name, Megascops stangiae, honors Stang’s work “on behalf of poor farmers and the environment in the Brazilian Amazon region,” the congregation’s Ohio Province said in a statement.

The common name, Xingu screech owl, is a reference to an area where the new species is found, the statement said. That area is located between the Tapajós and Xingu rivers, the area where Stang worked and was killed.

Congregational leader Sr. Teresita Weind said biologist Therese Catanach, a member of the research team, contacted the congregation about naming the owl for Stang, as the team was moved by Stang’s life story.

“Sister Dorothy’s murder left a big impression on me, especially when I started research in tropical forests,” Catanach said.

Two other researchers, Brazilian biologists Sidnei Dantas and Alex Alexio, discussed what to name the owl. Dantas had visited Stang’s gravesite, and Alexio suggested one of the owls be named after Stang as “a way to raise awareness about the Amazon, being the ‘lungs of the planet,’ and home of tropical medicinal plants, birds, animals, and human lives,” the congregation said.

Good Shepherd ministry wins anti-slavery award

A ministry of the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd in the Democratic Republic of the Congo recently won the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s Stop Slavery Award. The award is one of several awards by the foundation that recognize companies and grassroots organizations that have “an impact in the fight to end modern slavery and human trafficking.”

Bon Pasteur Kolwezi received the award in a ceremony in February. In accepting the honors, Sr. Jane Wainoi Kabui, the program’s director, noted the role of the organization’s staff, fellow congregational members and the Good Shepherd International Foundation and their “unremitting support to our communities and shared commitment to fight modern slavery in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”

The ministry has its roots in an initiative that began in 2012, when the congregation’s Province of Eastern Central Africa established a community development program “to combat child labor, human rights violations, and modern slavery in the copper and cobalt mining region around the city of Kolwezi in the DRC,” the congregation said in an announcement of the award.

The ministry now works in eight communities where cobalt mining is dominant.

“It has helped more than 3,000 children quit the mines and attend school, 500 families to secure alternative and sustainable livelihoods, 300 girls and women to gain new skills and make a decent living away from the mines, and educated more than 20,000 people on how to campaign for better working conditions,” the congregation said.

The project inaugurated a new Bon Pasteur Center in Kolwezi in 2019 in an initiative that includes 14 classrooms to instruct roughly 1,000 children whose families live in the nearby mining communities. The demand for that schooling has been so great, Kabui said, that “the biggest challenge has been that the center can only accommodate a given number of children, and so sometimes we have to turn children away.”

Advocacy is also part of the ministry’s work, and Kabui said in the congregational announcement that she hopes more people will “become conscious of the dehumanizing conditions the artisanal miners have to go through.”

The Thomson Reuters Foundation is the charitable arm of the global news and information company Thomson Reuters. The foundation’s focus includes promoting media freedom, human rights, and more inclusive economies.

https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/news/blog/monday-starter-sr-dorothy-stangs-legacy-lives-newly-discovered-owl

Sisters set troubled Filipino teens on course to self-sufficiency

Smiling Jane Ollivier with another younger girl
Jane Ollivier, pictured at left in 2015, entered the School of Life at age 15 after being orphaned and passed around various relatives. While living at the School of Life, she earned an education degree, taught school and now works as a home life officer for ACAY to help other teen girls. (Courtesy of the Missionaries of Mary)

Quezon City, Philippines — Jane Ollivier lost her parents by the age of 10. For five years, she bounced around between various relatives before she entered the School of Life, a residential program for teenage girls in metropolitan Manila run by the Missionaries of Mary.

“I wasn’t treated as a child who needed help, but as a member of a family,” she said. “I found the care of a family that I was looking for.”

In her three years in the program, Ollivier earned an education degree. She taught school for a year before returning to the School of Life as the home life officer to help other girls learn to be self-sustaining.

The sisters “gave me a foundation of what real life was like,” said Ollivier, now 30.

The School of Life is one of the central programs of Association Compassion Asian Youth, or ACAY. For more than 20 years, the association has focused on providing the support, skills and structure to change the lives of troubled teens and young adults in the Philippines.

The School of Life, founded in 2000, provides a home for around 20 girls between the ages of 14 and 21, many of whom were abused. The program helps them with school or vocational training and teaches practical life skills to help the girls become self-sustaining, such as budgeting and managing a house, planning meals and shopping. The girls also can earn money by doing administrative tasks for the program and making and selling crafts.

The Second Chance program for teen boys who are in detention centers began in 2002 and also emphasizes personal development, such as through anger-management classes, and vocational training to enable participants to get jobs in construction and other skilled trades once they are released from detention.

ACAY is the brainchild of Sr. Sophie Renoux, who prefers to be known as Sr. Sophie de Jésus. In 1995, the French sister heard a call to help children in the Philippines after she participated in World Youth Day in Manila as a member of the Community of the Beatitudes. She moved to the Philippines from France two years later.

There, she found few programs to help teens, so she and Sr. Edith Fabian, a Hungarian sister Sister Sophie knew through the Community of the Beatitudes, founded Association Compassion Asian Youth in 1997. Over the years, they were joined by Sr. Laetitia Gorczyca from Poland and Sr. Rachel Myriam Luxford from New Zealand, who were also members of the Community of the Beatitudes. Together, they founded the Missionaries of Mary, a diocesan community, in 2007.

Now, the programs are models for other organizations in the Philippines as well as similar programs in other countries. A Second Chance program began in Marseille, France, in 2014. Members of a nongovernmental organization in the Democratic Republic of Congo have welcomed ACAY staff in Kinshasa for training and have gone to the Philippines to find aspects of the School of Life to incorporate into its program for teenage and young women.

Girls are referred by nongovernmental organizations and detention centers or after they age out of other social service programs; boys are referred through social workers, counselors and other staff at the detention centers. After they leave the program, the women tend to work at offices or as teachers or nurses, and the men become carpenters or entrepreneurs or work in the field of social development. Most alumni return to speak with the young men and women still active in the program.

A caring, family-like atmosphere is fundamental for the teenagers, Sister Sophie said. The sisters, staff and volunteers offer encouragement, counseling and support.

“Emotionally, I had people I could lean on,” Ollivier said. “The sisters gave me that motherly care I was looking for. They’re not just there to give you the basic needs, but they are there to give you everything that you need to empower you as a woman.”

Raymart Montinola credits the sisters with helping him change his life. He was in a detention center at age 18 when a social worker referred him to the Second Chance program.

“I felt hopeless,” he said. “I had no skills. I couldn’t get a job.”

The sisters helped him get an apprenticeship in furniture-making. When he was inspired to start his own business, the sisters loaned him money for machinery and helped him find clients. Now in business for more than a year, he is supporting his wife, who was in the School of Life program, and their two children.

“I learned a lot, and I’m thankful because they’re still there, even if I’m not in any program now,” said Montinola, now 30. The sisters “continued to give me opportunities, give me wings so I could fly.”

https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/justice/ministry/sisters-set-troubled-filipino-teens-course-self-sufficiency

Football star Thierry Henry to quit social media over racism

The former Arsenal and Barcelona striker Henry, who has 15 million followers across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter [File: AFP]
The former Arsenal and Barcelona striker Henry, who has 15 million followers across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter [File: AFP]

Former France international Thierry Henry said on Friday he will be disabling his social media accounts to protest against the platforms for not taking action over anonymous account holders who are guilty of racism and bullying online.

Former Arsenal and Barcelona striker Henry, who has 15 million followers across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, said the platforms needed to tackle these issues with the same effort they put into taking down material that infringes copyright.

“From tomorrow morning I will be removing myself from social media until the people in power are able to regulate their platforms with the same vigour and ferocity that they currently do when you infringe copyright,” Henry said in a statement.

“The sheer volume of racism, bullying and resulting mental torture to individuals is too toxic to ignore. There HAS to be some accountability.

“It is far too easy to create an account, use it to bully and harass without consequence and still remain anonymous. Until this changes, I will be disabling my accounts across all social platforms. I’m hoping this happens soon.”

Last month English football’s governing bodies said that Twitter, Facebook and Instagram were “havens for abuse” and urged the social media companies to tackle the problem in the wake of racist messages aimed at players.

Oliver Dowden, the secretary of state of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), said nobody should be forced to disable their social media accounts due to abuse.

“Social media firms must do more to tackle this and we are introducing new laws to hold platforms to account,” he said.

“This is complex and we must get it right, but I’m absolutely determined to tackle racist abuse online.”

Instagram last month announced a series of measures to tackle online abuse, including removing accounts of people who send abusive messages, and developing new controls to help reduce the abuse people see.

Twitter said in 2019 that “vile content has no place on our service” after it took action on more than 700 cases of “abuse and hateful conduct” related to football in Britain in two weeks and promised to continue its efforts to curb the problem.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/3/26/football-star-thierry-henry-quitting-social-media-over-racism

Report: Catholic nuns join protests against Burma’s military coup

Credit: Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition Myanmar Facebook page
Credit: Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition Myanmar Facebook page

Washington D.C., – Catholic nuns in Burma have joined widespread protests against the recent military coup, Asian Catholic websites have reported. 

According to UCA News, Catholic nuns from a variety of communities in Burma have marched the streets, praying for the protestors and offering them food. Amid protests in the city of Myitkyina, the capital of the state of Kachin, nuns hung signs saying “No to dictatorship” and “Listen to the voices of people” outside of their convent. 

Burma, also known as Myanmar, is a country in Southeast Asia with a population of 54 million people. Both the democratically-elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and president Win Myint were detained by members of the military in the early hours of Feb. 1, after the military disputed the results of the 2020 election. The army general Min Aung Hlaing now leads the country.

Protests in Burma have been ongoing since the coup. Catholic priests and nuns have joined the protests in the majority-Buddhist country, where Christians make up only around 6% of the population. 

On February 11, Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition Myanmar went to pray and protest outside of the Chinese embassy in Mandalay. Pictures posted to the order’s Facebook page showed sisters displaying the “three-finger salute” and praying outside of the Chinese embassy in Yangon. 

The hand gesture displayed by the nuns is a symbol of resistance and has been used by various pro-democracy movements. 

Besides the visible presence of nuns and priests on the streets of Burma, other Catholic figures have issued statements of support for the protests and against the military rule. 

In a Feb. 3 statement, Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon asked the military to release “the voice of our people” Aung San Suu Kyi, and called the coup “shocking.”

Cardinal Bo is a longtime supporter of democratic rule in Burma. In his statement, he urged the country’s military to avoid the use of violence against civilians. 

“Sadly, the elected representatives of our people belonging to NLD are under arrest. So are many writers, activists and youth,” he said. The NLD is Burma’s political party National League for Democracy, which outperformed the military-backed party in November’s elections.

“I urge you, respect their rights and release them at the earliest,” Cardinal Bo urged the military. “They are not prisoners of war; they are prisoners of a democratic process. You promise democracy; start with releasing them.”

The Holy See’s permanent observer to the UN Human Rights Council, Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, said on Friday that the Vatican was praying for the people of Burma.

He asked those in power to serve “the common good of fundamental human and civil rights, of promoting social justice and national stability, for a harmonious, democratic and peaceful coexistence.”

In his Nov., 2017 visit to Burma, Pope Francis stressed the importance of the country’s religions in bringing about reconciliation and unity. He praised the work of those building “a just, reconciled and inclusive social order” in Burma, in a speech to Aung San Suu Kyi, civil authorities and the diplomatic corps.

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/report-catholic-nuns-join-protests-against-burmas-military-coup-18622

Cardinal Turkson delivers face masks, care packages to Romani families

Cardinal Turkson visits a Romani camp in Castel Romano June 13, 2020. Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, – Cardinal Peter Turkson delivered face masks and care packages over the weekend to Romani families in need on the outskirts of Rome on behalf of Pope Francis.

“We are here today to witness the support for all those who experience situations of suffering and vulnerability, and who are often forgotten, especially in this time of health, social and economic emergency,” Cardinal Turkson said following the visit June 13.

“As Pope Francis often repeats, no one should be left behind,” he said.

Cardinal Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, met with volunteers of a non-profit association that provides 200-300 weekly food packages for the children who live in Romani camps and slums. The cardinal then visited a Romani camp outside of Rome in Castel Romano to help deliver some of the food packages. 

The Romani, often called “gypsies” and known as “travelers” in much of Europe, form a marginal and minority people present in countries across the continent. 

Pope Francis has met with members of Rome’s Romani community on several occasions, continuing a tradition of Pope Paul VI who visited a Romani camp near Rome in 1965.

The risk of malnutrition among the Romani children in the camps was heightened by the coronavirus pandemic, a statement from the Dicastery for the Integral Human Development said.

Turkson distributed 300 vinyl gloves, 600 surgical masks, 200 fabric masks, and 500 packs of acetaminophen donated by the Vatican Pharmacy as a part of the dicastery’s Vatican commission for COVID-19.

The Vatican commission for COVID-19, created at the request of Pope Francis, was formed “to express the concern and love of the Church for the whole human family in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, above all through the analysis and reflection on the socio-economic and cultural challenges of the future and the proposal of guidelines to face them.”

During his visit to the Romani community, Cardinal Turkson communicated Pope Francis’ feeling of spiritual closeness and paternal embrace in this difficult time to all of the volunteers, families, and children at the camp, acccording to a June 13 press statement issued by the Dicastery.

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/vatican-cardinal-peter-turkson-delivers-face-masks-care-packages-to-romani-families-14420

Sisters take food pantry ministries outdoors during pandemic

When the food pantry run by the Franciscans of the Eucharist of Chicago had to be closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the sisters moved it outside so that, with social distancing, masks and gloves, they could continue to distribute food. (Courtesy of the Franciscans of the Eucharist of Chicago)

Sr. Stephanie Baliga had a problem: The Franciscans of the Eucharist of Chicago’s food pantry was shut down by restrictions to stop the spread of the coronavirus, but the need for food in the neighborhood was greater than ever.

So she found a way. And as sisters are doing across the country under challenges imposed by COVID-19, when she ran into still more challenges, she got creative.

Nationwide, millions of people have lost jobs as employers closed or cut back, making the need for food and other support greater than ever, and Catholic women religious have answered the call in myriad ways.

The weekly food pantry at the Mission of Our Lady of Angels in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood normally serves about 225 people, Sister Stephanie said, but the need for food had doubled. So the sisters moved the pantry outside.

Because social distancing requirements meant patrons would not be able to pick and choose their own food, it all had to be prepackaged. At the same time, the sisters couldn’t allow most of their volunteers to help.

So all nine sisters in the small community, founded in 2010, pitched in to help.

“Everyone’s here,” Sister Stephanie said. “We’re very, very limited on volunteers, so it’s a lot of work.”

They did get some unexpected volunteers: the Chicago Police Department.

Even with moving the pantry outside and keeping everyone 6 feet apart, many senior citizens and those with compromised immune systems could not risk exposure. Likewise, those who are homebound discovered many of the services they rely on had been shut down. So the police loaded up a vehicle with more than 100 bags of food and delivered them to those in need.

“The city and the [police] department as a whole is going through a difficult period and this neighborhood, which is one of the more challenged communities within the city as we see it, needs all the help they can get,” Lt. Jason Brown told the Chicago Tribune in late March. “We’re kind of in uncharted waters. I think given that, we have to take a different approach to how we police and what policing really means.”

Sister Stephanie said working with the police is not unusual at the mission, and that has not changed even after a weekend of destruction in Chicago that left 20 dead, sparked by protests over the death of George Floyd.

“They’re absolute heroes,” she said of the police in the neighborhood.

Sister Stephanie said the Mission’s buildings were the only ones not damaged over the weekend, and that the neighborhood was largely destroyed.

“This is one of the most economically disadvantaged neighborhoods in the United States of America, so we were not in a good place before this [pandemic] started.”

City of Chicago statistics show 34% of households in Humboldt Park are below the federal poverty level of $26,200 for a family of four. Per capita income there is about half that figure, and 35% of those 25 years or older do not have a high school diploma.

The pantry work has become all-consuming, Sister Stephanie said, but it hasn’t been a problem because almost all of the community’s other ministries have been shut down.

In Detroit, two Sisters of St. Felix of Cantalice, known as the Felician Sisters, also found themselves running a food pantry.

Previously, the ministry of Sr. Felicity Marie Madigan and Sr. Shelley Marie Jeffrey focused on hospitality: They opened the Deo Gratias Café in late January in the parish center at St. Jude Catholic Church, a place where they could build relationships with the community.

“We were just getting to really know some people when the pandemic put a kibosh on those kinds of activities,” Jeffrey said.

https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/coronavirus/coronavirus/news/sisters-take-food-pantry-ministries-outdoors-during-pandemic

Salesians in Bogota aid poor families hard hit by COVID lockdown

Food delivery to families of Salesian oratory children. Credit: Marcos Chero.

Bogotá, Colombia, – Salesian ministries in Bogota, Colombia, have joined forces to feed the families of the children and young people they serve at the Saint Francis de Sales Oratory youth center, which they run in the poor, crime ridden Las Cruces neighborhood.

In late March, the government ordered a lockdown to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. The lockdown left many street vendors, recyclers, cleaning staff and other laborers out of work.

With the lockdown extended into June, many poor families are finding themselves running out of food and funds for other necessities.

While the government has offered some support to those in need, many people are still in serious need of assistance.

To respond to this need, especially for food, the Salesian Leo XIII School community has partnered with the Salesian Ladies’ Divine Child Center, the Order of Malta and a local food bank to offer care packages with basic necessities and food to families in need.

Leading the Salesian effort is Marcos Chero, a Peruvian teacher at the Leo XIII School.  Speaking to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language news partner, Cheo said he was motivated to take on the project after successfully working with the school in 2017 to deliver 700 care packages to the victims of devastating flash floods and landslides that took place in the town of Mocoa in the country’s southwest.

“If we were able to put together care packages three years ago, with this situation we’re going through, why can’t we do it again?” Chero said.

In the initial effort, school parents, alumni, teachers and other members of the Salesian community were able to deliver 200 care packages to needy families in the area. They were then joined by the Salesian Ladies’ Divine Child Center. Several additional food distributions for 80-120 families have taken place in the weeks that followed, with the next one scheduled for June 6.

The National Police have been making the deliveries, taking all the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of the virus.

Chero said the plan going forward is to make deliveries every three weeks “because we know that the coronavirus situation is going to last a long time. And so we’re always looking for help, we’re knocking on doors, seeking out institutions and businesses to collaborate with us.”

Chero himself received training as a boy at a Salesian oratory in Peru and admired the spirit of the congregation founded by St. Don Bosco “to work for the very poor and abandoned.”

“There’s a very beautiful saying of Don Bosco that has marked me, and I take it as a motto, an insignia, which is, ‘The Lord has put us in this world to serve others’,” he shared.

The teacher said he is also planning a project to raise funds to buy the technology so students can participate in distance learning, which is currently limited.

The Divine Child Center, founded by the Salesian Ladies Association, is staffed by lay women volunteers who put on sporting and cultural activities and provide formation in values, helping children and young people living in the poor areas of Bogota become good citizens and avoid the dangers of the street.

The Salesian Ladies is a non-profit organization founded in 1968 in Caracas, Venezuela, by Salesian priest Fr. Miguel Gonzalez. Through Christian education and evangelization, these Catholic women help low income people especially women, young people and children who are abandoned, in dangerous situations, or in jail.

They currently run 33 centers in Colombia, in addition to another 145 centers in 27 countries in the Americas, Europe and Asia.

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/salesians-in-bogota-aid-poor-families-hard-hit-by-covid-lockdown-85277

Priest in Costa Rica bakes bread to help families in need

Bread
Father Geison Gerardo Ortiz Marín baking bread. Photo courtesy of Father Ortiz.

– When he was just 15 years old, Fr. Geison Gerardo Ortiz Marín had to quit school and find a job to help support his family.

Faced with a difficult economy, Ortiz’s family was struggling financially. He quit school and found a job opportunity at a neighboring family’s bakery, where he worked for five years.

The priest told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language news partner, that he learned important life skills from the job, such as “knowing what it is to meet a schedule, getting up at dawn and working overtime. In short, it was an enriching experience.”

He took those life skills with him when he entered seminary at age 21. He has now been a priest for 10 years and serves as pastor of Saint Rose of Lima parish in Ciudad Queseda in northern Costa Rica.

Recently, however, Ortiz has returned to his roots as a baker to raise funds for the needy in his parish during the coronavirus pandemic.

Public Masses were suspended a month ago in Costa Rica due to the pandemic. As the lockdown continued, the priest could see the financial strain mounting on members of the community.

“A lot of people starting knocking on the rectory door asking for help, while the parish and local charitable groups weren’t getting any income from the collection,” he explained.

So Ortiz began baking. He uses around 55 lbs. of flour each workday to bake different kinds of bread, rolls and other items. A bag of baked goods sells for 1500 colones, or about $2.65.

“With 1500 colones here we can buy perhaps a 5-pound package of rice,” he said, adding that he has been able to help about 60 families so far.

From the sale of baked goods, he was able to raise extra funds, he said, which have ensured that anyone who has knocked on the rectory door has left with a package of rice, sugar or beans.

No one has been sent away empty handed, the priest said.

“I work all day long baking bread, selling it, and in the evenings I celebrate the Eucharist. I always tell the Lord, ‘Thank you for the true bread that gives eternal life, which is the greatest of riches and is what I want our people to have, receive, taste and feel’,” he said.

Ortiz encouraged other priests to find creative ways to help serve those in need during the challenging times presented by the pandemic.

“I believe that this is a special moment,” he said. “God has allowed me to return to my origins. God has allowed me to help meet the needs of our brothers. This is a moment in which the Lord is allowing us to live in solidarity and to reach out in a very special way.”

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/priest-in-costa-rica-bakes-bread-to-help-families-in-need-17858

EarthBeat Weekly: Throwaway plastics strike back amid the pandemic

Plastive
An elderly woman wears a protective face mask as she walks with shopping bags during the COVID-19 pandemic in Barcelona, Spain, April 1, 2020. (CNS photo/Nacho Doce, Reuters)

Earlier this week, my wife Clare and I decided to try something we hadn’t done before: ride bikes to grab our groceries.

The weather was great and springy, and near our home in Kansas City (the one in Missouri, by the way) there’s a trail that passes by several grocery stores — meaning we wouldn’t have to bother with passing cars in a city that’s still learning to share the road.

So we had our route. The sky was clear. There was just one more thing to do before we were on our way: Gather our reusable bags.

One of the side effects of the coronavirus pandemic has been a restoking of the pushback on reusable goods. Some stores have barred reusable bags, concerned they could spread the virus, and coffeeshops have paused refilling reusable cups. Food pantries are placing meals in disposable bags in their efforts to feed millions in need. Restaurants struggling to stay in business have turned to disposable packaging — and often plastic foam — in their shift to carryout and delivery meals. And as they plan to reopen, some are opting for disposable menus.

In late March, The New York Times reported on how the plastic bag industry is seeking to capitalize on the pandemic to undo state and city bans on single-use plastics like bags and straws. The story has stuck with me. It was a reminder of the forces at play seeking to preserve the throwaway culture that Pope Francis has urged the world to abandon.

Economics of course are a major factor, with plastic production backed by major oil and chemical associations. But I find it harder to understand the freedom angle: Is there really such a passion to fight for the right to be able to throw something away often minutes after receiving it? I was recently reminded there was by a conservative friend, who in listing reasons why he wouldn’t want to live in Seattle stated he liked his plastic straws.

How did something like single-use plastics become so ingrained in U.S. culture when it hasn’t been around that long? It turns out others have wondered the same thing. While variations of straws have been around since 3,000 B.C., the plastic version wasn’t introduced until the 1950s and by the ’70s had overtaken the slurping market. National Geographic offered a video chronology of plastic’s history as part of its Planet or Plastic project.

Today, approximately 8.8 million tons of plastic enter the ocean each year, and upwards of 26 million tons of plastic enter landfills in the U.S. alone. As plastics pollute land and water, they threaten both biodiversity and human health, with more and more microscopic plastic particles entering into the food chain.

The disposable vs. reusable debate existed well before the novel coronavirus began spreading around the globe. How it plays out post-pandemic will likely have a significant effect on whether the planet leaves the throwaway culture in its past, as well.

And whether pedaling to grocery stores with reusable bags in tow becomes an even more prevalent practice.

 

 

 

https://www.ncronline.org/news/earthbeat/earthbeat-weekly-throwaway-plastics-strike-back-amid-pandemic

Kenya faces new health risk as floods, mudslide displace thousands

NAIROBI, KENYA — Catholic leaders in Kenya are appealing for humanitarian support in regions where landslides and floods have displaced thousands, as the country battles increasing cases of the coronavirus.

Church sources said the disasters had left a trail of death and destruction in the Rift Valley and Western Kenya regions, while introducing a new twist in the COVID-19 fight.

At least 4,000 have been displaced in the West Pokot and Elgeyo Marakwet counties in the Rift Valley in mudslides that have also killed 12 people. In Nyando, part of Kisumu County, an estimated 1,600 people are trapped in villages by floods, according to the sources.

“The parish center, a convent and nearby school are now submerged in water following days of heavy rainfall. The parish priest and nuns had to be evacuated, but the people are still trapped in their homes. They are crying for help. With a canoe, we can evacuate them to safer zones,” Fr. Joachim Omollo, an Apostle of Jesus priest in Kisumu Archdiocese, told Catholic News Service.

“I think all the attention is on COVID-19, but these people need emergency aid. If we don’t act quickly, waterborne disease will soon strike, adding to the burden when the health systems are on the alert over COVID-19,” he said.

The mudslides swept away a main market, a school, a police post and villages. With their homes and houses destroyed, the displaced families have camped in schools and other places on safer grounds.

The government, the Red Cross and churches — including the Catholic Church — have moved to provide some relief, including some food and clothes. County governments are promising to help the displaced people fight COVID-19 by providing water, soap and encouraging social distancing.

Before the landslide, the communities had been observing church and government COVID-19 guidelines, but concerns have emerged that these measures may be difficult to keep, leaving the people exposed to the disease in the new camps.

“We have been discouraging the people from congregating in one place due to the current situation in the country (COVID-19). Many of them have since moved in with relatives,” said Bishop Dominic Kimengich of Eldoret. “We are also there, providing relief to the displaced persons.”

The East African nation’s Catholic bishops and clergy have been urging the people to observe the government’s guidelines. By April 23, Kenya confirmed 320 cases of COVID-19, but the numbers were increasing daily.

 

 

 

https://www.ncronline.org/news/earthbeat/kenya-faces-new-health-risk-floods-mudslide-displace-thousands