“Places, at last, are no better than their people”

Wendell Berry says some beautiful, powerful, funny, and poetic words.

If you like his “Sabbaths” series, you’ll like the reading that comes at the end.

If you don’t know anything of his “Sabbaths” series, you’ll still like the reading that comes at the end.


Advocacy Alerts

Thanks so much to the Advocacy team in the CCSJ for these reminders.

Sierra Club
No More Deepwater Horizons
Three years ago, the Gulf experienced one of the worst environmental disasters in our nation’s history, when an explosion on BP’s Deep Water Horizon rig left an oil well gushing. The damage from that disaster will be felt in the Gulf region for years to come. But Big Oil hasn’t learned its lesson. Oil companies continue to push for dangerous, devastating drilling projects on our coasts and in our public lands. Last year, Shell Oil had to abandon plans to drill in America’s Arctic when its equipment continually failed. And just this month, an Exxon Mobil pipeline in Arkansas ruptured, releasing 157,000 of gallons of oil into a small community. Tell President Obama that we need to protect our communities, coasts, and public lands from dangerous oil drilling and spills!

Amnesty International
Urge President Obama: No more drones!
You’ve helped convince Congress to hold hearings on the Obama administration’s killer drones. Now take the next step and urge President Obama and Congress to follow Amnesty International’s 5 Point Plan for reforming the U.S. drone strike policy. Amnesty International is deeply concerned that the Obama administration’s so-called ‘targeted killing’ program allows for the use of lethal force, including with drones, that violates the right to life under international law.

Health Care Conscience Rights Act
The Obama Administration’s contraceptive/abortifacient/sterilization mandate will begin to be enforced against nonprofit religious schools, charities and health care providers on August 1. In the days to come, Congress must decide whether to address this problem through must-pass legislation before that deadline. Members of the House should be urged to include the Health Care Conscience Rights Act (H.R. 940) in the next bill needed to keep the federal government operating. Please send an email asking Congress to protect conscience rights and religious liberty.

Upcoming Events
Omaha Together One Community
On Monday, May 6th at 7pm, OTOC is hosting a Candidates Accountability Night. The event will take place at Pius X Church at 6905 Blondo Street, Omaha, Nebraska 68104. Candidates for Mayor and City Council will be there so that the community can be educated on where each candidate stands on important issues. For more information, go to OTOC’s website.

Film Streams
A Place at the Table runs Friday, May 3 through May 16th at Film Streams’ Ruth Sokolof Theater. The film discusses food injustice-specifically food insecurity. Fifty million people in the U.S.—one in four children—don’t know where their next meal is coming from, despite the fact that we have the means to provide nutritious, affordable food for all Americans. Directors Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush examine this issue through the lens of three people who are struggling with food insecurity. Their stories are interwoven with insights from experts-especially sociologists. A Place at the Table shows us how hunger poses serious economic, social and cultural implications for our nation, and that it can be solved once and for all. Yet, the solution will only come when the American public decides that making healthy food available and affordable is in the best interest of us all! For more information, or to watch the trailer, click here.

USCCB and Catholic Relief Services
On April 22, from 1-2pm EDT, Catholic Relief Services and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops are hosting an online Catholics Confront Global Poverty discussion called Promoting Human Life and Dignity in the Year of Faith: Why People Migrate. Join the online discussion for an opportunity to hear about the Church’s ongoing work to address the root causes of migration through programs and advocacy efforts that protect life and human dignity. You will also be able to ask questions and engage in dialogue regarding how Catholics in the US, through the Catholics Confront Global Poverty initiative, can make a difference for our brothers and sisters living in poverty.

Advocacy Alerts

Sierra Club
Tell President Obama: No more toxic sludge
Coal-fired power plants produce more toxic waste than any other industry in the United States, including the chemical, plastic, and paint manufacturing industries. They spew millions of pounds of pollutants into our waters every year. And the problem is only getting worse.
The EPA estimates that the amount of toxic wastewater from these plants is going to increase 28% over the next 15 years. That means more heavy metals and more toxic sludge in more streams and rivers, resulting in more contaminated rivers, more unhealthy streams, and more poisoned wildlife. Tell President Obama that you want pollution free water!

Contact your senators and urge them to help reduce gun violence!
The US bishops call for all people to work for a culture of life, and to do more to end violence in our homes. In particular, legislators should: Support measures that control the sale and use of firearms; support measures that make guns safer (especially efforts to prevent their unsupervised use by children and anyone other than the owner); call for sensible regulations of handguns; support legislative efforts that seek to protect society from the violence associated with easy access to deadly weapons, including assault weapons; and make a serious commitment to confront the pervasive role of addiction and mental illness in crime. Support the bishops and their call by sending a letter to your senators here!

Amnesty International
Stop the execution of Abdullah al-Qahtani in Iraq!
Saudi Arabian national Abdullah al-Qahtani is at imminent risk of execution in Iraq. He is one of six men accused of taking part in an armed raid on a Baghdad shop in 2009. While al-Qahtani and his co-defendants confessed to being members of al-Qa’ida, it was only after they were subjected to brutal torture, including severe beatings, partial asphyxiation, cigarette burns, and pulling on genitals. Four of these six men have already been executed; Abdullah al-Qahtani could be next. Act now to ask that justice is upheld!

Ignatian Solidarity Network
How you can be a “humane” immigration reform voice!
Tomorrow, April 10th, please call your US Senators and Representatives and relay the following message: I am a constituent calling from [your city]. As a member of the Ignatian Solidarity Network (if appropriate also share other institutional ties – ie. student, faculty, graduate, parishioner, etc. of/at [your institution]), I am calling to ask [Legislators Name] to support “humane” immigration reform that keeps families together, respects the rights of workers, protects vulnerable women and children, and provides young people with access to higher education. Can you please share this message for “humane” reform with [Legislators Name]? Click here to find the numbers for your elected officials, and help make immigration reform a reality!

Upcoming Events
Empowerment Network Monthly Meeting
Saturday, April 13th at 8:45 at the North High School Viking Center, is the Empowerment Network’s monthly meeting! All are welcome!

A Reflection on the Importance of Nature: Dom Dongilli

Unsurprising to most, elementary and middle school aged Dominic had interests and activities that fell on the unique end of the spectrum. I opted for writing seminars at the local art museum and city libraries in lieu of traditional summer camp. I was more concerned with gardening, studio art lessons and playing piano than video games. I read in my tree fort, caught lightening bugs with my sister and volunteered at my neighborhood library instead of attending school social events. I was a solitary child who preferred my own company and made little effort to form connections and friendships with my peers. In the sixth grade, I decided to fill some of the free time participating in my local zoo’s youth volunteer program.

I ended up spending every Monday of my summer vacation and many weekends for the next 5 years at the zoo working with a wonderful collection of animals and an even greater group of people. More importantly, I finally started coming out of my shell and connecting with my peers. The zoo and the nature it hosted gave me part ownership and responsibility for the natural world around me. In addition to showering me with benefits, I finally had a message to share with others, a message of conservation and love of nature. I formed and developed relationships with my fellow youth volunteers, little kid campers, and nursing home resident over Nancy the sloth’s once-a-week bathroom schedule and Jackson Brown the skink’s blue tongue. Outside of the zoo, time in nature provided me instant relief and a sense of calm when my worrisome personality blossomed into an anxiety disorder and I struggled to complete mundane tasks. Nature and the environment has played a crucial role in my life and I’ve made it a point to do all I can to share it with others. I’ve been inspired to share the same opportunities that I have had in nature and help others reap its benefits.

I’ve been blessed to continue my work at my local zoo, which allows me to share this love of nature and see its impact on others. I’ve seen nature work its magic as I’ve conducted “sensory safaris” for children with disabilities and countless summer camps with preschoolers, high schoolers and all ages in between. I’ve also witnessed nature’s ability to serve as a bridge between cultures and languages when I spoke to a group of immigrant women from Africa participating in a program that helps immigrant women run childcare centers in their local communities. This program ensures that immigrant communities have safe and licensed childcare centers that operate with the trust of the community and full knowledge of cultural and community practices. Even though most of these women did not speak English, we spent an afternoon enjoying the benefits of nature and discussing (via translator) how nature and backyard experiences can create wondrous opportunities for themselves and the children for which they care.

Unfortunately, opportunities to experience nature and reap its benefits are disappearing or being disregarded. Children and families are spending less and less time outdoors and are not taking advantage of opportunities for natural interaction and exploration. Richard Louv, in his international best-seller Last Child in the Woods addresses these problems. He synthesizes research from a multitude of disciplines to explain our current cultural disconnect with nature and why we are suffering as a result. (Some staggering excerpts from his book are listed below)

The great thing about natural play and our relationship with the environment is that it permeates all areas of our lives and has the potential to make a profound impact no matter one’s struggles. Nursing homes have raised garden beds and adaptive gardening equipment so that their residents have opportunities to interact with nature. Rehabilitation hospitals provide patients with all types of permanent disabilities equipment so that they can continue to participate in the natural activities that they enjoy. Shelters can provide green spaces and natural play areas on their campuses so that their adult and child residents have another tool to cope with the stress and burden of poverty and homelessness. There are limitless opportunities in which one can experience nature. I encourage you all to think about the impact that nature can make in your lives, the lives of those you serve and how you can use it as a tool for positive change in your field of study and line of work.

Excerpts from Last Child in the Woods, by Richard Louv:

– “Another emerging body of scientific evidence indicates that direct exposure to nature is essential for physical and emotional health. For example, new studies suggest that exposure to nature may reduce the symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and that it can improve all children’s cognitive abilities and resistance to negative stresses and depression.”

– A study was conducted with at-risk sixth grade students who attended outdoor education programs over a several month period. “Students who experienced the outdoor education program versus those in a control group… displayed a 27 percent increase in measured mastery of science concepts; enhanced cooperation and conflict resolution skills; gains in self-esteem, problem-solving, motivation to learn, and classroom behavior.”

– “Children who experience school grounds with diverse natural settings are more physically active, more aware of nutrition, more civil to one another, and more creative.”

– “A study shows that children and parents who live in places that allow for outdoor access have twice as many friends as those who have restricted outdoor access due to traffic.”

– “Nancy Wells, assistant professor in the New York State College of Human Ecology at Cornell and her colleague Gary Evans found that children with more nature near their homes received lower ratings than peers with less nature than their homes on measures of behavioral conduct disorders, anxiety and depression.”

List of Resources

Last Child in the Woods, by Richard Louv
A captivating read that synthesizes research from many different fields to explain and solidify the importance of nature on the health of children, adults and communities.

Children & Nature Network, http://www.childrenandnature.org/
Website of the network Richard Louv founded. Contains reading lists as well as recent research articles regarding children and nature.

The Sierra Club, http://www.sierraclub.org/
In addition to promoting environmental stewardship, the Sierra Club hosts outdoor outings coordinated by local chapters. They also run a campaign called “Building Bridges to the Outdoors” where they strive to give every child in America an outdoor experience.

Nature Explore, http://www.natureexplore.org/
A collaboration between Nebraska’s own Arbor Day Foundation and Dimensions Educational Research Foundation, this website contains resources, research and supplies for connecting children with nature.

Advocacy Alerts

Support Immigration Reform with a Pathway to Citizenship!
Immigration reform will only happen if US citizens ask for it. Please take a moment to send a message to your senators to tell them that you support immigration reform, and that you look forward to seeing legislation pass in the 113th Congress. Also, take a look at what the Jesuits have to say on this issue.
Sierra Club
Protect the Grand Canyon!
Ranging from desert grasslands to lush, coniferous forests, the proposed Grand Canyon Watershed embraces one of America’s most spectacular landscapes-the Grand Canyon. This region encompasses a wild, rugged array of towering cliffs, deeply incised tributary canyons, and numerous springs that flow into Grand Canyon National Park’s Colorado River. In addition, the area hosts lands of great significance to the region’s indigenous people. Unfortunately, ill-conceived uranium mining, logging of ancient trees, and damaging livestock grazing threaten the Grand Canyon Watershed. Ask President Obama to protect this natural, cultural and archeological treasure by naming it as a national monument. A national monument designation will help preserve sacred indigenous sites and traditional values, give wildlife much needed room to roam, and prevent harmful uranium mining, logging and other destructive practices from destroying this beautiful part of America.
Economic Justice
Protect the Needs of Vulnerable People
House members are demanding spending cuts-equivalent to those mandated in the Sequester-by March 2nd. Supporters of the Pentagon-Industrial complex are lobbying hard so that no cuts are made to the Pentagon. Additionally, many House members are proposing a balanced budget in 10 years – 10 years sooner than demanded in the 2013 House-passed budget, which will require even deeper cuts in social needs programs. Email your Representative, and tell her/him to prioritize and protect the needs of the people in our nation who suffer the most: people who are unemployed, have health needs, have children, and others who are vulnerable in general.
Upcoming Events
Empowerment Network Community Meeting
On Saturday, Feb 9, 2013 at North High School – Viking Center – 4410 N. 36th Street, the community meeting called “Unite & Transform!” will start at 8:45 a.m. First, there will be networking, breakfast, and table displays. At 9:30 a.m. there will be an Empowerment Network Update, and at 10 a.m. there will be presentations and announcements. Please attend if you are interested and able!
Omaha Together One Community (OTOC) Events
1. OTOC training “How to Organize a Successful Action”: Monday Feb. 11 at 7 pm at First United Methodist Church
2. OTOC training “How to develop an Action Agenda”: Monday March 11 at 7 pm at First United Methodist Church

Advocacy Alerts

Thanks to the Creighton Center for Service and Justice for sending out these Advocacy Alerts this week!

Protect the Environment
Support protecting the environment by urging Obama to: clean up dirty power plants and double down on clean energy, say no to dirty fuels like tar sands, safeguard communities from the dangers of fracking, and protect places like the Arctic coast from oil drilling.
Now is the time to take action. As we’ve seen with record droughts, heat waves, temperature records, and devastation from extreme weather events like Hurricane Sandy, the dangers of climate disruption are all too real for millions of families.
Sign the petition calling Obama to follow through on his promise to support preventing climate change!

Fair Food Program
Modern-day slavery in Florida is not separate from the past, rather its roots extend deep into the state’s history of farmworker poverty and powerlessness. But due to the unstinting work of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and its allies from the faith, student, human rights, and sustainable food communities, a comprehensive and verifiable new model of sustainable agriculture has been made. It is called the Fair Food Program. 
Through this program, farmworkers, over ninety percent of Florida tomato growers, and eleven of the nation’s largest corporate buyers have come together to address modern slavery and eliminate the conditions in which it flourishes. Advances in wages and working conditions are rigorously monitored by the Fair Food Standards Council and the result has been nothing short of a sea-change in the industry. Sign the petition to call upon the United States Department of Agriculture to support the highest standards for addressing modern slavery and ending the conditions in which it flourishes.

Arms Trade Treaty
In countries like Mali, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, tens of thousands of kids are being used as child soldiers, fighting and dying in armed conflicts fueled by an irresponsible and unregulated global arms trade. In March, the UN will vote on the Arms Trade Treaty – a treaty designed to keep weapons out of the hands of dictators and armed groups who commit terrible crimes against civilian populations, including children. The Arms Trade Treaty isn’t about taking guns away from law-abiding Americans, rather it is about making sure that no child is ever forced to stand on either side of a weapon, no matter where they live. Call on President Obama to support a bulletproof Arms Trade Treaty.

Upcoming Events

Center for Service and Justice

Bill McKibben Discussion
If you attended the Bill McKibben 350.org presentation this past December and are interested in discussing what you learned, stop by the CCSJ Multi-purpose room tonight at 7pm! Even if you didn’t attend the event, we would love to have you there to hear your input on climate change and other environmental concerns that are very apparent in our society! We hope to see you there!

Center for Service and Justice

Legislative Visit Training
Are you interested in being a part of Ignatian Advocacy Month? Have you ever wondered what it is like to be a part of a legislative visit? If so, join us Tuesday, January 29th from 9-10:30pm in Harper 3023 for legislative visit training. For more information, contact Michelle Villegas at michellevillegas@creighton.edu.

Omaha Together One Community (OTOC)

Overview of Congregation Based Community Organizing
This Saturday from 9-11am at Augustana Lutheran Church (3647 Lafayette Avenue) there will be a workshop about how congregations can work together to improve the quality of life for our families and communities. For more information email omahatogether@otoc.org.

THINK: Ridesharing

This article on FastCoExist’s website tells us that 2013 will be the year of ride sharing. “With a growing population, the pressure to find new ways to reduce traffic, gas consumption, and carbon emissions is only going to intensify. As our planet becomes more urban, our cities need to get smarter. Sharing vehicles is not only going to be a fun and convenient way of traveling in the future, it’s going to become a necessity.”

The article outlines trends in our current milieu that conspire to create the ideal situation in which to move towards collective transportation.

How can we utilize the resources of our time and culture to be more aware and efficient in our use of transportation? How can we use abundant resources that don’t drain our world of its life and vigor in order to cut down on the use of those that do?

Wednesday’s “What’s Up in the World?” [1.23.2013]

Hello Cortinians!

There are a lot of things happening outside of Creighton in our great big world! Here are some of the interesting, thought provoking and exciting things happening around us.

“The Moroccan government has said it plans to change a law that allows rapists to avoid charges if they marry their victims. The move comes nearly a year after 16-year-old girl committed suicide after being forced to marry her alleged rapist. Women’s rights activists on Tuesday welcomed Justice Minister Mustapha Ramid’s announcement, but said it was only a first step in reforming a penal code that does not do enough to stop violence against women in this North African kingdom.”


For all you environmentalists out there, I thought this tidbit about the XL pipeline was interesting. There is obviously growing pressure from congress for Obama to approve the pipeline but will the revised route appease the Nebraskan environmentalists?


Whether you love or hate Cats, apparently this New Zealand economist thinks the furry felines should be eliminated from New Zealand.


-Michelle V

Advocacy Alerts

Thanks to the CCSJ advocacy team for this week’s advocacy alerts!

Sierra Club
Soot Kills
Soot causes respiratory ailments, heart attacks, premature deaths, and a wide range of other serious health problems. Existing safeguards against soot pollution have been shown to be inadequate for communities living in the shadow of coal-fired power plants.
President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency have the opportunity to update the protections. A proposed clean-air safeguard for soot could help millions of Americans breathe better air. In communities across the country, families deserve to know that their air is safe; that’s why a strong, scientific standard for soot pollution is so important. Stand up for life-saving soot protections, and send a message supporting strong soot safeguards now!

Center for Rural Affairs

The Farm Bill
The Farm Bill has officially expired and therefore what happens in the next few months is critical to ensuring that we get a Farm Bill that is beneficial to rural communities. Join the Center for Rural Affairs, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, and over 50 other partnering organizations to demand that Congress passes the right Farm Bill, right now.
There is still time to add your name to this petition! Join in the ask for a bill that invests in the future of healthy farms, food & people, protects our air, soil & water, reforms farm subsidies, and invests in rural economic development.

Nebraska Appleseed

New USDA Poultry Rule
A proposed new USDA poultry rule plans to increase line speed in poultry plants, giving inspectors only 1/3 of a second to inspect each chicken; this would risk your food and workers’ safety. Please take a moment to help stop the USDA poultry rule by doing one or all of the following:
1. Send a short email to your U.S. Senators asking him or her to tell the USDA to stop the new poultry rule.
2. Tweet at the USDA
3. Sign the change.org petition by Phyllis McKelvey, a former poultry inspector who worked in the poultry industry for 44 years.