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Issue Date:  June 16, 2006

Making connections

Hurricane Katrina staged for an international audience the tragic confluence of natural disaster and structural injustice. It may have been fleeting, but for a time Katrina radically altered the popular discussion on race, poverty and the environment in America and beyond. Fury over a dramatic failure of human agency leaped from talk of global warming to talk of race and poverty.

Ecology literally means “the study of the relationships and interactions between living organisms and their natural or developed environment.” In this second ecology special section, we take up that study and bring to it issues not often included in popular discussion of the environment.

Rich Heffern interviews Robert Bullard, a pioneer of what is called the environmental justice movement, a loose nationwide network of community activists making the connection between environmental concerns and fundamental human rights. ( See story)

We also take a close look at Bullard’s new book, The Quest for Environmental Justice, and consider the book in the light of Katrina ( See story).

In these pages, we consider the rural as well as the urban. Writing in 1991, John Paul II lamented: “The individual today is often suffocated between two poles represented by the state and the marketplace. At times it seems as though he exists only as a producer and consumer of goods, or as an object of state administration.”

Paul Winner profiles the Catholic Rural Life Conference’s long history of advocating for the small farms of rural America and beyond as something more than mere “producers.” ( See story)

Finally, there is a striking photo essay featuring one of the most fought-for American environmental treasures, the Chesapeake Bay. ( See story)

“At the root of the destruction of the natural environment lies an anthropological error, which unfortunately is widespread in our day,” John Paul II wrote in 1991, offering a commentary with relevance for the environmental debate in post-Katrina America. “Too little effort is made to safeguard the moral conditions for an authentic ‘human ecology.’ ”

-- Jeff Severns Guntzel

National Catholic Reporter, June 16, 2006

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