Minutes of Meeting

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November 14, 1993

Alumni Hall Room 101

University of Dayton

Topic: Religion and Ecology

Speakers: Shirley Flacks and Don Geiger

Hosts: Koenigsbergs & Austers

PRESENT: Dieter and Suzie Walk, Cochairs; Judith Auster, P. T. Bapu, Bert Buby, Shirley Flacks, Eric Friedland, Don Geiger, Phil Hoelle, Jack Kelley, Eleanor Koenigsberg, Harry Koenigsberg, Eileen Moorman, Kenneth Rosenzweig, Adam Zengel, Bootie Zengel.

The meeting was called to order at about 8 PM by Dieter Walk. Harry delivered a devotional which involved the definition of prayer. Dieter followed up with a prayer for the health of the Duckwall family which is coping with multiple illnesses.

The speaker for the Dec. 12 Chanukah-Christmas Party will be Mike DiCuirci. Mike is a professor at Cedarville College and a Pastor and Music Minister at his church, Clear Creek Chapel. He has been involved with Cedarville College's recent efforts to build bridges to the Jewish community. The January meeting at Alumni Hall will not have a formal speaker; instead each Dialogue members will be encouraged to share with the group that prayer/song which has special religious meaning to them.

Jack Kelley informed the Dialogue about a Cleveland Jewish-Catholic Colloquium in which he participated in October. The topics of the program included The Land of Israel/The Holy Land: Christian and Jewish Perspectives and Passion Plays. In connection with this program, Jack referred the Dialogue members to two important publications: a booklet by Anthony Kenny titled Catholics, Jews and the State of Israel, published by Paulist Press in 1993 and a classic book by Rabbi Joseph Kronskopf titled A Rabbi's Impressions of the Oberammergau Passion Play, published in 1901 by Edward Stern & Co.

Shirley Flacks began her presentation by telling about a rabbi who had an audience with the Pope. The rabbi told the Pope the story he had heard of a priest in Poland who had refused to Baptize a Jewish child whose parents had died in the Holocaust and who had been adopted by a Catholic family. The Pope admitted that he was that priest.

Shirley stated that the Jewish calendar year corresponding to 1994 has been pronounced as an ecological year by the government of Israel. It corresponds to the traditional Jewish Schmietah year which occurs every seven years. During this year, agricultural fields must lie fallow so that they can regenerate. This involves essentially an extension of the concept of the Sabbath as a day of rest to the whole community, including nature. During the ecological year, Israel is pursuing such important research projects as the development of water softening equipment which does not use salt which subsequently pollutes the soil. In her presentation, Shirley cited numerous Biblical references which support the ideas of the ecology movement. These included: Genesis, Psalms 25 and 115, Ezekial, Psalms 23 and 24, the prophets: Jeremiah and Isiah, and the Book of Job. Shirley referred to the 10 modern plagues, including water pollution, pesticides, air pollution, toxic chemicals that produce cancer, acid rain, global warming, ozone depletion, and loss of biological diversity. She also referred to the radical agrarian policy incorporated in the Biblical Jubilee Year in which all purchased land returns to its original owner. Shirley mentioned the holiday of TuBishvat, the New Year of Trees. This is normally celebrated with a Seder meal, invented by the Kabbalists, which celebrates the presence of God in the material world.

Bert introduced the second speaker, Bro. Don Geiger of the Department of Biology at the University of Dayton. Don and Bert were classmates. Don is an expert in the sugar beet and has been instrumental in developing the doctoral program in biology at UD. He has also been involved in developing the Marianist Environmental Education Center (MEEC) at Mt. St. Johns (Bergamo).

Don guided the group through his presentation with a set of slides. He stated that the presentation was oriented around two principal ideas: the concept of spaceship Earth and the contrast between love of and exploitation of the earth. With quotations from Adlai Stevenson and Fred Hoyle, Don explained the concept of Earth as a spaceship. Earth is a self contained, self-balancing system which runs by itself with the exception of energy input from the sun. If man upsets the balance of nature, there is no external force which can restore it. Don enriched his presentation with a number of quotations from such authors as Jurgen Moltmann, Ismar Schorsch, Brian Swimme, and Thomas Berry.

Don pointed out that in the history of the Earth, man has been around only for a short time. Yet there has been an enormous and accelerating increase in human population which is affecting greatly the operation of ecosystems. Don emphasized that life is not individual; it is an ecosystem involving complex interrelationships among numerous organisms. The life of mankind is extremely dependent on a multitude of organisms. It is interesting to note that only the presence of life on earth keeps the temperature of Earth in a livable range. If life did not exist on Earth, its temperature would be 300 degrees Celsius. Also, the beauty of earth comes from its life; otherwise it would be just a rock.

In the question period, Dieter asked Don about ecological systems man has destroyed. In response, Don referred to the need for green spaces in our cities to help preserve complex ecosystems. He also mentioned the Southern corn blight which nearly destroyed parts of our agriculture because the gene pool had become too narrow. Jack asked Don to explain the role of the Tsetse fly in the ecosystem. Don reemphasized his main point that it is essential to maintain biological diversity. Ken asked about Earth's human population capacity. Don replied that we will know Earth is at capacity when ecosystems begin to close down. Jack asked whether the Catholic Church should reconsider its policies on abortion and contraception in view of the danger of population increase. Don replied that there may be better methods of population control such as delaying childbearing which occurs as countries become more economically developed. However, Don advocated dealing with the negative ecological effects of consumerism as well as population control. Don thinks that we should explore developing a hydrogen fuel economy. Hydrogen can be produced from water using solar energy. When hydrogen is burned, it produces only clean water as a byproduct. Don also advocated developing a system of charging for polluting. He stated that currently there is little economic incentive for developing new non-polluting technologies. Adam asked about the cost of non-polluting technology. Eric asked Don what three things he would do if he were appointed as an environmental official by the new mayor of New York City. Don stated two things he would do: develop more green spaces such as Central Park and tackle the economics of pollution. Shirley asked about the problem of deer encroachment on urban areas. Don replied that since the natural predators of deer have been eliminated (wolves), it may be necessary for humans to take action to control the deer population; this might include hunting. Eric asked Don how a religious man should understand the prophecy in Isiah that the lion will lay down with the lamb. Don replied that killing for food should not be condemned, but killing without need is evil.

Phil asked Don to discuss the Marianist Environmental Education Center (MEEC) at Mt. St. Johns (Bergamo). Don explained that this was an attempt to restore some of the traditional ecology of the area. For example, there is a section of restored prairie. The public is welcome to visit the area and can pick up a map for a walking tour at Roncali Center. A great opportunity to visit the MEEC will be at the April 10, 1994 Dialogue Retreat which will be at Bergamo.

The meeting adjourned at 9:40 PM.

Respectfully submitted,

Kenneth Rosenzweig

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