Faith, Advocacy and Natural Resources

Michelle Melcher Knight, CCAO Advocacy Associate
June 1, 2011

Upcoming Events

June 5, 2011 – World Environment Day

June 6, 2011- Summer Advocacy Internship Begins, Washington, DC – Read their blog

June 17, 2011 – World Day to Combat Desertification

June 18-27, 2011 – Mission Exposure Trip to Peru

June 20, 2011 – Columban Advocates Conference Call (join the Columban Advocates at groups.google.com/group/columbanadvocates)

“Therefore, in every part of the country that you occupy, you must permit the land to be redeemed.” (Leviticus 25:24)

The extraction of natural resources has caused destruction throughout the earth and harm to its inhabitants. At the Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach (CCAO), we initiated a new system for working towards the redemption of the land for the good of God’s creation.

In May of 2010, Fr. Frank Nally, SSC, (now working in London’s justice and peace ministry) visited the CCAO. We invited our colleagues in Washington D.C. to come and listen to Fr. Frank’s presentation on mining in the Philippines. He drew from his experience serving in the Philippines for eight years, where he grew to know the people and their struggles against mining companies destroying the environment throughout the country. The group of social justice advocates attending the presentation concluded that we needed to continue to come together to further explore the extractive industries and the legislation and policies surrounding them. Most of the groups represented have missionaries or members working in communities severely affected by mining and other forms of extraction of resources.

We organized ourselves into the Extractive Industries Working Group (EIWG), and I invited other concerned organizations to join us. The group is affiliated with the interfaith advocacy community and meets monthly at the Columban Center. James Hurley, one of our summer interns, created a list serve for the group to enable better communication with one another.

CCAO Volunteer Columban Fathers Internship

Extractive Industries Working Group

We have produced a growing number of letters and administrative comments. When the United States government is considering new policies or regulations, there is often an opportunity for the public to submit their comments. The EIWG has used this process to comment on the rules that will govern transparency in the industry and on the completion of the Keystone pipeline, a conduit for tar sands oil that will cross the country from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. The oil is retrieved in a particularly dirty manner and contributes to carbon emissions in the extraction process, as well as when it is used for fuel.  Commenting was an effective strategy; the project has been delayed due to the highly negative responses to the pipeline. Comments are once again being solicited. We will re-submit our comments and continue to hope for an end to this polluting and dangerous project.

Concern for the welfare of the Filipinos continues to be a focus. We called for a moratorium on mining in the Philippines by sending a letter to President Aquino, as well as the Filipino Ambassador to the United States. Matthias McCoy-Thompson, a spring intern wrote this letter. We continue to follow the events occurring in Midsalip regarding the mining exploration in a key biodiversity area there and the parishioners’ protest that continues there. The CCAO has written letters on this issue and has received responses from the Filipino government stating that they will work to protect the people.

Our most recent effort involved the Hydro Aysén project in Chile. Fr. Bob Mosher, who served for several decades in Chile, and Cesar Correa, the JPIC coordinator in Chile, keep us informed about this project. It would build five dams in a bio-diverse area in Chile threatening to destroy many species of plants and animals. In addition, the people have not been properly consulted on the project, and massive protests have been held against it. Ryan Murphy, a CVUSA volunteer in our office, produced a letter to the Chilean ambassador protesting the project. The letter was endorsed by a number of organizations in the EIWG. We were able to meet with staff at the Chilean embassy to deliver the letter. They listened carefully to our concerns and will send the letter to Chile. The dams are not set for construction until 2014 leaving us time to continue our efforts to stop the project.

We celebrated our one year anniversary as a working group with the visit of Fr. Frank Nally on May 18, 2011. He brought us up to date on the situation in the Philippines. The extractive industries continue to be a problem for the Philippines, but Fr. Frank, the EIWG, and many other groups across the world continue to work to protect the people and the earth.

Mining and extraction of resources affects many countries served by Columbans. We have witnessed the devastation to the land and the livelihoods of indigenous peoples due to our need and greed for natural resources. We, in the industrial world, who buy and use the majority of the products produced from these resources need to question our consumption habits and consider how we might reduce our use of natural resources in order to restore all of God’s creation both people and planet. As Pope Benedict XVI stated in 2008, “the natural environment is more than raw material to be manipulated at our pleasure; it is a wondrous work of the Creator containing a ‘grammar’ which sets forth ends and criteria for its wise use, not its reckless exploitation.”