Links for Learning
Curriculum Connections for High School Teachers and Students
This months Links for Learners will support high school
Scienceconservation; renewable sources of energy
Christian lifestylesfaith and ecology; bishops'
Social scienceworking for economic and social
Understanding Basic Terms in This Months Article
Look for these key words and terms as you read the article. Definitions or
explanations can be researched from the article itself, or from the resource
materials cited throughout the Link for Learners.
Already Care For Our Environment, Don't We?
Yes. We're all accustomed to participating in conservation
efforts at a basic level. We recycle water bottles and aluminum
soda cans. We turn off lights when we leave a room.
And yes, we know about and may even support the work of environmental
activists. We've seen members of Greenpeace
try to stop whale hunting in our oceans. We followed Julia
Butterfly Hill several years ago when she spent 738 days
high up in a redwood tree in northern California to protest
logging industry practices. Maybe our school collects money
to adopt acres of rainforest or protect endangered
species. We've all heard about the conservation efforts
of the Sierra
Aren't we doing our part?
Father Al Fritsch raises the bar on environmental awareness
for us. From his workplace in Appalachia, he challenges us
to think about "renewable energy sources" and "sustainability."
We must put back into our social and ecological community
as much as we take out, so that these communities will be
sustainable for future generations.
of Hope for the Environment
According to the Appalachian
Center for the Economy and the Environment, the Appalachian
environment is being degraded "at an alarming rate."
Central Appalachia makes up the most diverse and productive
temperate forests in the world and is home to the oldest rivers
and streams in the United States, as well as valued coal and
timber resources. The region's history of weak governmental
oversight of extractive and polluting industries contributes
to the degradation of Appalachia.
Appalachia, one of the poorest regions in America, has few
advocates to serve its needs. The region's economy depends
on industries that are being mechanized or leaving the country.
Local politicians have a reputation for close ties to industry.
Much of the land is owned by absentee landowners.
Father Al has been a lifelong protagonist for Appalachia.
In a recent Web
interview, Father Al discussed his ecological research
organization called AppalachiaScience
in the Public Interest (ASPI). "ASPI," he says,
"seeks to make science and technology responsive to the
needs of low-income people in Central Appalachia." His
"scientific credo" preaches sustainability, that
is, self-sufficient, simple living with minimal reliance on
outside fossil fuels and food. Nonrenewable
energy sources, which basically come out of the ground
as liquid, solid or gas, and cannot be replenished over a
short period of time, need to give way to renewable
energy, such as solar, wind and biomass (organic).
Reliance on renewable energy is growing on both a national
and a global level. In the United States wind
power captured with giant turbines, originally a California
phenomena, now supplies electrical power in a number of other
states, including Texas, Minnesota and Iowa.
The Secretaries of Energy for member countries in the European
Union (EU) recently announced their cooperative position on
renewable energy. The EU anticipates that by 2010, 20 percent
of all their power production will come from renewable energy
sources. Germany, for example, has more installed wind capacity
than any country in the world, and Denmark produces 16 percent
of its power from wind.
and Catholic Social Teaching
In advocating the environmental health of Appalachia, Father
Al does not ignore the poverty and powerlessness of its residents.
His belief echoes Catholic social doctrine. In 1995 the bishops
of Appalachia issued a wonderful pastoral letter called "In
the Web of Life". This letter, according to St.
Anthony Messenger magazine, "draws hope from the
life-affirming experiences of Catholics throughout Appalachia
who have begun to build sustainable communities."
The bishops said, "We too do not see the crisis of nature
as separate from the crisis of the poor, but see both as a
single crisis of community. For the land and the poor people
are victims together of the same materialistic consumer society,
which promotes the culture of death. It does this by undermining
all community, by frequently treating people and the rest
of nature as if they were useless waste from the throw-away
"In the Web of Life" documents the history of the
people and ecology of Appalachia. It goes on to promote the
concept of sustainability. We are co-creators with God, called
to use talents and technologies for the good of our land and
A letter 20 years earlier from the same Catholic bishops,
Land is Home to Me," was so moving that missionaries
and clergy from Latin American countries responded. The plight
of Appalachia was the story
of their own people "whose land, resources and energies
have been exhausted with little return or reward for those
left behind with the sludge and erosion."
Citing the gross materialism of the American culture, Father
Al calls for voluntary lifestyle changes on both individual
and organizational levels. Claiming that even churches can
take on the same materialistic values of the prevailing culture,
he asks, "Is this meaningful witness?" To promote
sustainability, ASPI fields a group of consultants through
its Service Resource Auditing Service to conduct environmental
assessments for churches and other organizations. Father Al
urges that church communities have an environmental assessment
of their property, develop a plan for simplification, then
implement the plan.
Your class or discussion group may profit from reading the
bishops' pastoral letter, especially the section on "sustainable
families." We can't always wield significant influence
on large-scale political and ecological issues. We live in
home and school families, however, that can sometimes be "devastated
from the inside in the very soul." Feelings of powerlessness
can lead to various destructive addictions. But, the bishops
tell us, "addictions block a person's creativity."
Rebuilding self-worth requires prayer and forgiveness, and
trust in Jesus' love.
We can learn as teens to be emotionally sustainable. Young
women can work to find their true personal power in family
and public life, and young men to find the spiritual depth
of their inner souls. "If men can grow in inner power,"
said the bishops, "we believe that their outer power
will become more balanced, and find harmony with women's power."
See the 1997 feature article in St. Anthony Messenger
Life and Faith in Appalachia."
See the Automobile Club of Southern California's Westways
magazine article, "The Winds of Change," for a discussion
of wind as a power resource.
Publications are available from AppalachiaScience
in the Public Interest.
Comprehensive maps are available online for the Appalachian
region from East Tennessee State University, and for the
mountain range and Appalachian
environment from Morehead State College.
The United States Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) offers an 88-page "Guide
to Environmental Issues" in PDF format with focus
on citizen participation in resolving environmental concerns.
The business magazine Fast Company publishes an extensive
online list of social-justice
You can find free
clip art to dress up your class projects and presentations
in About.com's environment
Try accessing some of these Internet sources for further general reference.
Be aware, however, that some of these sites may charge for downloading articles
contained within the site’s archives.
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
of Vatican II
The New York Times
The Los Angeles Times
The Washington Post
The Miami Herald
The Associated Press
PathfinderAccess site to a number of online news publications
The History Channel
The Close Up Foundation Washington, D.C.-based
Channel One online resource for the school channel