news round-up

Very little commentary to add here… just thought I would drop some links and let the reader peek over my shoulder and see what I’ve been reading. So here’s the news round-up… ecology edition.

How America Uses Its Land

Maps, maps… Stunning maps!

The Insect Apocalypse is Here

Don’t know what to say other than… depressing. I touched on this in October. Regardless, we cannot shy away from what science reveals and what morality compels.

I’ll post a related photo here, from my garage last weekend (box cutter & 2-by-4 for scale), and see if you can guess what’s going on:

Reading the Landscape – a poem by Steve Glass, restoration ecologist

Beautiful, painful, poignant. Give this one some space.

Sparing vs Sharing: The Great Debate Over How to Protect Nature

Following the theme of the previous links… this is a big and complicated question.

Musk. Echolocation. Venom. Spread The News About Shrews!

Ok, just a little commentary on that last one… I did some reading in my favorite mammal guidebook. Shrews are more closely related to moles than either mice or voles. We have 6 species in Indiana, and 3 in Northern Indiana where we are: the Masked Shrew, the Northern Short-Tailed Shrew, and the Least Shrew. I’ve caught a few in my mousetraps in my backyard shed (not sure which species). They appear to be pretty abundant.

Did you also know… we have flying squirrels in Northern Indiana, and armadillos in Southern Indiana? Crazy.

Integral Ecology comes to TCAD

“We are faced not with two separate crises: one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental. Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature” -Pope Francis (Laudato Si’, para. 139).

A team from TCAD had been invited this summer to visit the Maryknoll Sisters in California. A network called Pando Populus invited several religious communities together to dream up ways they could build an ecological civilization, one that takes seriously Pope Francis’ call for an “ecological conversion” in Laudato Si’ (para. 216).

Earlier this month, co-workers gathered to listen to a new vision for The Center at Donaldson (TCAD).

What is integral ecology? Jessica Ludescher Imanak summarizes it well:

Pope Francis reframes sustainability in terms of the concept of integral ecology. Sustainability in Laudato Si’ encompassess development and resource use, but it also expands to includes integral human development as well. The framework of integral ecology invites us to ‘integrate’ various dimensions ‘into a broader vision of reality’ (LS 138). Integral ecology includes multiple ecologies: environmental, economic, social, cultural, and daily life (human ecology). It also incorporates the Catholic Social Teaching (CST) principle of the common good and a notion of intergenerational justice.

We’ll be coming back again to the emphasis via training, reflections, and ministry practices.

It’s fun to plumb the depths of what integral ecology means, and what the focus can offer the world… but it’s also easy to let it get too complicated. What are some ways we can live into this focus?

I invited Sr. Joetta Huelsmann, PHJC, to share what the vision means to the PHJC community. She writes:

All Thing Are Connected

In Pope Francis’ introduction to Laudato Si, he states:  “St. Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us.”

We at the Center of Donaldson take those words seriously as we work toward a common vision to care for the earth and the people of the earth. In doing so, generations after us then will have an earth to enjoy.

Our goal is to work together to heal the earth and to educate others to do the same so that we can transform the future.

We are already practicing Integral Ecology as we work together for social and environmental change by:

-Using environmentally friendly cleaning products


-Installing solar panels

-Assisting the poor and marginalized

-Establishing green houses to eat healthier and locally grown foods

These are only a few examples. But, still so much more needs to be done to be kind to our planet and to those who live on it. So, we have made a commitment to collaborate with others so that all will have the resources that they need to live an integrated life on this earth. Are we up to this challenge? What first step can you take to continue to care for our earth and the people that inhabit it?

… … …

I’ll end this with a picture of a beautiful little girl staring out over a frozen Lake Galbraith (because I can!), contemplating the breadth of the 21st century, this blue-green world turning and spinning through the solar system…

a walk in the north woods

The other week I made a field visit with my Ancilla College intern, Trace, who has been in the Earn to Learn program. The students have been helpful to our various ministries, in addition to simply being a pleasure to be around.

You might remember me talking about the north woods in a post last winter in which I stumbled upon an invincible mosquito.

We hopped in the UTV, rode north, then set off on foot along a ditch.

The visit to the north woods was a good chance to demonstrate how we “read the landscape.” What’s different this time? Is a tree down? New tracks in the snow? How is the corn yielding and why? What are those purple splotches on the ground? Each visit is an opportunity to solve one mystery and discover open several more.

A hint of purple… pokeweed’s palette drip onto the snow.


There was a gathering of some sorts, and some scratching through the snow to get at the soil.

As we continued, we came across some obvious wild turkey tracks. Marshall County (at least the western half) has great habitat for this versatile omnivore… a healthy mixture of fields, pastures, forests, and water. We rank among the top counties in the state for wild turkey harvests during hunting season.

The Indiana DNR says of the wild turkey:

Insects provide high energy food for fast-growing poult, but the backbone of turkey’s diet consists of wild fruits, acorns, green leaves, seeds, and domestic grains. Those of our eastern woodland feed on sumac, wild grapes, dogwood berries, beechnuts, acorns, greenbrier, roots and tubers. Water is taken freely and grit consumed to grind harder foods…

A combination of uncontrolled hunting and nearly absolute destruction of timber completely wiped out turkeys in Indiana and other Midwestern states. As late as 1945, it appeared that they might be a vanishing species in the United States. As marginal farmland returned to timber and conservation practices were applied to our plundered land, the state was set for turkey revival.

Well-regulated hunting has helped ensure that populations remain healthy and viable into the future.

We continued along the drainage to the main woods and zig-zagged around, looking for tracks, examining the trees, looking for anything out of place.

I was sure to take a moment and allow us both to just sit in the silence a bit. It’s what a woods is for, most of all.

The long winter’s nap.

This summer, we were visited by a university professor who was scoping out our land for a potential Bioblitz in 2019. A Bioblitz is “an intense period of biological surveying in an attempt to record all the living species within a designated area. Groups of scientists, naturalists and volunteers conduct an intensive field study over a continuous time period (e.g., usually 24 hours). There is a public component to many BioBlitzes, with the goal of getting the public interested in biodiversity” (Wiki).

No promises yet… but we are hopeful this will work out. This prof was totally geeking out about the woods we had, as well as the wetlands, pastures, and prairie across our the breadth of the property. My mind started spinning about all the connections we could make with the public… and all the species lists I’d have! We have never really completed a full inventory of all the biota here… it would be an amazing experience.

As Trace and I headed back toward the heart of campus, we saw a trio of Sandhill Cranes pass overhead. That was a mated pair with a young who was raised on our property. We followed them to the pasture where they were foraging. They are in the center of the photo below… their dirty gray color makes for good camouflage.

I’ll close with one of my favorite poems, “The Peace of Wild Things” by Wendell Berry (collected in this volume with other poems). I recommend it be experienced as read by the author (click here), and given the proper space and attention to meditate on… but otherwise, here’s the text:

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.