The Common Good

Snapshots from the Amazon

Sojomail - March 11, 2004

Quote of the Week The revolution will not be immobilized
Batteries Not Included David Batstone: The shaman, the lumberjack, and the hunter: Snapshots from the Amazon
Politically Connect Sojourners on the election issues
In Memoriam Remembering a veteran of hope: Rosemarie Freeney Harding
Soul Works Henri Nouwen on loneliness vs. solitude
P.O.V. 'Blessed are the greedy': The morality of global trade
Forums Faith and ecology
Under the Wire Haiti roundup: Stories you may have missed
Web Sitings Military families speak up
Boomerang Readers write

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"If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution."

- Emma Goldman

The shaman, the lumberjack, and the hunter: Snapshots from the Amazon
by David Batstone

Sojourners Jobs
David BatstoneDateline: Summer 2003. Challenge (...if we would accept it): A trip up the Amazon basin in Peru. Traveling companions: Four students from the University of San Francisco. Our mission: Find out how to save the Amazon from progressive destruction.

The Amazon makes up 53% of the Earth's tropical rain forests and contains the world's largest river systems - it pours 175,000 cubic meters of water per second into the Atlantic Ocean.

The Amazon remains relatively intact, having lost only 20% of its original forests. That fact may sound reassuring; after all, many critical ecosystems around the globe already have lost more than 70% of their native environment. The Amazon's apparent stability can be misleading due to its vast size; it loses more than 17,000 square kilometers to deforestation each year.

Three Peruvians, each of whom rely on the natural wealth of the rain forest for their livelihood, became our teachers.

A local shaman introduced us to its biological treasure. The Amazon is home to more than 40,000 plant species, with nearly three-fourths of those species found nowhere else on the globe. With machete in hand, the shaman carved a virgin path through the rain forest. We followed him as best as we could, though we were unable to master his adroit skill at jumping over tree roots while vines swung at our heads. Fortunately, the shaman would stop periodically, hold up a plant, and carefully explain its medicinal properties. Two of us were stung by a nasty wasp. We were hoping the shaman would have a remedy to take away the pain. Instead, he congratulated us on getting stung, for it would help mitigate the future contraction of arthritis!

Most peasants harvest timber as part of their income; the cumulative effect is significant. We cringed as one "lumberjack" showed us the environmental impact of logging on his parcel of rain forest. He explained that the timber sales enable him to buy clothes and send his children to school. Any environmental movement seeking to conserve the rain forest has to come up with an alternative for this lumberjack, along with the hundreds of thousands of peasants just like him. Before coming to Peru, I assumed that corporate logging interests represented the single largest threat to the rain forest. I was wrong. The massive migration of peasant farmers who stake their claim in the rain forest is even more problematic.

For most of our stay, we camped on the property of a hunter who participates in an animal conservation program. The hunter merely aims to provide meat a couple of times a week for his family. Yet along with other hunters in the region, he has learned that conservation today ensures game for tomorrow. The community monitors how many, say, tapir have been killed during the course of a month, and voluntarily stops hunting tapir once a cap is reached. How encouraging that these hunters show the capacity to connect their survival to the vibrancy of the rain forest.

Take home: The wisdom and courage of the shaman, the lumberjack, and the hunter will be demanded of all of us - north and south of the equator - to save the Amazon.

David Batstone, a founding editor of Business 2.0 magazine, is executive editor of Sojourners.

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Sojourners on the election issues

We've assembled our best coverage of the issues ranked highest on national polls of voter concerns, including:

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  • National security/Terrorism/War with Iraq
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Go to our special election issues page at:

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Remembering a veteran of hope: Rosemarie Freeney Harding
by Rose Marie Berger

Rosemarie Freeny Harding
Rosemarie Freeney Harding, 73, died last week in Denver, Colorado, following complications from diabetes. Rosemarie was a former teacher and social worker in Chicago, a civil rights worker in Atlanta, Georgia, historian, counselor, and co-founder of The Veterans of Hope Project at Iliff School of Theology. With her husband, Dr. Vincent Harding, Rosemarie worked for more than 40 years in many of the major movements for democracy, justice, and reconciliation in the United States and around the world.

A few years ago I had the honor of interviewing Rosemarie. When I asked her where her life began she said, "It all started with my slave great-great-grandmother who they say was brought over as a young child from the West coast of Africa. We called her 'Mama Rye.' She lived to be over 100. In an article she wrote for a newspaper down in South Georgia, she said that while she was in slavery she prayed that all of her children's children's children's children would be blessed. Oh my, yes. I think we have been reaping those blessings."

Read more at:

Read Rose Marie Berger's full biography of Rosemarie Freeny Harding and her husband, Vincent:

Read "Radical Hospitality," Rosemarie Freeney Harding's most recent contribution to Sojourners magazine:


Where Wisdom Calls: Crossroads & Open Gates
Proverbs 8:1-6, 35
You are invited to the 30th-anniversary conference of the Evangelical and Ecumenical Women's Caucus
Music: Linda Allen * Carolyn McDade
Speakers: Phyllis Trible * Rosemary Radford Ruether * Virginia Ramey Mollenkott * Nancy Hardesty * Barbara Essex
Interfaith panel: Dvora Weisberg and Riffat Hassan and dramatic presentation Bold Spirit across America by Linda Lawrence Hunt

co-sponsored by the Women's Studies in Religion Program
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Inclusive Christian feminists since 1974

Henri Nouwen on loneliness vs. solitude

"To live a spiritual life we must first find the courage to enter into the desert of our loneliness and to change it by gentle and persistent efforts into a garden of solitude. This requires not only courage but a strong faith. As hard as it is to believe that the dry desolate desert can yield endless varieties of flowers, it is equally hard to imagine that our loneliness is hiding unknown beauty. The movement from loneliness to solitude, however, is the beginning of any spiritual life because it is the movement from the restless senses to the restful spirit, from the outward-reaching cravings to the inward-reaching search, from the fearful clinging to the fearless play."

- Henri J.M. Nouwen, in Reaching Out


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If you would like to "Be the Change" contact us through:

P.O.V. ^top
'Blessed are the greedy': The morality of global trade
by Ira Rifkin

John Edwards may be out of the running for the Democratic presidential nomination, but the issue he brought to the fore remains in the race. Thanks to his prodding, offshore outsourcing - the transferring to Asia, Latin America, and elsewhere of jobs that Americans once naively presumed were theirs in perpetuity - has become a major presidential campaign issue. It's about time.

It's about time because jobs are the barometer most voters use to track their economic straits, regardless of what Wall Street or the White House tells them about the nation's economic recovery. It's also about time because talking about offshore outsourcing could help Americans finally appreciate that globalization involves more than joyfully munching Chilean raspberries on a snowy winter's day while earning big bucks teleconferencing from your cozy bedroom with business associates in Tokyo.

Senator Edwards was correct when he called U.S. trade policy "a moral issue." What needs to be further stated is that globalization, the force generating the outsourcing wave, is itself a moral issue; that the economic and cultural changes implicit in globalization are by no means values-less.

Read more at:


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Faith and ecology

Consider the Turtles of the Field
by Brian McLaren
The hallowed concept of private ownership is being confronted by the biblical concept of stewardship. Can there be some alternative to the extremes that either deny or enshrine private ownership?
Discuss online at:

A Vote for the Earth
by Jim Rice
When it comes to taking care of the environment, when it comes to public policies that affect the health of the planet, there is a difference between the two parties.
Discuss online at:

Westminster Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), bordering the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, seeks Associate Pastor. Our 700+ member congregation is intellectually vibrant, progressive, and concerned with social justice. This position includes leading our longstanding university ministry, as well as guiding our mission and outreach efforts. We seek an individual who can help strengthen our understanding of Christian faith in light of contemporary ideas, foster spiritual development, and inspire us to put our faith into action. Charlottesville is located in the foothills of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains and offers good schools and extensive cultural activities. Competitive salary and benefits. See or CIF# 22646.AC0. Contact: Chris Milner at

Haiti roundup: Stories you may have missed

U.S.-backed "council of sages" picks South Florida talk-show host as new Haitian prime minister

Haiti's modest human rights gains imperiled

An extensive interview with ousted president Jean-Bertrand Aristide

The pitfalls of unilateral nation-building

The U.S.'s intimate relations with one of Haiti's most brutal figures

Military families speak up

Two sites that present letters, articles, and photos that support the people but not the war:


by Charles Dickinson

If Christianity - without losing its soul - is yet to avoid losing touch with the world, it must constantly update itself by dialogue with all the intellectual currents of today. To this end, the author proposes a necessary two-way dialectic between theology and the world, an ongoing dialectic ultimately essential to both church and world. $25 hardcover. To order call (313) 624-9784. Dove Booksellers, 13904 Michigan Avenue, Dearborn, Michigan, 48126.

Readers write

Mark Schonbeck writes from Floyd, Virginia:

I want to thank Jim Wallis for elaborating in greater depth on the whole issue of "Values and the 2004 Election" [SojoMail 3/4/2004]. Although I myself am agnostic, I have a deep respect for those Christians who have taken to heart Jesus' messages of peace and feeding the hungry, and exemplify them in their lives. This is why I appreciate receiving Sojourners' e-mail newsletters.


Laura H. Norton writes from Bremerton, Washington:

I do not disagree with Rev. Wallis that poverty is a crushing problem largely ignored by those involved with professional politics. Clearly, poverty is neither figuratively nor literally as "sexy" as the topic of equal marriage rights (a.k.a. "gay marriage"). Does the Christian commitment to care for the widow, the orphan, and the stranger not extend to civil rights for all, however? My world is not so small that I cannot embrace the very real harm that is done to people by denying them their civil and human rights, no matter if that harm takes the form of lack of access to food, to good work, or to social dignity. The Rev. Wallis' dismissive attitude to the very real harm done to gay and lesbian people by the denial of equal protection under the law belies the fact that such discrimination is actually a contributory factor to our nation's poverty statistics. Just as other disfavored minorities are overrepresented in the rolls of the poor, so too are gays and lesbians. Lack of equal access to justice is always the twin of poverty.


Herman Sutter writes from Houston, Texas:

Mr. Wallis raises the question "Which issue is more important: fighting poverty or gay marriage?" But he seems to have forgotten that humans are not just bodies in need of food. We have souls that are in need of salvation as well. As Fr. Rolheiser pointed out in his book The Holy Longing, people need not only public morality (i.e., feeding the hungry) but also private morality (i.e., chastity, honesty, etc.). Clearly the people opposing the "gay marriage" agenda are also fighting a war against hunger and poverty. They are fighting against what they must see as a poverty of the spirit, and a hunger for the truth. Are they right? I don't know.

Please, Mr. Wallis, don't dismiss the concerns of those who maybe mistakenly are putting the things of the spirit above the things of this earth. If you think they are mistaken, help them, pray for them, but also try to understand them. If you know how, please teach us all how to properly weigh the hunger of a starving child against the hunger of a starving soul.


Carolyn Presley writes from Elburn, Illinois:

Brenda Howell's "hope" ["Hoping for God's ecosystem," SojoMail, 3/4/2004] is mine as well. I pray that the Christian body awakens to the same hope and concern for all of creation. I would like to add the notion that we also consider the restoration of the body equally important. After all, the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), is it not? And what of Paul's request of the Roman Christians? "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will." (Romans 12:1-2)


Daniel Webster writes from Nottingham, England:

In contrast to Hans Barsun's comment [Boomerang, 4/3/04] on being alone standing against Bush cheerleading, I realise that here in England I tempt scorn whenever voicing any pro-Republican sentiments in any context, but especially in church. While accepting that there are desperate needs to be addressed from both sides of the political spectrum, I recall that it was Lyndon Johnson, before his entanglement with Vietnam, that did the most to promote societal reform. Military spending should not be at the expense of caring for the poor and needy at home, yet while the (post) war fiasco in Iraq endures, it is only our duty as Western nations to do all we can to promote stability in the region. I believe that taking the situation as it stands now requires us to remain involved and encourage wider involvement from the international community to bring about a lasting peace.


Boomerang is an open forum for all kinds of views that do not necessarily represent those of Sojourners. Want to make your voice heard? Include your name, hometown, and state/province/country in a concise e-mail to: . We reserve the right to edit for length and clarity.

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