The Pope has lashed out at world hunger and commodity markets which drive up the price of food for those in need. This excerpt is taken from The Compass,
"My thoughts turn toward the situation of millions of children, who are the first victims of this tragedy, condemned to an early death or to a delay in their physical or psychic development, or forced into forms of exploitation just to receive minimal nutrition," he said.
The pope said the cause of such hunger cannot be found only in technical developments such as production cycles or commodity prices.
"Poverty, underdevelopment and, therefore, hunger are often the result of selfish behaviors that, born in the human heart, manifest themselves in social life, economic exchange, in market conditions and in the lack of access to food," the pope said.
"How can we be silent about the fact that even food has become the object of speculation or is tied to the course of a financial market that, lacking definite rules and poor in moral principles, appears anchored to the sole objective of profit?" he said.
The pope said the United Nations' own studies show that global food production is able to feed the world's population -- which makes the situations of hunger all the more unjust.
The international community often limits its food assistance to emergency situations, he said. Instead, he told the experts, it needs to address the problem with long-term strategies that consider the human dimension of development and not just economic benefits.
This is a problem which needs to come to an end now, but what are the “long-term strategies “which will best ensure food security for the long-term? The Pope suggested that
In responding to the crisis, international agencies should rediscover the value of the family farm, promoting the movement of young people back into rural areas, the pope said July 1 in an address to participants in an annual conference on hunger organized by the Rome-based U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.
My colleague Chris Thompson, Dean of St. Paul Seminary, has been touting for a while now a “Green Thomism.” He notes that the family farm in the US has dropped from 4 million to 2 million in the last 50 years. He also points out that, remarkably, not one of the 244 Catholic Universities in the US has a focused professional formation in agriculture or rural life. Thompson said,
"We really need a generation of thoughtful men and women, well-informed in Catholic social thought, entering into conversations on food production, food security, human dignity, rural life -- all these things that have been on the margins of the typical Catholic university experience.”
The article on the Pope ended with this note:
The pope said food security also requires protective measures against "frenetic exploitation of natural resources." This is especially true because the race to consumption and waste seems to ignore the threat to the genetic patrimony and biological diversity, which are so important to agricultural activity, he said.
He said the Bible's injunction to "cultivate and care for the earth" is opposed to exclusive appropriation of such natural resources.
Many of us will not be returning to the family farm, if there still is one, or retiring to rural life, but we must do something to bring to mind the need to care for and cultivate creation and to make certain that food, which is plentiful enough, is getting to all the people who need it.
My neighbor Andy is attempting to create awareness on the ground, literally, by producing as much of his own food as he is able in the city; check out his blog, AutonomyAcres. I have recently tried to bring the biblical notion of stewardship and Jesus’ teachings on food, poverty and agriculture into my New Testament class in more concrete ways. Here are my first forays into creating awareness and involvement in these issues at the classroom level:
5. The service learning option of the class can be chosen in part or in full. The two parts are
a) Work at "Feed My Starving Children" (10%); and
b) Environment and Agriculture (20%).
If you do part a) that would substitute for one of your graded papers; if you do part b) that would substitute for two of your graded papers. If you do both parts of this option, you would have no Review Exercises handed in for grading, although you would still complete the Review Exercises for participation.
A) If you would like to do part a) you would go to Feed My Starving Children, at a time set up for the class, and then write a short reflection on how this activity puts into action Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 25:31-46 or Luke 12:13-21 (you could choose another passage of Jesus’ teaching if you wish, but clear that with me first) regarding wealth, resources and caring for others.
B) If you would like to do part b) you would have to work at the community Food Shelf Garden in West St. Paul on at least two occasions, weeding the garden, pruning, picking plants, etc., whatever was necessary for the garden at that time. You would write two reflections on your activities there: 1) how does gardening help you understand Jesus’ agricultural parables (see Mark 4 and Matthew 13) more fully? You can concentrate on one or two parables if you want; you do not have to do them all; 2) does caring for the environment and the food we grow itself constitute the fulfillment of Jesus’ command to “love one’s neighbor”? Explain how it does or does not.
I would be interested to know whether readers think these academic exercises are worthwhile for creating awareness and involvement in problems and questions related to agriculture, food and poverty, and whether you could suggest modifications, or even entirely new or different exercises. These would be helpful not only for me and my students, but potentially other professors, students and, simply, all of us who want to respond to these needs which the Pope recently addressed.
And have a Happy Fourth of July!
John W. Martens
Follow me on Twitter @johnwmartens