Issues Vol. 169‎ > ‎

Vol. 169 No. 16 • APR 21 - 27, 2018

01 Cover

posted Apr 19, 2018, 9:36 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Apr 19, 2018, 11:53 PM ]

03 Index

posted Apr 19, 2018, 9:35 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Apr 19, 2018, 9:35 AM ]

04 Official

posted Apr 19, 2018, 9:31 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Apr 19, 2018, 11:54 PM ]

05 Engagements

posted Apr 19, 2018, 9:31 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Apr 19, 2018, 9:31 AM ]

07 Editorial - Plastic Pollution

posted Apr 19, 2018, 9:26 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Apr 19, 2018, 11:56 PM ]

Every year, about 300 billion pounds of plastic is produced in the world, and not even five per cent of it is recycled. So where does the remaining 95 per cent go? Well, most of it finds a safe haven in landfills, and the remaining is thrown in the oceans. It's a known fact that plastic takes almost 100 years to decompose, but when it's thrown in the water, the action of the sun, water and temperature breaks it into small pieces, which helps the spreading of plastic even more.

This is very strange but true; in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, a circular pattern of water currents have accumulated enormous amounts of floating garbage. This huge amount is often referred as the 'Eastern Pacific Garbage Patch'. It was discovered by Captain Charles Moore in the early 1990s, and it is still growing.

Some of the environmental problems caused by plastic are due to the fact that they are extensively used, because they are easy and cheap to make, and they can last a long time. Unfortunately, these same useful qualities can make plastic a huge pollution problem. Because plastic is cheap, it gets discarded easily and can do great harm to the environment. When plastic is burnt, the harmful fumes enter into the atmosphere, and have direct effects on any one who breathes it. And we cannot eliminate plastic by burning it.

Most of the solid waste, like paper, plastic containers, bottles, cans, and even used cars and electronic goods are not bio-degradable, which means they do not get broken down through inorganic or organic processes. Thus, when they integrate in the soil, the soil loses its fertility. Urbanisation has added to plastic pollution, especially in cities. Plastic thrown on land can enter drainage lines and choke them, resulting in floods, especially in cities, as experienced in Mumbai many times in the past.

It has come to light through statistics available that it has been one of the growing causes that have endangered the life of children. Thin plastic bags, especially dry cleaning bags, have the potential for causing suffocation. About 25 children in the United States suffocate each year due to plastic bags, most under the age of one. This has led to voluntary warning labels on some bags which may pose a hazard to small children.

Many of the major chemicals used in large volumes to produce plastics are highly toxic. Some chemicals are known to cause cancer in humans; many tend to be gases and liquid hydrocarbons, which readily vaporise and pollute the air. Many are flammable and explosive. Even the plastic resins themselves are flammable and have contributed to numerous chemical accidents. The production of plastic emits substantial amounts of toxic chemicals in air and water; this is pernicious both to public health and colossal damage to our ecosystems.

Even livestock is endangered by the growing menace of plastic garbage. It was claimed in one of the programmes on a TV channel that eating plastic bags results in the death of 100 cattle per day in Uttar Pradesh in India. In the stomach of one dead cow, as much as 35 kg of plastic was found, because plastic does not decompose/digest, and requires high energy ultra-violet light to break down.

The amount of plastic waste in our oceans is steadily increasing. More than 90% of the articles found on the beaches are made up of plastic. The plastic rubbish found on beaches near urban areas tend to originate from packaging materials. About 100,000 animals such as dolphins, turtles, whales, penguins are killed every year due to plastic bags.

Many animals ingest plastic bags, mistaking them for food, and therefore die. And worse, the ingested plastic bag remains intact, even after the death and decomposition of the animal. Thus, it lies around where another victim may ingest it, resulting in plastic pollution causing environmental devastation both on sea and landscapes.

Compiled by Fr Felix Rebello from online sources

08 Fill the Earth…with Plastic? - Shawna Nemesia

posted Apr 19, 2018, 9:24 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Apr 19, 2018, 9:24 AM ]

Plastic is a trending topic these days. Combating plastic pollution is the 2018 theme for not only Earth Day (April 22), but World Environment Day (June 5) and World Ocean Day (June 8) as well. Its controversial ban in Maharashtra has precipitated much inconvenience and distress. The ban is receiving a lot of flak for causing economic and job losses, forcing us to revert to a 1950s lifestyle – don’t tell me I have to start taking dabbas to the kiranawala now; and compelling us to substitute with paper – paper which comes from depleting forests, and whose production is more polluting than plastic. So let’s examine the plastic conundrum.

Mainly sourced from crude oil, its production process is relatively straightforward. Plastic’s wonderful properties - cheap, convenient, lightweight and waterproof - sparked a host of uses and applications. Food could be packaged and its spoilage prevented. Tyres, automobile parts, pipes, tiles, containers, syringes, cutlery, toys, stationery items are all made out of plastic. Most items we can think of will have some amount of plastic in them. We use plastic because there isn’t a more suitable option. In doing so, we’re making a beeline for the wide gate of destruction.

The total amount of plastic ever produced - a colossal 8.3 billion metric tons - weighs more than 1 billion elephants put together. Plastic, especially single-use plastic, is indiscriminately used. The Earth is groaning under the weight of 6.3 billion tons of plastic waste. Conventional plastic does not biodegrade, and recycling it isn’t financially feasible. Globally, only 9% of all the plastic waste ever produced has been recycled. Burning plastic to get rid of it releases carcinogens. The vast majority of plastic waste persists in the environment; it’s now everywhere on earth. It steadily accumulates in landfills. Unsightly heaps of plastic waste on land will remain unsightly heaps of plastic waste, even 200 years later. A sinister situation occurs when plastic enters the water, obstructing the natural flow of water bodies - who can forget the deluge of July 2005 in Mumbai? - and ultimately ending up in the sea. Here, plastic ensnares marine life, trapping and torturing them, until they slowly starve to death.


09 The Asian Church’s response to the challenge of Climate Change - Janina Gomes

posted Apr 19, 2018, 9:21 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Apr 19, 2018, 9:21 AM ]

Though many right-wing leaders choose not to recognise the grave threat posed to humanity and civilisations by Climate Change, and like ostriches with their heads buried in sand, choose to ignore the grave dangers it poses to the earth on which we live, the churches and religious leaders have been generally more receptive to the warnings of scientists about the dangers of not cutting down carbon emissions, that have sweeping effects on the ozone level of the atmosphere, accelerating pollution and consequent Nature upheavals propelled by Climate Change.

In response, Pope Francis wrote his beautiful encyclical Laudato Si' in which he has outlined our duty to nurture the earth and its resources and care for God's Creation. Worldwide, the churches have taken up the challenge, and in Asia, the Catholic Church has opened a special Climate Change Desk to create awareness and to take up all the issues connected with Climate Change.

Bishop Allwyn D'Silva, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Bombay, who is Secretary of the Office of Human Development and the Climate Change Desk in Asia says: "We in Asia are becoming increasingly aware and concerned regarding the ecological problem and its ethical implications. Local churches are collaborating with civil society to care for the integrity of Creation. The local concern against polluting the atmosphere, irresponsible mining and logging, destructive fishing, indiscriminate use of pesticides, dumping of e-waste, etc. now extends to the macro-issue of global warming and Climate Change, as well as to the need for intergenerational justice. This awareness, concern and action taken so far to meet this ecological challenge is being brought down to the grassroots level."

"In this context, we realise that rapid industrialisation of the economy, based on a materialistic model of capitalistic growth, as well as the development of industrial agriculture have left their emission-related mark on our climate. The growth model and the resulting lifestyle of the high and middle-income sectors of our society in Asia have exacerbated this crisis."

The impact of Climate Change is being acutely felt in Asia, and responding to this grave situation, the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC) organised two seminars in Bangkok in 2011 and 2013. These seminars served to promote awareness and scientific understanding of Climate Change, as well as its ethical, moral and religious dimensions. The outcome of these seminars was the formation of a Climate Change Desk (CCD) and a Climate Change Committee to focus and follow up on this crucial issue at the Asian level. From December 4, 2016, Bishop Allwyn D'Silva was appointed Secretary of the Office of Human Development (OHD), FABC, which now includes the Climate Change Desk (CCD).


11 Don Bosco Green Alliance - Karen Laurie

posted Apr 19, 2018, 9:18 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Apr 19, 2018, 9:19 AM ]

At a time when headlines of major news organisations focus on air pollution, the Great Pacific garbage patch, the Pacific trash vortex and the collapsing glaciers, there comes news of hope, and the Salesians of Don Bosco are leading the way in fostering this hope by adding a touch of green to a global picture being sullied by shades of grey.

An initiative by Salesian India - the Don Bosco Green Alliance - is leading the way to teach a generation of young people from Don Bosco institutions and organisations throughout the world, to use our God-given natural resources in a responsible manner, in a bid to foster hope for future generations.

The Alliance powered its global web portal on April 1, 2018, in a bid to streamline its effort to push the green agenda and to garner more support for its eco-friendly initiatives, not just in India, but on foreign shores.

The user-friendly web presence paints a pretty picture of our planet. Users will now have access to a wealth of 'green' information at the click of a button. Pictures of youth, the main stakeholders in the Alliance, are clearly apparent on the website, pointing to, and underlining in no uncertain terms, the urgent need to work together for a brighter and a cleaner future.

"Young people take up the challenge," reads the first-deck header that welcomes web-users. Below is text that encapsulates the mission: "We are working to create an environment that is safe and caring for all life on the planet while building up a new generation of environmentally committed citizens and leaders."

For those seeking more information, the 'Who are we' tab leads you to a picture of Fr Angel Fernandez Artime, the Rector Major walking amongst thousands of youth. The text below sums up the main priority of the Alliance.


12 Beti Bachao…for whom? - Fr. Nelson Lobo

posted Apr 19, 2018, 9:16 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Apr 19, 2018, 9:17 AM ]

(Has anything changed after Nirbhaya?)

First it was Nirbhaya; now it is Asifa; the two sensational rape cases in India. The mainstream Media and the social media have given enough coverage to these two cases. Unfortunately, all the rape victims (the number could be in millions) in India do not get such coverage, and therefore neither moral support nor justice is meted out to them. When people come on the streets during such times, sympathy towards the victim and her family and hate towards the rapist is generated. Such strong social protest sometimes forces the police to jump into action and start working on the case. If the police neglect their duty or the politicians interfere, the NGOs or the family of the victim are then forced to demand justice for the victim and punishment for the perpetrator(s). But the question is: can justice really be done? A lifetime in jail or the death sentence for the rapist, and monetary compensation even if it is in lakhs (for the victim) - can it be called justice? Hammurabi's Code of "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" is a poor replacement for justice. However, some justice is better than nothing. It will at least reduce future crimes. Worldly justice does not take into account the lifelong trauma and the fear of the victim.

The Choked Tears

Nirbhaya and Asifa received international attention and moral support (Justice is a question mark). In both the cases, people demanded death penalty for the rapists. What about the 'silent' rapes that are taking places in their very homes, on their first dates after their engagements? Out of shame and social stigma, girls and women do not report such cases. They too have "#Me-Too" stories, but no unbiased platform to share. I myself have heard stories about girls being sexually abused by their fathers or uncles or cousins, and wives being raped by their husbands or the friends of the husband. Who will give justice to these silent choked tears? 93 rape cases everyday in India. 95% of the time, the offender is known to the victim. The very people who are supposed to be protectors turn out to be monsters. The fear of the female is often not outside on the dark street, but under the very roof of their houses. If you are caught, you are a rapist. And that too, someone has to prove in the court that you are a rapist. If your crimes go unnoticed, you are a saint. That's the way of the world. That's the limitation of our legal system. How many men are innocent lambs outside their door, but ferocious wolves waiting to devour inside it.

Religion and Common Sense


14  Set my people free - Fr. Myron Pereira sj

posted Apr 19, 2018, 9:15 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Apr 19, 2018, 9:15 AM ]

Jeanne Devos, ICM is a religious sister who has spent her adult life serving women most in need in India. She founded the National Domestic Workers Movement to organise one of the most powerless segments of society - houseworkers - and to publicly advocate their cause.

Born in Belgium in 1935, Jeanne entered the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (better known as ICM Sisters) in 1958. In 1963, she was sent to India.

A 1978 survey on the conditions of domestic servants in India revealed the harsh conditions these women endured all across the country. As a result, in 1980, Sr Jeanne began to organise small groups of domestic workers and to work with them in whatever way she could. These women usually came from the poorest segments of society and worked in conditions close to slavery.

In 1985, she founded the National Domestic Workers Movement, based in Mumbai. It organises women and girls and takes up their cases for public redress. NDWM now operates in 18 States of the country and works in 28 different languages.

The world has not been slow to notice Jeanne's contribution to the empowerment of poor women:

In 2009, she was awarded the Grand Cross of the Order of the Crown by King Albert II of Belgium.

In November 2017, she was specially felicitated in Mumbai by King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of Belgium on their state visit to India.

Sr Jeanne, now 82, lives in Belgium. But she still has links with the NDWM Team for the rights of domestic workers, and against the trafficking of women and children for forced labour (often domestic work).

Fr Myron Pereira, sj interviewed Sr Jeanne Devos for JIVAN (published February 2018):

When you look back at your life, how do you feel?

I really enjoy looking back at my life. I experience a sense of gratitude, as well as a sense of wonder. Why wonder, you ask? I wonder at the pattern of my life, how it grew from one thing into another. A bit like what Dag Hammarskjold wrote, "The threads are already there, the shuttle is in our hands, and as we let it pass through, the pattern becomes clearer to us." That is what I experienced. All my life I've been searching for a way, looking for models and patterns. The wonderful thing is that the "way" comes to us. When I was a teenager, reading the writings of Gandhi and Tagore opened a window in my soul, and I made my first contact with the mysterious land which is India. I've often asked myself, "Is this what Jesus meant when He said, 'I am the Way'?" He puts us on the right path which leads to Him in ways we would never imagine.


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