Environment and Ecology

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Cambridge to Build Europe’s First Eco-Mosque

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Cambridge to Build Europe’s First Eco-Mosque

Architect Marks Barfield is to design a £13 million “eco” mosque on a 0.4 hectare brownfield site in Cambridge.


England’s historic city of Cambridge, with its world-famous university and idyllic countryside, will soon count a mosque amidst its stunning skyline of spires. But this isn’t just any old mosque. In fact it is the first-purpose built mosque in the city which also happens to be environmentally-friendly!

After years of dealing with overcrowding at various small sites across the city, the growing Muslim community decided that it was time to take action. By the summer of 2008, a strip of land and an old warehouse has been purchased and plans for the new mosque were underway. However rather than simply building a mosque as quickly as possible, it was decided from the very start that the mosque would follow environmental sustainability principles.

Europe’s first Eco-Mosque

“Islamic civilization has been based on the rejection of waste as an under-estimation of God’s blessing and so in the construction of the new mosque here in Cambridge, we were very much in the forefront of the local environmental movement in that we are using the latest heat pumps, conservation technology and green roofs so that we’ll have an almost zero carbon footprint,” commented Chairman of the Trust, Tim Winter who is also known as Abdul Hakim Murad.



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Damanhur Eco-SocietyThe Damanhurians consider the planet a living being to be respected and protected. This principle translates into great attention to the environmental impact when developing all the settlements of the Federation.


Damanhur has always invested many resources in the acquisition and rehabilitation of woodland areas, previously exploited only for fire-wood, where the under-wood had been destroyed, forcing the animals out, to find a new habitat. In order to return the woods to their original state of health, the citizens of the Federation, in collaboration with experts from the University of Turin, started, years ago, an important program of tree surgery and tidying up.

Damanhur Eco-SocietyThe achievement of self-sufficiency in energy is one of the most important objectives for Damanhur.

Today, the Federation is self-sufficient in 70% of water supplies for bathrooms, thanks to solar panel installations; 35% of electricity supplies from photo-voltaic installations and small hydro-electric turbines; 90% of supplies for heating with wood, obtained from looking after the woods. In addition, 35% of Damanhurians use bio-diesel cars (there is a supply pump on the territory of the Federation) and 40% have cars that run on methane or liquid gas.

The new settlements of the Federation are growing with careful planning for the environmental and energy aspects:

for example, the so-named ‘Buche’ project, i.e. the extension of the Temples of Humankind, foresees an installation of top of it of 4,000 square metres of photo-voltaic panels, equal to a production of 500 kW.

MbM and EdilArca, two businesses started within the communities, construct, throughout the whole of Canavese area, avant-garde houses, designed to make the best use of water, energy and heating resources. The systems of the houses already in existence, on the other hand, are gradually reconverted through the installation of solar and photo-voltaic panels and systems to collect the rain water.

Damanhur Eco-SocietyThe Village Council of Vidracco, supported by the Damanhurian administration of ‘Con te, per il Paese’, is looking into the rehabilitation of an abandoned cave, to transform it into a photo-voltaic energy centre.

‘Aval’ and ‘Fattoria’, two Damanhurian nucleos have been given the ‘Green Home’ award by FEE Italy. FEE is an international foundation, with its base in Denmark that gives awards to constructions where the quality of life is based upon low environmental impact and attention to consumption; it is the same organisation that has recognised the activities of the Damanhur Education Association as an Eco-School.

Organic farming and self-sufficiency in food is a priority objective for Damanhur: presently, around 50% of food needs are covered. The Federation has pigs and cattle and fish farms; it produces vegetables, fruit, milk, cheese, oil, cereals and bakery products, wine and honey. In 1998, it opened ‘Tentaty’ in Valchiusella, the first co-operative to distribute organic products. All the food on sale is checked by the analysis laboratory in Damanhur, so as to be sure that it does not contain GMOs.


Non-Formal Education for Sustainable Development in Turkey

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Hideki Maruyama

The United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD) began in 2005. What does this term mean? What is new about ESD, and in what respects is it broader than "Education for All" and the Millennium Development Goals? The author first reviews the framework of ESD and then describes a case study of sustainability in Turkey, relating to help with recovery from an earthquake. Hideki Marayuam is a researcher at the Department for International Research and Cooperation of the National Institute for Educational Policy Research (NIER) of Japan.

Non-Formal Education for Sustainable Development in Turkey

UN Statistics: Horray, we are not poor

UN Statistics: Hooray, we are not poor
Source: WELT-SICHTEN 2/3-2008, p. 54

The United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development started in 2005. EFA could be more important for many countries because it shows clear numerical targets, but Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is more ambiguous because "sustainable development is a term that everyone likes, but nobody is sure of what it means." (Daly, 1996) When development is generally mentioned, we tend to think of economic development and human development. Sustainability is often used as the term for how to make international cooperation activities continue when external funds stop. But ESD covers wider topics and contains the complex but integrated relationships among economic, ecological, social and political systems - more than education only - needed to keep economic develop ment sustainable or to nurture the sense of nature conservation. In addition to the new view and scope of ESD, the contents should be considered because necessary knowledge and skills are different across cultures. Islamic societies, for instance, may not "depend" on the global framework.


Habitat for Humanity Turkey

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Habitat for Humanity Logo

Habitat for Humanity Turkey 

Habitat for Humanity Turkey

Country profile
Although we work in nearly 100 countries worldwide, we do not have, at the moment, any active programme in this country.

Housing need

In Turkey, housing is a complex social issue. Thirty years ago, three quarters of the population lived in the countryside and a minority lived in major cities. Now, the situation is reverse. Most villagers who migrated to the cities looking for work could not afford decent housing so they built temporary shelters in the outskirts. These shelters soon became neighborhoods of shacks, with no piped water or electricity. Poverty and crime became main characteristics of these growing urban slums.

Into this environment of substandard housing, which ignored earthquake hazards, came the tragedies of August 1999 tremors and aftershocks. Cheaply built, illegal housing lies at the heart of that earthquake disaster. It explains why so many houses crumbled like packs of cards. Much of the housing in poorer urban areas was substandard. It was constructed from mud brick and was unable to withstand the impact of a strong tremor.


Resource-Based Economy

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The Venus Project

The term and meaning of a Resource-Based Economy was originated by Jacque Fresco. It is a system in which all goods and services are available without the use of money, credits, barter or any other system of debt or servitude. All resources become the common heritage of all of the inhabitants, not just a select few. The premise upon which this system is based is that the Earth is abundant with plentiful resource; our practice of rationing resources through monetary methods is irrelevant and counter productive to our survival.

Modern society has access to highly advanced technology and can make available food, clothing, housing and medical care; update our educational system; and develop a limitless supply of renewable, non-contaminating energy. By supplying an efficiently designed economy, everyone can enjoy a very high standard of living with all of the amenities of a high technological society.

A resource-based economy would utilize existing resources from the land and sea, physical equipment, industrial plants, etc. to enhance the lives of the total population. In an economy based on resources rather than money, we could easily produce all of the necessities of life and provide a high standard of living for all.


Physalia, A Huge Amphibious Garden Cleaning Waters Across Europe

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Throughout the world, our rivers and our drinking water is horribly polluted by industry, by waste both chemical and human.  Vincent Callebaut Architects have envisioned a floating monument to green conscious urban living– one that not only traverses the rivers of our cities, but cleans their water in the process.  The Physalia Amphibious Floating Garden uses a bio-filtration system to clean our rivers much like a typical aquarium filter, but in this case the filter itself is the garden on its surface.  The Physalia is covered in four gardens, exterior and interior, that provide foliage and awareness to its visitors, while taking in water from the river below and filtering it before it returns.  Sure, we may never see on of these beyond the rendering stage, but we appreciate the vision of Vincent Callebaut.  [vincent callebaut architects via freshome]

physalia 6 RRojm 5638 Physalia, A Huge Amphibious Garden Cleaning Waters Across Europe

From Vincent Callebaut Architects, this impressive project is meant to navigate through the rivers in Europe in order to clean water and make it drinkable. Its name comes from “Physalia physalis”, meaning “water bubble”. It is a project whose idea came from a major global issue which is the fact that one billion people nowadays don’t have access to drinking water. The giant bubble will actually be a floating garden, completely independent in terms of energy. It is said that the prototype will even make more energy than that consumed. Solar cells and a double pneumatic membrane will form the roof of the construction and similar technologies will be used in order to reach its energy goal.  Inside there will be four amazing gardens called “Water”, “Earth”, “Fire” and “Air”.  The giant Eco gadget, once built, will be present on the waters of Seine, Thames, Volga, Danube, Escaut. We do not know when this incredible looking structure will be let lose, however we are looking forward to it. -via

physalia 9 fpt9o 5638 Physalia, A Huge Amphibious Garden Cleaning Waters Across Europe

physalia 8 4XqXm 5638 Physalia, A Huge Amphibious Garden Cleaning Waters Across Europe

physalia 5 FGovD 5638 Physalia, A Huge Amphibious Garden Cleaning Waters Across Europe


Biodiversity Beyond 2010: Missed Targets, New Opportunities

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Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management

Date: 2-4 November 2010

Venue: Royal Marine Hotel, Dun Laoghaire, Republic of Ireland


In the International Year of Biodiversity what do we have to celebrate?  What has been achieved? What targets have been met? What still needs to be done? What tools are available to improve biodiversity conservation in the future?

Heads of State and Government undertook in 2001 to halt the decline of biodiversity in the EU by 2010 and to restore habitats and natural systems. In 2002, they also joined some 130 world leaders in agreeing to significantly reduce the rate of biodiversity loss globally by 2010. 

In May 2006, the European Commission adopted a communication on "Halting Biodiversity Loss by 2010 – and Beyond: Sustaining ecosystem services for human well-being". The Communication underlined the importance of biodiversity protection as a pre-requisite for sustainable development, as well as setting out a detailed EU Biodiversity Action Plan to achieve this.


Green Roof Design: 10 Stunning, Sustainable Works of Architecture

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Green Roof Design | While the practice of building green roofs is centuries old, it has experienced a renaissance as the structural philosophy of the future.  A living green roof reduces the costs of heating and cooling, encourages the local wildlife and naturally filters the rain water it receives.  Here, we celebrate the work of some of today’s most talented, most progressive architects, who have adopted green roof design techniques to yield beautiful, sustainable works of architecture.

Villa Bio by Enric Ruiz-Geli

The green roof design of Villa Bio stands out amongst a community of cookie-cutter, Mediterranean-style homes in Llers, Spain.  While it was first met with controversy, the completed Villa Bio reflects the nature of the local landscape much more intimately than its neighbors.  That nature does not end at the corner of its plot, but continues on to the home’s hydroponic garden that snakes along its green roof.  Architect Enric Ruiz-Geli has masterfully designed a home with a seamless connection with the Mediterranean environment, an organically-inspired structure with a lush, productive green roof.

Villa Bio Green Roof Gallery

Mill Valley Residence by McGlashan Architecture

This terraced, multi-family home in Mill Valley, California is as hilly and green as the environment around it.  The Mill Valley Residence by McGlashan Architecture includes three sections, each with its own green roof, built into the hill of the lot.  The green roof design of the Mill Valley Residence may not produce vegetation of the garden variety, but plants that hail from the home’s local flora.  The result is a stunning home with a green roof that reduces heating and cooling costs and stimulates the habitat of local Mill Valley wildlife.

Mill Valley Residence Gallery

Mountain Dwellings by BIG Architects

The Mountain Dwellings by BIG Architects features a green roof design on a grand scale.  The Mountain Dwellings comprise 80 single-family units, each with its own private “back yard”, a green roof over the unit below.  Due to the sloping nature of the structure, each green roof deck is out of view of the unit below and above it, with privacy fences separating the units side-by-side.  The Mountain Dwellings of Copenhagen provide city living and the back yard feel of suburban life, thanks to a brilliant green design by BIG Architects. [we first featured the Mountain Dwellings in our feature on Housing Design, one you should definitely check out]

Mountain Dwellings Green Roof Design Gallery

Nanyang School of Art

The Nanyang Technological University of Singapore recently erected a green roof building to house their School of Art, Design and Media.  The five story structure features two curved sections with stretches of green roof fully accessible to students.  In the Nanyang School of Art, the line between landscape and building are blurred.  Beyond the aesthetic value of this green roof design, this living skin saves heating and cooling costs and collects rainwater for landscape irrigation.

Nanyang School of Art Gallery

Paraty House by Marcio Kogan Architects

It is no coincidence that one of TheCoolist’s favorite works of architecture features a green roof as its crown.  The Paraty House by Marcio Kogan Architects is a sprawling tropical retreat, fully immersed in the vibrant nature of island life.  Once its occupants arrive by boat, taking frequent trips back for groceries isn’t on the menu.  Instead, its inhabitants tend to a large, well-stocked vegetable garden over its top floor.  This green roof provides the herbs and veggies needed to compliment the freshly caught seafood just steps away from Paraty House’s magnificent deck.

Paraty House Gallery

Green Technology Showroom by Vector Architects

The benefits of green roof design and other green technologies are not always apparent.  To help communicate their values to the public, the Green Technology Showroom by Vector Architects is an example in eco success.  The Green Technology Showroom in Beijing, China is blanketed in thick, climate-controlling grasses attached to an inner steel skeleton.  It now stands in a residential development, a temporary symbol of sustainable design.

Green Technology Showroom Gallery

California Academy of Sciences by Renzo Piano

The California Academy of Sciences by Renzo Piano is a stunning achievement in green roof design.  Such structures are no stranger to Italian architect Renzo Piano, who designed a long time favorite of TheCoolist, the Vulcano Buono in Nola, Italy.  The CAS building in San Francisco, California features a 2.5 acre green roof that is blanketed by local plants, acting as a habitat for bay area wildlife.  Within, the CAS features a planetarium, an aquarium and a man-made rain forest, all three of which rest right under the dome sections of this amazing green roof.

California Academy of Sciences Green Roof Gallery

OS House by NOLASTER Architects

The harsh coastal winds of Santander, Spain can make enjoying this rocky shore quite difficult.  Where most houses in this stretch focus back inland, the OS House by NOLASTER Architects is centered around the water below.  It is built in a low-profile fashion that merges with the plot’s topography, as well as continuing the foliage around it with a full-size green roof.  Unlike many others on this list, the green roof design of OS House is habitable, a soft, grassy bed on which to enjoy the coastal nature of Spain’s north shore.

OS House Gallery

Historial de la Vendée by PLAN01

When it comes to blending in with the landscape, few buildings are a greater success than Historial de la Vendée by PLAN01 Architects.  PLAN01 has created a geometric, softly-pitched structure lined with a lush green roof.  From a distance, this green roof looks nearly indistinguishable from the land around it, just a collection of hills in a field in France.  A closer inspection reveals a truly stunning building, one of the most visually natural green roof designs today.

Historial de la Vendée Green Roof Gallery

OUTrial House by KWK Promes

The plot for this amazing green roof home called for a rather specific characteristic– a field clearing within a forest.  The OUTrial House by KWK Promes appears to have been excavated right out of the rolling Polish countryside, then covered over with the very grass it broke to be constructed.  The smooth curves and shaggy grass roof give this home a dreamy appeal, as if it were inspired only by childhood wonder and imagination.

OUTrial House Gallery

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Thanks for reading, and feel free to share your thoughts on green roofs, sustainable architecture and progressive design principles in the comments below.  In the mean time, be sure to check out these other great architecture-related features here on TheCoolist.

To learn more about Green Roof Design, here are a few resources we feel are very worth exploring:

  • Green Roof Information [wikipedia]
  • ArchDaily’s coverage of green roofs in architecture [archdaily]
  • The green roof resources of the environmental protection agency [EPA]
  • The GreenRoofs.com portal for related information [greenroofs.com]

Source: http://www.thecoolist.com/green-roof-design-10-stunning-sustainable-works-of-architecture/


Can We Use Biomimicry To Design Cities? Janine Benyus Says Yes

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Using Biomimicry To Design Cities

Janine BenyusYesterday in a sunny corner of London, a select group of UK journalists, myself included, were treated to an enrapturing few hours in the company of biomimicry guru Janine Benyus. The group was brought together by sustainable business pioneers InterfaceFLOR, whose long standing working relationship with Benyus enabled them to arrange this exclusive press lunch at raw food restaurant Saf. It was appropriate that Janine spoke to us in the centre of the bustling metropolis as her latest work in the field of biomimicry is focused on using the discipline to inform the design and function of cities.

Biologist at the Design Table
Janine Benyus describes her job as being the "biologist at the design table", a career that she says didn't really exist 10-12 years ago. Since the publication of her book,
Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature in 1997, Benyus and her colleagues at the Biomimicry Guild have worked with some of the world's most successful companies including Walmart, Nike and Interface, helping them ask nature for inspiration on how to create more sustainable products and systems.

"After my book came out we expected environmentalists and conservationists to get in touch, but in fact it was big business who called. They wanted a biologist to come and talk about how life works. People woke up to the fact that there is a sustainable world in nature that we hadn't been using as a model"

Biomimicry InstituteThe City as an Ecosystem
When I asked Janine yesterday what she was currently most excited about, after all these years of working in biomimicry, her unequivocal answer was cities. The
Biomimicry Guild has teamed up with HOK, one of the largest architectural developers in the world, to work on city masterplans inspired by nature. "A company like HOK has a massive impact on huge areas of land, due to the scale and breadth of their work. So the question we asked was how can you have a city perform like an ecosystem?"

Ecological Performance Standards
Benyus and her team have been developing the concept of designing cities to an 'ecological performance standard', looking at the original topography of the locale and working out the metrics of how the natural environment should perform. "How many millimetres of soil, how many tons of carbon, how much water stored, how much air purified? It is not enough to have green roofs and walls, we need to ask how a building will store carbon. We need cities to perform like ecosystems, not just look like them."


Gaia University

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About Gaia University

Gaia UniversityWidescale human learning and unlearning are the keys to making the transition from our current eco-destructive culture to a fresh, designed culture that is eco-constructive and socially just.

Those of us who are willing need to choose to make this transition now.

Some people (we calculate hundreds of thousands) have already started on this endless journey and this worldwide web of pioneers holds a vast repertoire of useful experiences for future learners.

Our observation is that transition pathways of this significance are deepest, most effective and most enjoyable when traveled in the company of others, and that trail guides, who have made a part of their own journey already, can perform a valuable mentoring service.

Our belief is that this learning process deserves to be supported and enhanced through the provision of a 'liberating structure' that acknowledges the effort and commitment people make when walking these pathways. Gaia University is one such structure.

Using self-directed action learning as our prime learning/un-learning strategy we put students (Associates) in charge of their own transitions, free to follow routes which open up before them, guided by their tutors and mentors, whilst earning credits for Bachelors and Masters Degrees, Certificates and Diplomas.

We notice the vital signs of an awakening of transitional energy amongst the world's peoples and so, we have launched Gaia University to provide the support we can to these bold world changers and future generations of Earth caretakers.

Gaia University Gaia University Gaia University

Gaia University is a new organization within the large family of organizations worldwide concerned with the emergence of an ecologically and socially regenerative mainstream culture.

It is created with several, network-wide functions in mind, some of which are described briefly below.

Beneficial connections:

Gaia University has the facility to connect across organizations using the allied vectors of teaching and learning. Thus organizations may retain their autonomous agendas whilst linking cooperatively to provide a learning ecology suited to their purposes.



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Globio Logo

What is GLOBIO?

GLOBIO is a modelling framework to calculate the impact of five environmental drivers on land biodiversity for past, present and future. 

forestry clear-cut
Land use, here forestry, is one of the environmental drivers impacting biodiversity.

GLOBIO is based on cause-effect relationships, derived from the literature. To use GLOBIO no detailed species data are needed. Instead, the model uses spatial information on environmental drivers as input. This input is mainly derived from the Integrated Model to Assess the Global Environment (IMAGE).

The current version of GLOBIO, GLOBIO3, focuses on the terrestrial part of the globe. A module for the freshwater aquatic environment is under development (GLOBIO-aquatic). The Sea Around Us Project of the University of British Colombia (UBC) has developed a similar model for marine ecosystems: EcoOcean.

The information under this menu item refers to the current version of the model: GLOBIO3.


The Medea Hypothesis: Is Life on Earth Ultimately Self-Destructive?

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Peter WardThe Medea Hypothesis:
Is Life on Earth Ultimately Self-Destructive?
Peter Ward

In The Medea Hypothesis, renowned paleontologist Peter Ward proposes a revolutionary and provocative vision of life's relationship with the Earth's biosphere--one that has frightening implications for our future, yet also offers hope. Using the latest discoveries from the geological record, he argues that life might be its own worst enemy. This stands in stark contrast to James Lovelock's Gaia hypothesis--the idea that life sustains habitable conditions on Earth. In answer to Gaia, which draws on the idea of the "good mother" who nurtures life, Ward invokes Medea, the mythical mother who killed her own children. Could life by its very nature threaten its own existence?

The Medea Hypothesis: Is Life on Earth Ultimately Self-Destructive?According to the Medea hypothesis, it does. Ward demonstrates that all but one of the mass extinctions that have struck Earth were caused by life itself. He looks at our planet's history in a new way, revealing an Earth that is witnessing an alarming decline of diversity and biomass--a decline brought on by life's own "biocidal" tendencies. And the Medea hypothesis applies not just to our planet--its dire prognosis extends to all potential life in the universe. Yet life on Earth doesn't have to be lethal. Ward shows why, but warns that our time is running out.

Breathtaking in scope, The Medea Hypothesis is certain to arouse fierce debate and radically transform our worldview. It serves as an urgent challenge to all of us to think in new ways if we hope to save ourselves from ourselves.

Peter Ward's many books include the highly acclaimed Rare Earth: Why Complex Life Is Uncommon in the Universe and Under a Green Sky (Collins). He is professor of biology and Earth and space sciences at the University of Washington, and an astrobiologist with NASA.


"Ward holds the Gaia Hypothesis, and the thinking behind it, responsible for encouraging a set of fairy-tale assumptions about the earth, and he'd like his new book, due out this spring, to help puncture them. He hopes not only to shake the philosophical underpinnings of environmentalism, but to reshape our understanding of our relationship with nature, and of life's ultimate sustainability on this planet and beyond."--Drake Bennett, Boston Globe


Christian Theology and Gaia

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Hildegard von Bingen receiving illuminations from heaven... The godless do not know how to act, or how to renounce. They have neither purity nor truth. They do not understand the right principles ... They say that the universe is an accident with no purpose and no God ... that life is created by sexual union, a product of lust and nothing else. Thinking thus, these degraded souls, these enemies of mankind - whose intelligence is negligible and whose deeds are monstrous - come into the world only to destroy. -- Bhagavad Gita

It is important today that theologians and others should begin to look at the Bible afresh, and to reassess its message about humanity and our relationship with the planet. A fresh reading of biblical texts about the created world order, its conservation and restoration, and some reflections on the cultural context in which these themes occur, not only in the Bible but also in other religious texts from neighbouring cultures, can tell us much about Christianity's real ecological ethic ... When the Bible's teaching on God's Creation and our place in it is duly digested, I believe that it cries out to us: 'you are fellow-creatures of everything else in the Cosmos. You have no right to exploit or destroy, but you have duties to all, under God to whom you are responsible.' -- Father Robert Murray

Many people today are calling for modern religion, and specifically Christianity, to be re-imbedded in the cosmos, so that religion might become a real force in providing the ethical and spiritual energy for the critical task of reversing the degradation of the Earth. -- Vincent Rossi


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