Welcome to the Lent 4.5 Weekly Reflection
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Choosing Water for Life
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. … And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. Genesis 1: 1-3, 6-7
How do you brush your teeth using only a quarter cup of water? For many of us born into households with running tap water, it seems impossible. However, to millions of people in the world a quarter cup might seem extravagant.
More and more, people are relating the role of sacred water in their faith tradition to the need for clean and secure water in the world.
Most of us live with water abundance. It is available every day for washing, cooking, cleaning, drinking, and for entertainment. Looking closely, we can see that it is intrinsic to all the food we eat, and essential for producing all material goods.
Our tradition teaches us that in the beginning God hovered above the waters. God separated them, then created creatures and humans and blessed it all. We relive this story of creation and abundant life this Lent as we journey along with catechumens who are preparing for their baptism – a rebirth that comes by dying to their old selves and taking on new life commitment. At Easter they will be washed in the waters of God’s blessing, and will become newly marked as members of the Body of Christ.
Concern for the waters of creation, like caring for all life, is our responsibility as members of the Body of Christ.
In November of 2002 the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights adopted General Comment No. 15 which declares that the “human right to water is indispensable for leading a life in human dignity. It is a prerequisite for the realization of other human rights.” Everyone has the right “sufficient, safe, acceptable and physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic uses.” The U.N. designated 2005-2015 the International Decade for Action: Water for Life.
Nearly a billion people – one in seven — do not have access to clean water, making them much more susceptible to disease of all kinds. Coupled with inadequate sanitation, unclean water is the second largest killer of children in the world. When traveling in a country that suffers from water insecurity – because of inability to purify water, drought, political or economic instability — it becomes clear that clean water is a true gift.
March 22nd is the U.N.’s World Water Day. This year’s theme, like this week’s Lenten topic, reminds that there is an intrinsic link between water availability and food security, and to consider what we might do to make a difference.
How do we care for God’s precious gift of water? The first step is to learn about the issues.
Think about our food. 50 gallons of water is necessary to produce a pound of wheat. Growing a pound of soybeans requires 250 gallons. The “growing” of a pound of beef, however, takes 2500 gallons of water – enough to take a really great shower every day for two and a half weeks!
Food and water availability are closely linked.
Think for a moment also about what we like to drink. America loves carbonated drinks, but do we understand how their production affects us? A well-documented example of destructive corporate practice was a major cola company’s plant in Plachimada, India. In order to meet production standards, the company began the unlawful pumping of 1.5 million liters of water a day from the aquifer that villagers relied on for crop irrigation and drinking water. In addition, the company produced waste that so polluted the fields, underground wells and canals, that residents had to walk for miles to get clean water. In 2004 the Plachimadans successfully reclaimed their land and water, forcing the company to close the plant. And while the corporation notes on its website that they have significantly lowered their water footprint in the production of their products (now it takes 2.43 liters of water to create one liter of their cola), they continue to over-tax aquifers in other locations. And this is certainly not an issue for just one corporation-or even just for companies to consider.
We can look at our own “water footprint” and explore our personal choices.
In addition to raising our awareness, and making thoughtful food and drink choices, let us take another personal step in watching our own water use. Have a drink and give thanks. Wash with it and thank God. Water your plants with gratitude. And look up as the sun shines through the falling rain – and see God’s covenant with us visible in the rainbow stretched across the sky. Let us choose that covenant with God and care for the gift of water.
THIS WEEK’S PRACTICE
Carry a reusable water bottle
Ours is a lovely blue planet because of abundant water. This Lent carry yours in a refillable bottle and learn how this simple step can make a difference.
We rarely think about what lies under our feet below ground. The natural formation that stores groundwater is called an aquifer. The Ogallala Aquifer, one of the largest in the world, lies under much of the central United States. It feeds wells and springs and is pumped to irrigate crops and support animal farming in the bread basket of the country. It is estimated that if the waters of the Ogallala Aquifer were pulled to the surface of the U.S, all fifty states would be covered by a foot and a half of water, and that if it is drained, it would take 6,000 years to refill naturally.
The bottled water industry has expanded exponentially in the past decade. Much of the water that is bottled is taken from aquifers across the country and often from other nations. The levels of existing springs, lakes, streams and wetlands are affected by such extraction, thereby harming the regional environment. There is no universal policy for protecting our national water sources in light of water extraction.
Sometimes it takes a cost analysis to move us to action. We might think more carefully about car trips when gasoline costs $4.00 a gallon. Look at an interesting comparison: bottled water costs about $10 a gallon while municipal water rings up at about $2 per 1000 gallons. Bottled water costs about 2000 times more than tap water.
If one third of all U.S. bottled water is merely filtered tap – and two of the major bottling company brands fall into this category- then why not filter our own tap water? The bottled water market is built on the fallacy that the only pure water comes in a plastic bottle. Even “natural spring” water often has higher levels of impurities than are allowed in public drinking water.
Let us also look at the bottle. Most plastic water bottles are made from polyethylene terephthalate or PET, which is made from crude oil. It is estimated that the oil and energy used in making the plastic water bottles used annually in the U.S. could actually fuel a million cars in that same time. Yet we buy more than a billion bottles a week – enough to circle the globe five times!
And then there is the disposal issue we are trying to cope with it. Schools, sports arenas, and entire cities are trying to deal with it. Even after recycling efforts, nearly 80% land in landfills taking 1000 years to breakdown.
We can care and make a difference. Start by carrying your own refillable water bottle. Encourage your parish or school to become plastic-water-bottle-free at events. Ask your city to install drinking fountains again. Make it a youth group project to sell reusable water bottles. Maybe even start a movement asking your city to ban the sale of all items in throw-away bottles at public events.
Our earth and all within it will be grateful.
Learn about the whole story: http://www.storyofstuff.org/movies-all/story-of-bottled-water/
More on World Water Day
Learn more: Bottled Water and Water Shortages: Impact of Extracting Water on Aquifers and Ecosystems | Suite101.comhttp://christin-aitchison.suite101.com/bottled-water-may-cause-shortages-a73853#ixzz1oOkVj5ls
CHURCHES IN ACTION
Giving up bottles, one at a time
Excerpts from communities that are working on making a difference.
Church of the Ascension (Anglican), London, Ontario
“We were concerned about the use of bottled water at the church and how that contributes to the privatization of an essential, life-giving resource and to pollution through the production and sometimes inappropriate disposal of plastic bottles. We have convinced Parish Council to ban the sale of bottled water at the church and are pleased that pitchers of city tap water are now offered at most church events.”
Catholic universities ban bottled water on campus “Water may be everywhere but these days it’s not in plastic bottled form at Seattle University or the University of Portland. The two Catholic universities joined a group of eight colleges that have banned the sale of plastic water bottles on campus according to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. Jesuit-run Seattle University just got on board in September- after a three-year campaign – and Portland University, affiliated with the Congregation of Holy Cross, began its ban back in February. Both schools were tapping in – so to speak – on nationwide campaigns to educate consumers on the environmental costs of bottled water and urge people to use free public tap water.”
“Holy Cross Father William Beauchamp, president of University of Portland, said the plastic water bottle ban also has another aim – to ‘help focus attention on the critical issues of sustainability and water rights.'”
“A university statement said the decision not to buy or sell plastic water bottles also fits into the Catholic belief that ‘water cannot be treated as a commodity and that access to water is a universal and inalienable right.'”
See the United Church of Christ’s production “Troubled Waters” which is a 60 minute documentary that explores water’s evaporating availability through the personal stories of people who struggle every day with the growing water crisis.
WHAT CHURCHES ARE SAYING
National Council of Churches of Christ
“The conservation and protection of clean and safe water is just one of the many critical issues that is constantly confronting us and threatening the quality of life for future generations. Water sustains life not only for humans, but for all of creation. Water is a fundamental component of the world’s eco-systems and ensures a rich diversity of plant and animal life. It is our religious responsibility to preserve fragile ecosystems in wetlands, creeks, and other riparian habitats.”
“Water should be viewed as a gift from God for all people, not a commodity that can be traded for profit. Access to fresh water supplies is becoming an urgent matter of life and death across the planet and especially for the 1.2 billion people who are currently suffering from a lack of adequate water and sanitation. The world is on the verge of a serious water crisis-one that is leading to conflicts among people, communities, regions, and nations. All individuals have the fundamental right to clean water and no one should be denied access to clean water because they cannot afford it.”
United Methodist Church
Excerpt from the Book of Discipline’s “Social Principles”
“We affirm that we’re responsible for the way we use the Lord’s creation. We support social policies that promote the wise use of water, air, soil, minerals, and plants. We support the conservation of energy and oppose energy-using technologies that threaten human health.”
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