Surely, we think, there will always be enough water. We are the Blue Planet. Our water is one water system, created 4.5 billion years ago when the rainfall of a variety of liquids established themselves as turbulent seas on our cooling planet. However, the reality is that only 3% is fresh water and most of that is inaccessible. Less than 1% is available for human use.
What, then, in our time, invites a reflection on water?
In July, we rejoiced when the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution recognizing access to clean water as a human right. The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility has been in dialogue with corporations, particularly bottling companies, to respond to communities affected by its operations in water-stressed areas. While the facts confirm that industry and agriculture account for 90% of global water usage, our personal connection with this figure sits on our pantry and refrigerator shelves, hangs in our clothes closets, and provides the resources to type and transport these words.
With a collective sense of social justice that has matured over the last decades, we are moved to ask – how do we respond to our enormous water footprint?
Perhaps we must return to “the feel” of the springs on the west side of Alum Creek, the sensual curves of Cartwright Creek, the mouth of the Mississippi opening to the sea, the neighboring presence of Lake Erie or Lake Huron. Water is local. Without an intimacy with local water, it is impossible to respond to the global crisis.
The ecological crisis requires a profound change in the way we think, a metanoia of mind and heart. Vision develops in a religious context. Within our tradition, St. Thomas Aquinas discussed the integrity for the whole cosmic order. His writing instructs us that because the divine goodness could not be adequately represented by one creature alone, he produced many and diverse creatures that what was wanting to one in the presentation of the divine might be supplied by the other. For those of us living in the 21st century, with a scientific understanding of an unfolding universe, we must witness to those words not in a genesis construct but within a cosmogenesis reality.
What will stir the human heart and mind enough to change our cultural thought patterns and behaviors?
At this season particularly, we are drawn to two key myths, stories that give meaning and purpose to our way of living in this world. Whether subtle or pronounced, the religious myth of salvation from Earth and the secular myth that promises fulfillment in a consumer culture determine our way of being in the world.
How blessed the insight of Dominican Sister Antonietta Potente, who heartens us toward the “courage to contemplate.” The water crisis, the core of the ecological crisis, stems from a perceptual crisis. Three hundred and fifty million years ago, life crawled out of the sea. Fins became legs, gills our jaws. If we but remember the story from whence we arrived, a new religious sensitivity will awaken upon our planet. We will hear the song, the voice of our local springs, creeks, rivers, and lakes. In sensing the spirit force within the local waterways, a new human presence will emerge, a spiritual energy that will enhance all human-earth relationships. We’ll reconstitute our presence in this sacred space celebrating the divine goodness in its manifold forms.
By Sr. Christine Loughlin, OP