Reflections on WaterApril 27th, 2011 | Uncategorized | 2 Comments »
By Rowan Van Ness, Program Associate for Environmental Justice, Unitarian Universalist Ministry for Earth
Early on Saturday morning, I was rushing to pick up coffee for an event. Rain lightly drizzled, and I ran across the parking lot. A friend was with me, and I called him to stop. “Look at that puddle,” I said.
That puddle, like almost every puddle except on the cloudiest of days, reflected the trees and the shops around us. As we walked around it, we could see the reflections change. Nature. Buildings. Penny, candy wrapper, and dead leaves at the bottom of the puddle. The magic of reflection amazes me every time and noticing puddles has become a spiritual practice of mine.
How often do we stop and notice water? The puddles, the rivers, the ocean? The showers, the washing machines, the toilets, the sprinklers? In industrialized nations, we have largely forgotten just how dependent we are on water. In most places in the US, we can turn on a tap, at any time of any day, and have clean, potable water flow until we turn it off. That is amazing!
These past few years, with hurricanes like Katrina, natural disasters like the tsunamis in Asia, and anthropogenic disasters like the BP oil disaster, I have been reminded of waters abilities to both give life and to take life. I am reminded that we cannot survive without water, as I hear about the deaths of immigrants crossing the deserts in the Southwest. And I am astounded when I hear statistics about how in Boston, people of color are four times more likely to have their water shut off. I once lost water for a day, and I became quickly aware of what it meant to not be able to flush my toilet, to not be able to turn on the sink. I can’t even imagine what this must be like to be struggling AND to have my water turned off.
Unitarian Universalists (UUs) all over are thinking about water justice, from the UU Legislative Ministry of California’s campaign to pass legislation on the Human Right to Water to congregations in New York examining the impacts of natural gas hydraulic fracturing on watersheds. As UUs, we are called to respect the interdependent web of all existence and water is a common thread. For Earth Day 2011, UU Ministry for Earth (UUMFE) is asking congregations to celebrate the sacred waters that sustain us all and to commit to 40 days of actions that will make our world more just.
I am making a commitment to water for 40 days, to take some time to deepen my reflections on water. To see the holy in the every day. And to move my actions a little more closely in line with my values of justice for all.
This past year, I have held the BP oil disaster heavy in my heart. I understand that the three main industries along the Gulf Coast are oil drilling, seafood, and tourism–and all three were devastated by this disaster. People live off that water, more closely than I ever have, and likely ever will. And yet my own demands for oil, for transportation, for heating, for my plastic watch, my plastic pens, my plastic lunch container, my plastic toothbrush…produced in oil-using factories and transported by oil-using vehicles. How am I complicit in this disaster? How much oil do we really need?
For the 40/40 Earth Day Challenge, I am trying to avoid plastic as much as possible for 40 days. It’s certainly impossible in my life right now for me to avoid it all together, but I am starting with awakening to the pervasive presence of plastics in my life and am going to see what I can do to reduce my dependence on oil.