Absorbing the Truth of Water Poverty in the Season of Creation
Updated: Feb 11
I must admit with the world in turmoil socially, physically, and spiritually my blog posting practice suffered. I had hoped to have adventured with you through our holy noticing of water, air, and fire by now.
What do they say about God's merriment at our best made plans...
I found that what has been left of my energy this summer was turned towards serving my students as they returned to an unprecedented hybrid learning environment at Wingate University in the midst of COVID19 in the rural American Bible belt ... and if that was not enough ... just prior to a very polarized Presidential election.
But water is life and what better way to rejuvenate my blog posting and spirit than to take this opportunity to reflect on water and hold it in tension with my elation at the start of the Spirit of Creation.
May I ask that we begin with a small moment of holy noticing? My spirit needs this...
Listen to the ebb and flow of Garth Stevenson’s composition “The Southern Seas” LINK Check out this video of Garth Stevenson performing the Magical Sounds of the Arctic Whales and watch footage of this graced encounter. This musical creation was the fruit of his journey to Antarctica, where his new neighbors, seals and penguins, icebergs, and other artists (garthstevenson.com) inspired him.
Close your eyes
Let the watery depths soothe your soul and allow your memory to take you to a time when you were with or in or beside the waters.
Imagine what the breath of God over the dark, stormy, moving waters must have felt like
This ancient water lives on in the water cycles on our planet today
Imagine if you are striped of these intimate moments with, in, and by the planet's waters touched by the breath of God. Imagine if your most formative experience of water is contamination, pollution, fear, death?
What would you do to change this?
I thought this mellifluous moment of holy noticing was the perfect way to christen the beginning of the Season of Creation #seasonofcreation. This year's theme is “Jubilee for the Earth: New Rhythms, New Hope” and it began with a Day of Prayer September 1st and extends until October 4th, the feast of St. Francis of Assissi.
The Season of Creation unites the world’s 2.2 billion Christians around one shared purpose. With so much injustice all around us, now is the time for Christians everywhere to come together and show the world how to love each other and creation.
If you have not watched the 2020 video created by the Vatican, you need to.
Its extolling the beauty of our common home is poignantly held in tension with the plundering and exploitation being done by the global North to the places and people of the global South. Clearly you can hear the vulnerable communities and ecosystems crying out for redress. This is an edge that has been missing, I believe from other season of Creation resources. See for yourself ... check out the first 30 seconds of the 2016 video in comparison with 2020's.
How are they similar yet profoundly different?
What changed in the past four years?
The Season of Creation is a time to renew our relationship with our Creator and all creation through celebration, conversion, and commitment together. During the Season of Creation, we join our sisters and brothers in the ecumenical family in prayer and action for our common home
I want to pick up this blog on the holy noticing of water by connecting to a pivotal statement from my last blog that bears repeating.
Our ignorance about water is a privilege.
So let us begin with an examination of what we really know about water ...
On our planet, how many people lack access to clean drinking water?
What gender is suffers most because of this? Why?
How far do women in rural Africa have to walk each day to haul 40 pds of water for their families?
How many toddlers under the age of 5 die each day due to diarrhea caused by poor water and sanitation?
By 2050, how many people will be impacted by water shortages?
What is a 2030 SDG (do you know what this is?) connected to water?
How many people in the world lack access to basic sanitation?
In the United States we lead an extremely “wet” existence without really knowing it.
Everything we do is a function of water. Even the brain with which you understand these
words is 73 percent water.
It might be invisible to us now, but before the industrial era, water controlled the rhythm of human activity. Water shaped where and how we lived, worked, and worshiped.
The first Christian communities were defined by the desert and were dependent on clean water sources like the Jordan River. Jesus’s first disciples were fishermen and spent their lives appreciating the shining beauty, devastating power, and unpredictable stinginess or generosity of the sea.
We have forgotten this about water because we have been able to insulate ourselves from the fact that water is life-giving and limited. The seemingly eternal presence of water in our taps has let us take water for granted and this has seeped into our faith lives. We do not notice water, and this has hidden parts of God’s message to us and diminished our understanding of the sacraments intimately linked to water.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God - Psalm 42:2
Pope Francis calls us on the path to awakening to new rhythms and new hope.
Our souls during this unprecedented moment in history are thirsting for God who is justice, Love, and Redeemer. So as Jesus said in the Gospel of John: "On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, "Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, 'Out of believers's heart shall flow rivers of living water.'" (John 7:37-38)
This river of grace trying to flow out of our hearts is dammed by our ignorance but it is set free when we begin with some holy noticing. I want to start in my own backyard of the US.
Do you know how many Americans experience a lack of access to life-giving water or what Pope Francis calls water poverty?
Our world has a grave social debt towards the poor who lack access to drinking water, because they are denied the right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity. Laudato Si', para. 30.
Most often we think about a lack of access to clean drinking water as water poverty. But what about sanitation? Without adequate sanitation, illness and death prevails. This form of water poverty also impedes social and economic development. According to American Community Survey, an estimated 1.6 million people reported a lack of complete plumbing facilities in their households in 2012. (2017 Environmental Finance Center, UNC Chapel Hill Report) Here is a great graphic from this report to see some of the many faces of water poverty in the US.
A 2019 National Action Plan told some frightening stories about what our neighbors endure.
Listen closely ... can you hear the cry of Earth and the poor?
...our neighbors living on the Navajo Nation in the Southwest drive for hours to haul barrels of water to meet their basic needs.
...our neighbors in the Central Valley of California fill bottles at public taps, because their water at home is not safe to drink.
... our neighbors in West Virginia drink from polluted streams
...our neighbors in Alabama have to warn their children not to play outside because their yards are flooded with sewage
... our neighbors in Puerto Rico living in low income neighborhoods regular have their streets flooded with wastewater
... our neighbors living in Texas border towns worry because there is no running water to fight fires
Ignorance about water is a privilege
But as new rains revive the parched landscapes, so too can the Spirit animating the Season of Creation rejuvenate our biospirtitual moral imaginations so we can rediscover new rhythms and new hope.
Holy Noticing Activity: We began with music and so shall we end.
Begin by meditating on Laudato Si para. 76, 85 and 88.
And as you do, let the song "Oceans" (Where Feet May Fail) by Hillsong UNITED flow over your senses. LINK
How does the music resonate the truths in Pope Francis' encyclical?
How does they both speak to the moment in history we are living?
Do you feel the dam in your heart loosening? failing? falling?
And as promised... if you read to the end, all will be revealed!
Here are the answers to the examination activity above:
844 million people lack basic drinking water access, more than 1 of every 10 people on the planet.
Women and girls spend an estimated 200 million hours hauling water every day.
The average woman in rural Africa walks 6 kilometers every day to haul 40 pounds of water.
Every day, more than 800 children under age 5 die from diarrhea attributed to poor water and sanitation.
By 2050, at least 1 in 4 people will likely live in a country affected by chronic or recurring fresh-water shortages.
One of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aims to provide universal access to clean water and sanitation by 2030.
2.3 billion people live without access to basic sanitation.