Toward Wholeness Blog

Water Wednesdays: Justice and the Water Cycle

One of God's Best Inventions


Psalm 104 is one of my favorite parts of the Bible because it poetically articulates what we enjoy hear in the Pacific Northwest with such clarity:  the water cycle.  The sun heats the ocean and water evaporates, condensing as it cools on the rise, to become clouds.  Prevailing winds push the clouds inland, where the clouds empty as rain or, in the cold places, snow.  This water becomes life – for plants, animals, humans, and bloggers like me.  All of us…ALL OF US, need water to live.

That’s why I marvel at the water cycle.  Last night it I heard rain on my roof all night, and if I’m lucky, sometime in the next week I’ll make it up into the mountains to ski, where I’ll be reminded that the snowpack miraculously provides water well into the fall around here most years, right when, amazingly, a fresh season of rain and snow begins.  This is beautiful to think about, even more beautiful to see.  Too bad it’s disappearing….

If you’re still living in the land of denial regarding climate change, I’d encourage you to read Bill McKibben’s lastest book: Eaarth.  His thesis:  the old, predictable climate patterns are gone.  He provides mountains of depressing evidence that, in spite of an anecdotal cold winter here and there, or advancing glacier in some remote spot, the net trend line is both unambiguous and alarming.  Oceans are rising.  Glaciers are receding.  Summer storms are carrying more destructive force because hotter summers mean more water evaporating out of the oceans.  Winter snow packs are receding, which means that some rivers are shrinking, which means that oceans are encroaching into river wetlands, which means…

1. Disappearing Water Tables – there’s less ground water available in this new, warmer world.  We don’t notice it because we’re here in the land of cold tap.  But it’s true globally and, as is usually the case, it’s the poor of the world who are feeling it first.  The economic and public health implications of this reality are staggering.

2. Arctic Ice disappearing – in 2007 the Arctic melt suddenly accelerated, so that by the end of that summer, photos of the ice from space revealed 22% less ice than any previous satellite picture from earlier years, and 40% less that during the Apollo projects.  It’s now possible, for the first time, to travel through the polar ice caps in the summer because of the melt.

3. Increased fires – the evidence isn’t just anecdotal, like the vast California fires for the past few years.  It’s statistical.  IN one day in June 2008, the increased lightening storms (a result of global warming) resulted in an unprecedented 1700 different fires starting in California alone.  There’s more to come, and with it increased costs to government and insurance agencies.

4. Increased disease and poverty – I’ll give you just one example.  Have you heard of Dengue Fever?  Because of water shortages, people are starting to collect rainwater in open containers, and this is increasing the mosquito population.  Add to this, an extended breeding season and shorter incubation period due to warmer weather, and what do you get?  El Salvador has seen a 20-fold increase in the past 5 years.  “Dengue Fever has come to stay in Latin America” says the Argentinian health minister.

Two Responses:

I’m called to live generously, because I’m incredibly wealthy, by any standard.  I need to challenge my lifestyle at every level, because the world in which we live is, increasingly, resource challenged.  How can I simplify?  How can I invest, in Jesus name, in addressing these pressing issues?  These are the main questions and goals of the Spilling Hope initiative presently under way.  I’d encourage you to join in, even if you’re not part of the church I lead, and tell others about it – because lives are at stake, and we have the privilege and responsibility of making a difference.

The world is changing, and we who follow Christ would do well to wake up to the global issues surrounding humanity’s collective failure to steward the earth.  Creation is, indeed, groaning, as Romans 8 says.  The church can be at the forefront of offering models for living differently – but not if we mirror the consumptive, complacent, consumerist ways of our present culture and economic model.  Something different is needed – simplicity, generosity, community, interdependency, and so much more.  These cannot be slogans – they need to be deeply held values that challenge, and change, our life together.

I welcome your thoughts…

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