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We are water

Water is life. Put differently, without water we cannot live.

As humans, our bodies are between 50 and 75 per cent water—no small figure. Our daily lives depend on water for myriad of functions and activities. Not only do we rely on water for our physical existence, it is crucial for our ecological, economic, social, and spiritual wellbeing.

Water is the great unifier. All living things depend on water for their existence. In my life, I have been fortunate to live beside many great bodies of water—both fresh and salt. I love spending time in, on, and around water and many of my hobbies are water-centric.

My past and present experiences with water, however, differ dramatically from much of the rest of world, and many parts of Canada. While I faced temporary water shortages throughout the hot Okanagan summers of my childhood, globally an astonishing 780 million people live without access to clean water (UN Water, 2013). Indeed, by 2025, 1800 million people are expected to be living in countries or regions facing absolute water scarcity, with an additional 2/3 under stressful conditions (UN Water, 2013).

Governments and communities have a responsibility to respect and protect their water sources. Here in Canada, we need to do more to fulfill these commitments to care for Creation. We need to respect and protect the sacredness of our watersheds, seas, and oceans. Despite being one of the richest countries in the world, Canadian environmental and water protections are heavily lacking.

While the United Nations Development Program reports that 99.8 per cent of Canadians have access to potable water, that statistic is highly contested, particularly amongst First Nations and Tribal Councils. Out of the 633 First Nations reserves across Canada, 112 do not have access to safe and potable drinking water. Systemic underfunding, environmental racism, and a disregard for basic constitutional- and human rights disproportionately threaten First Nations’ access to potable and safe water.

As Christians, of both Settler and Indigenous backgrounds, we have a responsibility to work together to uphold our sisters and brothers right to water, and right to life. Indigenous and Non-Indigenous communities must work to respect and protect the sacredness of creation – particularly water – which binds us all together.

This year, Canadians, from all walks of life, are coming together this Friday for World Water Day to Pledge to Protect Our Water. This initiative is led by a coalition of communities, individuals, and The Council of Canadians. The call responds to recent legislation, which has undermined environmental protections and limited scientific inquiry within the country, and calls on people – like you and me – to make a pledge to protect our local watersheds and ecosystems.

Amidst the threats of pollution; tanker and pipeline spills; hydraulic fracturing; tar sands mining; and failing infrastructure, we must stand up and pledge to protect our water. Movements such as the Council of Canadians photo pledge or the Blue Drop Movement on unceded Coast Salish Territory in Vancouver are fantastic examples of initiatives being taken by Canadians to stand up for their water.

I encourage you to look in to both resources, and to share any of your diocesan or parish water-focused initiatives. Further, how can we, as a Church, do a better job at teaching and sharing the sacredness of water within the Christian tradition?

About Cam Gray

I am a children and youth worker at the Church of the Advent in Victoria, BC and the General Synod representative to the KAIROS Sustainability Circle. As a PK (Priest's kid), I have grown up in and around the church and have rediscovered my faith through environmental and climate work. I am passionate about climate organizing, and discovering new ways to engage faith-based communities and youth within my work.
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2 Responses to We are water

  1. Matthew Griffin

    I’ll always remember, Cam, my first real canoe-camping experience, with my father & a friend of ours and his son. We stopped at our campsite for the first night, and Ben and I sipped cups of water as our dads set up the tents and kitchen area. We each got a second cup of water. I drank about half of it, and decided I wasn’t thirsty anymore, so I threw it out on the rocks.

    “MATTHEW! WHAT THE H*** ARE YOU DOING?!?” thundered my friend’s dad.

    I then got a long lecture about how we had to carry our water with us: that despite being surrounded by water as we canoed, it wasn’t safe to drink–and it was difficult to carry or to prepare more to be safely consumed.

    It’s an event that’s given me a whole series of lessons as I’ve reflected upon it: everything from not taking things for granted, to the preciousness of creation, to the challenges and surprises of new contexts. And the value of water–so prevalent on this planet, and what is drinkable as more precious and vital than nearly anything else.

    It’s part of why it’s important to me that the font not be covered, that there be water in there–both as reminder of baptism and opportunity to rejoice in God’s gifts, and as a celebration of how the ordinary isn’t ordinary at all. That “the world is charged with the grandeur of God” and that when we listen and look, we start to see just how that plays out.

  2. Matthew Griffin

    I’ll always remember, Cam, my first real canoe-camping experience, with my father & a friend of ours and his son. We stopped at our campsite for the first night, and Ben and I sipped cups of water as our dads set up the tents and kitchen area. We each got a second cup of water. I drank about half of it, and decided I wasn’t thirsty anymore, so I threw it out on the rocks.

    “MATTHEW! WHAT THE H*** ARE YOU DOING?!?” thundered my friend’s dad.

    I then got a long lecture about how we had to carry our water with us: that despite being surrounded by water as we canoed, it wasn’t safe to drink–and it was difficult to carry or to prepare more to be safely consumed.

    It’s an event that’s given me a whole series of lessons as I’ve reflected upon it: everything from not taking things for granted, to the preciousness of creation, to the challenges and surprises of new contexts. And the value of water–so prevalent on this planet, and what is drinkable as more precious and vital than nearly anything else.

    It’s part of why it’s important to me that the font not be covered, that there be water in there–both as reminder of baptism and opportunity to rejoice in God’s gifts, and as a celebration of how the ordinary isn’t ordinary at all. That “the world is charged with the grandeur of God” and that when we listen and look, we start to see just how that plays out.

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