Monday, 07 November 2016 15:18

Just Water—A Right to Life Issue

Written by Jacinta Lopez Hass and Bertha Haas
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Jacinta Lopez Haas and Bertha Haas – Portland Chapter

A Review of  Just Water by Christiana Z. Peppard, Orbis Books Series on Integral Ecology.

This follow-up to Laudato Si, Just Water by Christiana Z. Peppard, presents very practical, though not easy, steps to protect our most essential resource. Already on page 22, I was challenged to change my way of life. Its principal assertion is that water conservation is a “right-to-life” issue. It is not fair for the first world to use up Earth’s water supply while leaving those most poor to pay the consequences. To reduce the threat to our water supply, we need to stop focusing on domestic use, only eight percent of total use, and attend to industrial and agricultural use. 

Technological advances have enabled agriculture to divert river and lake water for irrigation. Besides running dry before they reach their destination, waterways like the Jordan River are being contaminated by agricultural runoff: pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers that add nitrates. Extremely important is the depletion and pollution of aquifers through irrigation and fracking.

According to Just Water, it is the poorest of the poor who suffer most from a polluted and diminished water supply. Third-world women and girls have to walk miles for the family’s fresh water, not only taxing their bodies and putting them in danger of assault, but also preventing them from getting an education. 

Bottled water companies use up valuable natural resources such as petroleum to make the water bottles. The companies also may prevent the people living in the area of the water sources from accessing the water for their own domestic use. Some people, like bottled water companies, claim that water is a commodity that is subject to the laws of economics and supply-and-demand where the “have-nots” lose out. According to Catholic social teaching and Just Water, everyone deserves clean, accessible water, regardless of the ability to pay. Without it, people die, such as children in dire poverty who get diseases like diarrhea and cholera from polluted water. 

Therefore, it is imperative that the first world addresses the water problem. Agriculture could conserve water, for instance, by using drip irrigation and covering irrigation canals to prevent evaporation. Agriculture also could move toward using organic methods so that fertilizer, pesticides, and herbicides do not pollute nearby water. 

Most industrial uses return the water back to the water supply, albeit often polluted, but fracking is one industry that takes water out of the water supply. Besides using way too much water, the water from fracking is not available to be treated and used again for agricultural or domestic needs. Another industrial issue is the burning of fossil fuels because the greenhouse effects are wreaking havoc on Earth’s precipitation. 

I recommend this book as it shows how the water crisis is a theological issue. The Church’s preferential option for the poor demands justice for them. The world’s poorest, not generally those creating the water crisis, suffer the gravest consequences.

Read 883 times Last modified on Tuesday, 08 November 2016 22:02
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