Seven Weeks for Water 2018

This week marks the start of Lent, and an official opening service for the Seven Weeks for Water will take place in Bogota next Wednesday!

As you are aware, every year since 2008, during the Lent season, we at the Ecumenical Water Network try to connect with our constituencies – churches, faith based organizations and individuals – through the Seven Weeks for Water, and to raise awareness around World Water Day on 22 March.

The WCC’s Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace will have a regional focus on Latin America on 2018. Accordingly, the Seven Weeks for Water in 2018 will take us on a pilgrimage of water justice in Latin America.

Week 1: Water – Gift and Source of Life

 

 

The first Reflection of the “Seven Weeks for Water” of World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Water Network is by Ivo Poletto, a philosopher, theologian and social scientist from Brazil. He is also national advisor to the Climate Change and Social Justice Forum in Brazil. In the following reflection, he analyses the water cycle of Brazil, the “flying rivers” of the Amazon but also laments on fast depleting forests which are breaking the water cycle and making clouds as well as aquifers disappear.  He insists that water is one of the common goods that require special care, as there is no life without water.

Text:

Yahweh God took the man and the woman and put them in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. Exodus 2:15

Reflection:

The reality of water in Brazil

Over the past ten years, I have been dedicating particular attention to the effects of climate change in people’s lives, especially in the lives of the most impoverished people.[1] Reality is bringing to light the fact that the biggest sufferings have been caused by water issues. It either rains too much, and floods and hurricanes affect the lives of families living in places with little to no security; or it does not rain, further exacerbating the living conditions in semiarid regions, such as the Caatinga biome in Brazil. However, over the past few years, multiple regions have witnessed a decrease in rainfall, with large metropolitan areas like São Paulo and Brasília experiencing water rationing over large periods of time.

According to recently published data, over the past four years, 55 million Brazilians suffered the consequences of climate events[2], which were certainly intensified by global climate change as well as the rise in temperature felt across all regions of the country. As we know, all elements necessary for the life of all living beings and the Earth itself are part of a complex unit, in which all rely on each other. And water is one of those elements essential to life. Additionally, it is exactly because everything is interconnected that the water crisis is proof of how the impact of human activity on the planet has been changing water cycles. Although water does not disappear, it is no longer available in all regions at the times Mother Earth intended it to be, throughout its long creation process.

Let’s consider this example. Rain formation in the center-west and southeastern regions of Brazil, and even throughout South America, fundamentally depends upon the moisture generated in the Amazon. True “flying rivers”[3] are formed over this biome, which in their gaseous state can have a larger quantity of water than the liquid water of the great Amazon River. This is due to the fact that the Amazon forest produces and releases into the atmosphere a large quantity of moisture, which then conjoins with the moisture that the Amazon forest attracts from the Atlantic Ocean. The portion of those flying rivers that does not return to the forest through precipitation is taken by the winds towards the Pacific Ocean. When it bumps into the high peaks of the Andes Range, the wind literally curves towards the center of the continent, taking with it moisture and rains to regions located in the latitudes normally considered deserts.

On the other hand, the Cerrado biome, which is located in the central highlands of Brazil, was originally conceived by Earth as a place with a soil, vegetation and climate that made it a supplier of the great aquifers: Guarani, Bambui, and Urucuia. Water may or may not stream from these aquifers into springs, creeks and rivers that keep the soil alive and ensure a supply of fresh water for all living beings and for all usages. Since Cerrado has been almost completely deforested and its soil overexploited by the export agribusiness system, aquifers have less water, which results in less water for the central region itself, and is a threat to the rivers that run towards the north, northeast, west, southeast and south.[4]

The main water cycle in Brazil therefore depends on the Atlantic, the Amazon and the Cerrado. Since the Amazon’s deforested area is already the size of three times the state of São Paulo, there is a decrease in moisture and flying river production, which causes drought events within the region itself, reduced precipitation in Cerrado, and, subsequently, a generalized water crisis.

And God said: cherish the water!

As Saint Francis sings, water is very useful and humble, precious and chaste.[5] Its modesty is also partly manifested through only being partially visible. Careless human beings barely respect it as it flows in the rivers and is drained into lakes and oceans; they frequently complain when it takes the shape of rains; and they do not even notice its presence in the soil, subsoil and the atmosphere. Its availability to all forms of life and to further usage by human beings, depends on that invisibility.

That is the reason why, according to the poem of Creation kept in the Book of Origins, water was created almost at the beginning of the process that culminates with the existence of the man and woman. Since water is not specifically mentioned in the caregivers’ mandate from God to the human species[6], the relationship with water has been one of careless usage rather than of the loving care that anything that is life and source of life, source and permanent condition of human life, is worthy. Over the past few centuries, with the development and domination of the capitalist conception of life, water, like everything else, was reduced to a thing, to merchandise. And since progress translated into the endless growth of production and consumption in order to multiply and concentrate privatized wealth, water is one of the goods of Creation that cries out for Mother Earth:

“Me, you and all beings on Earth and in the Universe, are created, are finite, and we all depend on the rest of the goods of Creation to stay alive and be sources of life!”  – Laudato Si’

Pope Francis insists on the urgency of humanity to listen to and seriously take the cry of the poor and of the Earth[7]. We cannot erroneously keep separating the ecological from the social crisis. There is only one crisis; a socioenvironmental crisis caused by the same historical processes and by the same agents of a civilization focused in worshiping the idol: money – wealth – power. It is therefore a civilizational crisis that can only be overcome through deep and structural changes.

The new heaven and new earth [8] perspective presented in the Apocalypse to keep hope alive for those being persecuted by the Roman Empire, nowadays needs to become a source of hope to all people who understand the historic need to build a post-capitalist civilization. Following this perspective, in the Good Living[9] proposal, which is based on the long history of the Pachamama caring people, Mother Earth is presented as a possibility of dreaming other worlds, other ways of producing what humanity truly needs in order to be happy, and other ways of living in loving harmony with the biomes[10]. The biomes are living cradles and sources of life created by God and Earth, and entrusted freely to the beings that are earth with divine breath[11] – women and men. Water is one of the goods that requires special care, and it exists in its gas, liquid and solid states, in continents and seas, in the subsoil and the atmosphere. There is no life without water. Water is and needs to be cared for as a common good of the whole community of living beings, of everything that comprises Earth.

Questions:

  1. Who is responsible for socioenvironmental disasters related to water?
  2. What can and should we do to care for water and build good living societies?
[1] Having collaborated in the book  Profecia da Terra – Mudanças Climáticas provocadas pelo Aquecimento Global, published by Ed. CNBB in 2009.

[2] sustentabilidade.estadao.com.br/noticias/geral,em-quatro-anos-secas-e-inundacoes-afetam-55-7-milhoes-de-brasileiros,70002103645

[3] riosvoadores.com.br/o-projeto/fenomeno-dos-rios-voadores/

[4] www.portalraizes.com/o-cerrado-acabou-entrevista-com-altair-sales-barbosa/

[5] www.franciscanos.org.br/?page_id=3124

[6] Ex 2,15

[7] For example: Laudato Sí, 49.

[8] Ap 21,1 (Revelation 21.1)

[9] Alberto Acosta. O Bem Viver – uma oportunidade para imaginar outros mundos. São Paulo: Ed. Elefante, 2016.

[10] Ivo Poletto. Biomas do Brasil – da exploração à convivência. Ed. Free digital, available at www.conic.org.br/portal/noticias/2191-baixe-o-livro-biomas-do-brasil-da-exploracao-a-convivencia

[11] Genesis  2.7