World Water Day: a matter of faith

The Church and the world stop to ponder, celebrate, and worry over the waters of our world

Then God said: Let the water under the sky be gathered into a single basin, so that the dry land may appear. And so it happened: the water under the sky was gathered into its basin, and the dry land appeared. God called the dry land “earth,” and the basin of water he called “sea.” God saw that it was good. …

Then God said: Let the water teem with an abundance of living creatures, and on the earth let birds fly beneath the dome of the sky.

God created the great sea monsters and all kinds of crawling living creatures with which the water teems, and all kinds of winged birds. God saw that it was good, and God blessed them, saying: Be fertile, multiply, and fill the water of the seas

Genesis 1:9-10, 20-22


In contrast to the great biblical revelation of the goodness of our world’s waters, and of all that lives in them, there is the tale of the human treatment of our oceans, bays, rivers, and all the little bodies of water that trickle here and there. This tale tells of dumping tons of plastic wastes each year, which chokes and poisons wildlife. It's a tale of acidification from our air pollutants, soiling from sewage, and disappearance from the filling in of swamps, bogs, and even bays.

Where the ancients saw wonder in the waters of the world, we moderns more often see a dumping ground.

As World Water Day prompts us to recognize, it’s time this ends.

Gladly, there is recognition of the problem, within the secular world and within the Church. All over, steps are being made, and with all this comes hope.

From small innovations like edible six-pack holders to major storm sewer improvements made in cities like mine, there is a lot happening to respond to the sins of the past—and present.

But much more needs to be done—by communities, companies, and consumers. And people of faith need to be boarding the clean-water train to keep it on track and moving—even if this won’t always be as easy as we’d like.

New Hope for the Oceans: Engaging Faith-Based Communities in Marine Conservation” is a recent paper by a friend of Catholic Ecology, Dr. Jame Schaefer of Marquette. In it she looks at the opportunities and a few negatives that come with the faith-based engagement of our water woes. Some of these negatives come from tensions in any interfaith gathering. And some are “self-inflicted” by the conservation community itself.

Some conservationists devalue religions and consider them causes of strife and violence in the world. Some experience discomfort with using the term “religious” and “spiritual” for lack of experience with these dimensions of knowing and/or for failure to understand the basic meaning of these terms. Some scientific experts are reluctant to include religious faith perspectives due to unfamiliarity with them and their desire to work only within their fields of expertise. Some have assumptions about religions that deter them from wanting to interact with them. Some stereotype religions and communities due to biases.

As an engineer who works full time for state government in the water pollution control arena—as a regulator and a trainer for municipal wastewater professionals—I can confirm Dr. Schaefer's points. Faith is sometimes often not appreciated by colleagues and fellow water advocates.

But then, I can tell you that faith is appreciated by many others—even folks who say they are not religious, or spiritual, or anything of that sort. In fact, I’d say the role of faith as a catalyst and moral compass is growing in importance within the world of water-pollution prevention and treatment.

And that means that we should not be afraid to dive faith-first in to the issues of clean water.

After all, if God found the waters to be good when he created them, who are we to do anything other than keep them clean, healthy, and teaming with life?

For more on World Water Day, visit here.

About the Blog

Catholic Ecology posts my regular column in the Rhode Island Catholic, as well as scientific and theological commentary about the latest eco-news, both within and outside of the Catholic Church. What is contained herein is but one person's attempt to teach and defend the Church's teachings - ecological and otherwise. As such, I offer all contents of this blog for approval of the bishops of the Church. It is my hope that nothing herein will lead anyone astray from truth.