Sunday, June 4, 2017

The Pope and Me: A Call to Act

Pope Francis and I have little in common. Yet there is one galvanizing idea that we both fundamentally and passionately share: access to clean drinking water is a basic human right and a key component in protecting human life and dignity.
The Pope addressing the Dialogue on Water gathering
"The right to water is essential for the survival of persons and decisive for the future of humanity," the Pope said during a meeting with 90 international experts participating in a "Dialogue on Water" at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in February, 2017. Looking at all the conflicts around the globe, Pope Francis said, "I ask myself if we are not moving toward a great world war over water." And he’s correct. In my book, Our World of Water I chronicle a small handful of instances, both in the U.S. and abroad about the growing tensions over water rights, from law suits to armed conflict. This, alas, is nothing new. I also briefly touch on how water has been used as a tool for war for more than six centuries.

Access to water is a basic and urgent matter, the Pope suggested. "Basic, because where there is water there is life, making it possible for societies to arise and advance. Urgent, because our common home needs to be protected." Citing statistics from the United Nations, the Pope said, "each day - each day! - a thousand children die from water-related illnesses and millions of persons consume polluted water." While the situation is urgent, it is not insurmountable, he said. "Our commitment to giving water its proper place calls for developing a culture of care -- that may sound poetic, but that is fine because creation is a poem." Scientists, business leaders, religious believers and politicians must work together to educate people on the need to protect water resources and to find more ways to ensure greater access to clean water "so that others can live," he said.

The Pope signs his pledge to the Dialogue on Water agreement
A lack of clean, safe drinking water "is a source of great suffering in our common home," the Pope said. "It also cries out for practical solutions capable of surmounting the selfish concerns that prevent everyone from exercising this fundamental right." It is staggering that, literally, one out of seven people on our planet does not have access to clean water on a daily basis! "We need to unite our voices in a single cause; then it will no longer be a case of hearing individual or isolated voices, but rather the plea of our brothers and sisters echoed in our own, and the cry of the earth for respect and responsible sharing in a treasure belonging to all," he said. If each person contributes, he said, "we will be helping to make our common home a more livable and fraternal place, where none are rejected or excluded, but all enjoy the goods needed to live and to grow in dignity." Take that as a challenge. We, you and me, can all do something to help, be that donating to viable water charities, to conserving water, writing letters to lawmakers supporting water rights, to using social media to raise awareness that, though many of us enjoy clean water without a second thought, many do not.

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