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Securing water for food security and climate adaptation, by Athena Peralta and Manoj Kurian

The fifth reflection of the “Seven Weeks for Water 2019” of World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Water Network is done jointly by Dr Manoj Kurian and Ms Athena Peralta, the Coordinator of WCC-Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance and Programme Executive of WCC Economic and Ecological Justice programmes respectively.

The fifth reflection of the “Seven Weeks for Water 2019” of World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Water Network is done jointly by Dr Manoj Kurian and Ms Athena Peralta, the Coordinator of WCC-Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance and Programme Executive of WCC Economic and Ecological Justice programmes respectively.

In the following reflection, they underline the nexus between water, food and climate change and how our irresponsible consumption pattern on one can influence the other sectors.  They further challenge us to review our footprints on water, climate change etc and encourage us to take actions this Lent for making our planet more sustainable.

Texts:

Psalm 104: 10-18

You make springs gush forth in the valleys; they flow between the hills, giving drink to every wild animal; the wild asses quench their thirst.
By the streams the birds of the air have their habitation; they sing among the branches.
From your lofty abode you water the mountains; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work.
You cause the grass to grow for the cattle, and plants for people to use, to bring forth food from the earth, and wine to gladden the human heart, oil to make the face shine, and bread to strengthen the human heart. 
The trees of the Lord are watered abundantly, the cedars of Lebanon that he planted. In them the birds build their nests; the stork has its home in the fir trees.
The high mountains are for the wild goats; the rocks are a refuge for the hyrax.

Exodus 16: 16-18

Moses said to them, “It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat. This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Everyone is to gather as much as they need. Take an omer for each person you have in your tent.’”
The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. And when they measured it by the omer, the one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little. Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed.

 

Reflection:

We acknowledge and glorify God, the protector and bountiful provider of this earth, for all the creatures. God cares for all, even wild animals, land, seas and the uncultivated parts of the earth.

God blessed humanity “…. be fruitful and multiply, abound on the earth and multiply in it.” (Genesis 9:7). Today, we are over 7.7 billion human beings and we are having a tremendous impact on the planet. But the bible makes it clear that the earth belongs to God and that God bestows life, water, food and beauty to all creation, not only human beings (Psalm 24:1-2).

After the devastating floods, God provided creation a new beginning, a new opportunity for humanity to live in harmony with the environment and with every creature on earth. God’s covenant is with both humanity and with all creation and marks the newly-restored relationship between God and God's creatures (Genesis 9:8-11).

Earth’s ecosystems demonstrate diverse and complex biological communities living in balance with their environment. Ecosystems consist of living organisms interacting with the non-living elements in their environment, such as the soil, atmosphere, water, and sunlight, in ways that are essential for their survival.  Though water resources are finite and only 0.007 percent of the planet's water is available to fuel and feed all people, there is sufficient fresh water on the planet to achieve this, if it is equitably distributed among all people. This truth is not acknowledged by most people, and we consume and live in the world often only looking exclusively at our own interests to the exclusion of our sisters, brothers and other creatures!

Agriculture accounts for, on average, 70% of all water withdrawals globally, and not all of this water is used judiciously. To make matters worse – a third of all food produced, for which most of the water is used, is wasted!

There is a huge difference in water consumption between the rich and poor. People living in wealthy nations may use more than 500 liters of water per day, while people in the poorest communities consume as low as 15 liters of water per day. To ensure healthy living each person needs access to 100 liters of water per day, as per the WHO recommendations.

We all have a “water footprint” – a measure of water use, including direct use (such as for drinking and cleaning) as well as indirect use (the water required to produce goods and services). The latter is also described as “virtual water.” In more affluent economies, only a fifth of the water footprint is produced in their own country and most of the burden is taken by the societies from where goods and services are imported from. Often these are poorer societies, which are already water-stressed. When the virtual water used to produce food, clothing and other products is included, the water footprint amounts to thousands of liters per person per day!

The 2018 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C reveals that climate change is happening faster than previously thought and that many of the impacts will be felt through water. The study points out that with every additional temperature increase, droughts are projected to accelerate especially in regions that are already affected by dry spells. Therefore, limiting global warming to 1.5°C will significantly reduce the probability of extreme droughts compared to a 2°C scenario. Moreover, water insecurity is projected to increase with further warming above present-day levels, but fewer people (between 184 and 270 million) would be affected at 1.5°C compared to a 2°C world. For every 1 degree rise in temperature, an additional 7% of the population will experience a 20% decline in water availability. Overall, water scarcities, conflicts over water, and therefore massive losses to agriculture and livestock could become the norm. Needless to say, such a situation will also result in food shortages. Together with rural populations, people depending on forests for food and livelihoods – in other words, many of those living in poverty! –  will be particularly affected.

Let us remember that the water we use, the food that we eat, the things that we consume and the climate of our only home – the mother earth – are inextricably connected. Let us live in this world, caring for creation, enriching life, and not snuffing it out.

God calls us to respond through stewardship, a spirituality of sufficiency and a radical sharing of resources.

 

Questions for reflection:

How are we impacting the environment through the water consumed, what we eat and what we consume?

How can we assist communities that live in water-stressed regions by way of promoting sustainable agriculture and by using sustainable energy sources?

How can we raise these questions and create safe spaces for this dialogue in our congregations and communities?

 

Practical ideas for action:

  • Think of having a “carbon fast” during this Lent, even for a few days

 

Resources:

Ten Commandments for Food

The water we “eat”