"There are two kinds of environmental destruction. Dirty water and dirty air result from something going wrong. You haven't bothered to attach the necessary filter to your pipes, and so the crud washes into the stream, a little regulation and a little money, and the problem disappears. The second deeper form of environmental degradation comes from things operating more or less as they're supposed to, just at much too high a level. We've started to run short of water. For instance: because there are 6 billion of us who want to drink it and wash in it and use it for irrigating crops in places where they otherwise wouldn't grow. The richer we get, and the more meat we want to eat as a result, the worse the pinch gets." - Bill Mc Kibben, Deep Economy
What You Need To Know
Most Americans take clean and even abundant water for granted. On average, we use 80 to 100 gallons of water per day for flushing toilets, food preparation, drinking and bathing, and lawn irrigation. Blessed with easily accessible water, we in the Western world often forget that water is a God-given gift, not a convenient miracle of municipal government and indoor plumbing
In the last 20 years, some Americans have experienced water shortages that have changed habits – at least temporarily. The Southwestern states have experienced a prolonged drought, the Northwest has seen conflict between agriculture and fisheries, and the Southeast has seen lakes dry up and lawn watering become a socially unacceptable behavior.
Bottled water has also come to the attention of many who care about the environment and about access to safe water. Presbyterians Caring for Creation has begun a campaign to educate about water, and here are some facts:
- Bottled water can cost much more per gallon than gasoline, even though some 40% of bottled water is nothing but tap water.
- Little is known about the health consequences of long term storage water in plastic at high temperatures.
- Only 14% of polyethylene terephthylate (PET) plastic containers are recycled.
- People without access to safe drinking water die every day all over the world.
- Communities around the world are finding multinational bottled water companies controlling their local water sources and not living up to promises.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average adult breathes over 3,000 gallons of air every day. Children breathe even more air per pound of body weight and are more susceptible to air pollution. That's one reason why doctors say that we have an epidemic of asthma among the younger generation.
Pollution comes from burning coal, oil, and other fossil fuels, from the manufacturing of chemicals, and from pesticides used in agriculture. Household pollution from such products as carpet and paint comes from products that give of harmful gasses – called Volatile Organic Compounds or VOC's - as a result of their chemical consistency. Pollutants in the air from such sources as power plants, automobiles, and trucks create smog and acid rain, they cause cancer or other serious health effects, and they diminish the protective ozone layer in the upper atmosphere. Pollutants also contribute to the potential for world climate change.
Locally, many people are familiar with the Air Quality Index (AQI) that reports daily air quality. It measures how clean or polluted air is and informs the public to be aware of associated health concerns. Some of the pollutants that can injure health, harm the environment and cause property damage are: Carbon Monoxide, Lead, Nitrogen Dioxide, Ozone, Particulate matter with aerodynamic size less than or equal to 10 micrometers, and Sulfur Dioxide.
Why Are Water and Air Issues of Faith?
Water shortages are more than just an inconvenience for many of our neighbors around the world. According to a 2006 UNICEF report, 1.5 million children under five years of age worldwide die each year due to unsafe water and a lack of adequate sanitation and hygiene. For people of faith who are called to share the earth's resources, to be good neighbors to all, and to care for the least among us, this fact is unacceptable.
Poor air quality leads to numerous health problems like asthma and respiratory diseases for children, older adults, and those with compromised immune systems. Clean air is a gift given by a generous and gracious God who cares for all and when anyone suffers, people of faith are called to right injustice.
What You Can Do
- Don't buy or drink bottled water.
- Plant native perennials instead of grass to eliminate watering a lawn.
- Advocate through your congregation or national non-profits for clean water as a right for all people on earth.
- Buy products for your home cleaning that are organic and biodegradable.
- Buy paint with low levels or no levels of VOC's.
- Contact your elected officials at all levels to wok for clean water and air for your community and other communities.
Links and Resources