Troubled Waters'

Troubled Waters'

October 31, 2006
Written by Daniel Hazard

Lynn Redgrave to host UCC-documentary airing on ABC-TV stations

"Water, water everywhere. Not a drop to drink," wrote Samuel Taylor Coleridge in his 1798 poem, "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner."

But one doubts that corporate ownership of the world's depleting fresh water sources was the problem he then had in mind.

Nevertheless, today, some United Nations officials, religious leaders and environmental activists are taking increasing notice of who is accumulating ownership of the globe's ever-shrinking sources of drinkable water. Some are even insisting that access to water - not oil - will be the primary cause of wars in the 21st century.

And the UCC is doing its part to raise the pertinent justice issues surrounding the immediate and future availability of life-giving, life-sustaining water.

Set to begin airing Oct. 22 on ABC-TV stations nationally, a new UCC-produced documentary, "Troubled Waters," will remind viewers that safe water's "primary source" is not a 12-ounce plastic bottle. It's the world's rivers, streams and lakes that are being strained by the world's burgeoning population and consumption.

Acclaimed actress Lynn Redgrave, a member of First Congregational UCC in Kent, Conn., is hosting the 60-minute documentary, which was filmed in various locations around the world, including Porto Alegre, Brazil, where UCC justice advocates joined ecumenical partners in February to raise water-availability concerns at the World Council of Churches' 9th international assembly.

While there, global delegates affirmed that "access to freshwater supplies is becoming an urgent matter across the planet."

"The survival of 1.2 billion people is currently in jeopardy due to lack of adequate water and sanitation," the WCC Assembly's resolution states. "Unequal access to water causes conflicts between and among people, communities, regions and nations."

UCC film crews also traveled to the Middle East; Bolivia; Waukesha, Wis.; Washington, D.C.; Boston, Mass., among other locations, to capture stories of water's evaporating availability. Even in Cleveland, Ohio, where the UCC's national offices are located, crews filmed a segment on Lake Erie, due to emerging fresh-water fights brewing along the Great Lakes.

Redgrave - nominated for an Academy Award in 1966 for her groundbreaking role in Georgy Girl - agreed to take part in the UCC production for two reasons, according to the Rev. Robert Chase, the UCC's communications director and one of the documentary's executive producers. First, Redgrave expressed an abiding love and appreciation for the UCC, which is her church, Chase says. And second, she was impressed with the quality of another UCC-produced justice documentary, "Strong Roots, Fragile Farms," which tackled concerns about globalization's impact on family farms and aired on ABC-TV stations in 2002 and the Hallmark channel in 2004 and 2005. (See related story on page 11.)

"It's easy for some of us to take water for granted," says Jean Robinson, the UCC's video producer who has overseen the church's globe-trotting project, "because it seems like water is always available from our faucet, and we have a wide selection of brands of bottled water to choose from in stores."

"But with continuing increases in the world's population, water resources are being strained as never before," she says. "It's a dwindling natural resource that is turning what should be a basic human right into a commodity to be bought and sold. These forces have threatened the well-being of poor communities across the globe."

Made available for use by local ABC-TV affiliates through the Interfaith Broadcasting Commission, the documentary examines water issues through the stories of people who are struggling daily with the crisis, Robinson said. It also looks at the theological significance of water to Christians, Jews and Muslims.

The Rev. Wally Ryan Kuroiwa of the UCC's Justice and Witness Ministries, also an executive producer and the project's brainchild, says the people most affected by the water crisis are those on the margins, the poor, the powerless.

He cites the plight of villagers in India who have "pleaded" with companies like Coca-Cola (bottler of Desani Water) and Pepsi (bottler of Aquafina) "not to take our water."

"But [these companies] now own the rights to their water," Ryan Kuroiwa said. "There needs to be a voice for them, as Jesus spoke for the marginalized of his day. Or let them speak for themselves, which they now have the opportunity to do through this video."

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