In the busy buzz of daily life, certain moments stand out to me as stark reminders of what I care about. Such was the case a few months ago at church. The reading was about the Baptism of Jesus. Jesus was invited by John to come to the water. In New York, for a couple of days, media sources of all stripes were spilling the news that all of Flint Michigan’s water is toxic. Yet, for over a year, their entire water supply flows steadily to residents, hospitals, and businesses following a switch in their water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River to save money. This is all the water for drinking, bathing, cleaning, manufacturing, and it is toxic with high levels of lead. Now, children experience lead poisoning on a grand scale, facing stunted growth, drops in IQ and behavior issues. How can they come to the water?
That same week, my email shouted that the gigantic leak of methane gas in the Porter Ranch gated community in Southern California will continue for two-to-four months. Workers must dig down to the site of a once-broken-and-then-removed emergency valve, left unrepaired for forty years. Who’s watching the shop? Now, in this upscale neighborhood, animals are dying, people of all ages are nauseous, have nosebleeds, rashes, their eyes burn, so on. And people are leaving their homes in fear, wondering if they will ever return. Odorless, invisible gas is spewing its methane unabated totaling 2.3 degrees Celsius daily from one huge gas tank. This is more than the targeted goal of a limit of 2.0 from the International Paris Agreement to reduce carbon globally by year 2035. What is one to think?
Now, locally in Westchester County, New York the forty-two-inch diameter Algonquin Pipeline (AIM, Algonquin Incremental Market) is being dug from Stony Point in Rockland County, under the Hudson River coming up on the other side within 110 feet from Indian Point Nuclear Power facility. Indian Point has gone six years without licensing due to various hazards. Who’s watching the ship? Along the pipeline trail are compressors and pigging stations every ten to thirty miles. Extreme pressure pushes fracked gas through this long pipeline, necessarily spewing methane gas which sometimes explodes like in West Virginia last year and in Texas recently. Earth and old growth forests are being sacrificed for the pipelines sake, not for local use but to be sent to the coast to be sold for profit beyond our borders. Locally one station is four-hundred feet from an elementary school. Who is watching out for the children and the forest?
In the meantime, the Scripture readings are an invitation to “Come to the Water” of baptism. How can the people come to the water if it has spent nuclear fuel rods in it? Immigrants cross scorching deserts with little to no water seeking freedom from crime and injustices in their homelands and threats of death by gangs and/or the military. If captured, whole families and unaccompanied minors are detained for months seeking the waters of new life, in a new land.
Refugees are threatened with death, because of their faith, religion, ethnicity, politics, or location. They gather their loved ones, reluctantly leave their homelands, travel on foot and pay whatever they can for safe passage somewhere. Often, they are left by the ship’s captain to float or sink on their own or are left in rubber dingys to float or sink in frigid waters while seeking a better way.
Young adults who can’t afford college and can’t find work turn to low wage jobs or to drugs to ease the pain, join gangs or the military seeking a sense of belonging, to fit in, make a difference or even to support their families. And they learn how to kill, taking their imagination, their dreams, and hopes to a new battlefield. They find blood, not water.
Paying attention to one’s own breath as it rises and falls can quiet us and bring the stillness of awareness to open our eyes, ears, and hearts to see and hear what’s really going on in us and in those around and beyond us. Pay attention and then do something to acknowledge what you see or hear. The world and our God are crying out for each of us to Wake Up! There runs water and blood of all kinds in this world around us. Where, though, is the life-giving water? Perhaps it is in each of our own H20, C02 and O2, the breath of life.