Water/Climate Change by Dianne Merrill, Water Director

world melting

Water and climate change were the centerpiece of the January Interfaith Scholar Weekend. The featured speaker was Fresno native Dr. Christiana Zenner Peppard, Associate Professor of Theology, Science, and Ethics at Fordham University. Statistics presented during the weekend highlight the importance of taking care of the planet’s fresh water supplies:  97.5% of water on earth is salt water, while 2.5% is fresh water. 70 % of fresh water is held in glaciers, and 30% in the soil, leaving less than 1% of fresh water readily accessible to humans and environmental uses.  Water availability worldwide varies by location, with 1.1 billion people lacking adequate water access and 2.6 billion people lacking basic water sanitation. Closer to home, more than 300 communities, and more than one million Californians, lack access to adequate supplies of safe and affordable drinking water. Local representatives from the Leadership Counsel and the Community Water Center gave a presentation on what is being done to remedy this situation. Dr. Peppard challenged attendees to question and discuss how water is defined, used, allocated, and priced. Is water a human right, an economic commodity, a natural resource, a common good? What are our religious and ethical values relating to water?  Who benefits and who pays for water when there is often a tendency for water to flow toward socio, economic, and political power? What should be the roles of private equity firms and local stakeholders in decisions about water use and the development of water infrastructure?  Dr. Peppard offered her opinion that water should not be commoditized beyond the cost of provision. A memorable quote by Travis Huxman caught the audience’s attention: “Water is the hammer by which climate change will hit the earth.”

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