The State of California is currently in the grip of a severe drought - one of the worst in history, and no end in sight. In a state that is so rich in abundant agricultural resources, livestock is now threatened and in some cases dying off. Fruit trees, vineyards, and vegetable crops are at risk and the water supply in some small towns is drying up, forcing some folks to move elsewhere.
A State-wide initiative has now gone into effect aimed at conserving water as more and more people are coming to realize just exactly how important water is for sustaining life on this planet.
The gift of water is perhaps nowhere more appreciated than out here in an already-dry desert climate, so during this drought, most of us desert dwellers have been more than happy to comply with newly issued water-use restrictions that regulate when we can water gardens, how much water many be used, no more hosing down porches and patios.
Yesterday's local paper featured a story about a prominent supervisor in the desert water district. Although he was a key figure in promoting the recent water restrictions, he felt that he, himself, need not comply with his own directives. He owns a beautiful desert home surrounded by lush green lawns and landscaped with gardens of water-dependent trees and flowers requiring almost constant irrigation. It was reported that this supervisor uses more than 5x the amount of water than is allowed. In fact neighbors have observed that they often see his lawn flooded in the morning by sprinklers left on throughout the night.
When a reporter asked this supervisor to comment on his water consumption and his refusal to conserve in the same way he expects others to do, he answered, "Well, what am I supposed to do, should I let my beautiful lawn and garden die? Maybe you want me to sell my house?"
I thought this one single comment was almost a perfect icon of the rampant self-centered mindset so prevalent in today's "me-first" culture. "Who cares if the earth is drying up? Who cares if plants and animals are dying? Who cares if people are abandoning their homes because the water supply is evaporating? What is most important is that "I" am happy - "my"beautiful lawn and "my" beautiful gardens remain lush and green - nice to look at, enhancing the value of my home.
In her wonderful new book, Ask the Beasts, contemporary theologian, Elizabeth Johnson, notes that many people today live with their "heads buried in the sand." They are uninterested in the needs of others, with no regard to the moral responsibility we all have for caring for one another's welfare - promoting social justice, working for peace, caring for the needs of the poor.
Johnson goes on to observe that, even among those who are attuned to our responsibility to care for one anther, caring for the "welfare of the planet" often doesn't even make it onto their "moral responsibility" radar. The pollution of air and ocean, the destruction of forests, the abuse of aquifers and water supplies are often viewed as issues on a "liberal" political agenda.
And yet, the earth is a sacred place, alive with the energy of "God,"and we are all just as responsible for caring for the welfare are of the planet as we are for caring for the welfare of our fellow human beings - feeding the poor falls into the same category as saving the oceans.
In her book, theologian Johnson observes;
The ongoing destruction of life on Earth by human action, intended or not, has the character of deep moral failure. To speak theologically, it is profoundly sinful. By acts of commission and omission we are perpetrating an offense against life and it's future. When we destroy the earth we are pulling against "God."
When I woke up this morning I turned on my kitchen faucet and out flowed cool, clear, refreshing water. I thought to myself, "This is "holy water" - charged with the energy of God. This Holy Water gives us life." As I drank deeply, I vowed again to do my part to care for this precious gift.