YARMOUTH — Water – clean water – is a basic human right and a gift God has given to humanity to safeguard, harkening all the way back to the Garden of Eden.
Earlier this summer, Pope Francis, the spiritual leader of 1 billion Catholics worldwide, released “On Care for Our Common Home,” the first-ever papal encyclical on the environment. This teaching document highlighted the water issues facing our communities here in Maine and around the world. Fortunately, the new federal Clean Water Rule offers protections for our water supplies.
Brought out in June, Pope Francis’ encyclical said: “Fresh drinking water is an issue of primary importance, since it is indispensable for human life and for supporting terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.”
He highlights problems like the lack of access to fresh drinking water, the low quality of water available to the poor, the privatization of water and the growing scarcity of water that we all face.
In the biblical Creation story, God gifted water to humans; it is our job to care for this precious gift. Creatures, both animal and human alike, rely on clean water for survival. At a time when we are facing so many issues related to water, people of all faith traditions and beliefs can gain some inspiration from Pope Francis’ words.
Here in Maine, water is central to our way of life. The Atlantic Ocean, rivers, creeks, lakes, wetlands and bays are such an important part of our culture and our economy.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s new Clean Water Rule recently took effect in Maine and 36 other states across the country. As a religious leader, I applaud this step toward cleaner and healthier water for communities in Maine and for people all across the country. We should protect our water sources today to ensure access tomorrow not only for ourselves, but also for future generations.
This Clean Water Rule enables people in the United States to be effective stewards and to protect the health of our water systems. This rule will protect the drinking water of 117 million Americans, or one in every three of us, by protecting the upstream sources that flow into the larger bodies of water.
The rule provides Clean Water Act protections for streams nationwide, including important waterways in Maine. The Clean Water Rule restores protection to 60 percent of America’s streams that have been protected by the Clean Water Act, but these safeguards have not always been implemented.
As a Christian, I support the Clean Water Rule because Creation care is a core tenet of my faith. Not only is clean water necessary for human health but also water, through baptism, is used to symbolize our entry into the Christian faith.
As we read in John 4:14: “But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
This belief that water is sacred is not limited to the Christian tradition; nearly every religion has something to say about the special role that water plays in our spiritual lives.
Jews, for instance, visit the sacred mikvah, where they immerse themselves in water in order to purify themselves.
We also know that we have been called to protect and responsibly care for that which God has given us. This task requires us to ensure the cleanest water for ourselves, our neighbors and our grandchildren.
Sen. Susan Collins, Sen. Angus King and all of our other elected officials and fellow citizens alike should celebrate and support the protection of our clean water supplies for Maine, and all of God’s creation.
God’s waters are the ultimate form of nurturing, and the Earth is created to sustain us. In agreeing to conserve and protect even a fraction of the Earth’s water, we are doing our share in honoring the Earth that God has bestowed upon us.