I had the honor of speaking at the “Our Bay. Our Water. Our Moment” rally last night at the National Aquarium. Several hundred people gathered to show support for the new Chesapeake Watershed Implementation Plan set forth by the EPA. The WIP, as it is known, is designed to limit the pollutants that enter the bay and allow the streams, rivers and bay to heal and renew themselves. We need to show broad-based public support for these regulations, for other forces are fighting them. Check out the plan and send in your comments.
You needn’t focus on the arcane details. You can simply speak as a concerned citizen, in your own words, according to your own dreams for our water and our bay.
I heard, too, that Baltimore’s Waterfront Partnership has pledged to make the harbor fishable and swimmable by 2020. A huge commitment. We need to help and support them too.
For those who are interested, I post my comments from last night here:
We gather here today with one clear message:
We must restore the health of our waters, restore the health of our bay.
And we are committed to this message for one simple reason:
All life depends on water.
Songs and grass, trees and babies, fish, food, health.
[Life begins with that miracle liquid in which we were all conceived, in which we were all swaddled and fed, floated and flourished till we - both our gilled and finny ancestors and we ourselves – heaved our bodies onto dry land and burst out into this bright world to explore what lay beyond.]
Everything we do, everything that grows, everything that breathes owes its existence to earth’s water: fresh, clean, healthy, flowing water.
[Water is what sets our awesomely verdant planet apart from the millions of barren, lifeless places we see when we scan the heavens—still vainly seeking other signs of life.]
For as long as we have walked upon this earth, humans have depended upon water to keep us healthy and full of life.
Today, the tables are turned. It is the water that depends upon us to keep it healthy and full of life.
Over the past 150 years, with all our inventions, all our discoveries and all our industry, humans have become a geophysical force, altering the very mechanics of this world. Yet it is daring to tamper with earth’s delicate balance, for there are so many things we still do not understand.
“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” God rails at Job in that book of the Bible.
“Tell me, if you understand….
“Who shut up the sea behind its doors when it first burst forth from the womb?
Who was there when I fixed limits for it and set its bars in place?
Who cuts channels for the torrents of rain, and paths for the thunderstorms … to satisfy a desolate wasteland and make it sprout with grass?
“Are you the rain’s father? Are you the mother of the dew?”
We are indeed neither father nor mother of the rain, or the dew, or the water.
We are neither the masters nor creators of this world; we are not the designers or manufacturers of water. We are, when all is said and done, the users, the consumers, the needy beneficiaries of this awesome, earthly elixir that was here in healthy abundance before we were ever born. And which we need to leave healthy for life yet to come.
We are water’s rightful users. But we cannot allow ourselves to become its destroyers.
Yet, unless we change our ways, that is precisely what we will be.
We use water broadly, voluminously, in all kinds of ways: we drink it, bathe in it, swim in it; wash our cars, dishes, and clothes in it. We baptize our babies, purify our bodies, and gently wash our dead, in it.
We manufacture almost all our stuff with it, create energy that powers our cities with it.
Then we dump it, trash it, throw our garbage and poisons and waste into.
We need to change our ways. We need to re-imagine how to do farming, manufacturing, transportation; we need to re-design how we construct our buildings and homes and cities and streets.
We need to live in nature as good guests, for indeed we are here but a short time, and nature is our host, patiently and generously opening herself to us. But if we continue to behave badly, nature’s patience and generosity will run out. And we will all suffer for it.
We need to change, to do things better. This is not a matter of choice but of timing. Not a matter of “if” but of “when”. The sooner we act: the more effective the fix, the more equitable the impact, the less burdensome the cost. We need to do it now.
Thomas Berry taught that each generation has a Great Work that defines it; each generation has a sacred calling that ties “their human venture to the larger destinies of the universe”.
Our generation’s Great Work is healing this earth. We might not have asked for this task, but it is ours. It lies before us. The good news is: it is ennobling, inspiring, fulfilling to do it and do it well.
And we have already begun. We have begun to see how we can live in harmony with earth’s rhythms and capacity; we have begun to see how we can restore the waters of our planet and the life that pulses within it.
But we need to do it more, we need to do it better, and we need to do it now.
That is the message we bring today. That is the work we pledge ourselves to do.
This week is the Jewish holiday of Sukkot – it is best known as our fall harvest festival, but it is also the time we celebrate the gift of water and pray for the healing presence of rain.
We speak of the miracles God did for us through water, and we ask that the healthy rains come, and the pure waters flow:
We ask that water be there for us:
As a blessing and not a curse;
For abundance and not for famine;
For Life and not for Death.
Today, the choice is up to us.
We must: Choice Clean Water. Choose Now. Choose Life.