Water Wednesdays: Justice and the Water Cycle

One of God's Best Inventions

Psalm 104 is one of my favorite parts of the Bible because it poetically articulates what we enjoy hear in the Pacific Northwest with such clarity:  the water cycle.  The sun heats the ocean and water evaporates, condensing as it cools on the rise, to become clouds.  Prevailing winds push the clouds inland, where the clouds empty as rain or, in the cold places, snow.  This water becomes life – for plants, animals, humans, and bloggers like me.  All of us…ALL OF US, need water to live.

That’s why I marvel at the water cycle.  Last night it I heard rain on my roof all night, and if I’m lucky, sometime in the next week I’ll make it up into the mountains to ski, where I’ll be reminded that the snowpack miraculously provides water well into the fall around here most years, right when, amazingly, a fresh season of rain and snow begins.  This is beautiful to think about, even more beautiful to see.  Too bad it’s disappearing….

If you’re still living in the land of denial regarding climate change, I’d encourage you to read Bill McKibben’s lastest book: Eaarth.  His thesis:  the old, predictable climate patterns are gone.  He provides mountains of depressing evidence that, in spite of an anecdotal cold winter here and there, or advancing glacier in some remote spot, the net trend line is both unambiguous and alarming.  Oceans are rising.  Glaciers are receding.  Summer storms are carrying more destructive force because hotter summers mean more water evaporating out of the oceans.  Winter snow packs are receding, which means that some rivers are shrinking, which means that oceans are encroaching into river wetlands, which means…

1. Disappearing Water Tables – there’s less ground water available in this new, warmer world.  We don’t notice it because we’re here in the land of cold tap.  But it’s true globally and, as is usually the case, it’s the poor of the world who are feeling it first.  The economic and public health implications of this reality are staggering.

2. Arctic Ice disappearing – in 2007 the Arctic melt suddenly accelerated, so that by the end of that summer, photos of the ice from space revealed 22% less ice than any previous satellite picture from earlier years, and 40% less that during the Apollo projects.  It’s now possible, for the first time, to travel through the polar ice caps in the summer because of the melt.

3. Increased fires – the evidence isn’t just anecdotal, like the vast California fires for the past few years.  It’s statistical.  IN one day in June 2008, the increased lightening storms (a result of global warming) resulted in an unprecedented 1700 different fires starting in California alone.  There’s more to come, and with it increased costs to government and insurance agencies.

4. Increased disease and poverty – I’ll give you just one example.  Have you heard of Dengue Fever?  Because of water shortages, people are starting to collect rainwater in open containers, and this is increasing the mosquito population.  Add to this, an extended breeding season and shorter incubation period due to warmer weather, and what do you get?  El Salvador has seen a 20-fold increase in the past 5 years.  ”Dengue Fever has come to stay in Latin America” says the Argentinian health minister.

Two Responses:

I’m called to live generously, because I’m incredibly wealthy, by any standard.  I need to challenge my lifestyle at every level, because the world in which we live is, increasingly, resource challenged.  How can I simplify?  How can I invest, in Jesus name, in addressing these pressing issues?  These are the main questions and goals of the Spilling Hope initiative presently under way.  I’d encourage you to join in, even if you’re not part of the church I lead, and tell others about it – because lives are at stake, and we have the privilege and responsibility of making a difference.

The world is changing, and we who follow Christ would do well to wake up to the global issues surrounding humanity’s collective failure to steward the earth.  Creation is, indeed, groaning, as Romans 8 says.  The church can be at the forefront of offering models for living differently – but not if we mirror the consumptive, complacent, consumerist ways of our present culture and economic model.  Something different is needed – simplicity, generosity, community, interdependency, and so much more.  These cannot be slogans – they need to be deeply held values that challenge, and change, our life together.

I welcome your thoughts…

About Richard Dahlstrom

As Pastor of Bethany Community Church in Seattle, Richard teaches with vision of "making the invisible God visible" by calling people to acts of service and blessing. It's working, as a wilderness ministry, homeless shelter, and community meals that serve those living on the margins are all pieces of Bethany's life. "We're being the presence of Christ" he says, "and inviting everyone to join the adventure." Many have, making Bethany one of the fastest growing churches in America in 2009 according to Outreach Magazine.

  • klem

    The book sounds pretty depressing, I think I’ll not buy it. Thanks for the book review, you’ve saved me time and money.

    Also since I’m not a Christian, I do not believe humans are born sinners and are therefore inherently evil, I think we think and behave exaclty the way we are supposed to think and behave.

    • raincitypastor

      I wonder if you’d think every one behaves exactly as ‘we’re supposed to’ if you lived in Darfur, or if your daughter were sold into sexual slavery? Your view that all unfolds exactly as it is ‘supposed to’ is either rooted in savage callousness, and gives license to horrific crimes against humanity, or deep denial. I think there’s a better, more honest way.

    • Lamont

      Klem you said: “I do not believe humans are born sinners and are therefore inherently evil, I think we think and behave exaclty the way we are supposed to think and behave.”

      You don’t believe it based on what?

  • Becca

    I just read your last three blog posts and I have to say I’m a little disappointed. The theme I see in all three is sabbath and not once did you even allude to the true meaning of sabbath. Sabbath is not just a time of rest for us to take a break from work and be with God, it is that, but it is so much more. Sabbath is the reason we work (work is not the reason we sabbath). Sabbath is the same for all people, it is about justice, it is about caring for the earth, it is about living a life of abundance and self restraint where everyone has enough and no one takes more than they need. A life of sabbath helps us realize that we are more than our work, more than what we produce (we only work six days and expect seven days of return). A life of sabbath means that we forgive debts, give generously in celebration of our abundance, and allow even the poorest and most destitute to rest their feet and take a place at God’s feast. Sabbath is not an antiquated Jewish tradition overthrown by Christ. It is the crown of creation, the longest of the ten commandments, it is echoed in the Lord’s prayer, and defended fiercely by Christ. It’s an actual practice that would actually revolutionize the way we live every week in exactly the ways you’ve been blogging about.

    • raincitypastor

      thanks for the feedback Becca… totally agree with you regarding the nature of the Sabbath – not sure I agree that it’s unadressed, especially in the water post, where the conclusion calls for simplicity and generosity, both hallmarks of sabbath rest. But I always tell people, “perception is 90% of reality” so if you’re not seeing it, I’m not communicating it clearly enough. Thanks for filling the gap.

  • Cameron

    I think I’m comfortable saying I am a former climate change skeptic. I suppose it didn’t fit my world view, or maybe I didn’t like the messengers (Al Gore, etc.). Once I let go of my former opinions and approached the issue with a fresh perspective, the conclusions were fairly obvious.

    Its hard however to know what we can do about such a global issue. Even if I follow every bit of advice in my household (go ‘green’ as it were), I know I won’t have a noticeable impact on the globe. So, I suppose it takes a bit of faith to say I’m going to do my part. But at the same time, I’m thrilled to be part of something like Spilling Hope that does have a noticeable impact on lives.

    Thank you Richard for speaking in truth and in an intelligent way. I appreciate your ability to look at each issue independently and through a biblical and God-based lens and not necessarily based on a traditional political party’s stance.

  • Lamont

    The author of the book I read says:

    “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”
    Gen 8:22

    He is one 100% accurate in His predictions!
    And He Created the water cycle!

    Some trust in scientists, and some in enviornmentalists, but I trust in the Name….

    • Glenda

      I don’t think that Richard is suggesting that any of these things will cease, but that we as humans will diminish them to such an extent that although seedtime and harvest continue, the human race will not.

  • Lamont

    All the people will be extinct but the seasons will continue on. Hence a meaningless verse.

  • Lamont

    Remember Global Warming? Now it’s called “Climate Change” so now you can have it “both way’s” or, “Hedgeing your bet” as it were!

    Perhaps some would be interested in reading others perspectives on the issue as well. The new Religion of “Climate Change”

    http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2009/12/hide-decline.html

    http://www.amazon.com/Green-Hell-Environmentalists-Plan-Control/dp/1596985852/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

    Would you hand me another beer and pass the Nobel Prizes please? I feel another academy award coming on!

    I would never discount good stewardship or showing the love of God by serving our fellow man and bringing the gospel to the lost. May God grant us the grace to take care of our home for His Glory!


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