Posted by: jblevins | October 23, 2008

A Human Right to Water in Switzerland

The issue of water is not one we have been involved in, in a detailed way, since at least when I arrived a little more than a year ago. Over 3 days in Bossey, Switzerland, I am getting a crash course in what is going on.

In the United States, the conversation is often about conserving our water use – turning off the faucet while brushing our teeth, taking shorter showers, not using bottled water, ect. – and stewardship of the water we have (we have done particular work on the Chesapeake Bay out of the Eco-Justice office). But, for the rest of the world, and especially those living in poverty, the question is not how to use the water you have, but rather how to get any water at all!

I am hearing stories this week from our brothers and sisters in Africa, Asia, and Latin America of private companies polluting water to the point that it is undrinkable, and creating “ownership” over water sources, and charging local communities for access. Through the stewardship of the World Council of Churches, the Ecumenical Water Network was created 5 or so years ago, and it is at its meeting that I am currently sitting. And what I am hearing is that people in the United States don’t get it – we so often don’t see the connection between the ways in which we live, and the companies from which we buy, and the water crisis that exists for so much of the rest of the world.

Church World Service is doing incredible work on this – through their water and sanitaiton projects, and through producing educational materials on the human right to water. It is vital that we join our voice to theirs. Climate change is only making this issue worse for most of the world, and it starting to bring it home, in the Southeast and Southwestern parts of the United States. We are beginning to see the beginning of the problem that our brothers and sisters have been dealing with already. The stories are powerful, and our ability to help is strong.

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