Action Alert

March 2013

March 22 is World Water Day as declared by the United Nations General Assembly in 2010. This year is the International Year of Water Cooperation. According to the website, UN Water, “the objective is to raise awareness, both on the potential for increased cooperation, and on the challenges facing water management in light of the increase in demand for water access, allocation and services.”
 
Water is essential to life and development, both human and economic. Simultaneously, water is limited in some places on Earth. As demands for water increase on many levels, opportunities for cooperation are readily available. According to the United Nations’ publication on water cooperation, “Promoting water cooperation implies an interdisciplinary approach bringing in cultural, educational and scientific factors, as well as religious, ethical, social, political, legal, institutional and economic dimensions. It is a vehicle for building peace and a foundation for sustainable development.”
 
What benefits exist for water cooperation? According to United Nations materials, water cooperation:

  • Is key to poverty eradication, social equity and gender equality. 
  • Creates economic benefits.
  • Is crucial to preserving water resources and protecting the environment.
  • Builds peace.
According to materials promoting water cooperation, access to clean water is a basic human need and is included in the Millennium Development Goals (MDG # 7; to halve the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water). When inclusivity and participatory governance of water and cooperation between different groups who use water is achieved, inequality is overcome thus contributing to poverty eradication, improved living conditions and educational opportunities for the female who often labors for water. With regard to the economy of the community, greater cooperation leads to more efficient and sustainable use of water resources. Individuals sharing data and information with regards to water, as well as best practices, and strategies for sustainability, help preserve a community or regional ecosystem that is highly important to long-term development. While water can be a source of conflict, cooperation on water management can help overcome tensions and build trust between those in the community, region or state.

Reflections/Actions:

  • What does water cooperation mean to me? What does it mean to my sisters and brothers who are living in poverty?
  • What examples of water cooperation exist in my community?
  • Where can I find more information and facts on water cooperation in my community, nation, on Earth?
  • How can I raise awareness of the benefits of water cooperation among others?
  • During Lent, take some time to reflect upon water and it’s role in all life. A resource on water from the World Council of Churches is available each week of Lent byclicking here.
  • How does water cooperation empower individuals to end violence against women (theme for the UN International Women’s Day, March 8)?
  • What specific actions do I take with regard to water cooperation? What are my wants vs. needs regarding water? Do I wash a full load of laundry? What temperature is the water? Do I rinse my cup with hot water so as to have a hotter beverage? What does each of these actions speak of with regard to water conservation and water cooperation?
  • Help clean or organize a group to clean a body of water in the geographic area where you reside.
  • Organize or participate in an art exhibition or videos highlighting the many aspects of water cooperation.
  • Educational resources are located here and two videos on water located here.
  • Develop role-plays based on possible water cooperation situations to educate others.
  • On World Water Day in the European Union, school children aged 10-15 will carry water in a backpack and walk to raise funds and awareness on global water issues.
  • Information on World Water Day and the UN is located here.
  • “I was thirsty and you gave me water to drink.” (Matthew 25:35b) What does this quote mean to you after reflecting on the theme of water cooperation?

Climate Change and Renewable Energy Impact

“Climate change refers to any significant change in the measures of climate lasting for an extended period of time. In other words, climate change includes major changes in temperature, precipitation, or wind patterns, among others, that occur over several decades or longer.” (Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) 

Many of us know what the words “climate change” mean and can describe it to others. Yet, according to Anthony Leiserowitz (Director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and a Research Scientist at the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies at Yale University) who recently appeared on Bill Moyers, “40% of the world has never heard of climate change.” Leiserowitz goes on to share that although individuals may realize and name the effects, such as temperature increases and different precipitation patterns, lacking is the concept of “climate change” to make sense of these experiences and observations.

Fossil Fuels: While there are some skeptics, the challenge for all of us is to understand that carbon dioxide is a gas that can’t be seen as it is being placed into our atmosphere via combustion, cement production, and respiration. Carbon dioxide occurs naturally in the atmosphere, yet too much causes Earth to heat and effects human health.

  • Coal, oil and gas are the main fossil fuels that produce carbon dioxide and are present in major ways within the United States, India and many other countries as sources of energy.
  • Power plants are the largest contributor, in America, of carbon dioxide at 40% of all emissions that enter the atmosphere of our home.
  • According to Elisabeth Rosenthal in one of her recent articles, “Europeans average 10 tons of carbon dioxide a year in air travel while the average American generates 19 tons.”
  • In 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officially acknowledged greenhouse gas pollution (all toxic pollutants caused by humans) as a threat to the health and welfare of Americans.

While none of our global transitions from fossil fuels (i.e. gas, oil, coal) will be easy, it is important that countries and individuals within those countries continue to “diversify their portfolio” with renewable energy sources. Research shows that overall, renewable energies produce drastically less greenhouse gases than fossil fuels and currently comprise about 13% of all energy. Overall, the potential of these technologies to supply services exceeds current demands.

Hydraulic Fracking:

  • process used to bring natural gas to the surface for use as energy emits a considerable amount of methane gas.
  • According to the Clean Air Task Force, “pound for pound, methane warms Earth over 70 times more than carbon dioxide.”
  • According to the EPA, the “leaking and venting of methane from the oil and gas production systems is America’s largest source of methane pollution.”
  • The Clean Air Task Force states that, “comprehensive methane emission standards would decrease air pollution, health issues and climate change.
Renewables: ”Bioenergies (any fuel that is derived from biomass – recently living organisms or their metabolic byproducts) are by far the most common renewable energy and yet individuals are noticing limitations to these such as food insecurity, the need for reducing even more carbon dioxide in the process of production, land grabbing for growing these plants, and deforestation among others. Other renewable energies include geothermal, ocean wave energy, biomass, hydropower, solar and wind turbines. Current limitations in the renewable energy sector include infrastructure for transmission and distribution of these energies, energy storage technologies (such as batteries), and support for/demand for these energies.

When leaders and policy makers discuss “energy portfolios” for the future of a nation, an important question to ask is, “what are we trying to accomplish?”

  • Are you trying to reduce carbon emissions?
  • Are you trying to keep future energy rates affordable?
  • Are you trying to spur commercialization of renewables?

The responses to these questions, along with others important locally, have a positive impact on climate change not only for home countries, but also for our sisters and brothers around the world, especially those who are poor and vulnerable and our future generations.

Reflection/Action:

  • Anthony Leiserowitz invites each of us to stop for a moment and consider what raising the temperature of the human body would do to the system as a whole. Consider temperature increases to the human body. What happens to the human body? Can we not expect Earth to feel changes also?
  • President Obama has not made a decision with regard to the Keystone XL. Urge President Obama (1.202.456.1111; charges apply) to say NO to the Keystone XL. 
  • Urge President Obama and the Department of Energy to evaluate all the impacts of fracking on our communities to export liquefied natural gas to overseas buyers.
  • Bill Moyers has a climate change spotlight page filled with articles, tools, and resources.
  • The documentary, Hungry Tide, describes the effects of climate change on one community. A discussion guide is also available.
  • The Catholic Coalition on Climate Change has a resource page.
  • A diverse coalition-religious and secular, business interests and retired military-has formed to request leadership from the White House toward a national summit of conversations on climate change. U.S. Catholics are invited to sign a letter here
  • The Sisters of Charity of Nazareth media center has the film Green is the New Red, White and Blue that explores energy consumption and clean energy. Kilowatt Oursis also located in the media center and explores practical ways to save energy and put money saved toward renewable energy.
  • “God destined the earth and all it contains for all people and nations so that all created things would be shared fairly by all humankind under the guidance of justice tempered by charity." (The Church in the Modern World, #69) What concrete actions would decrease my use of oil, gas, and coal?

U.S. Legislative Updates

The March 1 across-the-board spending cuts scheduled to go into effect have gathered recent media attention. $110 billion in automatic cuts, known as sequestration, will have a wide impact on all non-exempt defense and non-defense discretionary programs as well as Medicare. Senate leadership has offered a plan that would change the effective date of the cuts to January 2014, cut defense spending and increase tax rates on households making more than $2 million annually. House leadership has stated it will not agree with this plan and it is unclear whether the House will vote on its own proposal. Fact sheets on sequestration for each state are located here. Additionally, Congress is facing a March 27 deadline when funding for appropriated programs will end because the temporary Continuing Resolution for FY 2013 expires.

  •  Action: Contact legislators and adapt the message located here.
Comprehensive immigration reform remains on legislators’ minds with more disagreements arising as to how to prioritize what must be included in the legislation. Justice for Immigrants continues to have the latest news on the process. February’s Action Alert highlighted the issue. An ecumenical campaign for use by individuals and groups is located here

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