Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
December 1, 2003
WCR Letters to the Editor
Water - a sacred right
Re: "Let's make water a human right" (WCR Editorial, Nov. 17).
Thank you for your thoughtful and concise presentation of the problem as well as unmasking a red herring - population. The "four points" led me to some further reflection.
"Water is a sacred gift that connects all life." Last Sunday I witnessed a Baptism where the priest explained that water was chosen by Jesus precisely because it signifies this connection. When we allow water to become polluted so that it brings death, we are allowing this sign of life that is sacred to us to be desecrated.
"Access to clean water is a basic human right." Canada cast the lone "no" vote among 53 countries voting on water as a human right at a UN meeting in Switzerland in April 2002, according to The Edmonton Journal of Sept. 21, 2003. The report also indicated that efforts to determine the reason for such a stance were blocked by our government. Development and Peace will be sending the cards signed during its campaign to Canada's foreign minister with a demand that Canada change its vote.
"The value of the earth's fresh water to the common good takes priority over any possible commercial value." Alberta government documents relating to water refer to water as a "resource" to be "managed" in order to protect the "rights of users."
These terms imply an ownership by the people of Alberta with rights to use, i.e. dam streams, and "consume," i.e. pollute water or inject water to a depth that removes it from the water cycle. Recognizing water as of value to the common good denies ownership claims and, instead requires provincial legislation that protects the integrity of each watershed, prohibits the removal of water from the water cycle and promotes the reclamation of polluted water.
"Fresh water is a shared legacy, a public trust and a collective responsibility." The City of Edmonton in 1997 started the Towards a Cleaner River campaign which included a long-term plan extending to 2030. The campaign to reduce the combined sewer overflows that occur during heavy rainfalls and dumping of raw sewage into the river has involved the city investing in better sewage technology and citizens draining their eaves onto their yards instead of down the sewer lines in their homes.
The city has taken the lead in this admirable stewardship action. Many citizens have joined in but a walk around one's neighbourhood will identify many who have not. Your editorial provides all of us with food for reflection and reasons to act.
Mission Mexico embraces, does not toss, people away
Thank you for your pair of articles on Mission Mexico (WCR, Nov. 17, "Parishes step up for Mexico: Cochrane leads way in raising $575,000 for Mission Mexico," and "A battle for rights in Mexico: Cochrane woman tries to bring hope to remote area").
As a coffee-cupping columnist and a member of St. Mary's Church-Cochrane, I have developed a great respect for the Mission Mexico project and its on-site coordinator, Leslie Davies. Here, indeed, is a Catholic charitable outreach that aims at freeing some of North America's poorest people from the prison houses of oppression, illiteracy and economic dependency.
Although the idea of Mission Mexico had its roots in Cochrane with Father Fred Monk and his team, it quickly spread throughout the Diocese of Calgary - Bishop Fred Henry has even proclaimed Dec. 12 as Mission Mexico Day throughout the diocese - and, I'm pleased to read, is now embracing all of Alberta through the pages of the WCR.
In that same issue of Nov. 17, you ran an article, "Homeless does not mean soul-less," about the practical and spiritual help offered by the Calgary Drop-In Centre. Something you quoted from its executive director, Dr. Dermot Baldwin, applies equally well to Mission Mexico as it does to Baldwin's inner-city social justice outreach:
"We have a throw-away society and the homeless (read also: "the poor of southern Mexico") are as susceptible to this way of thinking as throw-away wrappers."
Clearly, Leslie Davies also believes no one should be treated as "throw-away wrappers."
Her response - a response all of us can make in the spirit of Mission Mexico - is quite simple:
"One of the greatest gifts we can give one another is to be present," she says; "that is, to truly bend our heart and spirit towards others, to take time to listen and to care."
The Mission Mexico team have produced a website well worth visiting. The address is: www.missionmexico.com.
Take another look at the young, poor
Young people and poor people do not vote simply because politicians are seen as asset protectors in today's world and not service providers.
Our young people are growing up in a more fast pace and violent society than we did generations ago. Classes are getting bigger; programs are becoming obsolete and/or more expensive. Our children are being viewed as burdens rather than investments. Being viewed as a burden to society does not encourage one to participate.
It is only as we age and start acquiring assets in this materialistic world that we start to see the benefits of participating and voting to ensure our assets are protected. The same goes for poor people, who are seen as a burden than as a valued part of society, and lacking the assets, that politicians campaign to protect, fail to see the need to participate and vote.
Poor people are the ones who keep society moving. They are the service providers, problem solvers, and burden relievers that are often ignored and abused by the rest of society, but without which our lives would be extremely more difficult. Their unglamorous and low profile lives do not make for headlines, but they make it possible for the more well to do to succeed and enjoy their lives.
So, until politicians, again become viewed as service providers, the young and the poor will not vote or participate in the political system.
When a sense of duty to protect the young, and the poor, becomes more powerful than a campaign contribution for politicians as a whole, then and only then will the young and the poor take the time to participate and vote.
But not till then.