God’s gift of water is becoming an endangered resource or as Larry Rasmussen calls it in his beautiful and informative book Earth-Honoring Faith, the “chief uncertain resource.” This gift of life necessary for survival has become for some an investment. People buy up and sell or buy up and hoard water and water sources waiting for a shortage so they can get rich or at least can ensure their own survival. Water is, of course, necessary for all life forms. As someone said: “No blue, no green, no green, no us.”
The impact of water shortages has been playing itself out in geopolitical ways for a while. In a Smithsonian Magazine article from June of 2013, Joshua Hammer asks: “Is a Lack of Water to Blame for the Conflict in Syria?” He writes:
In Syria, a devastating drought beginning in 2006 forced many farmers to abandon their fields and migrate to urban centers. There’s some evidence that the migration fueled the civil war there…. ‘You had a lot of angry, unemployed men helping to trigger a revolution,’ says Aaron Wolf, a water management expert at Oregon State University, who frequently visits the Middle East.”
Since 1975, Turkey’s dam and hydropower construction has cut water flow to Iraq by 80 percent and to Syria by 40 percent. Syria and Iraq have accused Turkey of hoarding water.
The Gravity and Climate Experiment (a pair of satellites operated by NASA and Germany’s aerospace center) measured groundwater usage between 2003 and 2009 and found that the Tigris-Euphrates Basin—comprising Turkey, Syria, Iraq and western Iran—is losing water faster than any other place in the world except northern India . During those six years, 117 million acre-feet of stored freshwater vanished from the region as a result of dwindling rainfall and poor water management policies. ... GRACE’s director, Jay Famiglietti, a hydrologist at the University of California, Irvine, calls the data ‘alarming.’
While the scientists captured dropping water levels, political experts have observed rising tensions. In Iraq, the absence of a strong government since 2003, drought and shrinking aquifers have led to a recent spate of assassinations of irrigation department officials and clashes between rural clans. Some experts say that these local feuds could escalate into full-scale armed conflicts.
I thought of this reality this summer when in Bible study we read in II Peter about “waterless springs” being places where demons dwell. It makes sense, doesn’t it, that places without water would become unholy places where the demons of drought and hoarding and violence would rise up.
The II Peter reading led one of our Bible study attendees to ask me if we pour water into the baptismal bowl on Sunday morning “because there are demons around?” I loved that she made that connection. We don’t usually think of it that way – we think of the water pouring as a reminder of our baptism and a reminder that we are forgiven – our sin washed away – our lives renewed and refreshed for another week.
But just as communion is so much more than just a reminder of something in the past so are the power of our baptism and that pouring of water. In our baptisms we promise to renounce Satan and all his empty promises. When we pour the water on Sunday mornings, we are in a real sense, renouncing and driving away once and again the unholy claims of Satan and maybe we should add the unholy claims on water.
Water is, after all, God’s gift given for life.
(For those concerned about water shortages, check out here how we might help.)
- Pastor Dianne