World's water issues: Just add faith-based values
World and country leaders, water experts and advocates are recognizing the vital values and ethics that faith-based organizations bring to the frontlines of global water and climate change challenges, says David Weaver, Church World Service Senior Advisor for Global Advocacy.
STOCKHOLM – Friday August 26, 2011 – World and country leaders, water experts and advocates are recognizing the vital values and ethics that faith-based organizations bring to the frontlines of global water and climate change challenges, says David Weaver, Church World Service Senior Advisor for Global Advocacy.
Attending the Aug. 21-27 World Water Week symposium in Stockholm, Sweden, Weaver said one of the conference sessions, “History, Ethics, Religious Values: Contributions to Water and Food Security,” explored the fact that, “besides fueling motivations for people to take action on water issues and the human right to water, faith-based values also are helping to shape the goals of what we’re all trying to do.”
Weaver said this is particularly apparent in the realm of people more widely exploring “a common way of valuing things we don’t sell on the market. The faith community has been out front that there are these intangible values that are more important than the monetary values of what we put on the market.” The eco-system itself provides things to human life that don’t pass through a human process, he said.
Weaver said the same focus on the non-monetary values surrounding water arose during a conference session on what the world water community is now referring to as green growth, “what nature does without monetary value, just by being itself.”
He said the consensus at the event was “more clearly than ever that issues of water, food security and climate change must be treated integrally. We have to look at the world in a very holistic way." Weaver added: “Leaders and experts are now stressing that there are complicated interdependencies.
“A lot of the issues around economic development have been either-or: economic development versus environmental preservation,” and, he said, “how much we’ll have to sacrifice to preserve the environment.
“It’s either the billionaire or the poor person. But resources, surviving and thriving are not about trading off one for the other. That becomes clearer the more we appreciate the negative cost of damaging the environment and the positive value of what the environment provides.”
And that distinction, Weaver said, “is an approach, a sensibility, that is underscored by the faith ethic.”
Water Week discussions also were strongly focused on the COP17 climate change conference, Nov. 28 – Dec. 9, in Durban, South Africa, and the 2012 Rio+20 Conference (United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development).
“World water leaders and experts hope to underscore the issue of sustainability at Rio+20, and water is a big part of that topic,” said Weaver. “We want to raise awareness about the cross-cutting nature and centrality of water with everything else the world is dealing with, including food and nutrition security and urbanization.”
Church World Service's programs in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East are integrating awareness of these different concerns as the agency works to provide access to clean water and sanitation -- a core priority for CWS, both in its development and advocacy work.
Of the spiritual ethic Weaver said, “People are beginning to come more from a different place. In Rio, they hope to focus on how to develop integrative and sustainable production, to move beyond the paradigm of economy against the environment. It’s about interdependency and seeing ourselves not as outside, over and above the rest of our environment. But I’ll have to say, that’s not yet everyone’s discourse.”
As the largest World Water Week to date, Weaver said he and fellow Water Week delegates CWS Africa Country Director Dan Tyler and CWS Africa Water Programs Coordinator Mary Obiero were joined by more than 2,500 attendees, “a great diversity of people and nationalities, representing business, government, civil society, the UN, NGOs and water advocates.