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Catholic Women In A League Of Their Own

Updated: Apr 25, 2023

The Blue Community project was invited to speak at two Catholic Women's League events this April. This adds to a recent presentation Sr. Linda Parent (CSJ) gave to CWL members in Windsor also in April.

Thanks to the collaborative contacts by many CSJ Sisters (notably Sr. Bonnie Chesser in Sudbury), Paul Baines was invited to present about this Blue Community project as an example for exploring and experiencing Pope Francis' Laudato Si': Care For Our Common Home.

Top photo of Paul Baines presenting in Sault Ste. Marie at the Catholic Women's League Diocesan Convention . Bottom photo of Paul with Sr. Bonnie Chesser (CSJ) at the CWL Luncheon in Sudbury.

CWL is celebrating its 99th year and wants to focus more on Laudato Si', especially the crises and call to action around water. What follows is a short summary of Paul's presentation with a link to all the slides at the bottom. A final thanks to the CWL leadership for inviting this Project into their 2019 agenda and for all their curiosity, care, and commitment. Stay tuned for more about this collaboration.

Our Blue Community project has several elements, one of the first being place -- place matters. It matters because Canada would not exist without land treaties with the Indigenous nations who have lived with these places for thousands of years. Place matters because we would not be here without the water. It not only surrounds us, but is within us. Let us honour this water and all the neighbours we share these lands and waters with. Since being forgotten can lead to marginalization, let's make the invisible more visible and remember that all of Creation needs our attention, not just humans.

"... we have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor" (Laudato Si' paragraph 49)

In Canada and at the International level, the human right to water has been affirmed. Yet, in 2019 there are still over 100 drinking water advisories on First Nations' reserves that restrict this right. While globally over 800 million people lack access to clean water, our neighbours in Flint and Detroit Michigan have their drinking water either so polluted or so expensive, that people have to use bottled water to cook and bathe with.

The issue and impact of bottled water is also key to the Blue Communities project. Apart from the mountains of plastic, the lax public health testing, and almost-free permit system in place ($503.71 for a million litres of groundwater which Nestle then sells for several dollars for 1 litre) the rules and ethics surrounding bottled water do not support our values to care for our common home. Bottled water turns Creation into a commodity and separates us from our watersheds and this sacred gift. With increased commodification, water becomes just another utility rather than a shared commons.

"Even as the quality of available water is constantly diminishing, in some places there is a growing tendency, despite its scarcity, to privatize this resource, turning it into a commodity subject to the laws of the market." (Laudato Si', paragraph 30)

With examples globally and locally, when cities privatize their water systems, quality goes down and prices go up. The water ethic needed for protecting human rights gets sponsored by water for profit. Reconciling with our watersheds helps us understand how our actions impact the waters. All of our energy, food, and lifestyle choices have an impact on water. We need to see the links and fix the damaged relationships.

Zooming out to the Great Lakes and to our blue planet, reminds us that water connects us all -- across borders, cultures, and generations. It is important to look at who has access to water and who doesn't, but it is also critical to examine who gets to make the rules for water governance and how our shifting social practices legitimize or challenge this authority. For instance, Canada and the USA make all the decisions about the Great Lakes, while the Anishinabek nation and Haudenosaunee Confederacy (seen in the last image above) are denied authority over their own homelands. Another broken relationship.

"Many intensive forms of environmental exploitation and degradation not only exhaust the resources which provide local communities with their livelihood, but also undo the social structures, which for a long time, shaped cultural identity and their sense of the meaning of life and community" (Laudato Si', paragraph 145)

We have multiple strategies we can use to make water a human right, sacred gift, and shared commons. We can use our economic choices, our civic rights, our cultural representations, and moral practices to affirm our shared Blue Communities vision. Let us join together in the crisis to care for our common home.

To see and download the entire presentation, visit our Blue Resources page under the Faith Connections section. Please give credit to the CSJ Blue Community project for any reproduction and keep the original research credits.

Were you at this event? If so, what was your reaction? If you would like a Blue Community presentation at your next event, please get in touch.

By Paul Baines

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