This article first appeared at HumansandNature.org as part of their series: What are our moral and civic responsibilities to water? To see the Questions for a Resilient Future version of the piece and read more responses click here.
Growing up in the Alps, I was fortunate to spend much of my childhood by mountain streams observing water in its most pristine form, as it originated from the ground of the forest. In watching water’s movement, tasting its sweetness, and listening to its lively sound as it ran through the rocks, I saw and understood that I was one with the rest of nature, that everything was intimately interconnected, and that my very being depended on staying connected to that primordial, sacred source of life and its intelligence.
Water is the source of life and its essential purpose is to continue creation. It is our bloodstream, our embryonic fluid. We are mostly water; Earth is mostly water. Trees, muscles, and bones display patterns of water movements, and everything is in liquid form before it becomes solid. The fact that we have polluted our collective bloodstream—the creation of islands of plastic in our oceans; the infusion of chemicals in drinking water; toxic waste in streams, rivers, and oceans; hydro-fracking; and many other harmful practices—is evidence of the depth of the pathologies of our current ways of thinking and living. Therefore, water is our mirror and our greatest teacher. It points out the one-sidedness of modern consciousness that results from abstract thought where we are removed from direct life experience. Similarly, dualism and materialism promote a worldview in which we see ourselves as separated from and superior to other life forms and the Spirit.
Science and technology have been used as substitutions for, rather than additions to, the mysterious dimension of creation guided by divine and intelligent force. This ideology of techno-rational production, the false consciousness of extreme materialism and subjugation of the Other, is what we must now rethink in order to build a more enlightened humanity living sustainably. We need to first resolve this fundamental problem of our false consciousness, which leads to materialism and the need to control nature, in order to create solutions and take actions on a higher level of consciousness than the one that precipitated the damages. Healing the waters of Earth will require more than simply removing chemicals and making superficial attempts to repair the damages we have caused. We must acknowledge and agree that water is sacred, that clean water is the right of all human beings and all other life forms, and that water itself has the right to remain clean and to move so that it can continue to support life. Such an aspiration is both possible and necessary. It is a moral obligation we have to water and toward each other, as members of a limited community of life.
Restoring water presents an opportunity for and demands defragmentation and solid collaboration among different, currently divided disciplines such as economics, politics, life sciences, and social sciences, as the success of work in all these areas depends upon access to clean water. We cannot have clean water for ourselves if the rest of nature is polluted. We cannot have peace in our country if others do not have water. We are witnessing an increasing number of wars and conflicts that are the result of water scarcity. As citizens of the world, we need to take responsibility for the many populations that are being displaced and the communities whose prosperity has been jeopardized by those conflicts.
Furthermore, as human beings, we are responsible for all of creation and have the power to restore our environment and live sustainably. I believe that the voices of our soul are beginning to rise as humanity faces the spiritual and existential challenges of man–made separation, greed and scarcity. It is our primal principles, our simple human values of love and care for our planet, coupled with a respect for the sacred nature of creation that we need to bring back so that we can begin to heal our selves and the rest of nature.
What the world witnessed at Standing Rock—action grounded in mystical and cosmological wisdom, communion with Mother Nature, and respect for water—signals a new sensitivity and collective awareness emerging, along with a return to eco-social healing, an expression of the fundamental interdependence of human and Earth bodies. We are turning to ancient wisdom and traditions for enhanced knowledge and solutions, and we are reconnecting with the bedrock of humanity, which helps us realize the higher moral values that make us fully human.
By realizing and accepting that our old ways of thinking are the root cause of the current water problems, we can now seek out new ways of thinking, language, and innovation that will better support the whole and respect the equilibrium of life. This could be done by setting examples with social business, inspiring people to care about water, participating in water restoration projects, using ancient and traditional wisdom as well as new scientific discoveries to clean water, educating the public about water and the responsibilities they have to it, and by holding water rights for all as the only acceptable standard.
When humankind first viewed images of planet Earth from space, we were offered a visual foundation for a global consciousness. That global consciousness is now growing into a greater cosmic cognizance. Becoming water conscious will add a new level of insight regarding our responsibility to protect our home planet and will help us develop a greater appreciation of the intimate interconnectivity and equilibrium between human and non-human entities.
In this new tomorrow, emerging right now, there will be little room for single-minded, destructive, and selfish agendas. The superiority complexes of some will become all the more obvious and easily recognized as being off–balance. We have a tremendous opportunity to harness the passion and inspiration that have arisen in response to the ecological crisis and generations of misaligned collective human behavior.
As a mediator and connector, water is the teacher that shows us the way back to the places where we lost connection with the process of life and respect for its divine reality. When we uphold our responsibilities to water, we are given the opportunity to see and overcome the artificial human boundaries between countries, communities, earth, air, humans, and nature. And attending to water will also show us the way forward to a new ecological worldview that integrates science, politics, economics, creativity, and spirituality.
By learning from water and, in the process, recognizing our universal needs and relationship with all life, we can restore our environment, heal humanity’s physical, spiritual, and emotional separation, and establish intimate connections with the whole of life on a global level, creating a new, more enlightened humanity.