Justice on Earth: Chapter 11

The 2018-19 UUA Common Read is:

This week, I’m looking at Chapter 11:
Mel Hoover and Rosed Edington, "Water Unites Us.”

Hoover and Edington were co-ministers serving the UU Congregation (UUC) in Charleston, West Virginia in 2014 when a water contamination disaster struck the area.
“Freedom Industries and the West Virginia Water Company (WVAC) allowed 4-methylcyclohexanemethano (MCHM – used for removing clay and shale from coal) to poison a water system serving 300,000 people in nine counties.” (120)
Advisories told people not to use the water for anything other than flushing the toilet and putting out fires. Schools were closed. Restaurants were ordered
“closed until the tap water was declared safe or owners could demonstrate they had enough bottled water on hand to operate. . . . Some went out of business.” (121)
WVAW’s response was slow. Though a two-day supply of water in backup tanks was legally required, there was none.

What did UUC do?

They got to work
“helping low-income families who otherwise would have to choose between purchasing bottled water and paying their rent, delivering water to those who could not get to distribution sites, and organizing and advocating for legislation to ensure safe water.” (122)
In the ensuing, and ultimately successful, drive for new state legislation requiring chemical storage tanks to be registered and monitored, “rallies, demonstrations, and press conferences were often planned at UUC and attended by UUC member” (124).

To help UUC deal with the crisis, more than $24,000 was donated to UUC from individuals and UU congregations in the region and nationally. UUC “established a Clean Water Fund and a Clean Water Task Force to administer the financial donations” (126).

Hoover and Edington remind us
“that water everywhere is at risk, that everyone is downstream from something, and nearly everyone is at potential risk from flooding . . . increases in extreme water events are projected for all US regions” (128).
You’ll want to read the chapter to get the inspiring details of UUC’s work in Charleston.

How well do you understand the system that delivers water into your home? Where does the water come from? What potentially polluting industries might be a source of toxic contamination?

What do you know about lead poison risk in your area?

(A map of lead-poisoning risk is HERE. For may congregation in the metropolitan NYC area, the map shows that a large part of the Bronx is at the highest risk of lead exposure – Risk Level 10. There’s also a Level 10 risk in much of Yonkers and parts of Mt. Vernon, New Rochelle, and Ossining. Other parts of Yonkers, Mt. Vernon, New Rochelle, and Ossining are at Level 9 risk, as are parts of White Plains, Mamaroneck, Hastings-on-Hudson, Greenburgh, Mount Pleasant, Peekskill, and most of Pelham and of Portchester. About 90% of the area of the Bronx is at Risk Level 8 or higher. More than half the area of southern Westchester (that is, south of a line from Armonk to Sleepy Hollow), is at Risk Level 7 or higher. In all of Westchester, nowhere is the risk Level as low as 1 or 2, and there are a only few scattered census tracts at Risk Level 3. All the rest of the county is at Risk Level 4 or higher for lead. Community UU Congregation at White Plains is in a tract assessed at Lead Risk Level 4. To our southeast, the tract on the other side of the Hutchinson is at Lead Risk Level 6. Just north of us, the tract through the middle of which Bryant Ave runs, is at Lead Risk Level 7.)

What should you know about the factors for lead-exposure risk? What actions are called for?

For my reflection/summary on previous chapters, click the title:
  1. Jennifer Nordstrom, "Intersectionality, Faith, and Environmental Justice"
  2. Paula Cole Jones, "The Formation of the Environmental Justice Movement"
  3. Sheri Prud'homme, "Ecotheology"
  4. Sofia Betancourt, "Ethical Implications of Environmental Justice"
  5. Adam Robersmith, "Cherishing Our World: Avoiding Despair in Environmental Justice Work"
  6. Peggy Clarke, Matthew McHale, "Becoming Resilient: Community Life for a New Age
  7. Kathleen McTigue, "Drawing on the Deep Waters: Contemplative Practice in Justice-Making
  8. Pamela Sparr, "Transforming Unitarian Universalist Culture: Stepping Out of Our Silos and Selves
  9. Kathleen McTigue, “Learning to Change: Immersion Learning and Climate Justice
  10. Peggy Clarke, "Eating the Earth"