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Precious Water, Precious Life – Speaking Up for the Natural World

Photo by Tyler Butler
Photo by Tyler Butler

When I think of what is most essential, I think of the four basic elements for human survival: water, food, shelter, and human connection. Of course, there are many other things that we feel to be our basic needs or wants in this life, but we certainly cannot survive without water for more than a few days. Our human body is composed mainly of water. I was born on 22 April: Earth Day, and I feel deep within my bones that we must revere and protect all aspects of Mother Earth. It is just good common sense that we do not destroy our own body nor our habitats as human creatures on this planet.

Photo by Tim Peterson
Photo by Tim Peterson

Words cannot convey how deeply it pains me to see the starkly ignorant, destructive, greedy short-term decisions being made by the US president, a so-called world leader. Last month, Trump announced plans to reverse the Obama-era Clean Water Rule, a step toward overriding the US Clean Water Act protections in place since 1972. Water is the very basis of human and animal existence, as are soil, air, sunlight, and green growing things. The environmental degradations from corporate pollution, agriculture, and industry that many of us witnessed in the mid-to-late 20th century, are now being invited back, to our horror. Streams, wetlands, rivers, oceans, lakes, and ponds will be again subjected, in many cases, to rampant pollution, dumping, and poisoning.

Photo by Jaanus Jagomagi
Photo by Jaanus Jagomagi

In one fell swoop, the administration plans to declare that a significant proportion of the streams, lakes, bays, lagoons, wetlands, headwaters, and more across the nation no longer count as “waters of the United States.” For those excluded waterways, federal protections under the Clean Water Act will no longer apply, and few protections will remain to stop polluters from dumping toxic byproducts into our waters. “This all-out assault on basic safeguards will send our country back to the days when corporate polluters could dump whatever sludge or slime they wished into the streams and wetlands that often connect to the water we drink.” (EARTHJUSTICE)

Photo by Luca Baggio
Photo by Luca Baggio

Who will speak for the waters, alongside those who have been speaking, praying, drumming, singing, litigating, championing, and fighting all along without cessation? Can any single one of us stand to remain silent? I am a Buddhist and a writer, but I have never been a highly political person. In this age, however, to remain silent seems to me its own kind of violence. I don’t see an alternative to becoming political, to sharing my voice and actions. Today, children as young as nine or ten years of age are often the most vocal about the plight of the environment, as they know full well it is they (and their children) who will reap the full consequences of what is occurring now to their Mother Nature.

Photo by Birk Albert
Photo by Birk Albert

It is hard to comprehend any type of logic behind decisions such as these new deregulatory measures. 

[Trump’s] new water rule for the first time in decades allows landowners and property developers to dump pollutants such as pesticides and fertilizers directly into hundreds of thousands of waterways, and to destroy or fill in wetlands for construction projects. 

“This will be the biggest loss of clean water protection the country has ever seen,” said Blan Holman, a lawyer specializing in federal water policy at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “This puts drinking water for millions of Americans at risk of contamination from unregulated pollution. This is not just undoing the Obama rule. This is stripping away protections that were put in place in the ’70s and ’80s that Americans have relied on for their health.” (The New York Times

What may help ease farmers’ short-term gain, will likely harm them and others, or kill their offspring. No other species but us humans make such catastrophic choices.

Photo by Vanveenjf
Photo by Vanveenjf

Alongside the children are the elders who stand up and speak out for protection. Lakota grandmother and Water Protector Cheryl Angel of South Dakota shares:

In the last couple of years I have met with original stewards and ceremony/wisdom keepers of many nations experiencing the real live threat of losing their water, their ancestral lands, and their traditional economies. And after being in ceremony with these elders and watching them, and seeing the wisdom they have, I understand what to do now. Deep inside we all know what to do. Stand Up Fight Back! But do it in a way that our ancestors would be proud of us. . . . 

So my grandma, she was an activist because she believed in action. She believed in doing the right thing. She didn’t believe in just preaching. So, I listened and I did what she told me. And I will never forget her words. I loved sharing the things I learned from the grandmas at the time when I was very little.” (Resilience)

May we all follow the sanity and strength of our elders and the youth who have the Earth at the center of their concerns, that we all may live and flourish together.

Photo by Tom Gainor

Sarah C. Beasley (Sera Kunzang Lhamo), author of Kindness for all Creatures: Buddhist Advice for Compassionate Animal Care (Shambhala 2019), has been a Nyingma practitioner since 2000, a certified educator, and an experienced writer and artist. She has a BA in Studio Art and an MA Candidate in Educational Leadership. Sarah spent close to seven years in traditional retreat under the guidance of Lama Tharchin Rinpoche and Thinley Norbu Rinpoche. With a lifelong passion for wilderness, she has summited Mt. Kenya and Mt. Baker, among other peaks. Her book and other works can be seen at

See more

What the Trump Administration Is Doing to Your Water (EARTHJUSTICE)
Trump Eases Pollution Controls on Streams and Wetlands (The New York Times)
Standing Rock: Three Years and Still Fighting (Resilience)

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