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A Reflection on the Trinity Institute Water Justice Conference, March 2017

A Reflection on the Trinity Institute Water Justice Conference, March 2017

By the Rev. Lucy Pelligrini

Every year, Trinity Institute, an initiative of Trinity Church Wall Street in New York, offers a global conference, available via webcast, at sites in Vermont and around the country. At the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, a small group gathered to hear presentations centered on Water Justice, and were reminded numerous times, that we all live ‘downstream.’ The experts included government officials and Archbishops; an economist and an advisor to the UN on water justice; an ethicist and climate scientist. We heard personal stories of those living with acute water shortage, and those who try to address those issues. Listeners and viewers were encouraged to ask questions of the speakers and to engage with panel discussions. The entire presentation is now available at https://www.trinitywallstreet.org/trinity-institute/2017.

Each person in the webcast pointed to clean water as a right. The challenges many face as water is privatized and purchased as a commodity were emphasized. In developing countries, such privatization drives up the price of purchased water, making it even less accessible to those with the fewest resources and greatest vulnerability. Without clean water for sanitation, those same populations are at the highest risk for deadly disease, and children compose the largest percentage of those affected. In a diocese that has addressed climate trends and changes in a variety of ways with an active Earth Stewards Committee, and with programs in many parishes, we found the information shattering; the statistics, stark.

Our understanding was deepened, even as our thanksgiving for water intensified. In small discussion groups, we were encouraged to list ways that each of us could change our living patterns to protect and conserve water. We decided to share this list, as one way to make a change, and to advocate for the need for all of us to be involved in this issue of water justice:

  • Turn off the water while brushing your teeth.
  • Use low flush or double flush toilets or composting toilets.
  • Take shorter showers.
  • Take tub baths with less water.
  • Collect and then use water from a rain barrel.
  • Use grey water for indoor plants as well as gardens and planters.
  • Rinse hand washed dishes in a basin rather than under running water, then use the grey water: see above.
  • Pack your own water.
  • Do not buy bottled water unless there is a town ‘boil’ order.
  • Car washes use less water than hosing down your car. Rain is even better.
  • Mulch.
  • Run the dishwasher only when full.
  • Use a soaker hose instead of a sprinkler.
  • Get an aerator for your faucet.
  • Pick up after your dog.
  • Check for chemical ingredients in fertilizers. Questions to consider
  • Do I have an Energy Star dishwasher or washing machine?
  • Are my investments with organizations that do not consider water to be a ‘commodity’?
  • Do I make a conscious effort to conserve water?
  • Do I purchase foods that use palm oil?
  • Have I called my state legislators and asked for their support of Act 64?

“We lived by the assumption that what is good for us is good for the world. But now we must reverse that assumption to what is good for the world is good for me….The opposite of faith and hope is indifference.” + Thabo Makgoba, Archbishop of Cape Town, March 2017

In the featured photo: Deacon Lucy Pelligrini, Trinity Institute Coordinator for CCSP Karen Mikkelsen, Ann Giombetti, Archdeacon Catherine Cooke, and Deacon & Trinity Institute Clergy Liaison Stannard Baker.


Episcopal congregations in Burlington, Stowe, Brattleboro, and Woodstock, Vermont, participated the Water Justice conference on March 22-24. The discussion group included facilitator Karen Mikkelsen, the Rev. Daniel Wright, retired pastor of Weybridge Congregational, and Vermont Deacons: Catherine Cooke, Stan Baker, and Lucy Pellegrini.

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