March 24th, 2020
After This? Care
What will our world look like after this virus? This is the question we all need to be talking about now, even as we struggle with managing our new day to day reality. One of the most hopeful signs that we can come out of this crisis better than how we went into it is the emerging recognition of how interdependent we are on one another for our health and well- being. For example, this week in New York, facing the most severe outbreak of the escalating virus, Governor Andrew Cuomo offered a version of what is becoming a commonly understood value. He said simply, “We need everyone to be safe. Otherwise no one can be safe.”
After decades of public policies that have encouraged individualism, selfishness, greed, dehumanization, and destruction, we are all facing the reality that our lives are indeed linked. None of us can be healthy or whole, as long as some of us are not.
Nowhere is this shifting of perspective clearer than in the struggle by people for clean, affordable water. For decades people have been advocating two basic ideas: water is a human right and a sacred trust. They have been offering sensible policies embodied in water affordability plans that base payment for water on household income, rather than usage. A key aspect of these plans is that they would stop the draconian water shut offs that in Detroit, for example, meant that between 2014 and 2018, 112,000 households went without water, some for months and years. In cities and towns throughout this land, people shut off from water because they could not pay high water bills cannot do the most basic first line of defense against this virus. They cannot wash their hands. They cannot protect themselves, their children or their neighbors.
Two weeks ago, less than 5 cities took the demand to provide clean, affordable water to everyone, regardless of ability to pay, seriously. Today more than 289 communities have stopped water shut offs. Nearly 128 million Americans who could not turn on the tap to wash their hands, clean their homes or prepare their food, can now do so. This is a major contribution to our collective health. This must become the new reality for us.
In Detroit, we are suffering the consequences of long term shut offs. This Friday a broad coalition of activists, community organizations, and faith-based groups held a press conference to demand that the mayor and governor take swift action to restore water to the more than 9000 homes currently shut off. In spite of the Governor’s order to turn the water back on, the city had been moving slowly. By Thursday they had only managed to turn back on 434 houses.
The coalition is calling on the governor and the mayor to provide residential water access through emergency potable water stations in the city. They also are asking for bulk water, sanitizing products, and disinfectants to be made immediately available to people. Organizers explained that much of the independent water deliveries that people have come to depend on are no longer possible. And the City is moving too slowly to provide water. Meanwhile, bottled water is in short supply as people throughout the metro area have purchased large quantities, emptying selves and limiting supplies.
Many communities around Michigan and around the country are facing the same problems as Detroit. Weeks, months and sometimes years of living without running water has resulted in crumbling systems, not quickly fixed. More and more people are recognizing that the notion of shutting people off from water was a mean spirited, self-defeating notion of government that harms our collective well-being. The Michigan congressional delegation is leading the way in creating new national policies and understandings about the values we need to come out of this crisis. Reps. Rashida Tlaib, Debbie Dingell, and Dan Kildee sent a letter to congressional leaders, asking congress to shield people from high water bills and water shutoffs.
After this crisis, we should all be thinking about our responsibilities to one another and to the earth on which we depend very differently. We are learning, slowly and painfully, that creating ways of living that emphasize care for all is our only way to survive.
On Being with Krista Tippett
The singular writer and thinker on how kindness and compassion can blossom in times of emergency.
(Gaia and Shekhina Speak: Earth, Water, Fire, Air © Arlene Goldbard 2020)
“What can console us in the face of the Great Unknown? I thought I understood that safety was always an illusion: any of us could be struck down at any moment. But having the illusion of safety erased, that’s uncertainty of another magnitude, so vastly out of proportion to the “normal,” default reality that words can’t do it justice.” KEEP READING