After many years of ministry devoted to deepening the connection between ecology and faith, I have come to realize that most people have a strong sense of the divine in nature. Nature, for many, is the place where we meet God and taste the beauty of creation. San Franciscans especially thrive on the natural wonder around us and have been famously progressive and forward-thinking when it comes to sustainable living and preservation of our natural resources.
We have not been so inclined when it comes to our use of water, however.
You’d imagine that we would have the most sustainable water system in America, but we do not. In fact, we have one of the worst. We do not recycle water, we treat rainwater as sewage and we waste water as if the supply were endless, which it is not.
As voters, we have the chance to ask for a plan to improve our water system through an initiative on the November ballot. If you hadn’t heard about Proposition F, the Water Conservation and Yosemite Restoration Initiative, you now have — and I encourage you to support it.
Most of San Francisco’s water comes from the pristine and beautiful Tuolumne River, which was dammed in the 1920s, depriving all Americans of a scenic valley in Yosemite National Park that rivaled any other. This was done over the objection of the renowned naturalist John Muir.
If we commit to examining our water system, we may find that the dam can be taken down and the valley restored to its natural state, and we can still provide sufficient drinking water for San Francisco. An updated water system including the restoration of Hetch Hetchy Valley can be a national metaphor for reconciliation with nature. Salvation is for every living thing, not only humans.
What San Franciscans did almost a hundred years ago was wrong. Yet instead of taking the steps to right a wrong, many people prefer the easy way out, which is to say: “What’s done is done.” Now that more and more of us are concerned about water and nature, we need to step up, have a robust discussion, and support the Water Conservation and Yosemite Restoration Initiative (Prop. F).
The Rev. Canon Sally G. Bingham is the canon for environment for the Episcopal Diocese of California.