The Common Good
May 2014

An Enormous Sponge

by Sara Stratton | May 2014

We have a responsibility to use the Earth's wealth relationally, not exploitatively.

The following reflection is a sidebar for "A Watershed Moment" by Ched Myers.—The Editors

I WORK FOR Kairos Canada, and we are trying to build in Canada and globally an ecumenical movement for transformative change in the areas of ecological justice and human rights. We particularly focus on the impacts of resource extraction on Indigenous communities.

For example, the Athabasca watershed is an enormous sponge that stretches north to the Arctic Ocean. Right in the middle of it is the Alberta tar sands, from which bitumen (a form of heavy oil) is extracted. We don’t know what kind of destruction is being left behind, because we can’t get verifiable, systematic, cumulative studies of the environmental impacts of this 40-year-old project.

What we do know is that traditional ways of life of the Indigenous peoples of the area have been disrupted. I’ve had elders tell me they can’t eat the meat they hunt, because when they butcher the animal the interior organs look really strange. They could be gathering berries or fishing, but because they live in a watershed that’s downstream from this incredible petrochemical industry, they’re terrified to eat it. So they have to eat flown-in food that’s alien to their culture, that’s bad for them, and that they can’t afford.

We have a responsibility to use the Earth’s wealth relationally, not exploitatively. For us in Canada, watershed discipleship in the churches focuses on right relationship with the land and with Indigenous peoples.

Sara Stratton lives in the Humber-Don watershed in Toronto.

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