The Importance of Being Water Stewards in a Digital Age — ESSAY
Reflection Essay example for Brophy College Preparatory— 29 March 2020
On an ideal campus, educators serve as guides for and companions to their students. They walk alongside them as the school community explores humanity and Mother Earth together. Important questions must be investigated: What matters to us? What matters to our neighbors? How can we be men and women for others? How can we participate in the stewardship of our collective home? The 2020 Summit on Human Dignity at Brophy College Preparatory explored the premise “Water is Life” and highlighted the despairing reality that society needs to do more. Throughout the summit journey, the importance of leading by example manifested itself and the collective impact of keynote speakers, workshops, and class sessions sounded the educator alarm and inspired a call to action. If older generations do not care about water, why would the younger generations feel inclined to do so? Adults on Brophy’s campus must be active water stewards and work with Generation Z to save one of the world’s most vital resources: Water.
Before the summit began, five English classes engaged in a mock vote. Here is the scenario: Imagine your neighbor is facing a water crisis, but you are not. Your water supply is readily available, potable, and reliable. Your neighbor plans a community march to raise awareness about their water crisis and invites you to join them as they fight for change. What do you do? Many students stated that they would need more information and details about the neighbor’s situation before making a decision. A small selection did not want to join the march, yet expressed interest in supporting their neighbor in other ways, like donating to a trustworthy non-profit or signing an online petition. Then, there was the devastating majority vote: students would “stay in their own lane” and do nothing for their neighbors. Perhaps the water crisis would mean more and feel more urgent if it were happening in their own backyard? How could the Summit on Human Dignity illustrate this urgency and locality for the Brophy community? After all, students are not the only people “staying in their own lanes.” Many adults are disconnected and do not acknowledge the water crisis, locally or globally.
In his keynote session during the summit, Hopi artist Ed Kabotie found a way to engage the Brophy community at large and make the crisis feel more real and local. He began with an original song, in honor of Water, and he deftly floated from guitar to vocals to traditional flute, using a synthesizer and technician support to mix the performance. The foundation of Kabotie’s session was grounded in the proverb “Water is Life.” In the Hopi tradition, people believe they come from water and that they emerge out of the Kiva, or Earth womb. Kabotie explains how intergenerational trauma and government interference with Indian culture is partly to blame for the water crisis on Hopi land. He asked the assembly, “Why must we care?” He then explained his belief in the intersectionality of water; water is a personhood, alive. To him, “Water is life, is living, is dying, is endangered.” And yet there is “hope,” an essential element to moving forward in his opinion. He encouraged the crowd to “tell your own story!”
Kabotie is not the only professional Water Steward out there. Oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle is making waves, literally, in the world of ocean preservation. In the documentary Sea of Home: America’s Underwater Treasures, Dr. Earle leads students and nature photographers on multiple excursions in the Midway Atoll, a national wildlife refuge in the North Pacific Ocean approximately 130 miles away from Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The film shows viewers the current state of water in the marine preserve and explains ways to protect the ocean and increase efforts for preservation and restoration, where needed. President Obama appears towards the end of the film, which marks the legislative triumph of the water-huggers (as Sylvia lovingly calls herself). Ultimately, on September 15, 2016, the president officially announced the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Marine Monument. Sea of Home captures the success of water activism and highlights multiple generations working together to save water.
The concept of multigenerational activism is the key to the future of water. Acknowledging the water crisis is a crucial first step, but the journey must not end with recognition alone. Telling stories, as Kabotie urges, and lobbying for legislative measures to protect water, as Dr. Earle demonstrates, are ways for people of all ages to support, preserve and protect water and the premise “Water is Life.” The penultimate day of the Brophy Summit was Workshop Day, which included an interactive performance by Brophy’s Theatre for Social Change Club entitled Wash Over Mi by victor cervantes, jr. Students, faculty, and staff came together in story and in activism. By the end of the workshop, participants were writing letters to their representatives and making phone calls to the Phoenix Mayor in an effort to increase housing and resources for people experiencing homelessness, a marginalized group that faces a unique form of water scarcity in Phoenix’s desert climate.
Multigenerational community efforts like the Brophy Summit illustrate why policy matters and proves how education and action bring awareness and urgency to light when it comes to topics like the water crisis. Over the course of four weeks, the very students who felt no impulse to “help their neighbor” in the classroom water crisis vote then wrote summit reflections that revealed “a ha moments” and revelations about the inequities and inequalities connected to the premise “Water is Life” locally and globally. Access to online resources and information allowed students, staff, and faculty to understand the water problems around the world, like the Hopi people experiencing water scarcity in the Southwest or the endangerment of biodiversity in the Midway Atoll. The Brophy community also realized that the problem is indeed “in their backyard.” From the Colorado River to the Phoenix sewer system to the sea, water is in crisis.
The concept of being a Water Steward in this Digital Age became clear, and urgent, because of the Summit. The collection of keynote speakers, workshops, class sessions, and individual research inspired a sense of empathy and a call to action, for young people and adults. In the words of Dr. Earle: “What we do in the next ten years will impact what happens in the next 10,000 years.” Regardless of boundaries and borders, people of all ages need to protect our collective home, Mother Earth, and work together to take care of the blood of the Earth: Water.
Carolyn Marie Wright hails from upstate New York and is currently based in Phoenix where she serves as Theatre Director & English Teacher at Brophy Prep and Artistic Director of Humanity Play Project. Proud member of AEA, SAG-AFTRA, AATE, and Arizona Theatre Company’s Cohort Club.
Kabotie, Ed. “Historic and current plight of the people and lands of the Colorado Plateau.” Summit on Human Dignity 2020: Water is Life, Brophy College Preparatory, 9 March 2020.
Nixon, Robert. Sea of Hope: America’s Underwater Treasures. National Geographic, 2017.
Wright, Carolyn. “Water Crisis Vote.” English Classwork, Brophy College Preparatory, 3 March 2020.