Exploring the gospel principles of earth stewardship

Water Care

The young men demonstrate their canoeing skills.

One of the perks of my new calling in the Young Men’s organisation is the chance to get outdoors with the youth.  This year there was multi-stake regional Young Men’s camp held at Fundy National Park, in New Brunswick (Canada).  As a leader of a very small group, we only have four youth total and two attended, I was able to spend a lot of time as a casual observer of the whole event and of the beautiful surroundings.

The park consists of 80 square miles of wooded wilderness along the Bay of Fundy and was a frequent family holiday spot for me growing up.  The Bay of Fundy is noted as having the highest tides in the world, with the water level alternately rising and falling up to 55 feet every six hours.  This remarkable tide results in the moving of about 115 billion tonnes of water in and out of the bay four times a day, resulting in some magnificent natural features and a waterfall that falls up and down.

With record temperatures this summer, the boys were keen to spend as much time as possible in the water.  On the first day, we hiked to Laverty Falls and spent the afternoon at a swimming hole down river.  On the second day we spent the morning at the beach and the afternoon canoeing on a lake.

As I sat on the beach with the tide hurrying in and with my back toward numerous lakes, streams and rivers, I thought about how water scarcity is unknown in this corner of the world.  I began to contrast my present situation with my experience serving as a missionary in a small Idaho town.  I recalled the constant refrain of prayers for ‘moisture’, the miles of weedy irrigation ditches that ran through the brown valley like green blood vessels and the stories of Bishops being called in to settle water turn disputes.  In the desert, the correlation between water and life is made explicit.  In our cool coastal climate the relationship is less visible, but no less vital.

With all water falling from the sky and eventually returning to the sea, it is humanity’s shared stewardship.  As a child in the 1980s I recall the government dump trucks unloading tons of lime into our dead lakes to counteract the effects of acid rain.  The lakes had become acidified from coal burnt in the steel belt a thousand miles south-west in the USA.  Today the lakes have recovered and are filled with fish and other wildlife as a result of a bilateral treaty signed in 1991, with the understanding that water quality was a universal issue.

This year our young men are starting their Scouting program with a stream bed clean up arranged through the local government.  The secondary purpose of this clean up will be to raise the boys’ awareness of local water quality.  Especially in terms of how the choices they make effect our shared water supply.  Anyone out there have any experience in teaching water stewardship to Scouts?

  • Julie

    I’ve spent lots of time in eastern Canada, and miss it. Thank you for this post. My husband and I were just called to lead the Webelos in the stake, and I would also appreciate advice about teaching water stewardship or any earth stewardship to boys and young men.

    • Steve Brogan

      Thanks for the kind words.  I didn’t get a chance to write about it, but water also has an important spiritual symbolism.  Perhaps there’s a tie in there?

      I’m not familiar with the American Scouts – my wife is American and has just told me how to pronounce Webelos (apparently it’s Wee-be-lows, not Web-e-loss)!  What age are we talking about here?  In Canada we have Beavers (5-7), Cubs (8-10), Scouts (11-13), Venturers (14-17) and Rovers (18-26).  You can see how this is a bit of a clash with the church youth program, but we try make it work.  Our branch sponsors Cubs and Scouts, our Venturers act as Kims (there are only two) to the Scouts.I think that for any age group in Scouting, the primary method should be hands-on.  When I was a beaver, we gathered pollywogs and raised them in an plastic tub into frogs that we then released.  It was a good lesson in biology and also about how important ‘clean’ water is.As a Scout I remember seeing a little demonstration about water filtration using progressively finer gravel and sand filters made from pop bottles.Also, on wilderness camps, we came to learn the difference between potable and non-potable water and how to conserve the former.I think there could also be an interesting project in monitoring water use at home (most homes in cities are fitted with a water meter for billing purposes).  Collect readings for one month, then try a few water saving practices whilst collecting reading another month.  Take it up a notch and try the same thing at church!

      • Julie

         Great ideas, Steve. Thank you! Webelos is a strange word indeed. Our assignment begins in another week or two, but I believe it’s the 10 year olds. It’s the oldest Cub Scout group. I’m looking forward to learning a lot in this calling!