Christiana Peppard – Just Water [Feature Review]

May 2, 2014


PAGE 2: Christiana Peppard – Just Water

In this book, Peppard draws together a number of thick descriptions of problems surrounding water’s origins and use. Fresh water, as one of the cornerstones of civilization, appears to us as an innocuous and ubiquitous resource; accordingly, the problems of its distribution, access, and consumption remain concealed from view. By providing an analysis of water in conversation with Catholic social teaching, Peppard’s book provides not only multiple entrees into conserving and rightly apportioning water, but provides multiple entry points for people of faith and of no religious tradition.
Within Christian social ethics, there is a relative dearth of literature on this important topic, making Peppard’s contribution an exceptionally welcome one. Despite its helpful analysis, I want to highlight an area which remained neglected in the book: ways of congregational engagement. Throughout the book, the political aporia that is water policy is spelled out in rich detail, but scant attention is given to the question of what is to be done about this by people of faith as people of faith. In part, I take this to be a consequence of the application which Peppard makes of Catholic social teaching. By emphasizing the ways in which church teachings enable Christians to participate in the common good, application is given to how attention to water plays out in political life, but not with regards to church life. (Editor’s note: For a perspective on water issues that is rooted in local churches, consider Ched Myers’s recent work on Watershed Discipleship).   I do not take this to undermine Christiana Peppard’s work, but as a point of expansion that still needs to be made if this area of reflection is to take root in church life as well as in sociopolitical advocacy.