I was recently in a meeting of local water managers, city, state, and county leaders and legislators addressing water concerns in Utah. For the most part, this was a wonderful meeting with many ideas and action plans for the future.
One of the attendees, at a break, made a comment to another attendee in reference to the drought that “God is in charge.”
Although I did not ask this person, the comment was interpreted by me as an effort to downplay the gravity or long-term consequences of the drought we had been discussing all that morning. The fact that someone with this mentality is engaged to work on solutions to this crisis in our state really frightened me.
I have often witnessed this mentality in my social media feed, used in other ways in reference to modern problems including fires, floods and even how to reconcile a religious belief with acceptance of LGBTQ+ loved ones. Someone close to me, in reference to the suicide of a young person who apparently had taken their life because they were gay, actually said the words, “God will work it out.”
This minimization of events and absolving ourselves of responsibility to care and to act is unacceptable. Maybe God will “work it out,” or calm these calamities. But at what cost? And what if God doesn’t?
I am not a water expert, but I have some management responsibilities over both culinary (drinking water) and secondary (irrigation and other outside water) systems. Perhaps this is bold but I believe we must treat this water crisis (and for that matter, all societal ills) as if God is not in charge.
Banking on literal salvation from water shortages, flood, fires and other natural disasters with prayer or some religious answer not only minimizes the gravity of the situation but also absolves all of us as a society of any other action to remedy the situation.
Worse than that, refusing to take action because these calamities have been prophesied as part of the “end times” or make up some other religious prediction is dangerous with potential catastrophic consequences. Some actually depend on the world being in turmoil to justify their beliefs.
I appreciated the request from Gov. Spencer Cox to pray for rain a few weeks ago because, in addition to a supplication for divine intervention, an executive order was issued declaring a state of emergency regarding the drought in Utah. My Facebook feed, however, as soon as it rained, showed gratitude for the blessing, the answer to prayer, jokes about the rain being too much at once, and a lack of a call to additional action on the part of those of us continuing to use the water.
I myself can also do so much better when it comes to water use. Even though I don’t believe it will happen, I would love it if God eventually came in and saved us from ourselves. But whether we believe in God or not, we have a societal responsibility to do everything in our power to mitigate the effects of rising temperatures as human beings.
We aren’t doing that right now – especially not in Utah.
Shayne Scott is the city manager of Kaysville. The views expressed are his own and not necessary those of the city of Kaysville.