Lead Me Beside Still Waters

Toxic Water, Trisomy 21 and a Theology of Eco-Social Disability

In: Worldviews: Global Religions, Culture, and Ecology

Artist Ena Swansea paints a provocative paradox in “One” from her “4 Seasons” quadtych: Is the child in the bathtub playfully holding a bubble, the orb of our global commons, or a crystal ball that portends an ominous future? As the viewer is confronted with the image of a child who, in the middle of an ordinary daily routine, is up to his armpits in a pool of blood red water, the question of water toxicity becomes central in the painting.

Working from that image, this paper explores the interaction between water toxicity and Trisomy 21, proposing the need for a “precautionary principle” to guide decision-making. The rationale for that principle is developed here through a study of communities with heightened links between water toxicity and Trisomy 21, a deepened theology of water across worldviews drawing on the work of John Hart’s Sacramental Commons, and a proposed model for “eco-social disability.” Because scientific studies linking toxic water and Trisomy 21 are inconclusive, the precautionary principle serves as a guide to prevent the potential disabling effects of toxic water causing unjust generation of disablement.

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    See for example Olivier Godard“Social Decision-Making under Scientific Controversy, Expertise, and the Precautionary Principle,” in Integrating Scientific Expertise into Regulatory Decision-Making: National Traditions and European Innovationsed. by Ellen Vos Christian Joerges and Karl-Heinz Ladeur (Baden Baden, Germany: Nomos Publishers1997) 40.

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