Phelan Fretz, executive director of ECHO, Leahy Center for Lake Champlain, addresses the crowd gathered at the opening event of Lake Brite...

ECHO's Executive Director Speaks at All Souls Interfaith Gathering

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Phelan Fretz, executive director of ECHO, Leahy Center for Lake Champlain, addresses the crowd gathered at the opening event of Lake Brite data visualization project. (Photo: Jessie Forand/ECHO) 



On May 22, ECHO Executive Director Phelan Fretz joined the congregation at All Souls Interfaith Gathering, a Spiritual Center in Shelburne playing an integral role in the Voices for the Lake 2 project.

If you haven't heard of it, Voices for the Lake 2 and this partnership together create a rich conversation - one that honors faith and science-based environmental stewardship perspectives. Through the ongoing project, we are harnessing the passion and commitment of people who respect the Lake Champlain Basin’s web of life, and are working on meaningful system change to create a culture of clean water. Below is the full text of his talk, please read and reflect on your own love of water: 

All Souls Interfaith Gathering
Gathering of the Waters
Homily - For the Love of Water
May 22, 2016, 5 pm

First Reading




Margaret Atwood, part of the Canongate Myth series (the Penelopiad)


Periboea, a Naiad water nymph, wife of King Icarius of Sparta, and mother to Penelope, spoke of a life lesson before her daughter’s wedding to Odysseus.

Here is what she said: 

“Water does not resist. Water flows. When you plunge your hand into it, all you feel is a caress. Water is not a solid wall, it will not stop you. But water always goes where it wants to go, and nothing in the end can stand against it. Water is patient. Dripping water wears away a stone. Remember that, my child. Remember you are half water. If you can't go through an obstacle, go around it. Water does.”
ACT 1




I marvel at the properties, impacts and uses of water.  Here’s a few wonders...
Water is the only substance that expands when frozen and contracts when heated 68.9% of freshwater is trapped in glaciers 400 billion gallons used daily in USA, ½ to generate electrical power Water can dissolve more substances than anything else. It takes 6,800 gallons to grow food for family of 4 for a day.


       Takes 20 gallons to produce a pint of beer and 250 gallons to produce a bottle of wine

        Leaky faucet of 1 drop per second results in 3000 gallons per year

        Unsafe water kills 200 children per hour

        Jellyfish and cucumbers both are 95% water

        Same amount of water on earth as there was millions of years ago

         In USA, we drink over a billion glasses of water a day

        There have been 265 recorded water conflicts from 3000 BC to now

        Over 90% of the world’s freshwater is in Antarctica

        If we used 1 gallon less per shower, we would save 85 billion gallons of water a year

        We lose a cup of water daily when we exhale



  The list of the wonders of water can go on and on…

-     
ACT 2


Classroom story




As an educator, here’s one of my favorite stories. I walked into the classroom.  They were expecting me, but I didn’t know what to expect.

Beautiful windows looked out onto downtown Burlington.  It was a sunny day.  

On each table, with clusters of 6th grade students, stood a microscope. The students stared at the scopes as if they were some type of foreign object - from China, or maybe Mars.

The class started with the basics. Where to look.  How to focus.   Be careful.

Then the scholars, that’s what my wife calls them, plucked a hair and spent, what seemed like hours, figuring out how to hold the hair under the scope, focus, drop, share, giggle, with friends.  There was the occasional gasp, as students discovered a tiny world.  A world they had no idea existed.  Some students began looking at other objects, paper, letters on paper, fibers from their shirt, dirt from their shoe.

Enough practice, now the real deal.

Ms Botte had them scrape some cells and saliva from the inside of their mouth.  Eew!!! - rang out across the room.  At the same time, clouds darkened the sun - almost as if the darker, more ominous room was planned as the students delved deeper into the microscopic world that unknowingly surrounded them.  Saliva was as much about touching body fluids as discovery under the microscope. Now we had two reasons for students to swirl.  You could see the momentum building as the reality of the power of the microscope began to take hold.  They ran between scopes and friends to share.

Many needed to explore the scope itself.  Looking up into the stage.  Where was the light coming from?  Going?  What did the objectives look like from the non-ocular end?  How did this thing work?  What made stuff bigger?, one student asked me.  

Unknown to the scholars, this was only the appetizer.

Sitting innocuously on the windowsill were three small dishes of water, slightly brown in color, with a few floaters.  No one had even noticed them.  Students were armed with eye droppers and told to go to the dishes and suck up enough water to fill the dropper half way.  They all practiced using the droppers first at their tables.

Post saliva and the novelty of the scopes, energy seemed to be waning.  Some students wandered a bit.  Two asked to go to the restrooms.  Three girls were distracted by one’s iPad image.  

Oh, I forgot to tell you.  The students had also figured out how to take ipad images of the enlarged hairs, dirt, and cheek cells.  With this tool, they could share the ephemeral images from their microscopes.  While the novelty of the ipads was a thing of the past, the new images were not.   

Now back to the brown water. With droppers full, the students returned to their table teams and began the process of placing drops on the slides, and placing a coverslip on top.  This took many scholars what seemed an eternity.

Then it happened.  There wasn’t any advanced notice.  The sunlight in the room was back.  Most of the students were struggling with the dropper, slide, coverslip.  They were all intent. Scarily so.  

First it was a shriek!   Probably audible down the hall, at least in the next classroom.  Then another.  Four now.  The latest not any quieter than the first. There seemed to be a delay of seconds, which seemed like minutes.  Some students had rallied around their shrieking friends.  Others were intent on their own.

The four students had seen what was in the water - diatoms, water fleas, daphnia, tiny beings swimming about in their little worlds - made huge with the power of a microscope.  Then the questions started - where did you get this water?  Are these in the lake?  In my tap water?  What about the puddle outside?  

The shrieks kept coming.  New animals and plants were discovered.  Some swam, other had “tails”, others looked like monsters - said the students.

I can only image what Van Leeuwenhoek said on October 9th, 1676 as he reported the discovery of micro-organisms. 

Now that’s education.  I hope they never look at water the same again.  We shouldn’t either.

ACT 3




“I complete my “For the Love of Water” with a few of my favorite quotes.
Plans to protect air and water, wilderness and wildlife are in fact plans to protect us.”  Stewart Udall
“We cannot see our reflection in running water. It is only in still water that we can see.”   Taoist Proverb
“The cure for anything is salt water - sweat, tears, or the sea.”    Isak Dinesen
“When you are in deep water, it's a good idea to keep your mouth shut.”    unknown
“How inappropriate to call this planet Earth when it is clearly Ocean.” Arthur C. Clarke
“We're at peak oil, peak water, peak resources, and so either we figure it out and let science lead or we head down a very bad, dark trail to where a lot of people aren't going to make it.” Henry Rollins
“Water is to me, I confess, a phenomenon which continually awakens new feelings of wonder as often as I view it.” Michael Faraday
“When the well is dry, we learn the worth of water.”  Benjamin Franklin
“We need a new global culture that finds the existence of millions of thirsty people thoroughly and immediately unacceptable.”  Jean-Michel Cousteau
And from Carl Sagan, in these challenging times…
“Anything else you’re interested in is not going to happen if you can’t breathe the air and drink the water. Don’t sit this one out. Do something. You are by accident of fate alive at an absolutely critical moment in the history of our planet.” Carl Sagan

Thank you for your time today.

Reading 2




Rachel Carson - The Sea Around Us (1951)
When they went ashore the animals that took up a land life carried with them a part of the sea in their bodies, a heritage which they passed on to their children and which even today links each land animal with its origin in the ancient sea. Fish, amphibian, and reptile, warm-blooded bird and mammal - each of us carries in our veins a salty stream in which the elements sodium, potassium, and calcium are combined in almost the same proportions as in sea water. This is our inheritance from the day, untold millions of years ago, when a remote ancestor, having progressed from the one-celled stage, first developed a circulatory system in which the fluid was merely the water of the sea. In the same way, our lime-hardened skeletons are a heritage from the calcium-rich ocean of Cambrian time. Even the protoplasm that streams within each cell of our bodies has the chemical structure impressed upon all living matter when the first simple creatures were brought forth in the ancient sea. And as life itself began in the sea, so each of us begins his individual life in a miniature ocean within his or her mother's womb, and in the stages of his embryonic development repeats the steps by which her race evolved, from gill-breathing inhabitants of a water world to creatures able to live on land.'





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