Thursday, March 22, 2012
Why Should We Care?
Yesterday was World Water Day and while Art for Water had no official event to honor this day, we spent time reflecting upon our mission and how we can be most effective in raising awareness of the shrinking availability of clean water. One question we are frequently asked by high school students is why should we care, the water crisis has nothing to do with us. . .
This is not an easy question to answer. It's true that our day-to-day conveniences here in New England and most of the country are not immediately affected. Clean water comes out of our faucets every time we turn them on in spite of what is happening in China or Africa. So, why should we care about something that doesn't impact our daily routine?
Water is a human right. And as a human right everyone should be able to use it. But currently over a billion people do not have access to clean water. So just on a humanitarian level, maybe we should care about the millions of people who are dying from preventable diseases every year.
Water connects us to the actions of others. The world's waterways and oceans are being polluted by industry, carbon emissions, agriculture, and lack of basic sanitation for 2.6 billion people. Not that far away from us in Pennsylvania there are people who can no longer drink their tap water because chemicals used in hyrdrolic fracking have seeped into the ground water. In fact, some can light their tap water on fire. Why should we care about this? Maybe because water doesn't stay in one place or in one form–it keeps moving and changing. Water that is carrying Benzine in Pennsylvania can carry it to New York or Ohio or Maryland. The native populations of the Arctic Circle have dangerously high blood levels of flame retardants and PCBs thanks to the Gulf Stream. The fish in the pristine lake in front of my house have mercury in them from coal that is burned in the Midwest to generate electricity.
The world is getting smaller. As the population increases along with the demand for resources, we will have to learn to conserve and to be aware of our consumption habits. Using potable water to flush toilets and water golf courses is becoming obsolete. Some municipalities in drought areas have instituted common sense laws that are having a huge impact on water use. There are so many ways in which to reduce our water footprint. Maybe we should care enough now and start to make changes before there is an emergency.
Water could be a source of conflict. It is estimated that the demand for clean water could exceed the supply by 56% by 2025. That's only 13 years from now. The children who are now in elementary school could be called upon to defend the water rights of a foreign ally. Even in our own country there are heavily populated cities, such as Las Vegas and Atlanta, that are running dangerously low on water as their populations continue to increase. Most likely, their neighbors will be expected to come to the rescue. In our current political climate, can you imagine our congress and senate being able to constructively resolve a water shortage emergency? Maybe we should care now so that we can work to avoid conflict through planning, conservation, and diplomacy.
Water is magic. The water we use every day has been in existence for 4.5 billion years. It is the only element that exists in 3 forms. It is lighter in weight when it's solid than when it's liquid. It follows the path of least resistance. It reflects everything that is true. It smooths stones. Maybe if we took the time to ponder the mystery and beauty, there would be no question about caring.
We can't live without it. Water is not only a human right, it's a necessity. After oxygen, it's the most essential requirement in staying alive. So, perhaps right now our personal water supply is not in jeopardy, but maybe we should care because if it ever is, we won't be able to live.
When I'm confronted by an apathetic teenager, I try to say all of this succinctly with the understanding that my response most likely will have no immediate impact on his lack of concern. But because I care, I relish any opportunity to talk about water–always with hope that springs eternal that someday everyone will care.