International Water Day
March 23, 2012 § 1 Comment
Me: It’s International Water Day!
Guy in lobby: That’s only a holiday for people who don’t have water.
Is he right? No. At least, I don’t think so. To me, International Water Day is the exact opposite–or at least it should be. International Water Day is about rekindling (or sparking for the first time) an awareness that water plays a vital role in our survival, and therefore in our human rights. Assuming you’re in reasonable shape and in ideal conditions — that is, not in the heat or cold and not heavily exerting energy (neither of which are likely during a drought), you can probably live for about 3 to 5 days without any water. I don’t dare you to try.
According to one estimate, 884 million people lack access to an adequate supply of safe water. Children in high-income nations will consume 30-50% more water than their low-income counterparts. I don’t mean to add to the deluge of statistics that we see today, but such things can help put things in perspective. Are we grateful enough? Do we even pay attention? As a future parent, I can’t imagine being asked to deprive my child of water for a single day. And I can’t imagine asking my daughter to skip school in order to go fetch it (this isn’t meant to be a condemnation of those who must do so, just a recognition that it is unfortunate). But this speaks only in terms of water for drinking; it says nothing about water for agriculture, and it says nothing about water for sanitation (e.g. washing hands and food to avoid illness, flushing waste and cleaning wounds). Inadequate sanitation claims the lives of almost one quarter of children who die each year worldwide. In places that water is scarce, the lack not only kills directly, but indirectly as well through such things as land disputes and rationing. It is a deadly and prevalent killer that should never have lasted so long.
But I don’t want this post to be only doom and gloom. I am grateful for the five faucets of my home that bring me clean water at the twist of a wrist. I am grateful for those working successfully to bring a similar benefit to communities worldwide.1 Charity:water, for example, has some interesting and effective projects worldwide. Though I’m not a fan of their idea to “look to the stars“2 and would like to see someone other than Harrison speak in the video below (i.e. a Bayakava perhaps?!), I do appreciate the aesthetic of charity:water and their rating on charity navigator. Here is their annual report, for transparency’s sake. And a video t’boot, from their campaign last September (find updates here):
Water, with it’s unassuming translucence, is the liquid of life; it shows its power not only in tsunamis and hurricanes, but also in our everyday survival. Though it boggles me there are still people who live an entire life without ever seeing the ocean or ice (because they lack electricity and temperatures never reach freezing in their village), it boggles me even more that there are still people who live without access to water in it’s most basic and useful form. Celebrate International Water Day by educating yourself on some aspect of of this issue (i.e. water rights, access, disputes and technology). Learn about what is being done on the policy level, and what interventions are taking place at the grassroots. At the very least, celebrate with a dedication to drink more gratefully, shower more conscientiously and educate your children on the situation of their global peers.
For those of you who are surfers, swimmers, wake boarders, ice skaters, ice hockey players, curlers, or otherwise water aficionados, this bell of water rights worldwide may ring louder for thee. After all, it is apropos to your athletic passions and therefore may be a great entry point for you to find a “cause” to get involved with.
1(Organizations concerned with water protection include International Water Association (IWA), WaterAid, Water 1st, American Water Resources Association. The International Water Management Instituteundertakes projects with the aim of using effective water management to reduce poverty. Water related conventions are United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and Ramsar Convention. World Day for Water takes place on 22 March and World Ocean Day on 8 June.)
2 This probably has something to do with my general distaste for the oddity that is “celebrity”