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Our Living World is Dying

Stacey Worman, 2006-2007 Michael B. Keegan Traveling Fellow

 

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Date: March 3rd, 2007

To: Undisclosed recipients

Re: H-2-Ohhh Yeah, There's a Crisis....

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Greetings from Bali , Indonesia! I just finished a 5-day workshop about safe drinking water that was co-facilitated by three different NGO's from three different countries (CAWST from Canada , A Single Drop from the Philippines , and Balifokus from Indonesia ). Tomorrow morning I head up to Sumatra for a family reunion with my uncle Peter...but right now, I'd like to quickly introduce you all to our world's 'water crisis'....

Our world is growing (thanks stace, captain obvious!). And our growing world needs more water. More water for more mouths and more water to produce more food for those more mouths. And as more people attain higher standards of living, they use more water too (laundry machines, washing cars, bathing, watering lawns, etc.). In short, our growing world is constantly demanding more, and more, and even more water...

And that's a slight problem when our world's supply of freshwater is fixed...

'In 1999 the United National Environment Programme reported that 200 scientists in 50 countries had identified water shortage as one of the two most worrying problems for the new millennium, the other was global warming.'

Conventionally, water shortage problems are dealt with by building massive dams and constructing large-scale infrastructure to divert water to where it is needed. But these dams and pipes dry up downstream and drain upstream communities; and such an approach boils down to solving your problem by simply creating ones for other people ("Bangladesh, downstream from India, is drying up because India has dammed and rerouted so much of its water." --The Global Water Crisis, Michelle Mairesse) . Or an alternative solution frequently employed is for a community to shift from relying on surface waters to digging deep wells to extract the water that they need from the ground water. But this heavily taxes aquifers, often leading to their eventual collapse; and this such solution is essentially like making withdraws from your bank account that are larger and more frequent than your deposits.

But for one reason or another...we continue to spend tens (or hundreds) of billions of dollars on these such projects in order to 'create' more water for communities...and we continue to call these sort of solutions 'investments'...

Add to this slight problem the fact that many of the world's fresh-water sources, such as lakes, have disappeared ("As of 2003, there were only 1.4 million ha of lakes in the [greater Jakarta] region, a sharp decrease from the previous year's 2.3 million ha") because they have been filled in or drained to create land to build cities upon or to plant crops upon ("Jakarta alone currently has 42 lakes, but five of them have been converted into business areas"and "In Bogor, 93 lakes with a total area of 500,130 ha have shrunk by 29 percent, "The local people converted the lakes for agricultural areas," the ministry said. ")...and the fact that many of our ecosystems (our wetlands and forests) have been deteriorated to the point where they no longer can play their vital roles and provide their free social services (i.e. filtration and ground stabilization, "The heavy sedimentation makes the lakes get shallower, thus degrading their ability to contain rainwater," Antung Deddy)...and finally...the fact that the water sources that do remain are more polluted from urbanization and industrialization, as well as agricultural activities such as the application of fertilizers and pesticides...and well...and well...

(All above quotes are from a paper I picked up just the other day: The Jakarta Post, Floods Put Dwindling Lakes Under the Spotlight, Adianto P. Simamora, 2/26/2007)

And well, for one reason or another...we continue to do these sorts of things because they make people 'better off'...and we continue to call this type of development 'progress'...

"That 1.2 billion people lack access to clean water is surely one of the greatest development failures of the modern era. That as many as 5 million people – mainly children – die every year from preventable, water-related disease is surely one of the great tragedies of our time." –The Pacific Institute 

Clearly we've missed something...clearly something is wrong with this trajectory of ours...

 Every individual, society, and ecosystem depends on water to survive. And because water follows the path of least resistance, despite all the artificial borders and boundaries that we create...it is also the one thing that connects every member of the human race (Over 260 river basins are shared by two or more countries!). And as the demand for this essential resource continues to escalate and larger portions of our limited supply become unfit for use...then competition between different users groups is only going to intensify. And so if we continue along the course we are on...one where water scarcity is endemic to our growth paradigm...then it has the potential to be become just another resource that we will need to fight over...

"If the wars of this century were fought over oil, the wars of the next century will be fought over water."– 1995 World Bank Vice President Ismail Serageldin (But while there are alternatives to oil, nothing can act as a substitute for water).

Let this all marinate for a while. I'll be following up soon with what some people I've met are doing about it...but in the meantime, water you to do? (haha!) 

Don't just take my word for it! If any/some/all of this is new to you...I'd encourage you to spend 5 minutes of your time googling 'the water crisis' and see for yourself just how sumo-wrestler-huge this stuff is!

www.google.com

With love and way too much Bali coffee,

Stace

 

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February 21st, 2007, Recipe for Disaster...

February 8th, 2007, Making the Trip....

Janurary 23rd, 2007, Did You Hear the Good News?

Janurary 6th, 2007, I Found it on the Map....

December 17th, 2006, Catch as Catch Can, As Fast as You Can...

December 1st, 2006, My Dream Destination & an Indigenous Filipino Family...

November 8th, 2006, An Old Forest, A Feral Ship, and Discarded Paper...

November 3rd, 2006, It's all Fun and Games Until...

October 17th, 2006, Ends Justifying Means?...

October 4, 2006, Different Industries Down Under...

September 28, 2006, Close Together, Worlds Apart....

September 10, 2006, Final Thoughts, the Life/Work Dichotomy....

September 7, 2006, The Party Eventually Ends...

September 4, 2006, Under the Sea, with Scientific Spectacles...

September 3, 2006, Off the Ship...

August 8, 2006, Back on land, but not for long...

June 24, 2006, Our maiden voyage(s)...

June 19, 2006, Not another mass email...

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