March 20, 2014

World Water Day #WorldWaterDay #waterstory

I've never gone without water.

I've contemplated it. When you grow up in the great lakes region, talks of climate change matter. They have immediate, real world consequences.

I remember the day I learned about global warming. It was my freshman year in high school, and our teacher did a segment based on a series of studies about the rising global temperature. Being a experimental, holistic learning school, we did more than study the science. We also used the science as a basis for sociological, historical, and literary learning. In Western Civilization, we talked about the history of human beings going to war over access to resources- including fresh water.

"In fifty years," my high school science teacher told me, "it's likely that half the world could be at war over water."

Because rising coastlines don't just drive people inland, they also contaminate fresh water sources with salt water. And de-salination is costly and difficult.

But we lived in Michigan, surrounded on nearly all sides by fresh water. Lake Superior, all by itself, has enough fresh water in it to cover North and South America in a solid foot. Which meant that if you were looking for a good long term investment, real estate in northern Michigan was a decent plan.

I sat on the deck of my parent's house, dipping my toes in the spring fed, potable pond where I swam all summer without having to think twice, thinking about people fighting every day for water.

I looked at the lush, green trees. I thought about the ducks and herons and frogs and turtles and fish and even snakes that shared my lake, and thought about the charts we made in Creative Problem Solving, of what parts of our ecosystem would be destroyed by a raising temperature.

I thought about all the fluorocarbons from the sixties and seventies, still eating up our ozone.

And I sponsored a child in Ethiopia with the last of my bat mitzvah money.

I did it to alleviate my own guilt- because it seemed so unfair that people were already living with drought, and famine, and they couldn't even get water. Water. And I was completely surrounded by the stuff.

In the last fifteen years, not a lot has changed. Those same flurocarbons are still up there, we're still making more, and the global temperature is still rising.

And there are still people all over the world without access to safe, potable water. 768 million of them. A tenth of the world population.

2,000 children die every day from drinking tainted water, the only water available to them.

And, as with nearly every problem in the developing world, it's even worse for women and girls. The lack of access to water also means fewer toilets. In fact, in many regions of the world where water is scarce, schools have no gender segregated bathrooms, and this causes girls to leave school as soon as they start menstruating.

And it falls on girls to provide water for their families. Each day, women in developing countries without adequate wells walk an average of four miles to carry water to their families. Instead of getting educations, they're carrying water.

Only one in three people on our planet has access to a toilet. To a toilet. And lack of access means that women in places like India have to travel through incredibly dangerous areas to find a toilet. Women risk sexual assault just to find a place to relieve their bowels.

So what can you do, right? What can you do to help?

First of all, you can donate. Just $25 is all it takes to provide a person with access to water and sanitation. That's all it takes.

And you can help raise awareness. You can call your congressmen and tell them to support the Water for the World Act. And on Saturday, World Water Day, WaterAid is hosting a social media to raise awareness. On Saturday, take a selfie with a glass of water, and use the hashtag #cheerstoH2O. Share your stories of a time, any time, when you didn't have access to water. When you knew how it felt even just a little to be without.

With awareness, we can start to bring about change. So let's all start there.

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