Brokenhearted Theology, Global, Green, Ramblings

Water – what are we thinking?

I have been thinking a lot about water recently.

It’s not really something I thought about growing up in the midwest.  Water is seemingly abundant there – plenty of lakes, rivers, and streams as well as the water falling from the sky as rain and snow throughout the year.

Living in California is a different story.  Natural areas are dusty and brown, while green is a usually giveaway that an area has been artificially watered and landscaped (I’m thinking of Pepperdine University’s expansive green lawn amidst the brown and dusty hills of Malibu…). Rain is rare, and natural fresh water sources are few and far between, and generally are only wet as the snow melts from the mountains.

Having ready access to water in Wisconsin never gave me much to think about, but here in Southern California, where natural fresh water is scarce, I’ve realized how odd it is to have have such easy and unlimited access to fresh water.  Our utilities are covered in our rent, so Krissy and I could literally run two sinks and a shower non-stop and it would have absolutely no effect on us financially.  Given the fact that over one billion people globally lack access to clean water, it’s obvious that we live in an absolutely fantasy world – and we don’t even realize that it’s a fantasy.  Somehow we have convinced ourselves that it is no big deal to have unlimited access to fresh and clean water.

I really want to destroy this ridiculous fantasy in my own mind.   Here are a few random snippets that I’ve been thinking a lot about lately:

  • “Globally, diarrhoeal diseases and malaria accounted for, respectively, 4% and 3% of disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) lost, and 1.8 and 1.3 million deaths in 2002. This burden is almost entirely limited to the under-five age group.”  (To see why this is linked to water, check out the UN World Water Assessment study – some of the facts and figures are astounding).
  • “Peter Gleick, president of the California-based Pacific Institute, which provides independent research and policy analysis on issues of development and the environment, recently calculated that demand for bottled water in the United States was burning up at least 17 million barrels of oil a year.”
  • “In addition to the water in bottles, twice as much water is used in the production process. Every litre sold represents three litres of water.” (previous two quotes from the article here) 
  • “In Fiji, a state-of-the-art factory spins out more than a million bottles a day of the hippest bottled water on the U.S. market today, while more than half the people in Fiji do not have safe, reliable drinking water.” (see article here)

That last quote absolutely blows my mind and is extremely convicting for me. Half of the people on Fiji can’t afford to drink their own water because we have an artificial perception that drinking Fiji water is cool and chic?  But it’s not just the Fiji brand of water…I don’t know of any bottled water other than Starbuck’s Ethos Water that makes any attempt to remedy the social injustice of the way we’ve abused the world’s water resources, and even Ethos Water only donates 5 pennies per bottle sold to help the global water crisis.  Yes, every little bit helps, but this is a big problem and five pennies per bottle is not an appropriate solution.

Bottled water is only one example of the gross abuse of this resource that 1/5 of our fellow human beings do not have safe access to.  Many toilets use well over a gallon of water per flush. The same water that you will get in a glass at a fine restaurant is used to flush away our sewage and crap.  Krissy and I have put a gallon of water in our toilet tank to displace and reduce the water used per flush, but it is still an incredible waste.

How do the faces of hundreds of thousands of children who die every year from diarrhoeal diseases and malaria not haunt our minds as we pick a case of our favorite brand of bottled water at the supermarket, water our lawns so they unnaturally stay green, or flush tens of gallons of potable water each day down the toilet?  God forgive us for our self-absorption and ignorance…for living in a fantasy world little regard for the rest of humanity…

Maybe I’m being melodramatic and if you think so, please tell me why.  I think this is a really important issue, and not one that I’ve heard any real dialogue on.  I haven’t done much research on this other than reading the articles listed above, so if you have any information that suggests I am wrong, let me know.

If you know of any resources, articles, books, documentaries, arguments, or thoughts on this topic, or if you  have any practical or, better yet, impractical steps (I think it is too easy to only want ‘practical’ or ‘easy’ steps to do our own part to help solve world injustices…but maybe we need to start embracing the radical and impractical steps) to reduce our own water consumption, please let me know.

I’d love to hear anyone’s thoughts on this…


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