For many years now we have seen a forthcoming global catastrophe. It is one that will impact many millions of lives, leading to widespread conflict and quite likely forced migration. It is also one that at this stage is inevitable, in fact it has already started.
If you say all of those things to somebody and ask them what you are talking about the first answer you will get is: climate change. If you press a bit further, and amongst particular crowds, you might hear another answer: peak oil. What you are unlikely to hear is the answer that is probably most pressing and the nearest upon us: water shortages.
For those of you who don’t know, today is Blog Action Day 2010. Each year on October 15th bloggers around the world come together to write on a particular central topic. Last year the topic was ‘Climate Change’ (and it’s interesting, mainly for myself, to see the Future Conscience post from way back then). This year, the topic chosen was ‘Water’ – and it is an interesting one because with the focus of my post this year I am going to by implication admonish the topic of last year! This is because water shortages, or more accurately speaking ‘water deficits’, around the globe are going to be one of the most pressing and controversial issues of the next twenty years – and yet, nobody is talking about it.
Well, of course there are many people who are talking about it; and it certainly isn’t a completely forgotten crisis as organisations such as the United Nations and many governments around the world put it on their agendas. However, when we look at mainstream conversation and dialogue; it is for the most part an unspoken crisis. You will rarely see any coverage in the mainstream media, and it comes up even less in discussions with altruistically minded individuals across various sectors. Amongst all of this, the global financial crisis has itself caused almost all charitable discussion to take a back seat in mainstream society; and water was already overlooked to begin with!
To be fair, there have been some heartening increases in public awareness surrounding such campaigns as Make Poverty History; and the impact of water deficits are tied to poverty in obvious ways. However, I don’t think enough is being done to truly focus upon the impact of water shortages around the globe – particularly given the fact that they are emerging right now, in many different areas.
In a similar manner to last year, I would like to direct readers to organisations that cover this topic very well and deserve a lot more attention at the end of this post. But before I do so, let’s take a moment to consider just why it might be that water shortages are an unspoken crisis.
Firstly, it is a matter of where we get our information from. Even in this online era, where we are increasingly procuring our knowledge through social networks, the predominate source of information are the media conglomerates. If it’s not in the ‘papers’, it’s nothing to be too concerned about. Obviously, this is one of the major ideological issues that modern society faces today – and it is one that is slowly righting itself through the wider communication networks that are now available to a growing number of people around the world. We need to make a conscious effort to seek knowledge outside of the half a dozen or so channels most provided to us; we need to truly take advantage of the communications boom that the last decade has gifted us with.
Secondly, I think there is a tendency towards cataclysmic fascination when it comes to speaking about concepts such as climate change, peak oil or the ‘threat’ of global terrorism (to name but three moral agendas that are often spoken about in mainstream media). Part of what makes us such a slave to mainstream media conglomerates is our fascination with the darker side of humanity and our existence. Not to mention our short attention spans and desire for sensationalism.
With the water crisis, it is difficult to truly envisage the impact of low water supplies. Climate change has images such as those recently widely seen of London succumbing to rising sea levels; peak oil immediately brings about images of World War; and the fear surrounding terrorism is self-evident. Unfortunately, it is these images of devastation and fearful ideas that sell and are shared; leading to higher advertising and circulation revenues, which is the game that the mainstream media plays.
Last, but by no means least (and please do leave comments if you have any other thoughts on this!), is that water shortages in the immediate future can be solved through the development of more effective forms of desalination. Unlike climate change – the mechanisms of which are still being debated – this crisis has a reasonably clear solution. It is through the treatment of sea-water that we will be able to solve this issue, and there are a number of companies (such as Water Resources Group) developing cutting-edge technology in order to do so as cost effectively as possible.
Regrettably, financial cost (and often, profit) is still of primary concern when it comes to delivering clean drinking water to those in need. When this reduces significantly, or the situation becomes acutely desparate, solutions will be provided for those most in need. Hopefully this will occur before any true calamity or conflict arises because of this dire situation – which is not to say that we should be complacent, by any means! The last thing I want to do is become a part of the problem with this last point, but I do feel it is an aspect that should be acknowledged.
Blog Action Day isn’t just about words, though, it is also about practice. If you are reading this post, please take a moment to consider the possible ways that you may be able to alleviate the many problems surrounding clean water that a rapidly increasing number of people are faced with each and every day. The easiest way to help is in spreading the message through your social networks both online and off (often disparagingly and incorrectly referred to as ‘Slacktivism’ – don’t listen to the naysayers, it helps!). There are also quite a few initiatives surrounding Blog Action Day 2010 in particular, and I would encourage you to look into those.
Finally, for more information and if you would like to get more involved in charitable work surrounding water through either donations or personal efforts, please have a look at the following organisations that are doing a great job in trying to overcome this growing issue: Water.org; The Water Project; End Water Poverty and the Water Financing Programme.