Thursday, March 22, 2007

Wet Enough For You?

I didn't want today to pass by without mentioning the single greatest threat to peace and stability, and perhaps the very existence, of (wo)mankind.

Water. Or rather, the loss of potable water for all humanity. Between global warming, pollution, and population growth, water is quickly becoming more costly than oil in some places and will in other places. There is much work to be done to stave off a major catastrophe the likes of which we have never and will never see in history.

Today is World Water Day. To quote the UN statement regarding water:
Each year more than 1 billion of our fellow human beings have little choice but to resort to using potentially harmful sources of water. This perpetuates a silent humanitarian crisis that kills some 3900 children every day and thwarts progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The consequences of our collective failure to tackle this problem are the dimmed prospects for the billions of people locked in a cycle of poverty and disease.

The root of this underlying catastrophe lies in these plain, grim facts: 4 of every 10 people in the world do not have access to even a simple pit latrine and nearly 2 in 10 have no source of safe drinking-water. To help end this appalling state of affairs, the MDGs include a specific target to cut in half, by 2015 the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking-water and basic sanitation. In addition, the UN Millennium Project Task Force on Water and Sanitation recently recognized that integrated development and management of water resources are crucial to the success or failure of all the MDGs, as water is central to the livelihood systems of the poor.
Already, two billion people, one-third of the world's population, suffer in regions of extended drought (including parts of the United States).

This is obviously not just about drinking: it's about sanitation, health, disease, poverty. It's about food and food sources. It's about being able to live a life, put out a fire, cook. It's about maintaining a bare minimum existence. It is, in fact, about how mankind can wrench a living out of the earth.

Something we in the United States (except for the southwest) barely have to pay attention to, while other countries, other continents, have to spend their entire waking lives keeping an eye on. Just ask Australia.

Places where population is exploding, places like India and China and Asia, are under tremendous strain, and there really is no way to mitigate this strain externally: we have to get in there and help them find water for their people, or risk threats that will expand globally. Think plague, if it will help. And as the strain takes its toll there, there will be less water for the rest of us around the world.

Eventually, it will hurt us all. What can you do? A lot, but far and away the most important thing you can do today is spread the word. Get two friends to the website I linked to, and have them get two more friends to go.