This blog was written by the WCO’s graduate assistant, Emily Bilcik.
Could you imagine someone advancing their education, starting a successful business, growing a family, or contributing solutions to world problems if he or she did not have access to clean water? Think deeply about it for a moment– would you consider yourself able to achieve any of the successes you’ve secured during your existence if your life did not constantly revolve around using clean water? I know I would not be where I am today – healthy, steadily employed, earning a master’s degree, and preparing myself for a future career – if it were not for my upbringing with safe and readily-available water.
We all know by now that there is a world water crisis; almost a billion people are without clean drinking water, and freshwater resources worldwide are diminishing. Kristen Bell, charity:water supporter and water conservationist, puts it simply: “Water affects everything – education, health, poverty, and especially women and children.” She’s right. In communities where people must travel long distances to gather water, women and children carry the burden – literally. They must labor-intensively haul water, often contaminated with bacteria, alone through the dangers of their harsh surroundings. “Time spent gathering water is time (taken away from) learning to read, write, earn an income, or take care of family,” Bell continues. To hear her full narrative on how water truly does change everything, watch the video below. The more knowledge you have, the more power you have to create positive change.
The thought of having to walk hours to collect life’s most basic need does not frequently cross the average US citizen’s mind. Neither does drinking murky water collected from an unsanitary source. Thankfully, there are charities and nonprofits that focus their efforts solely on ameliorating water issues where people lack the resources to do so on their own. As a result of inventive knowledge, the power of technology holds many solutions to the world water crisis. Matt Damon, co-founder of the global nonprofit Water.org, explains, “We all know (the water crisis) is wrong, it’s tragic, and it’s totally unnecessary… It’s solvable if done right and with urgency.” It is confounding to hear that what we’ve all been hunting for – solutions to this problem – are already within reach. Nonprofits like Water.org help communities build infrastructure to access clean water, provide loans to assist people in addressing their water needs, and advocate partnerships to involve government stakeholders in the cause for clean water. The fight for clean water for all calls for involvement from more than just charities and nonprofits though; it requires unity and a close relationship between all people and progressive leaders. For more on Water.org’s solutions, visit http://water.org/solutions/ and check out Matt Damon’s motivating video below:
Speaking of principled government involvement in water issues, Leonardo DiCaprio brought light during his 2016 Oscar acceptance speech to our role in gaining support from those who truly want to fight beside us in environmental matters that matter most. Respectfully, he urged, “We need to support leaders around the world who do not speak for the polluters but who speak for all of humanity, the indigenous people of the world, for the billions and billions of underprivileged people.” DiCaprio’s speech focused primarily on climate change, but his words resonate well when thinking about water issues too. When faced with such a challenge as the world water crisis, people must band together and advocate for a change in behavior. For those of us with access to clean water, we shall use it wisely. We shall become more educated, more concerned, and more active in attaining clean water for all. In Leonardo’s heartening words, “Let us not take this planet for granted.”