Every year since 1993 the world has observed March 22 as World Water Day. It is a day set aside to raise awareness of the importance of water to our lives and to the ecosystems of our planet that give us life. This year the theme is water and food security. This is an important theme especially now as the effects of climate change are now hitting the developing world where much of our food is grown and where the majority of our world's poor live. For many making the connection between water and food security is something they just do not think about. In the developed world we are so used to going into a store and buying what we want without thinking about where it came from, how it was grown or what went into it. We do not consider that when we waste food we also waste water.
The price we are and will pay regarding water scarcity and food insecurity in the future will only increase as we continue to not take this seriously. For the past decade I have reported on water scarcity in every part of the world and the effects that scarcity is having on this most precious resource and the food and people that depend on it. There are many factors involved in this crisis worldwide such as lack of political will; lack of moral will; privatization; population; pollution (resulting in physical and non physical scarcity); overconsumption (overpumping and waste) and climate change (sea level rise causing salt water intrusion, drought, flood, water evaporation, glacier melt.)
I also want to add war to this list, because as we are seeing currently in Syria and in places in the Middle East drought is already affecting agriculture which is now resulting in people rising up to demand better care of their resources because of livelihoods/lives lost and higher food prices. This is definitely an urgent factor that we need to consider regarding the future of global water resources in line with militarization of such resources which will result in more conflict.
More than 40% of our planet is now in water scarce zones. This is predicted to increase with more people moving to urban areas by 2050. Our world population has doubled since 1950 and we are on track to see 9 billion within the next twenty. Yet, we are not adequately preparing as a species regarding preserving the very resources that will sustain us. More people on this planet have a mobile phone than have a toilet. What does that tell us of our priorities?
In assessing the factors involved in the connection between water and food security all of these factors then come into play and connect with something that to me is the most important factor: Perception. As I mentioned just above more people on this planet have access to mobile phones than to toilets. And more people are becoming unattached to the world around them which I believe is contributing to the lack of caring for what is actually most important. Our zeal for progress is ironically in many ways leading us backwards.
For me progressing means moving forward technologically and evolving while also improving on and preserving those life systems that support us in a sustainable way. Polluting the water we use to grow food or wasting it in order to have it to make tarsands is not sustainable. Overpumping aquifers to put water in fossil fuel plastic bottles to make a profit for a private company while people go thirsty and hungry is not progress. Profit at the expense of life is not progress. And once again, it all comes back to our perceptions as a species: To our understanding the true value of water and finding ways to use it in preserving a progressive and sustainable society.
The good news is that this is achievable. We can feed our people while preserving our ecosystems. It requires us all to look inside ourselves and to ask how important water really is to us and to make the commitment to changing our perceptions of this world and our place in it. There are so many organizations working on doing just that and on this World Water Day and every day they deserve our gratitude and support.
In the end however, we shouldn't need one day to remind people of something that should be part of their lives everyday. And to those living in parts of this world where they know where their food comes from and just how precious the water that births the seed is, they already have this perception. Perhaps we need a World Water Day theme based on that to start.
My hope and faith lie with those who know the land and who work it. Those who are truly committed to preserving this beautiful planet for our children. Sustainable agriculture, water conservation, agroforestry, agroecology, stewardship, equality and most importantly, advocacy. 2012 can be the year when we finally begin to understand that what is important is that which brings progress and life and doing all in our power to see beyond the material, political and societal walls that now impede our evolution. Water can be the catalyst to that awakening. Make it yours today and save a life.
About World Water Day
Appreciation of water leads to preservation.