World Water Day

WaterDayTuesday, March 22, 2016 is World Water Day. I had not heard of this day until recently when reading a news article, so I decided to do some research to find out why a day deemed World Water Day was created. What surprised me is this day has been held annually since the 22nd of March 1993, which was the first World Water Day. How could there have been twenty-three World Water Days in the past and I had not heard of it before? Do I live in a bubble? I’ve always known that fresh water was, and still is, a precious resource and that it is rapidly disappearing due to pollution and melting glaciers. In fact, I taught many lessons to my students about it over the years, but when I did some research on the topic, I was surprised by what I learned.

If I am truly honest with myself, I have to admit that I’ve always taken water for granted. There has never been a water shortage where I live. There has always been plenty of fresh, clean water to drink, to have a shower, to operate the clothes washer, to run the dishwasher, and to even water the lawn occasionally. I’ve always assumed, like most people I suspect, that we would always have a supply of fresh water. After doing some research, now I’m not so sure.

The Water Project is a non-profit organization providing reliable water to communities in sub-Saharan Africa. According to the website, water Scarcity is a reality on our planet! That means there is either the lack of enough water or lack of access to safe water. This site says 1 in 9 people worldwide do not have access to safe and clean drinking water. That means over a billion people on our planet lack access to safe water. The site also says that in developing countries, as much as 80% of illnesses are linked to poor water and sanitation conditions.

The World Water Council is an international multi-stakeholder council that promotes awareness, builds political commitment and triggers action on critical water issues. According to the Council, 1.1 billion people live without clean drinking water. The daily per capita use of water in residential areas is

  • 350 litres in North America and Japan
  • 200 litres in Europe
  • 10-20 litres in sub-Saharan Africa

That means each citizen of North America uses 350 litres every day. That’s a lot of water. It begs the question, are we wasting water?

From an agricultural perspective, the Water Councils says the quantity of water needed to produce 1 kg of wheat is 1 000 litres. Rice needs 1 400 litres and beef requires 13 000 litres of water. Perhaps it’s time to eat less steak.

Water.org is an international non-profit organization that brings water and sanitation to the developing world. Here are some interesting statistics I found on their site.

  • 663 million people – 1 in 10 – lack access to safe water.
  • 4 billion people – 1 in 3 – lack access to a toilet.
  • Twice the population of the United States lives without access to safe water.
  • More people have a mobile phone than a toilet.
  • Every 90 seconds a child dies from a water-related disease
eye
From ideahack.me

The Guardian’s article, How will climate change impact fresh water security? says fresh water scarcity is best understood by contemplating the distribution of fresh water on our planet. Approximately 98% of our water is in our oceans, which consists of salt water, and only 2% is fresh water. Of that 2%, almost 70% is snow and ice (namely glaciers), 30% is groundwater, less than 0.5% is surface water (lakes, rivers, etc.) and less than 0.05% is in the atmosphere. Climate change has had enormous effects on the amounts of fresh water available to us on the planet. The primary one is that global warming causes the polar ice caps and the world’s glaciers to melt into the sea, turning it into seawater.

Does this mean we should we alarmed? Yes it does. Does it mean we should lose hope for the future? No it doesn’t. All the various organizations I mentioned above are working towards solving the water scarcity problem. Science is also working towards solutions.

According to The Guardian’s article, 8 unbelievable solutions to future water shortages, science has come up with innovative ideas such as,

  • Waterless bathing using a lotion called DryBath which is a blend of essential oils, bioflavonoids (group of plant pigments), and an odour-eliminating chemical that is said to save four litres of water ever session.
  • Ultra efficient showers that use a screw-in device that captures water at the beginning of a shower and feeds it back into the system.
  • Using lasers to induce rain at times of drought, an idea debated by the World Meteorological Organization.
  • Folding toilets that make more efficient use of water. Its inventors claim that if installed it could save 10,000 litres per person every year.
  • Using a solar-chemical purification process that involves exposing titanium dioxide and zinc oxide to ultra violet radiation from the sun to produce a photo catalytic composite that cleans water.

According to the Canada Free Press’ article, Israel holds the solution to world water crisis, Israel has many new innovative products and policies. Some of these are drip irrigation and “fertigation,” a process of injecting fertilizers, soil amendments, and other water-soluble products into an irrigation system. Israel promotes dual-flush toilets, seawater desalination, advanced wastewater treatment and reuse, free-market pricing of water, drought-resistant seeds, cutting-edge metering and leak-detection systems, conservation education and precision agriculture.

Perhaps the most alarming thing that I’ve learned was on the World Water Council website. It said,

“As the resource is becoming scarce, tensions among different users may intensify, both at the national and international level. Over 260 river basins are shared by two or more countries. In the absence of strong institutions and agreements, changes within a basin can lead to transboundary tensions. When major projects proceed without regional collaboration, they can become a point of conflicts, heightening regional instability.”

Water-Wars-Logo
Logo from touchland.com

The prospect of “water wars” has been flaunted for decades and according to the article, Global ‘water war’ threat by 2030 – US intelligence, it may become reality within a decade. The article says the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), the organization that oversees US intelligence agencies such as the CIA and FBI, was commissioned by President Barack Obama to examine the impact of water scarcity worldwide on US security. The ODNI predicts that by 2040 water demand will outstrip current supply by 40 per cent. The organization says it could lead to outright fighting, or water could be used as a tool of political leverage, similar to how gas and oil are used today. It suggests revising international water treaties and investing in superior water purification technologies that will make the increasingly scarce resource plentiful again.

The world faces many serious problems such as global warming and water scarcity. It is time for us to get our “heads out of the sand” and educate ourselves about these issues. Even more, it is time for us to get involved, even if it is something as simple as donating to an organization that brings clean water and sanitation to the developing world, taking shorter showers, or purchasing water efficient appliances. If we all do our small part, we will make a difference.

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Political Bullying

I have always had an interest in politics. I taught social studies in high school for years and would passionately discuss politics with my students and give projects to them when election campaigns were on. I’ve even scrutineered once.  For those of you who don’t know what a scrutineer is, in the British and Canadian systems, a scrutineer is an official examiner of votes in an election. There was even a time when I would have seriously considered running for office. I used to think politicians were honourable people and individuals to be admired for their service. Now don’t get me wrong, there are still a few honourable people who are leaders. However, as I watch the politicking of our neighbours to the south, I begin to wonder if honourable and honest people enter politics anymore.

You’re probably wondering why I say such a thing. I was recently watching some of the analysis on CNN regarding the most recent primaries that are happening in the United States. One of the commentators was discussing the insults that were exchanged between Donald Trump and Marco Rubio, two candidates running for the Republican Party nomination for president. Here is an article about what I’m talking about –Us Election 2016. There were insults traded between the two candidates about misspelled tweets, wet trousers, wearing makeup and Trump ridiculing Marco Rubio for his love of drinking water.  Apparently, in a State of the Union response speech in 2013 while on national television Mr. Rubio paused for a sip of water. But what really got me were their exchanges about sweating.

Trump
From BBC.com

According to Business Insider, the exchange apparently happened backstage when they were debating one another. Mr. Rubio insinuated that Trump possibly “wet” himself. “He called me Mr. Meltdown,” Rubio went on to say, “Let me tell you, during one of the breaks — two of the breaks — he went backstage. He was having a meltdown. First he had this little makeup thing, applying makeup around his mustache, because he had one of those sweat mustaches. Then he asked for a full-length mirror. I don’t know why, because the podium goes up to here. Maybe he was making sure his pants weren’t wet. I don’t know.

Trump countered with, “He’s with a pile of makeup putting it on his face, I said Marco, easy with the makeup, you don’t need that much. You know the story with Marco. I watched Marco with this man [Christie]. Where Marco, he was right over here I asked him I said are you okay? He looked like he just came out of a swimming pool. He was a mess.” Anyway, I’m sure you get what I’m talking about.

The first question I have is, Why are they throwing insults when I’m sure the American people want to hear about solutions to the problems the country faces? Donald Trump’s campaign slogan is, “Make America Great Again.” A great slogan I might add. But I seldom hear him telling the American people how he intends to do that. What I typically hear is insults flying and Trump being a bully. The other Republican candidates don’t seem to be a whole lot better. Are these the best candidates that America has to offer, candidates throwing insults at one another? Granted, it might be entertaining, but really it’s bullying. No wonder our society has a bullying problem. When I vote, I vote for those candidates that reflect my values, but even more because they’ve explained what they will do to make their country better.

Canada is not immune to such antics. During the last 2015 Federal Election in Canada, the then reigning Conservative government placed ads in local newspapers and flyers, questioning whether Justin Trudeau, Canada’s current Prime Minister, shares their values. The ads tried to foster fear that a Liberal government would legalize marijuana, “making access easier for kids.” The ad warns there would be legal drug-injection sites in our neighbourhoods and that prostitution would be legalized, “putting brothels in our communities.” The Conservative Party attack ad finishes with, “Those aren’t our values either. Vote for your values.”  They were twisting the truth. Mr. Trudeau did make a campaign promise to legalize marijuana, but he never explicitly said he would legalize prostitution or drug injection sites. That was only Conservative fear mongering.

TrudeauOf course there was the long running television ads attacking Mr. Trudeau’s credibility saying, “He’s just not ready” to be prime minister. The Liberal Party of Canada is also guilty of attack ads. In 2006  then Liberal Party Leader Paul Martin approved a controversial ad suggesting the Tories would post armed soldiers on the streets of Canadian cities. During the last weeks of the campaign, the Liberals resorted to negative ads directed towards the Conservative party, attempting to depict its leader Stephen Harper as an extreme right-wing politician. The most controversial ad said, “Stephen Harper actually announced he wants to increase military presence in our cities. Canadian cities. Soldiers with guns. In our cities. In Canada.”

Chretien_AdHistorically, one that stands out for me was the 1993 Progressive Conservative Party attack on then Liberal leader Jean Chretien, who was elected as Prime Minister that year. The ad showed a picture (on left) of Mr. Chretien saying,”Is this a Prime Minister?” This ad was interpreted as mocking Chretien’s slight deformity and speech impediment that were leftover from a childhood case of Bell’s Palsy.  This is a condition where paralysis of the facial nerves occur, causing muscular weakness in one side of the face. To me, that was a “low blow.” That was “hitting below the belt.”

Why does politics have to be about attacking another’s character? Most people I have talked to express how repugnant this type of politicking is. I’m grateful that Canada’s present Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, did not run any attack ads during the 2015 election and does not resort to bullying to achieve his goals. In fact, in October of 2015 on CTV’s Canada AM Mr. Trudeau said,“I don’t believe in attack ads. I think they hurt your ability to govern and my capacity to stay positive and focused on our platform.” I say kudos to Canada’s Prime Minister. It is time to get back to what I call honourable politicking, where politicians put forth their platforms for making their country great. It’s time to bring honour and respect back to politics.  Time to give us politicians who have creative new ideas, who aren’t bullies, and who want to lead because they want to make a difference in this world. It is a sad state of affairs when the only potential leaders that step forward are bullies who attack their opponents. Enough already!