The Social Justice Challenge asks participants to learn about a different theme of social justice each month by reading or participating in other forms of media that focus on that theme. This month's theme is Water. This month I took part in one of the other forms of media - the Water H2O=Life Online Resource. The online resource was developed from an exhibit that was at the American Museum of Natural History . It provides a very accessible review of the issues that impact a clean, reliable supply of water and emphasizes the role of water in all living things.
We were asked to reflect on the following questions:
1. What is the first thought that comes to your mind when you think of Water as a social justice issue?
When I think about water as a social justice issue, I think about the developing world where there is a lack of reliable drinking water and the tremendous impact that has on the health of the population. The lack of clean water has a disproportionate impact on the world's poor - potable water is needed to bring people out of poverty. For that reason, improving access to clean water and basic sanitation is one of the UN's Millennium Development Goals. Consider these facts from Water.com:
- 3.575 million people die each year from water-related disease
- 43% of water-related deaths are due to diarrhea
- 84% of water-related deaths are in children ages 0 – 14
- 98% of water-related deaths occur in the developing world
- The water and sanitation crisis claims more lives through disease than any war claims through guns.
- At any given time, half of the world’s hospital beds are occupied by patients suffering from a water-related disease.
- An American taking a five-minute shower uses more water than the typical person living in a developing country slum uses in a whole day
- About a third of people without access to an improved water source live on less than $1 a day. More than two thirds of people without an improved water source live on less than $2 a day
- Poor people living in the slums often pay 5-10 times more per liter of water than wealthy people living in the same city
I have not personally been exposed to a water shortage but I have traveled in countries without reliable access to clean drinking water. While in India earlier this year, I relied completely on bottled water and realized I was fortunate enough to be able to ensure I always had bottled water while much of the population did not have that "luxury". It made me aware of how I take the availability of clean water straight from the tap for granted at home.
3. What potential action steps can you think of that relate to this month’s theme of Water?
- Continue to educate myself about this issue using a variety of resources such as Columbia's Earth Institute and Water.org
- Raise awareness of this issue among family, friends, colleagues and via my blog
- Water is a right but conservation is a responsibility - make changes in my daily life to reduce the amount of water I use including using a refillable water bottle in place of bottled water