How is it possible that the year has gone by so quickly? It seems like just yesterday it was last year’s Blog Action Day, and 19 Simple Ways to Start Thinking About Climate Change. Then came the Climate Justice Fast, which got me thinking about water. So it seems strangely appropriate that this year’s Blog Action Day is focused on water. (But I still can’t believe it’s already October!)
I know that a billion people on this planet don’t have access to clean drinking water. And you know it too. However, not to minimize in any way the plight of those that lack clean water, I thought I would write about some of the other reasons water is super important. Reasons like um… how about water is everything? Water is our agriculture, our rain, our oceans. Water is our weather and our seasons. Water is our life.
Our Oceans, Our Fish
In case you haven’t heard, the oceans are in big trouble. From overfishing to acidification to nitrogren-rich dead zones at the mouths of rivers, things aren’t looking so hot. But one of the more interesting (scariest?) things I’ve read in a while is the report on the decline of phytoplankton over the last 60 years. Recently, this decline has been linked to increased ocean surface temperatures. That means climate change. Oh yeah… that again.
Phytoplankton are really important. People around the world rely on the oceans as a primary source of food, and those ocean creatures eat other ocean creatures, who eat other ocean creatures, who eat phytoplankton (multiples of eating and being eaten may vary). In fact, we may be primed for the next great oceanic extinction.
We need to start recognizing how important our oceans are to us, and we need to do it right now. Or yesterday. Or 60 years ago. But lacking a time machine, right now sounds good.
Our Groundwater, Our Rivers
We’re also going to need to start valuing our groundwater and rivers, and addressing agricultural runoff now. I mean now. We already have dead zones and they are growing. Agricultural, industrial, urban and suburban runoff are polluting our waterways and our groundwater, and once that crap is in the water, it is so hard (if not impossible) to get it out.
Dedicated, talented, impassioned people are working on finding solutions, but the more of us that understand and engage with the issue, the better chance they will have.
Photo CC || http://www.flickr.com/photos/aussiegall
Protect Our Water
I know that I’m a little touchy about water. I grew up living between two drought states – California and Colorado – which definitely affected my perspective on scarcity. Living in the Pacific Northwest has been weird for me because there is so much water here that many people never give it a second thought. But I can’t help it. Every time I see sprinklers running in the middle of the day or my neighbors dumping chemicals on their beautiful lawns, I cringe. I can’t help but try to do as much as possible to protect the water we have, even if it doesn’t seem like such a scarce resource here.
The neat thing about the world as we know it is that everything is connected. The more we learn, the more we see how interconnected everything really is. You may not think you’re helping protect water, but the little things you’re doing in other areas of your life are absolutely connected to the water systems on our planet. Things like:
- No chemicals on my lawn. Our lawns runoff travel through drainage ditches to our neighborhood storm ponds. Those seep back into our groundwater. So no chemicals. Ever.
- I have a rain barrel. I got it from Freecycle, so total investment was basically a short drive and a little bit of effort. Extra water during the wet season can be used to water plants during the dry, hot summer months.
- No plastic. Ok, so I’m not entirely plastic-free, but I do use a lot less plastic than I used to, which is waaaay less than the average American household. This means less plastic to accidentally end up in the Pacific Gyre.
- Carbon footprint reduction – we’re far from carbon neutral in this household, but we’re trying to reduce our impact as much as possible. Increased atmospheric CO2 leads to ocean acidification, dead zones and the collapse of aquatic ecosystems. Same with higher ocean temperature.
- Supporting sustainable agriculture – our produce, dairy and most of our meat come from local farmers implementing sustainable agriculture practices. We fall off the wagon occasionally, but for the most part, our food dollars go to people who are trying to leave the world a cleaner, greener place.
How about you? Is water on your radar? What are you already doing to protect our water? What other little things might you be able to do?