“I don’t get it,” said my son. “We’re an island… how can we be short of water?” I had been telling him about the shocking state of the Derwent Valley reservoirs. I have seen them very low before, but never this low. The water is no more than a trickle in the lake bed and the villages drowned at their creation are once more feeling the sun on their stones. We discussed desalination, technology and our acceptance of water-on-tap in developed countries. From there, we went on to other countries, where the populace is not so lucky and water may have to be drawn from a dirty well several hours walk from home. My son continued, “I mean, if seventy per cent of the earth’s surface is covered with water, and, if it all comes from the sea to begin with and goes back into the water cycle, how come anyone is short of water?”
“Money.” I thought back to a job I once had, selling water coolers to offices. The company supported a water charity that dug clean wells and brought water to arid villages. I loved being on the road as a salesperson, but I could never reconcile the difference between the luxury of cooled, filtered spring water and children carrying water jars for miles.
It always tickled me too, that the elegant secretaries who convinced their bosses to buy the spring water would, for the most part, have been horrified if I had asked them to drink from a stream… the same streams that supply the now-industrialised springs. But they would happily drink chlorine-laden tap water, because that is clean and safe… even though it may also contain other things they wouldn’t even like to think about.
It is not that I think we should deny ourselves, or feel guilty about, enjoying the benefits of progress or earned luxuries… but we should not forget that we are privileged to be able to do so.
At least the company was putting money into the pot with every sale… but it is a poor set-up when charity is dependant upon profit. I agreed with my son, no one should be without access to clean water in this day and age. Globally, we have the money, the technology and the resources… if we chose to use them.
I was on my soap box. From water, it moved to access to adequate food, housing, education and healthcare… all basic human needs that should also be rights. I have worked in the charity sector and acknowledge both the incredible effort of the staff and volunteers, as well as the impact of the work they do. But why should we need to rely on charity for such basic human needs in a world where corporations and individuals have billions in the bank? It makes no sense to me.
Leaving aside ideas about the distribution of wealth, even the defence budget of a small nation would probably be enough to supply water to a continent… and don’t get me started on the misnomer of ‘defence’…
“But,” interjected my son, attempting to stop me in full flow, “why bother talking about it? What good will it do?” The question was obviously rhetorical, but, with the bit between my teeth, I was going to answer anyway…
Actions spring from ideas, and ideas are born when people talk about things… not when they sweep them under the carpet and can comfortably and conveniently forget that they are there.
Money may have the reputation as being the root of all evil, but I wonder if that is true. Is it not what choices people make that is at the heart of the problem? And how can we make informed choices unless we communicate?
I thought a lot about that on the way home. In this day and age when the internet connects us worldwide, it should be easier to talk… and we do, often about things that may seem quite unimportant… just the small doings of everyday…but by doing so, we keep the lines of communication open, and every so often, something really important filters through. The weight of public opinion can work miracles, changing the face of society…or making one life worth living.
Misunderstandings thrive when people do not talk. Relationships deteriorate when resentments cannot be aired and are allowed to fester. Loneliness and depression deepen when there is no-one to talk with. And whole worlds of possibility open up when we do.
Continue reading at The Silent Eye