It is amazing how often water is used in daily life, and how infrequently people talk about it. I find that I don’t appreciate water unless I have a reason to appreciate it; such as two summers ago when a hurricane left my family without electricity, and (because we have a well) without water, for a week. I would repeatedly turn on the faucet and be shocked when nothing came out.
I would flush a toilet and remember it needs water. I couldn’t shower, brush my teeth, cook or clean without appreciating the water that usually filled my home. After a full week of taking baths in my swimming pool, I genuinely understood that fresh, clean, running water is an amazing thing.
Prior to that week, I neither appreciated water nor knew that I should appreciate it; it was just there. The truth is that most people don’t think about the water they use every day. They feel entitled to its presence, and when water is not readily available, its absence is met with shock and, often, anger.
But not everyone has easy access to water; in fact, 1.1 billion people don’t have access to an adequate water supply, and another 1.3 billion don’t have water in their house or yard, but have access within one kilometer. Surprisingly, few people know of this dramatic disparity in water access which threatens the life and dignity of billions of people worldwide. This problem, which currently confronts those in water-scarce developing countries, will soon be an inescapable global crisis as water shortages become more commonplace in developed nations like the U.S.
The challenge, then, is to find a way to make the world to recognize this problem now, not only to prepare itself for the future, but to help those who are currently suffering. Should the world undergo a “Blue Movement” like the “Go Green” movement it is currently experiencing? And if so, what would this movement look like? How would it begin?
In March 2007, a Gallup poll found that 70 percent of Americans are either active in or sympathetic to the environmental movement, or the “Green” movement. That number represents a significant portion of the U.S. population which is not only familiar with the environmental problems faced by the world, but sympathetic to proposed solutions to those problems. This number is surprising considering the fact that environmental concerns have, for the most part, only recently entered the mainstream sphere. Many trace the modern environmental movement’s entrance into public policy to the publication of Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring in 1962. The years following the success of Carson’s book were characterized by a significant mobilization of the public in the favor of the environment.
During the 1970s, Congress passed between 20 and 30 major bills every year with relatively limited challenge from corporations and other counter interests. However, many argue that the mainstream environmental movement has lost its powerful influence as it has transitioned away from its roots towards a new “Environmental Consumerism,” which falsely leads the public to believe that the environment can be saved through the consumption of “Green” products.
So, should the “Green Movement” provide the prototype for a similarly structured “Blue Movement,” or will concerns about water scarcity be tackled from a different angle? On one hand, informing the public of threats to the environment mobilized a movement which accomplished a great deal, regardless of the fact that there are still many issues ahead. On the other hand, perhaps the environmental movement, which stimulated passionate activism in the 1960s and the following decades, has moved away from its original dedicated following and has led, instead, to political division on many topics. Whether or not the movement is successful in creating public policy and large-scale impacts, the “Green” movement has, no doubt, resulted in enhanced public recognition of environmental concerns.
It is difficult to project what the “Blue Movement” will look like, but regardless of the form it takes, it will be increasingly challenging for the world to hide from water scarcity in the following years and decades. Water scarcity is something that is both local and global: For those in rural villages in Africa who must walk for hours a day to obtain water, water scarcity can feel like a local and personal issue that must be faced with strength and personal sacrifice. If a woman in the United States takes a shorter shower to conserve water, it won’t make it any easier for a woman in Africa to access water. But it is this fact which simultaneously makes water scarcity a global problem. If the world is informed about the specific ways in which water scarcity can be tackled on a global scale, it can provide a united effort to improve water access, similar to the way the environmental movement has mobilized support over the years.