Imagine a world without water.
I’ve just returned from a few days in Melbourne, where I’d been for some meetings, a conference, and a keynote speech at the Young Water Professionals annual meeting
, part of the Australian Water Association’s national conference, OzWater 2009.
Preparing for that speech got me thinking. As a climate activist, I think about many aspects of climate change impacts, but drought and water scarcity is one that particularly scares me.
Over the summer of 2004- 2005, I participated in a Southeast Asia field school as part of my geography minor at the University of Sydney. A small group of Sydney students paired up with local students and together we met communities and did field research along the Mekong Delta – in Vietnam, Thailand and Laos. For the people we met, the Mekong was the basis for their culture, livelihoods, and life.
We met strong people who were fighting mega-hydro electric dams in Thailand, and we met communities in Laos who had lost those battles and been forcibly relocated to build a dam to generate electricity for neighbouring Thailand. These people were now living on the edge of subsistence and in extreme poverty, without electricity and without the ability to provide for their families through subsistence farming and fishing along the river as they had done in the past.
Most of us take water for granted in urban Australia.
As I’m sure you have read about already, 2500 scientists from over 80 countries gathered in Copenhagen last week and issued a statement to Governments urging them to wake up to the crisis our world is in. They issued warnings that climate change is occurring much faster than they had originally predicted. Emissions are rising faster, and the consequences more serious, than the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s “worst-case scenarios”.
And Sir Nick Stern, author of the landmark Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change for the UK Government a few years back, had a few dire things to say about water
"Much of southern Europe would look like the Sahara. Many of the major rivers of the world, serving billions of people, would dry up in the dry seasons or re-route."
"What would be the implication of that? Extended conflict, social disruption, war essentially, over much of the world, for many decades."
These are the things that we have time to prevent now, but our window of opportunity is rapidly closing. So next time you get thirty and drink some water, think about what actions you can take to make sure we protect this precious resource, the basis of all life on Earth and a fundamental human right. You could give your politician a call and have a chat about water, or get involved in your local community climate action group.
A final thought - talking with some of the young water professionals after my speech, one of them told me that 1 litre of bottled water takes 7 litres of tap water and 1 litre of crude oil to produce.
Does anyone else think the way our economy is organised just does not make sense at all?
Anna Rose is the founder of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition