Written By: Barbara King
Water is vital to life and well-being.
We know that water resources have a finite capacity to support development and land use changes.
- 95% of the worlds water is saltwater
- 5% is freshwater. Of this freshwater:
- 69% is found in ice
- 30% is found in groundwater
- less than 1% of the Earth’s water consists of surface water, only 1% of this is renewed by snow melt and rain each year
Source: Environment Canada, 2009
As executive director of an organization that works to protect our freshwater in Canada, this can be an overwhelming task. Development decisions are often made based on economics and politics and not always on what is in the best interest of our water and land. Our system to protect our freshwater in Canada is broken and it can be overwhelming for us to think about when we are trying to influence change on a large scale.
How do we make people realize the critical times we are in when it comes to protecting this precious resource? We have so little freshwater available to us and we all need to take responsibility for it now, not once we have surpassed the critical tipping point.
I was listening to an old interview on the radio with science fiction writer Dr. Isaac Asimov and he was talking about why people don’t respond to Science and all of the predictions about future disasters. In his book Our Angry Earth (1991), he writes “It is already too late to save our planet from harm. Too much has already happened,” “the only choice we have left is to decide how much worse we are willing to let things get” This does sound very dramatic and perhaps a little pessimistic but it got me thinking about why people aren’t standing up and demanding that our freshwater comes first, before economics….before industry? We know that our freshwater is a finite resource and that we can’t live without clean, sustainable water. So why is it so difficult to get people to take action?
I really had to reflect on this and the only answer that makes sense to me is that most people are not willing to change until change is upon them. Like my kids for example. When asked to do something really hard or most likely boring (in their eyes), they often procrastinate until that critical point when the consequences are “real” and right in front of them and that is usually when they realize that I REALLY meant it. If they don’t want to be in bed early then they better get moving and they realize they can’t ignore the issue anymore.
Protecting our water is a ‘big picture’ issue for people. It is hard for people to put themselves into the “we need to act now” situation when they are removed from it. Kind of like Climate Change, we have been talking about this for years…but until this is no longer a big picture issue we don’t relate to it and it doesn’t hit home for us. When you see the impacts in your backyard it means something to us, it is no longer a big picture threat that is happening elsewhere. It is now happening to me and then it is upon us. Ask someone who can’t swim in their lake due to Blue Green Algae Blooms, it is then very personal. They fight. What are we going to do about it…..It is so much easier to change when something is upon us…
So the question is: How do we make people see that the time is now to take action rather than waiting for things to get personal. Until we figure out the magic solution to that question…I shall continue to do the best that I can every day to help protect one of Canada’s most precious resources-our water.
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