A note about connection from Philippe Cousteau

With the World Health Organization (WHO) recently announcing the classification of COVID-19 as a pandemic, it has become increasingly clear that people across state and national boundaries are intimately connected with one another. As we all take the necessary precautions for our own safety and for the care of our most vulnerable neighbors, I am struck by how this disease has demonstrated something that many of the young people we work with have known all along...we are all connected.

While this pandemic has all of us contemplating our small world in terms of travel and personal interactions, we are also all connected by the natural resources this planet provides. We have long understood that water connects us all and, here at EarthEcho, March is traditionally a month that we dedicate to celebrating our connection to water and water resources. We kick off our EarthEcho Water Challenge on World Water Day (WWD) alongside our partners across the world because we understand that we are all connected by water. With that in mind, we must acknowledge that the fate of water (and water quality) determines all of our fate. It is my hope that as we move through the COVID-19 crisis at hand by heeding our scientific experts and taking decisive action when necessary, we can all be inspired to continue to connect and collaborate globally to restore the health of our water planet. 

"When the well is dry, we know the worth of water." Ben Franklin

Though it has transformed considerably since the famous aqueducts of Ancient Rome, our access to and use of water has always been central to the functioning of society.  Today, throughout the world, engineers and innovators have built dams, wells, and incredible irrigation systems to provide fresh water for everyday activities. More than 70% of the global population can simply turn on a faucet and have immediate access to clean, fresh water. But what about those who are not so fortunate? Nearly 1.1 billion people around the world lack access to clean water and 2.7 billion people find water scarce for at least one month of the year? It’s time we channel some inspiration from Ancient Rome and come up with innovative solutions to this problem.

Imagine that 700 million people worldwide could be displaced by intense water scarcity by 2030 (Global Water Institute, 2013). That’s one decade! In only TEN years, the developed world will need to create lasting solutions to provide for water refugees who, much like climate refugees, are forced to leave their homes and sometimes their nations in search of clean water. While we explored some solutions to this problem in EarthEcho Expedition: Water by Design, we must identify and scale new solutions. To do this we need to examine the causes of global water scarcity:

1. Pollution

2. Agricultural development

3. Population growth

4. Climate change

And then highlight the overall impacts of water scarcity:

1. Reduction in productivity due to ecosystem damage;

2. Disappearing wetlands that result in reduced ability of coastal communities to maintain their existing water quality or protect them from natural disasters;

3. Stagnant, dirty water that breeds pests and disease creating human health risks; and

4. A global reduction in food production from traditional agricultural sources to fisheries.

Water is a global resource, but one that is managed at all levels: locally, nationally, and worldwide, making it difficult to create meaningful, systemic change in management practices.

But, as COVID-19 has shown us, we are all connected and we know water connects us all so we MUST do something. What can we do? We must demand change in regulatory policy by voting for candidates who prioritize the conservation and active management of water resources, including those who hold corporate entities accountable for their impact on water resources not just locally but GLOBALLY. We can work to develop plans to adapt our cities to climate change. We can bring the science home (literally) and take charge of reporting the water quality of our local surface waters through the EarthEcho Water Challenge.

Earlier in this article I quoted a brilliant American leader, but another of his famous sayings comes to mind as we discuss the global threats to water resources: “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”

We at EarthEcho are not planning to fail, and the young people we work with everyday do not plan to fail, but in order to succeed we all need to act together. We must acknowledge that water is a determining resource for our world and value it accordingly. We must manage water and the threats to water with informed science and innovative engineering, much like we are managing the threat of COVID-19 with the most accurate information from medical science. But most of all we must continue to strive to be the most environmentally literate citizens that we can be to work together on global, not just local solutions.