I think we can all relate to a certain feeling of hopelessness that rises up when we dive deep into the issues surrounding climate change and the degradation of the natural environment.
I recall a time when I was ten years old, living with my family in Oregon. We were on our way back from Vancouver for spring break and stopped off to go swimming at a lakeside camping site in Washington state.
My brother and I ran down to the foreshore and ran into a pool of water separate from the lake itself. To our dismay, we realised there were several sizeable fish trapped in this big puddle!
We worried that the fish would die if they stayed where they were, so we quickly decided to dig a trench connecting back to the lake itself. We thought the fish could then swim to freedom down the trench and into the lake.
We started digging a trench with our hands in the sand. While we were busy digging away I decided to go make a start closer to the lake, while my brother worked beside the trapped fish. The lake itself was large and all I could see was water to the horizon. As I made my way towards the lake edge I noticed that the water seemed an odd colour.
To my horror I gradually realised that the lake itself was also completely polluted!
It was hideous, the water seemed like it was dead. Nasty bits of rubbish floated in it and it was then that I also realised that our efforts to save the fish were completely fruitless. We would simply be releasing them into no better water than they were already in. It dawned on me that all the fish were going to die.
Now as an adult, even a number of years later, I still clearly remember this. It was the feeling of utter hopelessness that sticks so clearly in my mind.
Sometimes it takes a direct ‘real life experience’ to jolt us awake to the crisis our planet is in and how this is not just some abstract issue, but it’s very real and we are beginning to experience the repercussions more frequently in our daily lives.
As an adult, I had another stark reminder of this, hitting even closer to home than the poor fish. At the risk of sounding dramatic, it left me literally scarred!
In 2017 I went to Bali on a weeklong yoga retreat. Towards the end of the retreat, one of my eyes started feeling itchy. By the time I arrived back in Auckland, my face was swollen, as was my eye and some pretty nasty stuff was coming out of it.
Within a couple of days, I was in hospital on hourly antibiotics (day and night) with a very serious bacterial eye infection. The eye specialists at the hospital told me the infection was caused by water – either from the water in the shower where I had been staying or caused by water at a temple I had visited with everyone on my yoga retreat.
It turns out that Bali has a serious water pollution issue – raw sewage and rubbish regularly finds its way into the water supply and while I was there, E coli was found by Balinese water authorities at a number of water temples. I was in hospital for almost a week and on antibiotics for several weeks after. As a result of the infection, I have permanent scarring on my eye which luckily does not affect my eyesight.
To me, this not only shows the impact that water pollution can have on our health, but also illustrates that no matter where we are in the world, we are all interconnected and our actions can have some unforeseen consequences on those around us.
Today, water pollution is a global issue. For example, in Pakistan, 53,000 children are estimated to die of diarrhea every year after drinking water containing dangerous bacteria and according to another estimate, 40% of all deaths in Pakistan are caused by water contaminated with sewage, industrial waste, arsenic or diseases (see “Let Them Drink Bottled Water” by Mohammed Hanif November 23, 2018 New York Times). In October last year, a study conducted from South Africa’s second largest river, concluded that it contains banned pesticides which can cause cancer when consumed by humans (www.theconversation.com).
It is understood that around 40% of China’s waterways are polluted and around 700 million Chinese citizens consume contaminated water on a regular basis. It is estimated that 85% of Bangladesh’s groundwater is contaminated with arsenic.
You don’t have to look too hard to find some other frightening global statistics when it comes to water pollution.
Water pollution issues are a huge global issue, but there are some small changes that we can do to help our water sources, for example:
- use environmentally safe products;
- use energy saving washing machines;
- minimise your use of plastics as much as possible;
- reduce your laundry washing and minimise your acquisition of synthetic clothing to help stop microplastic pollution (see www.vox.com); and
- de-clog your drains naturally.
For more ways to help our water supplies, see www.eartheclipse.com.
Every little thing you can do can help the world’s water sources, where ever you are. You may think any of the suggestions listed above are small changes, but every single thing helps!
It’s important that we all do whatever we can to look after our water
P.S. It’s not all gloomy reading – I was really heartened last week to read about the improvements in the Hudson River. Researchers have discovered endangered sturgeon back in the river – see https://www.theguardian.