Let’s Talk About Water. #challengeyoplanet

Bruce Lee used to say: ‘Be like water’. But would you want be like water in the times of climate change?

(#Challengeyoplanet is a series of informative posts on climate change that aim to raise awareness among young people. Read more about the project and the other posts here. )

When we talk about climate change, we mention coal, nuclear power, waste, urbanisation and globalisation, yet we forget to mention something equally important.

WATER


For living on a planet that is 70% covered in water, we surely don’t care about the impacts that our living standards have had on our oceans.

It doesn’t matter that we need fresh water to live and that is not widely available on the planet like salt water; we pollute because again, we fall under the human egoistic assumption that things on Earth are at our own disposition for an infinite period of time and that if they will finish, we will figure it out somehow, like Tom Cruise in another one of those extraterrestrial apocalyptic movies where he’s the American hero, not the Scientologist lunatic he is.

Hate to break it to you, but there is no way that us, or Tom Cruise, will be able to get out of this big mess; unless we start caring about what is going on to our generous supply of water.

It’s hard to care about the ocean because some people can’t bring themselves to care about their own neighbours, let alone to something so vast and far (from most people) from us.  I mean, some people have never even seen the ocean once in their lives; how are they supposed to know what it looks like and how important it is, if they have never had a physical connection to it?

But just because we can’t see it, or hug it all; like trees, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t need your help.

So here’s your little guide on why we talk about the ocean today and how greenhouse emissions are endangering the future of our water supply and our cities.


 

THE WORLD IS THIRSTY

Water scarcity.

It’s pretty incredible that the main problem with our water right now is that there isn’t enough. You’d think that a planet made out of mainly water would have enough for us.
But the problem is that when you have a greedy environment living on a planet that needs fresh water, which is only 2.5% of the actual water on the planet,  and an unstoppable level of consumption and mass production, it makes it inevitably hard to provide fresh water for all the living creatures on the planet.
But there would be enough water, if humans didn’t push the quantities of fresh water available for everyone.
That 2.5% is such a tiny part of the water that is available, yet only 0.7% is actually available for us, because the rest of it is in form of icecaps in Antartica and Greenland. Not to mention the fact that  we use a lot of fresh water for agricultural purposes, so to feed livestock and grow all the food that we love to eat.
So just by looking at this number  we can see that letting the tap run for a long time and wasting water for our precious green front years is probably not the best environmental decision, as like any other material thing – even water isn’t endless in supply. In fact, water scarcity is a serious problem.

WHAT CAUSES IT

Overpopulation. We are simply too many people in a world where there is not enough fresh water available.
Population is expected to rise at exponential rates in the next 20 years and we are meant to be finding a illuminati way to supply everyone with  fresh water, yet we can’t.
But at the end of the day, the reason why water is being so scarce and its quality has worsened significantly, is because we are simply consuming too much of everything.
Water is a key element in the production of all the foods and products and services that we enjoy consuming, snapping and sharing with other people.
We don’t see the role that water plays in this production game, but if you only just looked at the amount of water that it takes to produce a pound of meat, or to produce a 10$ t-shirt, or a Target microwavel you will literally bawl your eyes out and stop taking one-hour long shower.
Again, a decrease in fresh water supply is a big deal, as it endangers our natural environment, our health and hygiene and it deeply impacts the economy of countries that highly depend on agricultural activities.
If you don’t believe it, here are a couple of stats.
  • Around 748 million people today still do not have access to an improved source of drinking water, and water demand for manufacturing is expected to increase by 400 per cent between 2000 and 2050 globally.
  • By 2050, global water demand is projected to increase by 55%, mainly due to growing demands from manufacturing, thermal electricity generation and domestic use.
  • Groundwater supplies are diminishing, with an estimated 20% of the world’s aquifers currently over-exploited.
  • By 2050, agriculture will need to produce 60% more food globally, and 100% more in developing countries
  • Global water demand for the manufacturing industry is expected to increase by 400% from 2000 to 2050, leading all other sectors, with the bulk of this increase occurring in emerging economies and developing countries
  • Currently only 5% of the Africa’s potential water resources are developed and average per capita storage is 200 m3(compared to 6,000 m3in north america)
  • Only 5%of Africa’s cultivated land is irrigated and less than 10% of hydropower potential is utilized for electricity generation.
  • By 2030, the world is projected to face a 40% global water deficit under the business-as- usual (bau) scenario (2030 WrG, 2009).
  • The world’s population is growing by about 80 million people per year (usCb, 2012). it is predicted to reach 9.1 billion by 2050, with 2.4 billion people living in sub-saharan africa, the region with the most heterogeneously distributed water resources (undesa, 2013a).
  • Groundwater supplies are diminishing, with an estimated 20% of the world’s aquifers being over-exploited (Gleeson et al., 2012), leading to serious consequences such as land subsidence and saltwater intrusion in coastal areas (usGs, 2013).
  •  Almost 80% of diseases in so called “developing” countries are associated with water, causing some three million early deaths. For example, 5,000 children die every day from diarrhoea, or one every 17 seconds.

 

Do you still think that what water scarcity isn’t a problem?

Ok, now let me show you where all this is taking us to.

 

WHERE IS THIS ALL TAKING US TO

Where is this whole polluting, wasting and reducing the amount of fresh water available is taking us to? To hell. Because hell is a place with no fresh water, trust me.
But seriously, the way that we are using our fresh water supplies and the way we are impacting the supply through our overdoing producing and wasting; we are definitely in for a horrible run with climate change.
First of all, you have to learn that playing with the water means playing with the environment.
It doesn’t take a genius to understand that for an action corresponds an equal reaction; same thing applies to water.
When water scarcity happens it has some sort of domino effect. See, the Earth has an impeccable balance in the way it works, so when we mess up even a tiny bit of a flawless scale, we might be in for a big trouble.
When the pace of our society leads to water scarcity through waste and mass production and greenhouse emissions, it messes up the natural cycle of water, therefore it messes up the amount of rain (precipitation) in space and time, so that some areas don’t get water for a extended period of time and others go through floods and heavy storm seasons.
Clearly the disaster doesn’t stop there, because it even goes to affect the the natural environment of those areas affected by water scarcity, it affects the population (human, animal and plant) and inevitably starts a incredible chain reaction that it takes years to come back from.
Especially the water cycle part is important and if you haven’t thought about it since primary class, I’ll freshen you up on that, don’t worry.
So when the water evaporates from the ocean or simply the land, it works with the atmosphere, which will lead the water vapour to different locations where it will soon become clouds, and consequently return to the form of precipitations – aka rain water. And it ends when the fallen rain water is absorbed into the ground again, or run off into the ocean and the process starts again.
But remember what I said about Earth’s balance changing just by a tiny bit and having a domino effect on everything else? Yeah, same thing applies to the water cycle.
In fact, because of greenhouse emissions pumped into the environment and the increased amount of solar energy trapped under the atmosphere, the oceans absorb a lot more heat than usual and that goes to raise the temperature of sea surface, changing the ocean currents and affecting the sea level.
What does this lead to? A big mess.
Because we have changes in the amount of rain we get through seasons, we get more intense precipitations, changes in the amount of snow and rain we get; it affects the plants and the lands that significantly depend on the water cycle for their existence and that consequentially affects whatever supply these plants and lands can provide to us – which is a lot – then, it goes to affect ice melting caps, increase in wildfires, indentations and so on.
Not to mention the fact that by polluting our water sources with toxic waste from industrialisation and obsessive consumption, we have also made the ocean more acidic, due to high level of atmospheric carbon dioxide absorbed by and dissolved in the water.

The ocean absorbs more than 95% of the heat trapped by human-produced greenhouse gases.

Don’t dismiss that, because with high level of acidity in the ocean, it affects the balance of minerals in the water and consequently the whole marine food chain that is fundamental for OUR food chain (unless you don’t eat animals, then good on you).
Not a bright future, hey? Still keen on sushi?
But again the increased temperature of sea surfaces affects the sea levels, therefore it affects all of us who live along shores, like 15 of the world’s largest cities do.
Massive floods, natural disasters caused by sea levels can cost the economy up to $1 trillion a year by 2020.
Do you have a spare $1 trillion in the bank account to pay for the cost of not caring about the environment?
Definitely not. (If you do, then please head over to Paris and fund some projects).

WHAT ABOUT ICE?

If greenhouse gases affect the sea levels simply by raising the temperature of the water surface, you can imagine the vast impact that it can have on a our ice sheets.
We don’t think about our ice sheets, unless we are kids and imagine Santa living with his helpers making our new toy.
But just the Antarctic Ice Sheet covers about 5.4 million square miles of our planet, which equals to India and the U.S combined, aka a huge amount of iced space.
Just in 2014,  We lost 303 gigatons of ice (a LOT of ice) from the Greenland Ice Sheet and 118 gigatons from Antartica. We are not sad because we still can’t see directly the consequences of a lot ice sheet in the middle of nowhere.
However, the  Greenland and the Antartica ice sheets hold enough ice that if lost, it would raise the sea level by 20 feet and 190 feed respectively.
You can imagine the disaster of our big metropolis being hit by a 20 feet increase of sea level? It’s not cute. There won’t be any Jake Gyllenhal like the Day After Tomorrow. There won’t be any day after this icey tomorrow, that’s for sure.

WHAT THE HELL ARE WE SUPPOSED TO DO THEN?

 

Are you feeling a bit antsy and thirsty after reading this? It’s alright, here is what we can do.
AT HOME
  • Don’t waste water. You don’t need to do the laundry every single day, nor to use the shower for one hour.
  • Don’t throw any toxic, or harmful waste down the drain.
  • Use environmental friendly household cleaning products
  • Don’t throw MAKE UP WIPES OR TAMPONS DOWN THE DRAIN. Don’t be lazy, come on.
  • If you can afford it, install water filters to keep the water clean.
  • Eat a plant-based diet, or at least avoid huge fish consumption as not only it is deeply affected by the pollution in the ocean, but also because many species are disappearing because of our greedy mouths.
  • Buy less bottled water, to reduce the amount of plastic that you consume.
OUTSIDE OF HOME
  • Don’t litter near water sources.
  • Don’t use fertilisers or pesticides on lawns or gardens.
  • Use less power and plastic, by preserving our forests and also by not being responsible for the all the plastic that is floating in the ocean.
  • Use rain water, whenever you can.
  • SPEAK UP! Talk to people and call them out when they are littering and contributing to this huge mess.
  • Research how your favourite brands make your favourite products and you will discover an inconvenient truth about how much water is wasted in making the most stupid and cheapest products that are thrown away after a month of barely using them.
But above all, be interested.
You know the feeling of throwing yourself in the ocean, floating on the water and feeling so connected with every single organism that is living in a such a vast element?
Or you know the feeling when you’re really thirst and you gulp a huge glass of water, and life just seems a little bit more sweeter?
What if those precious moments were taken away simply because of our lack of caring for something that is so fundamental for our living existence.
Like Bruce Lee says, be like water. Adapt to change. Fight against all odds.
When we start talking and walking the talks, unlike our politicians, we move forward. We demand greater responsibilities from government who are only democratic by words, not by actions.
As a consumer, we have the power to walk out of a shop that doesn’t satisfy our needs. Our needs have to change.
We can’t buy things just because they are pretty and cheap; we have to completely change the way we look at products and demand more transparency from companies that are draining our soil from water on one hand and polluting it with chemicals with the other.
Talking about water pollution and its scarcity is linked to another talk that we shall have in the next couple of days: the fashion industry and the meat industry.
But for now, let’s swim against all odds.

PICTURE TAKEN BY NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC.


LEARN MORE

LET’S TALK ABOUT TREES

LET’S TALK ABOUT EATING ANIMALS

LET’S TALK ABOUT FASHION

LET’S TALK ABOUT THE OCEAN


KEEPING UP WITH THE #COP21 -2nd/3rd December

As I have specified before, I am also going to keep you updated on the conference in a short and easy to understand way, as life is already boring as it is.  If you are not sure about what is going on in Paris other than terrorist attacks and pain-au-chocolat, this article will answer all of your questions. (Click here)

  • India will ban trucks and buses more than 15 years old to decrease record pollution levels. India has 13 of the world’s 20 most polluted cities and air pollution is responsible for 600,000 premature deaths each year. Only the Hindu Festival of lights made air pollution in Dehli reach 40 times the limit recommended by the WHO. [x]
  • China and two groups of developing countries have called out the US, UK and Germany and other “rich” countries for not taking responsibility of their historical emissions and that a small group of rich countries have been avoiding to negotiate financing, by talking a lot and “wasting time”, without taking any significant responsibility. The world’s least developed countries said that there could be no final agreement in Paris, without the rich countries taking full responsibilities. I think we can all clap on that. [x]
  • India announced the investment in renewable energy, but also the decision to commit to use coal to raise people from poverty. Don’t know how that’s going to work, Narendra Modi, but we’ll see.
  • Anonymous hacked the private logins of 1,415 officials at the UN climate talks in Paris to attack back after the arrest of protesters on the climate march in Paris.
  • Leading atmosphere scientist James Hansen told the UN that they are basically doing it all wrong once again, by talking about doing stuff that would take substantial years to see the benefits of, and patting each other on the back for the great speeches. Hansen has called out rich countries for their historical emissions that have put the world into this mess, and he believes that the solution is to impose a huge price on carbon, as it would only take the major players to impose it. It is realistically impossible to expect every single country to reduce emissions on its own. Elon Musk, tech billionaire agrees with Hansen by talking about the effect of a carbon price at the UN.
  • Uruguay has shamed everyone by showing that its electricity is 95% powered by renewables, without getting any government subsidies, or higher consumer costs. Mendez – its climate change ministers – aims to hit a 88% cut in carbon emissions by 2017 and it attributes its climate policy success by clear-decision making, a supportive regulatory environment and a strong partnership between the public and the private sector. But above all to a stable economy, helpful natural conditions and strong public companies that can work with private ones. Well done Uruguay. (x)
  • Europe aims to recycle 65% of their municipal rubbish and 75% of their product packaging by 2030, with the intention to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2-4% within 15 years.
  • China announced to reduce emissions in the power sector by 60% by 2020, after the scary level of air pollution reached in Beijing this week. Less coal and more renewable energies will allow China to play a key role in improving climate change. (x)

And that’s all for today, folks!

Follow me on Twitter (@challengeyoasss) for more live updates.


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