I’m late for Blog Action Day – here in the UK it’s 10:08am on the 16 October, but my excuse is that it’s still the 15th in Pago Pago. Strangely enough, on checking out Pago Pago on Wikipedia (I freely admit I know nothing about the place), I learned that it’s not advisable to eat fish caught in the main harbour due to it being contaminated with industrial pollutants. That’s ironic, given that we’re all blogging about the importance of clean water.
I live in Britain. We don’t really think about water, unless it’s rain or there’s an inconceivable hosepipe ban, or if the toilet’s leaking. We’re used to water. Furthest I have to go to get water is a couple of hundred metres, mainly when we want to make a cup of tea at work (my colleagues will point out that I never make cups of tea at work, but I’m claiming dramatic licence). The town in which I worked got caught in a bit of a flood once – the road was blocked so it took a bit longer to get home. Other than that, water doesn’t really worry me. I know climate change could cause major problems for the country one day, and I know that falling water levels in Lake Mead could spell trouble for Las Vegas, but Dudley’s probably fairly safe.
That, of course, is a crass and blase way of looking at an issue that affects millions of people around the world. The statistics are both dizzying and horrifying – 38,000 children under five die each week from lack of access to water, unclean water is responsible for 80% of diseases. It’s a bigger problem, in terms of lives, that war, but of course war is never off our screens. The Ethiopian famine, or rather the media coverage of the famine, was one of the defining moments of the 1980s (cue Live Aid), but the issue tends to fade into the background. Maybe it’s because it’s not affecting the affluent West – well, that’s a cynical comment – or maybe it’s because it’s too big and, sadly, it fails to become a news story because it’s just there, a part of life. It’s sad and heart-breaking but it’s never going to change and it’s not going to get on the news media because breaking stories and The X-Factor are the priorities. And I’ll go to the tap later today and won’t even think about it.
But a couple of days ago I wrote about the space programme, and how it was an optimistic act for humanity to get behind, and that we don’t really have enough of those. I said that in the week that the world was transfixed by the rescue of the Chilean miners, proving, perhaps, that the concept of the Global Village isn’t necessarily just hype, but it just needs something for people to latch on to. Maybe someone with influence (Obama? Cameron?) needs to stand up and deliver a call similar to JFK’s speech at Rice Stadium, only this time it needs to be about water and sanitation and tackling something that’s both devastating and ignored. And maybe we all need to be a bit more thoughtful when we turn on the taps.
So here’s a link to UNICEF’s petition to support the UN’s drive to get clean water to some of the poorest people in the world, and here’s another couple of links to the charities Charity : Water and Blood: Water Mission (which also helps tackle HIV and AIDS). They’re worth a few minutes of our time, not because of guilt but because of a shared humanity and the importance and decency of sharing what we have.