28 January 2007

Water - Marq De Villiers

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Date: January 28, 2007
Recommendation: A little scatter brain at first, but brilliant assessment of mankind's true ambrosia

On the final page of de Villiers' book he states that "water wars might be caused by human folly, but they might still be prevented by human inventiveness." This made me think of a line from Men in Black (God bless Will Smith), in which Tommy Lee states that a person is intelligent, but people are ignorant and stupid. The issue of water scarcity, along with climate change, deforestation, and other doomsday worries can be overwhelming to say the least. Many of us take consolation in the fact that man's ingenuity will save us. Indeed, the individual intelligence of men and women have singularly helped solve many of yesteryear's crises. Will do save the world's water supply?

De Villiers, a South African making Canada his home, saves no love for Canada. Or for that matter, for the many wasteful practices that are subsidized and continued all over the planet. For instance, the USA and Canada are the #1 and #2 users of water in the world (on a per capita basis). For my Canadian readers, I'm sure that, like me, you were under the belief that Canada is a bountiful source of freshwater. Contrary to the commonly held belief, Canada has about 6% of annual global runoff of freshwater. I myself remember reading that Canada had 66% of the world's freshwater supply. The Great Lakes, if combined, contain as much water as in Lake Baikal in Russia. Don't get me wrong, Canada does have a vast supply of freshwater, but the notion that it is endless is simply not true. Many Canadians believe that the water located within our boundaries is "our" water, to be used as we please. Or rather, to be wasted as we please. Canada's stewardship of its water resources is embarrassing. Canada uses 326 liters per day, while the US uses 400 liters per day. For comparison, Germans use around 100 liters per day. Even worse is the sheer contempt we have for such a precious resource. We all agree that water is priceless, but many Canadian homes don't even have water meters. The average Canadian pays about $0.40 per 1000 liters. The English pay $4.00 per 1000 liters. Is it any wonder that they use half as much? The statistics are staggering.

Canadians, in general, have a belief that Americans are worse abusers of natural resources. However, in the last 20 years, US consumption of water has actually dropped 20%. Canadians on the other hand, are hogging as much water as ever. I won't use the same sentence you heard from your mother when you were young ("eat your peas, there are children starving in Africa), but I would urge you to think of what you can do for the environment. Start by informing yourself on this and many other resource issues. Then perhaps think hard about the resources you waste. Support groups and politicians who take real stands on issues. It takes 1 person's ingenuity and leadership to cause a change in people.

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