World Water Day: connecting us to nature and outlining the changes we need today

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The world’s waters are in peril and I wrote this post to share my experiences of today in celebration of World Water Day. Today I had the amazing opportunity to attend World Water Day at my university. I even got a fancy name tag and everything. Overall, it was a great day of learning about the amazing water research my colleagues are doing and to share new innovative ideas on how to deal with the world’s water crisis.

The day began with The Water Song interpreted by UW’s Indigenous Students’ Society. This song represents the cultural importance of water to Indigenous communities in Canada. For Indigenous peoples, water is seen as a living thing, a spiritual entity that emits “life-giving” forces. With this, comes the duty and responsibility of its protection and respect by all. This song resonated with the crowd throughout the day, to remind everyone that water scarcity and pollution are not solely ecological and health issues but are merely small parts of the broader holistic perspective recognizing that everyone and everything on Earth are deeply and fundamentally connected and interrelated.

The Water Song fit extremely well into the theme of the day, The Answer is in Nature, A2_POSTER_WWD2018_EN-01which is all about utilizing natural solutions to help solve the world’s water crises. The Keynote speakers,  Tyler and Alex MifflinThey are the stars of their own TV show The Water Brothers, which looks at various environmental issues through the lens of water, aiming to increase the accessibility and understanding of these issues.

With 60 percent of the world’s lakes and 20 percent of the world’s surface freshwater, Canada is among the most water-abundant countries in the world. Such a fortune, comes immense responsibility that should be followed by examples of protection, preservation, conservation and care. However, Canada is one of the world’s biggest water wasters, consumers and polluters. This was described by Mifflin as The Myth of Abundance which is the idea that we have so much water, we do not need to worry about its quantity or quality, when actually the opposite is true.

In Canada, we may seem very far removed from the current water crisis in Cape Town, however the reality is that it could happen anywhere. Many human activities have disrupted the stability of the Earth’s water cycle to the point of creating a “preferred” water economy, wherein water use and consumption has little to do with natural cycles, but actually has a lot to do with the way humans have modified local ecosystems to meet demand for their desired activities. Water management in Capetown was based on the  more stable climatic conditions of the past, however, human induced climate change has fundamentally altered the water cycle to the point where Capetown’s water management systems simply do not work anymore.

This brings me to my main point, why should we, as Canadians, in the country with such abundant freshwater sources, focus on water issues?

Water is in everything we eat, drink, wear and consume. Our eating and consumption habits connect us to the water challenges all around the world. The water on Earth today has been on Earth for hundreds of millions of years. We share the the water on Earth with all other life forms on the planet now and in those in past and future generations. We are not “running out of water,” per se. With so many people and other living things on the planet, we are running out of ways to provide everyone with the water that they need to live and thrive.

“No water, no life. No blue, no green.” – Sylvia Earle

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California is facing many issues with water scarcity due to periodic droughts related to climate change and the destabilized water cycle. Canadians have high dependence on California for winter produce, therefore, much of what goes on down there, affects us up here. To mitigate the water crisis, Californians were told that the best course of action was to take individual actions such as taking shorter showers and watering their grass less etc. These are all good things, that definitely have a positive impact on water conservation, however, the agricultural industry is actually responsible for 70 percent of freshwater consumption. It was those agricultural lobbyists that were encouraging other people to use less water so that they don’t have to.

The truth is that the water crisis is global issue that implicates everybody. To ensure availability and sustainable water management and sanitation for everyone on the planet, we have to think bigger than just taking a shorter shower. For instance, think about your own food choices, eating 10 hamburgers consumes the same amount of water as taking 365 showers. By eating less meat you are inherently are saving more water. We must take these individual actions, but we also must put pressure on governments to put adaptive and sustainable water conservation policies in place. These have capacity to make even bigger differences on even larger scales. When people raise their voices, that’s when changes are made. This is why the Mifflins are so passionate about using use their TV show and media presence to engage and educate people who care and have potential to work toward making the changes that are needed in the world.

 

Photos of the Week (December 26th)

Tropique Nord 2017 (Montréal).

I am sorry for the late post! I wish you all a very happy holiday.

Wrath of the Water Bottles – Podcast #2

In this podcast we talked about the impact of disposable water bottles on our planet. From shocking facts to various alternatives we dive into the bottled realm of water. We are not in any way sponsored by or affiliated with any of these companies discussed in this podcast. Enjoy!

Links:

Facts:

National Geographic Kids;  David Wolfe; USA today

Pollution video:

https://www.facebook.com/iBanPlastic/videos/667057933503894/

Alternatives:

Pay for the subway by recycling; Ecologic water bottles; 360 Paper water bottles; Edible water bottle/blob; Jayden Smith’s Company; Turning plastic water bottles into rope; Water bottle crafts

Some Interesting Perspectives on Water Usage

In class this week, we had a long discussion about daily water usage. My profs, both being hydrologists, had quite a bit to say about the topic, and brought many interesting facts and questions to the table.

The main one being, how much water do you use per day? This website is a great way of seeing how much water your household uses. It is customizable by area and all the appliances that are used in the house, as well as their specific frequency/intensity of use. It also give great insight about which places your household can save water.

I was astonished to find out that one toilet flush uses between 5 and 20 L of water. It made me seriously consider trying to save some flushes here and there. Next, showering can take anywhere between 20 and 80 L, how crazy is that! This fact got me thinking about something I saw on Facebook the other week: The Smart Showerhead. It monitors how many liters of water you use in the shower and it notifies you with different colored lights. For instance, it turns green once you have used 10L, then purple after you’ve used 50L. It even connects to your smartphone, to keep track of all the water you use in all your showers.

Dishwashers only use about 4L per day (per person) whereas cooking and hand-washing dishes uses 25L per day per person. All that and other daily water uses, comes out to an average of 162L per day per person, and this is only direct water use. This means that all the water that went into growing, transporting and processing all the plants and animals that compose your daily diet is not included. Once this is included, daily water usage shoots up to 2000L per day.

       To add to this, the clothes you wear and leisure items that you use also use water. For instance, a pair of jeans takes 8000L of water to produce, 1L of beer takes 7L of water and 1 kg of paper takes 320L of water. There is literally water going into just about everything, which makes a lot of sense considering it is basically the universal solvent and the only substance found in liquid form on Earth other than Mercury. It is also the major constituent of living things and is composed of the most common element in the universe (hydrogen). It makes a ton of sense why this stuff is in everything. Which leads us to the question of how much of this should we concern ourselves with?

            To start off, if we are going to use things like clothing, computers and books were going to have use some water. The question here is how much is too much? I’ve looked around and there seems to be no clear indication of what is an “OK” amount to use, but the main idea in the literature is that whatever we are using, it needs to be reduced.

How do we reduce our water consumption? Of course it is impossible and unrealistic to consume no water other than drinking water, this is not the point I am trying to make. I’m getting more at the low-impact lifestyle. How to live a desirable life while making the lowest environmental impact possible. To start off, from this list,

hidden water use

eating meat appear to be the worst thing you can do when it comes to wasting water. Secondly, buying used clothes (or used-anything) will also lower your water footprint, as it eliminates some demand for new products, thus saving some water in manufacturing there. Thirdly, take shorter showers. No one really needs more than 5 minutes in there. As I mentioned last week, we must be willing to trade some element of convenience for the sake of leading more sustainable lifestyles. Lastly, have a beer and not a book (I hope you caught my sarcasm)!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zero Waste Week at McGill

This week at McGill, ECOLE is hosting a series of events for The Zero Waste Challenge that will last all week. I’m excited to say that I’m joining in on this challenge, however I won’t be able to attend any events, with my crazy busy life. Today, they are screening The Clean Bin Project, which is a documentary about living in the city with the goal of producing no waste and not buying anything new. Throughout the week there are many events such as field trips to buy bulk groceries, used clothing and a trip to a recycling centre. At the end of the challenge, there is a little party and weigh-in of the waste produced by everyone who participated that I will make great efforts to try to attend.

This is my personal challenge for the week, and I invite you all to join in! I realize this is not easy, but it’s also not impossible. I’m very aware of the amount of waste I produce and I always make efforts to reduce it, but this week I’m going to be a little more extreme and careful, aiming to produce no waste at all.

Where to begin? How does one go about eliminating all waste? What are we considering as waste? Defining your own scope of what “zero waste” really means is key to this challenge. I tried to start a discussion about this at work to get some opinions and insightful perspectives, but was unsuccessful. This reinforces the fact that a lot of people don’t think about this the way I do and really have no idea of the impact of their consumption habits.

When defining your scope of zero waste, you need to consider what is feasible to you. Of course, there will rightfully be some inconvenience and compromise, but the important part is doing what you can to live more sustainably.

This week, I will consider waste to be anything that is a non-organic by-product of something I am consuming that cannot be re-used. For example, a compostable coffee cup and a recycled disposable water bottle are considered waste, but an apple core is not (as long as it is composted and not thrown in the trash). I believe this a reasonable scope of waste, although some may disagree and take it a step further.

The other week I was sitting on an extremely long bus ride and decided to pick up the Metro newspaper on the seat next me. I found a great article about a girl named Julie Gagné (she also has a wordpress blog!) who lives her everyday life, producing little to no waste and blogs all about it! If you can read and understand French I suggest you check her out on the link above. Some people would consider this to be a really extreme lifestyle, but I think she is inspirational, and she’s doing this-planet-saving-thing right! I don’t think there is such a thing as “too extreme” in terms of reducing waste and consumption because this is what our planet needs. If you take a look at the link to the trailer of the Clean Bin Project above, you’ll get the shocking facts of the waste problem that the western world is facing due to over consumption.

This is why I feel this Zero Waste Challenge is important. Even though it’s just one week, it will teach students and participants about more eco-friendly and sustainable ways of doing day-to-day tasks (such as grocery and clothing shopping) that are equally as feasible as their more wasteful counter-methods. Once you get into different habits, you’ll be likely to continue them after the challenge. It requires effort and compromise, but it is definitely worth it. It needs to be done to save our planet, the very thing that allows us to be what we are. We need to protect it and treat it right.