Friday, October 15, 2010

Blog Action Day 2010: Water, Water Everywhere

Well, don't let the title fool you. Remember the saying "Water, Water, Everywhere, but not a drop to drink"? If you've never heard it before it usually refers to someone being stuck on a desert or on a boat in the middle of the ocean. And you are surrounded by water, but it's salt-water, so you can't actually drink it. I mean, technically, you could, but you'd just dehydrate and die. The world is covered in 2/3 water, but not all of this is drinkable water.

Today is Blog Action Day, the day where thousands around the world will post a blog about one specific topic. We'll discuss this topic at different angles, argue different points, but most of all get a discussion going on a topic that affects hundred around the world. Maybe it will provoke someone to discuss this with their colleagues, or fundraise, or travel in search of helping less fortunate people. Somehow, some way we hope to make a different and positively impact our world community.  

So for those new to my blog my angle is this: I like to find the silver lining in everyday things in life, point out the obvious and not so obvious things we all seem to do, as well as look at the simple fixes. When talking about such an impacting topic as access to clean water I want to talk about the practical side - what can I, or you, do right now, where we are, to help with this issue?

Yet, I digress. Back to the topic at hand: Water. The United Nations has formally decided that they would like to do something about the lack of clean water available to an alarming amount of people around the world. An estimated 884 million people around the world [1] (and remember the world population count is ~6.9 billion at the moment [2]) lack access to clean drinking water. If you do the math that's 12%!!! That's pretty high. Especially when, in 2009, there were 4.9 billion cell phone subscriptions worldwide [3] ! Where are our priorities?

Imagine going a day without anyone washing their hands. How gross would you feel after sneezing and coughing without a way to clean your hands? Then knowing that other people were doing the same thing. Maybe someone gives you a hug, or a kid climbs up on your shoulders. Maybe the baby's parents just changed their baby's diaper then went to serve you dinner. And what if you had to ride the subway? And the rats that were scurrying around came to the platform and maybe you saw one on the handrail. And maybe you yourself don't touch the handrail because you know it's dirty, but the guy before you, the guy that pulled the door open with his dirty hand, did touch the handrail. And you were too far behind him to not have to pull the door open. So now you have all kinds of germs all over your body. All you want to do is go home and take a shower, or even get to the nearest bathroom and scrub your hands clean. And this is the non-graphic version. What if that was your lifestyle because you didn't have another way? Maybe it's hard to imagine it here in the US where people are taking 20 minute showers 2 times a day, and swimming in their individual pools in their backyards. But imagine it if you will and see that it is a very grim way to live, plus add all the other stresses of normal living like school and work.

Death due to unsafe water accounts for 80% of diseases every year. Without proper sanitation it is nearly impossible to fight off medical ailments from diarrhea, dysentery, hepatitis A, E. coli, Salmonella, and other illnesses/bacteria [4]. One tenth of these deaths may be preventable with better water access. 

The improvements that can be made are life-changing. Just looking at the cycle of changes [4] points out that people would save time from walking to get water if it wasn't so far. Germs would not be so readily spread if the community had washing stations and were taught improved hygiene. Kids could spend more time in school if they weren't walking to get water or out sick because of diseases caused by lack of clean water. Hand-washing is able to reduce water-related deaths by 45% [4].

I'm not here to pose a 10 page report. The facts are there. There are numerous resources if you want to read more on the topic. The point is that we do have a problem. We have recognized the problem, and we (collective we - as in the whole world) need to do something to fix this problem. More often than not the very developed world philosophy is to worry about oneself and not to fix something until it's broke. Well the developing world needs our help. This is a world problem. We can not continue to hog up all the good resources and not offer it, or aid to those without these resources we take for granted.

So what can you do? you are wondering . . .

1. Ditch the bottle. Ahh, this is a hard one indeed, but yes having bottled water is not the most sustainable way to go. Finish those bottles off, recycle the bottles, and invest in a reusable BPA free water bottle.

2. Tap water - it's cleaner than you think. The tap water in the United States is one of the cleanest in the world. But is it cleaner than bottled water? The debate continues, but a study from affiliates of Harvard Medical School show that some water is not that much, if any cleaner than the water out of your kitchen tap [5]. Tap water is regulated by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), while bottle water is regulated by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). Local impurities will differ based on filtration systems, the pipes in your home, etc. So if you are really concerned you can request a water quality report and filter your tap water.

3. Be good to your drains. A big reason we have impurities in the water are highly due to what consumers are throwing down the drain. Pharmaceutical drugs should not be disposed of in the sink or the toilet - bring them back to your local pharmacy. Similarly, unless it's drain-o or something that you drank, you probably shouldn't pour it down the sink. Communities will hold monthly or annually hazardous waste pickups to collect your hazardous liquids to dispose.

4. Take shorter showers. Seriously. From the UN Human Development Report "An American taking a five-minute shower uses more water than the typical person living in a developing country slum uses in a whole day"[6].

5. Fix leaks. A leaky faucet can waste up to 20 gallons of water per day and a leaky toilet 200 gallons/day [7]. That's a total waste.

6, 7, 8, 9, 10, . . . READ, become involved, and make a change. 

Organizations like and help to get wells built and teach about sanitation practices, to prevent water related deaths. There is a petition for the UN to bring clean water to people around the world. And then there are the 5 little things I mentioned on my list. So, now it's your ball game. The world awaits . . .

Works Cited:
[1] UN article -
[2] World Population -
[3] Cell Phones -
[4] Water -
[5] Tap Water -
[6] UN Human Development Report - 
[7] Ways to save water -

Blog Action Day:

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

To Write is to Have Read

It's true, the way to becoming a better writer is to read more. Read different types of writing styles, find authors that you like/dislike. So, I have TONS of books in my library that have looked interesting and I have picked up along the way - I LOVE roaming through bookstores. So now the daunting task is to actually read them.

What am listening to right now? "Parachute" sung by Ingrid Michaelson - she originally wrote it for Cheryl Cole (UK) but when it did so well she decided she'd like to try it herself. I like her version a lot better.