A World Run Dry

Around the world we are seeing the impact of climate change generally and fresh water shortages more specifically. Vast migrations in the Middle East, in Africa, and even in parts of the United States are happening due to either a lack of safe, fresh water or lack of having water at all. As corporations take advantage of areas that don’t know how to fight back and areas that may be in such financial decline that the cost of not fighting back feels less, in the short term, than the cost of losing their water, the world runs dry. It’s easy to focus on oil, coal, and gas as contributors to climate change, as we all grew up watching the oil wars unfold. It’s harder to admit that we are leaving our children (and maybe ourselves) with water wars far worse.

When we imagine who the contributors to the water crisis are, we might think of corporate greed in the form of Nestle (and every bottled beverage company, including soda and beer) or governmental greed and apathy in the form of Flint, Michigan. We rarely picture ourselves as contributors, do we? One compelling story in the Washington Post this week called into sharp relief how the very device I’m writing this with may be a major contributor to the new water shortages in one part of the world: the Andes mountains in Chile and Argentina.

What struck me most about the story in the Washington Post was not just how difficult it is for us to see our own participation in each aspect of the water crises, but how much like the US coal employment crisis the situation is shaping up to be for the indigenous people working the mines. If lithium ion batteries have another 20 years before other technology takes their place, then the people currently benefitting (thought not nearly benefitting enough, frankly) will still be back in economic dire straights.

Animals and humans are already seeing the water dry up, and Argentinian and Chilean tales of feeding ever-depleting herds of llamas formula as their water tables and pastures are sucked dry is reminiscent of tales here the US. In Texas, entire towns have been dry and herds dying for years, all because the oil and gas industry is pillaging their water tables for fracking and other poorly studied removal methods. It’s a vast and daunting challenge that is world-wide, and the new rise of nationalistic mentalities over global mentalities will make solving it far more difficult.

In a time where fixing the world requires coming together and acknowledging that nature does not respect borders, and all water and air is connected, we have grown more apart. Looking at the short term future as borders become contested, migration increases, wars become more widespread, and entire countries dry up and seeing that the leaders in place in several of the world’s leading nations are direct beneficiaries of a world that drowns in petrochemicals and discarded, poorly made tech goods, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

Some things you can do right now:

  • Download our extension next week. You’ll be able to donate as you read the news.
  • Donate to charities that are helping bring water to places around the world that need it. Here are 9 with a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator.
  • Choose one of these charities to help Flint residents more directly
  • Learn about the nearly 3,000 other cities in America that have Flint-high levels of lead in their water
  • Think about how often you upgrade your tech. How can we alter the buying cycle for products with lithium ion batteries? Try to find places to recycle the batteries when your tech is ready for an upgrade.

Did we miss any? Let us know on Twitter

Charts from Washington Post, 166 bottles of water post from Twitter