Today is Blog Action Day 2010. This annual event, organized by change.org, is held every October 15 to unite the world’s bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day with the aim of sparking a global discussion and driving collective action. This year’s topic is water. Today thousands of bloggers from over 125 different countries will come together to write about water issues in their communities and around the world.
In industrialized countries, we don’t tend to worry much about water, but while we carelessly pollute and squander water in the US, others around the world struggle to find water that is safe to drink.
The problem of scarce clean water
Nearly 1 billion people lack access to clean water, which causes a litany of struggles, diseases, and death.
- – 40 Billion Hours: African women walk over 40 billion hours each year carrying cisterns weighing up to 40 pounds to gather water, which is usually still not safe to drink. More Info
- – 38,000 Children a Week: Every week, nearly 38,000 children under the age of 5 die from unsafe drinking water and unhygienic living conditions. More Info
- – Wars Over Water: Many scholars attribute the conflict in Darfur at least in part to lack of access to water. A report commissioned by the UN found that in the 21st century, water scarcity will become one of the leading causes of conflict in Africa. More Info
- – A Human Right: In July, to address the water crisis, the United Nations declared access to clean water and sanitation a human right over. But we are far from implementing solutions to secure basic access to safe drinking water. More Info
Water over-consumption in industrialized countries
While the developing world faces a water crisis, those in industrialized countries consume far more than their fair share.
- – Food Footprint: It takes over 6 gallons of water to produce just one hamburger. That means it would take about 2 billion gallons of water to make just one hamburger for every person in the US. More Info
- – Technology Footprint: The shiny new iPhone in your pocket requires 2 cups of water to charge. That may not seem like much, but with over 80 million active iPhones in the world, that’s 10.5 million gallons to charge those alone. More Info
- – Fashion Footprint: That cotton t-shirt you’re wearing right now took 400 gallons of water to produce, and your jeans required an extra 1,797 gallons. More Info
- – Bottled Water Footprint: The US, Mexico and China lead the world in bottled water consumption, with people in the US drinking an average of 200 bottles of water per person each year. Over 17 million barrels of oil are needed to manufacture those water bottles, 86% of which will never be recycled. More Info
Water and the environment
The disregard for water resources in industrialized countries impacts more than humans – it causes environmental devastation.
- – Waste Overflow: Every day, 2 million tons of human waste are disposed of in water sources. This not only negatively impacts the environment but also harms the health of surrounding communities. More Info
- – Polluted Oceans: Death and disease caused by polluted coastal waters costs the global economy $12.8 billion a year. More Info
- – Uninhabitable Rivers: Today, 40% of America’s rivers and 46% of America’s lakes are too polluted for fishing, swimming, or aquatic life. More Info
Animal agriculture and water
Nearly half of the water used in the US is squandered on animal agriculture. Between watering the crops grown to feed farm animals, providing drinking water for billions of animals each year, and cleaning the filthy factory farms, transport trucks, and slaughterhouses, the farmed animal industry places a serious strain on our water supply.
- – 4,000 Gallons: According to a special report in Newsweek, “The water that goes into a 1,000-pound steer would float a destroyer.” It takes more than 4,000 gallons of water per day to produce a meat-based diet, but only 300 gallons of water a day are needed to produce a vegetarian diet. More Info
- – Pollution: Besides just wasting water, factory farms also pollute it. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, animal factories pollute our waterways more than all other industrial sources combined. The major sources of pollution are from antibiotics and hormones, chemicals from tanneries, fertilizers and pesticides used for feedcrops, sediments from eroded pastures, and animal wastes. More Info
- – Poop: Cows, pigs, chickens, and other animals raised for food produce approximately 130 times as much excrement as the entire human population, except there are no sewage systems to dispose of the waste from factory farms. Much of the millions of pounds of excrement and other bodily waste produced by farmed animals every day in the US is stored in sprawling brown lagoons. These lagoons often spill over into surrounding waterways and cause massive destruction. In 1995, 25 million gallons of putrid hog urine and feces spilled into a North Carolina river, killing 10-14 million fish. This spill was twice as large in volume as the Exxon-Valdez oil disaster. In West Virginia and Maryland, scientists have discovered that male fish are growing ovaries, and they suspect that this freakish deformity is the result of factory-farm run-off from drug-laden chicken feces. More Info
- – Causing Illness: Besides the environmental problems caused by farmed animal waste, the dangerous fecal bacteria from farm sewage (including E. coli) can also cause serious illness in humans. A Scripps Howard synopsis of a Senate Agricultural Committee report on farm pollution issued this warning about animal waste: “…it’s untreated and unsanitary, bubbling with chemicals and diseased… It goes onto the soil and into the water that many people will, ultimately, bathe in and wash their clothes with, and drink. It is poisoning rivers and killing fish and making people sick…Catastrophic cases of pollution, sickness, and death are occurring in areas where livestock operations are concentrated… Every place where the animal factories have located, neighbors have complained of falling sick.” More Info
- – Using Rivers As Sewers: The EPA reports that chicken, hog, and cattle excrement have polluted 35,000 miles of rivers in 22 states and contaminated groundwater in 17 states yet, amazingly, the federal government continues to allow factory farms to use our rivers as sewers. More Info
There are some very simple things that we can all do to make a difference, like eating less meat and drinking from reusable bottles (like Nalgenes) instead of disposable ones. And while these things are fantastic, we need to do more than this to change the course of our destiny. Money is a good start. Donate to Charity: water. Just $20 can give one person clean water for 20 years. Americans spend more that $15 billion a year on bottled water (that’s more than on ipods or movie tickets). Why don’t we put that money toward changing the world and saving lives instead?
Breakfast: Smoothie with banana, pineapple, strawberry, and almond milk
Lunch: Bean salad (kidneys, green beans, chickpeas, navy beans, vinegar & oil) and fresh artisan bread
Dinner: Amazing vegan pizza from Whole Foods (with roasted red pepper hummus, spinach, olives, artichoke hearts, red and yellow bell peppers)