I spend a good deal of time worrying over and working on the intangible.
I’d like to be better at learning languages. I’m working hard to build up a handful of new brands while making sure not to dilute my primary (personal) brand. I do my best to help other people live a lifestyle that’s more closely aligned with their strengths and goals while making sure that I can continue to do the same.
But what if I didn’t have access to water?
It kind of changes everything. If I wasn’t able to get my hands on the building block of the human body, basic H2O, my priorities would change drastically.
I’m able to focus on what I do for a living and my aspirations because I have a solid foundation in place. I’m financially secure. I’m healthy. I’m confident that if something goes wrong, I can bounce back and learn from the experience.
But if I didn’t have water, all that wouldn’t mean a whole lot. I would be dying. No matter how good I am at building brands or how many businesses I’m able to juggle or how much press I get…I’d be dead. Quickly.
This is one of those big-picture issues that I try to keep in mind with everything I do.
When there’s no sentient life (or at least no sentient life capable of focusing on more than the needs of the present), there’s no philosophy. Everyone is just an animal, scrounging for a drink and killing anything that gets in the way (or being killed).
And as terrible as it may be to hear, there exists the potential for such a shortage to occur. I’m not going to get into the math of it (if you want more details, check out some stats), but especially in developing economies (like many countries in Africa) a small shift politics or the price of tea in China can leave cities without enough potable water for everyone.
Can imagine what would happen in, say, New York City, if all of a sudden there wasn’t enough water to go around? Think Darfur, but with a European fashion-sense. Hell, New York City is more susceptible to this kind of shortage than most other cities, due to its reliance on other parts of the country to keep it stocked up on the basics; cultural centers would be the first to go.
The point is that we are truly fortunate to be able to think the thoughts that we do, and we should make every effort to ensure that we continue to be capable of such mental meanderings.
There are efforts all around the world to desalinate ocean water so that more of what’s available naturally will be drinkable, but many of these projects are creeping along when we need a mad-dash.
There are some excellent non-profits (charity: water is one of my favorites) dealing primarily with the subject of potable water for everyone, and so-called ‘humanitarian entrepreneurs’ creating products like the LifeStraw that are helping people worldwide using Capitalism to jump-start expansion.
Whatever model, group or company you support – if you decide to throw your weight behind any of them – keep in mind that the high-minded philosophizing we enjoy is a privilege stemming from the relative stability of the existing resource infrastructure.
This infrastructure is not invincible, however, and there are already many places where it essentially doesn’t exist and it’s all anyone can do to survive.
Let’s fix this problem before it becomes truly unmanageable.
With enough smart and capable people involved, I have every reason to believe we can prevent a crisis with the right combination of awareness, education and torque.
This post was written as part of Blog Action Day 2010.