The influences of anthropogenic activities have seeped into almost every aspect of the environment. The expansion of humanity into the natural landscapes, largely in the form of urbanisation or agricultural developments has led to the fragmentation of water bodies and key habitats, as well as harm to valuable flora and fauna.
Furthermore, the discharge of industrial run off, and microplastic pollution have contaminated water bodies, severely disrupting aquatic ecosystems, and reducing the amount of freshwater available. As of June 2019, the Central Water Commission reported that 65% of India’s reservoirs were dry. About 40 percent of India’s population, including 21 cities will have no access to drinking water by 2030 according to a report by thinktank NITI Aayog. One of which is Chennai, home to over 10 million people.
It seems that human beings, always regarding themselves as the dominant species because of cleverness and inventiveness, are pushing the earth into a danger zone. Moreover, environmental degradation is rooted deeply in human culture. In a world forcefully maintaining materialistic standards, people are motivated to exploit natural resources to achieve economic wealth, perceived by many as the ultimate measure of success.
But there are some who do not see nature in such a way.
The Environmentalist Foundation of India is just one example of this, demonstrating that nature is not simply a resource to serve human needs, but it is a highly integrated system upon which all life forms depend on for survival. However, questions which comes to mind are how do some come to care about water? How do they come to care for water? How can others do the same?
To shed some light on this, I asked fellow interns at the Environmentalist Foundation of India two questions, one focusing on environmental attitudes, and the other on environmental behaviours.
- Why do you care about water? How did this caring come about?
- Why did you want to do something, such as volunteer with the E.F.I, to protect water and the natural world?
The quotations dotted throughout the remainder of this article are thanks to my fellow interns at the E.F.I. This article is tribute to their kindness in contributing answers and to their passion for conserving water bodies.
How did you come to care ABOUT water?
One of the clear reasons as to how a caring about water came about was undoubtedly education, either informal education based on an experience, or through formal education, such as through school classes. For example:
“I always loved studying water bodies and oceans around the world in my geography classes in school but one time, I watched a film on the Flint Michigan Water Crisis. I could not imagine more and more people living like that”.
For those unaware of the case of Flint Michigan, it is a story of environmental injustice and bad decision making. Flint’s water crisis began in 2014, when the city switched its drinking water supply in a cost-saving move. Switching from Detroit water to the Flint River, a river with highly corrosive water resulted in lead leaching into the drinking water of thousands of homes. Inadequate treatment and water testing resulting in a series of health issues for Flint residents, issues which were chronically ignored and discounted by officials.
Other reasons came not from specific case study examples, but from realisations of how human and nature interactions are inherently interrelated.
“I came to realise the importance of [water] when I saw what wasted water did to nature and what occurs when people interfere in natural processes for their own personal gain”.
“My care for water came when I realized its importance and the kind of role it plays in keeping the ecological balance of the nature”.
These two responses share a similar theme, that caring about water protects the ecosystem and humanity. If we negatively impact the ecosystem, for example, if we pollute the water bodies with plastic or leaked oil, we harm species that live there, and the species that drink the water, including ourselves.
Put simply, a caring about water came from a vital understanding, that
“Without water, living organisms cannot survive. So, it is necessary for us to conserve it”.
If we could all understand that conserving water was pivotal for being able to survive on this planet, then perhaps we would all care a little bit more about what we are putting into our water sources, rather than filling with rubbish, microplastics, untreated sewage, heavy metals and chemicals.
How did you come to care FOR water?
The second question focused on why other interns wanted to do something to protect water, considering how they came to care not just about water, but actually for water. Answers can be summarised by a desire to learn, and a desire to take community action, to do one’s part.
Concerning the former, two interns explained:
“I began work with EFI to understand the process and work involved so that I can also do the same for a lake just outside my campus (college) which has been foaming and is quite polluted”.
“Through my bachelor degree in pharmaceutical sciences, I came to know about the damage that the pharma industry yields and how it exacerbates the already stressed water systems. And I somehow felt responsible to do something about it”.
They went on to add “I recently learned that activism has many forms- writing scientific reports might just be mine. However, my aim wasn’t merely that. Through this volunteer work, I wanted to learn more about the water issues and how people resolve them. Doing research on local water bodies has put me in touch with my immediate surroundings, their stress factors and what I can do for them”.
In these cases, caring for water and volunteering for the EFI came with the opportunity to ‘do good’, but also to ‘learn to do good’, to learn how to take their experience to their own neighbourhoods and restore water bodies there, or into their own field, such as the pharmaceutical industry.
For the latter, answers focused on the desire to do one’s part to conserve water, and that together, as team, and if we all play our part, we stand a better chance at restoring and protecting an increased number of water bodies. For example:
“I joined hands with EFI to volunteer for our environment including the water bodies as it is a great platform to start with. I feel it is better to serve for the environment as a community or a team, which will have greater results”.
“My main motive to join EFI is to do anything I can from my end to protect and preserve the natural habitat, that also includes the water resources.
“I wanted to intern with EFI for not only doing my part in protecting water but also to raise awareness”.
What we can take away from this is the centrality of water to life, and the importance of each of us doing our best. Our best to limit pollution, our best to restore water bodies, and our best to raise awareness of the harm humanity has caused, and continues to cause, to water.
We all care about water. With water making up, on average 71% of Earth, and 60% of the human body, we would be foolish not to. But the distinction between caring about water and caring for water is an important one. If we thought we had a choice in this, then we would be wrong. When we pollute water sources, we are the ones who lack clean water. Caring for water is a must if we want to guarantee ourselves and future generations a healthy life. As a fellow intern put it:
“The first thing someone should understand is, he or she is themself a product of the nature. It’s not something “around” them, in fact they are a part of the nature, if they are harmful to the environment, they’re being harmful to themselves. Therefore, protecting and being responsible when it comes to our environment should become habitual”.
We all need to care a bit more for water. The term environmentality expresses this, a term which usually resides in academia, but which should be of a more common understanding, understood simply as an awareness of environmental issues and a sense of responsibility to the natural world
We only have one Earth as our home. Let’s care about it. Let’s care for it.