Drought Awareness

Every June 17 is the UN observance of global desertification and drought. And while this is not an overly engaging subject or one full of WOWs, it is an essential one. We are at a point in history where drought and desertification are impacting an increasing number of people. The reasons are lengthy and complex, but really boil down to one cause – human impact. Specifically, production and consumption are driving drought and desertification.

In North America, since the time of European settlement and domination, access to water (and the freedom to use as much as desired) has been viewed as an inalienable right. I contend that it is time to alter our privileged perception and rethink this. Access to water is, of course, a need for human survival. But one look at the American West and its depleted reservoirs, and growing desertification worldwide, reveals that over-consumption is driving us toward disaster.

It is not hard to curb water use; it just takes a new mindset. I do realize it will be an uphill (if not futile) battle to combat overuse with some industries (say, for example, golf courses and factory farms), but many individuals together can make a difference. Think about how many people live in your town or city. If every person saved one gallon of water per day (shorter showers, watering lawns for less time, turning off faucets, etc), how many gallons of water would be saved? In my city, that would add up to almost 109,000 gallons of water saved per day. In a year that adds up to 39,785,000 gallons saved.

But it’s not just about how much water we use in our homes. It’s about what we buy and how much we buy. For example it takes over 1,800 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef. That is not a typo. The same amount of water is used to extract and refine one barrel of oil. It takes almost 2,000 gallons of water to make a single pair of jeans.

So what can we do? A lot! Start by thinking about your clothing – what you buy and what you do with your clothing once you no longer want it. Read more about sustainable fashion here. Think about the amount of fossil fuel you use. And, consider the food you buy. Buying local from farms using sustainable practices is a great start. Most importantly, we need to change our mindset. We need to educate others. And, we as a species need to take a long, hard look at what we want versus what we need.