Living Water: What we can and can’t do about the global water crisis

original

Published on Thomson Reuters Foundation for International Youth Day on 09.08.13

Source: Fri, 9 Aug 2013 04:10 PM
Author: Alicia Hosking

Scrawled on the wall in the shower block where I do hot yoga on Tuesday nights are the words, ‘Non c’è vita senza acqua’ – that is, ‘There’s no life without water’. When thinking about the biggest global challenges we face today, access to clean water and sanitation would have to be right at the top of the list.

With five years to spare, the world has achieved UN Millennium Development Goal number 7D and halved the proportion of the planet’s population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation. Since 1990, 2.1 billion people have gained access to improved water sources. But ‘halved’ means the other half of the problem remains.

The facts are still astounding: 768 million people lack access to safe water, mainly in developing regions across sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America. Globally, 2.5 billion people don’t have access to a toilet, meaning more people have a mobile phone than a WC.

Collectively, women and girls spend 200 million hours every day walking to collect water. That’s time they can’t spend in education, working or taking care of their families, and time when they’re at greater risk of harassment and sexual assault.

When they do arrive at the nearest water source, after a hike of up to three hours, the supply is often plagued with waterborne diseases like malaria, diarrhea and cholera. In fact, water-related diseases kill more people every year than all forms of violence around the world, including war. Most tragically of all, every 21 seconds a mother loses a child to a water-related illness.

As with many of the world’s most pressing social challenges, the enormity of the issue can paralyse us into doing nothing. But nothing is precisely what we cannot do. There are, hidden within every day, simple yet profound opportunities for us all to address the gross inequality that exists between the San Pellegrino drinker and the woman walking to the well.

Waste not, want not

Seemingly minor water savings in our homes can help turn the tide, as it were, on the global water crisis. We use an average of 137 litres of water per day on obvious things around the house, like drinking, cooking, showering, cleaning and laundry. But there is another, less visible way in which we get through far more water: the 167 litres used to produce the industrial products we consume in an average day, like paper, cotton and clothes. The old mantra comes to mind: reduce, reuse, recycle.

Watch what you eat

The big one, though, weighing in at 92 percent of our average daily consumption, is water spent on food production. Some 3,496 litres of water are hidden in our food each day. In fact, around 90 percent of the planet’s freshwater withdrawals go on feeding us.

Devout carnivores don’t like to hear it, but beef production is the worst perpetrator. All things considered (crop irrigation, drinking water, farmhouse services), it takes 14,400 litres of water to produce one kilogramme of boneless beef. In stark contrast, 822 litres go into producing a kilo of apples, 1,220 litres into a kilo of maize, 2,145 litres for a kilo of soya beans and 2,500 litres for a kilo of rice.

Initiatives like Meatless Mondays, founded in the USA in 2003, are gaining momentum worldwide, encouraging those less enthused about tofu and lentils to give up meat for just one day a week to help ease the environmental strain. Choosing meat raised on grass, rather than corn or grain, is preferable wherever possible and reducing food waste is crucial.

Drink responsibly

While the environmental impact and volume of water wastage surrounding the bottled water industry is a point of concern, there are brands out there intent on making a difference in developing nations.

Take for example Australian start-up Thankyou Water. Founded by Daniel Flynn five years ago when he was just 19 years-old, Thankyou Water has developed a sustainable business model by which every single unit sold at retail provides at least a month’s worth of safe water to someone in need. Using their ‘Track Your Impact’ app, customers can enter a code found on their purchased product and trace their contribution to the cause.

Give it away now

Charity: water, established by New York marketing guru Scott Harrison back in 2006, has created the birthdays campaign, providing each of us with a great opportunity to change the world once a year.

Birthday pledgers sign up to forego traditional presents, instead encouraging loved ones to donate towards the construction of water wells. To date, over 40,000 people, including Justin Bieber, Tony Hawk and the band Depeche Mode, have chosen to make a social impact with their birthday, raising more than $9 million for water projects around the globe.

The feeling of a refreshing shower or a cool drink of clean water is second to none – particularly after 90 minutes of hot yoga. Everyone should know how that feels.

Non c’è vita senza acqua.

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What’s Up World? #38

Published on MTV’s international pro-social website MTV Voices on 31.07.13

What’s Up World?
Between the cracks of the world’s news headlines.

Burka-Avenger

Don’t mess with the Burka Avenger

A brand new, kick-ass super hero is about to hit the small screen in Pakistan.

Mild-mannered teacher by day, stationery-wielding ninja by night, the Burka Avenger is taking on the Taliban and fighting for safe education for girls, one school at a time.

Created by one of Pakistan’s biggest pop stars, Haroon, the first animated series ever produced in the country is a creative response to one of the nation’s major social issues.

In a country where the Taliban have blown up hundreds of schools, poisoned and thrown acid on schoolgirls and last year attracted international outrage for shooting 15 year old Malala Yousafzai in the head, Burka Avenger is set to bring strong social messaging to Pakistani kids, emphasising the importance of peace, justice and access to education.

Getting big in Japan

The young women of Tokyo are being asked to sport mini-skirts and thigh-high socks – and let big name brands advertise on the skin in between.

Campaigns for punk band Greenday and Hollywood feature film Ted have been amongst the first to try their luck with the ‘skinvertising‘ programme, which requires the girls to walk around town for eight hours a day with the graphics painted on their thighs.

While the (male) PR agent responsible describes girls’ thighs as prime advertising real estate – as, apparently, men’s eyes are already on them – others view the concept as another step in the sexual objectification of women’s bodies in advertising and are calling for the boycott of brands and companies that take part.

What do you think? Good PR or exploitative and sexist? One guess what I think…

Why Instagram is making you sad

We discussed some time ago the perils of trawling through friends’ Facebook posts and the rise of Facebook envy, but it seems there’s a bigger threat looming to our social media happiness: Instagram.

Researchers say that by distilling the most envy-inducing element of Facebook, ie. the photos, providing users with means for careful curation / polishing / distortion of reality and then keeping count of ‘likes’ and comments, Instagram is like a social media KO to the old self-esteem.

They say comparison and competition with others, paired with the app’s ample opportunity for stalking, can lead to feelings of disconnection, inferiority, loneliness and even depression.

So rest assured – if the filtered, enhanced, trimmed, tweaked, polished and filtered again happy snaps of people you love (and people you don’t love) are making you feel a bit rubbish, you’re certainly not alone. *plays Everybody Hurts*

High five Peru!

Green technology is generating social change in Peru.

The country’s Energy and Mining Minister Jorge Merino has announced a new solar energy program, The National Photovoltaic Household Electrification Program, which will provide electricity to more than two million of the poorest Peruvians.

Right now only66% of Peru’s populationhas access to electricity – the rest use oil lamps for light, with fuels that can harm their health. The program will increase that number to 95% by the end of 2016, with the installation of some 12,000 solar panels to service the most impoverished communities. Nice one Jorge!

Something brewing in your part of the world? We want to know about it. Tweet @its_alicia or @mtvvoices using the hashtag #WhatsUpWorld

What’s Up World? #37

Published on MTV’s international pro-social website MTV Voices on 23.07.13

What’s Up World?
Between the cracks of the world’s news headlines

wuw-1

Save the Awá

The earth’s most endangered tribe, the Awá, are on the brink of extinction due to the illegal deforestation of their territory in the eastern Amazon.

With only 355 tribe members thought to be remaining, the Awá are one of only two hunter-gatherer tribes left in the Brazilian Amazon. Not only are armed, illegal loggers invading their territory to exploit it for valuable timber, but entire families are being killed, as ‘pistoleros’ (hired gunmen) hunt Awá who stand in the way of land grabbers.

But in the past few weeks, according to reports, the Brazilian army has moved in around the Awá’s territory, deploying tanks, helicopters and a hundreds other vehicles, closing timber mills and confiscating loggers’ machinery.

The plight of the Awá has drawn international attention since the commencement of a grass roots campaign by tribal rights group Survival International last year. To add your voice, take a look here.

Sisters of Somalia

Ummm, Asha Haji Elmi is my new hero. There’s a good chance she’ll be yours too after watching this.

A special news report, Sisters of Somalia, is shining a light on the work Asha, her sister Amina and her organization Saving Somali Women and Children (SSWC) is doing to bring dignity to the women and girls living in Mogadishu’s refugee camps.

After years of unrelenting conflict, drought and famine, Somalia has been devastated beyond belief, and some 500,000 people are still living in refugee camps in pretty dire conditions.But no matter how big the problem may seem, Asha and the SSWC show an unrelenting hope, as they work to restore dignity to the vulnerable women and children they meet in the camps.

Definitely upsetting but absolutely worth a watch.

Safety first

Ah, the joys of technology. As inventors and creatives put their minds together for the common good, new and emerging inventions are making playtime safer around the world.

A new, crowd-funded laser bike light called Blaze could help save the lives of cyclists on busy London roads. Created by young inventor Emily Brooke, Blaze projects a glowing green image of a cyclist ahead of riders, giving buses, cars, trucks and other predators an early heads up that a two-wheeled bandit is approaching.

Meanwhile in Western Australia, technology is deterring another kind of predator, as scientists and inventors unveil the ‘invisibility wetsuit’, designed to camouflage surfers in the ocean and warn off sharks.

Little Sun, the invention of artist Olafur Eliasson and engineer Frederik Ottesen, is a global project to bring safe, affordable light to the 1.6 billion people worldwide who have no access to the electrical grid. Working in a similar way to the TOMS shoes model, buying one of the hand-sized, sun-shaped, solar-powered lamps allows one to be sold off-grid at a locally affordable price. You can buy your very own Little Sun here.

Something brewing in your part of the world? We want to know about it. Tweet @its_alicia or @mtvvoices using the hashtag #WhatsUpWorld

What’s Up World? #36

Published on MTV’s international pro-social website MTV Voices on 17.07.13

What’s Up World?
Between the cracks of the world’s news headlines.

knight-rider

Winning at life

Who said computer games rot your brain? Actually, they can do quite the opposite.

Revolutionary application Foldit is allowing online gamers to contribute to scientific research by discovering the shapes of proteins. It’s kind of like molecular chess and kind of like Tetris, but it’s in 3D and the rules are based on physics. Oh, and winning could help cure cancer, HIV/AIDSand Alzheimer’s.

Understanding the rules of protein folding remains one of biology’s greatest challenges and because computers don’t yet have spatial reasoning skills quite like ours, there’s a lot of work to be done. So University of Washington scientists created Foldit in 2008 to effectively crowd-source biological solutions.

It works like this: Foldit presents players with a hairy-looking puzzle – a 3D render of a protein – and they fold it into its optimum shape, following the laws of physics. The more chemically stable the folded protein becomes, the more points players are awarded – and the more their solution contributes to medical science.

Confused? Watch this video. And if you feel like casually saving lives in your down time, take a look here.

Stand with Ye Haiyan

One of China’s most prominent women’s rights activist Ye Haiyan and her family have been made homeless by security police in the province of Guangdong, say local blog posts and news outlets.

Well known for standing up for the rights of sex workers, people with AIDS and abused children, Ye was thrown out of her home, along with her family and their possessions at 2am last Saturday and dumped on a roadside.

The forced eviction is the latest in a month-long succession of attacks on Ye by local authorities, after her online protest against the alleged rape of six primary school students by their school principal and a government official went viral, drawing major attention to child abuse and government corruption.

Wish your car was more like a smartphone?

Well, you’re in luck.

According to figures from the USA, we may be approaching the end of car culture, with the number of young people learning to drive having gone downhill (pardon the pun) over the past 30 years. Environmental awareness, struggling economies and sociological changes (like the rise of online communication) are all thought to play a part in the u-turn (and again). So the car industry has to come up with innovative ways to give the kids what they want.

Enter the futuristiccars for people who hate cars.

The coolest has got to be the Fun Vii concept car from Toyota. Like some kind of wonderful dream starring Michael J. Fox come true, the Fun Vii looks like a tablet on wheels, with an LED-screen ‘digital skin’ that can change depending on the driver’s mood. The driver can read news, chat with friends, send emails, check the weather and stay connected while driving. Seriously, watch this.

Others automobiles looking to appeal to the millennialinclude the world’s most fuel-efficient production car, the Volkswagen XL1, the Apple-inspired, solar-powered Midier and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, which accelerates, changes lanes and parks by itself Knight Rider style.

Something brewing in your part of the world? We want to know about it. Tweet @its_alicia or @mtvvoices using the hashtag #WhatsUpWorld.

What’s Up World? #35

Published on MTV’s international pro-social website MTV Voices on 10.07.13

What’s Up World?
Between the cracks of the world’s news headlines

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School of rock

We’ve all been desperate to get out of a class at some time or another, but this is taking things a bit too far…

Two cases have been reported over the past week of students drugging teachers in high schools in Guayaquil, Ecuador.

An English professor from the National High School Aguirre Abad says she was drugged three times with a hallucinogenic substance spread across her desk, causing dizziness, numbness and sleepiness and preventing her from teaching. Another teacher from Tola High School was also drugged – three students have been arrested after a police investigation.

The presence of drugs in Ecuadorian schools has been a major issue for some time, due to the cheap availability of class A substances and the country’s location as a ‘cocaine corridor’ between the USA and Europe.

Losing Nemo

A new animated short film is drawing attention to the overfishing of the world’s oceans.

Presented by The Black Fish ocean conservation movement, Losing Nemo explains that of the 80 million tonnes of seafood harvested each year (that’s 2 trillion individual animals!) 40% is unwanted by-catch –  which means it’s thrown back into the ocean either dead or wounded.

According to the serious-disguised-as-cute short film, an astounding 90% of all large fish have disappeared from our oceans since the 1950s, and fishing continues at the same rate we could have an empty ocean by 2048. Scary stuff!

You can watch Losing Nemo here.

Cows for girls

The young ladies of South Sudan are not happy.

In someparts of the country the dowry prices paid for brides have doubled twice in the last two years. Child marriage is commonplace in South Sudan, and as the prices families charge for their daughters get higher and higher, they’re encouraged to marry them off younger and younger – many of them against their will.

Girls as young as 12 are being exchanged for hundreds of cattle, increasing the rate of female school dropouts. Many say the families who must pay the inflated dowries find themselves in danger of going bankrupt and link increasing bride prices to deadly cattle raids.

Around half of South Sudanese girls aged between 15 and 19 are married and the government who are now mulling over a law to cap dowries at a more appropriate rate.

Just a heads up

Neuroscientist Dr. Sergio Canavero from Torino, Italy, has announced to the world the possibility of the first full human head transplant.

For an estimated 13 million dollars, Dr. Canavero is confident he could reduce the temperature of two bodies to around 18*C (64.4*F), sever their heads with an ‘ultra sharp blade’ and fuse the donor head with the recipient’s body using a special glue.

Some specialists say the Head Anastomosis Venture (code-named HEAVEN) “opens a brand new field for contemporary medical science”. Others say “the whole concept is bizarre”. I say this could take the concept of the face lift to a whole new level…

Something brewing in your part of the world? We want to know about it. Tweet @its_alicia or @mtvvoices using the hashtag #WhatsUpWorld

What’s Up World? #34

Published on MTV’s international pro-social website MTV Voices on 19.06.13

What’s Up World?
Between the cracks of the world’s news headlines

ironing

WhatsApp with that?

It looks as though some of the world’s newest and most popular communication platforms are set to be banned in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

60 percent of the Saudi population is under the age of 30, and as usage of the internet and smartphones sky rocket, authorities are taking measures to block WhatsApp, unless the Silicon Valleystart up cooperates with the Kingdom’s requirements. Viber has already been banned and Skype is also on their hit list.

Telecom officials say the apps break local laws, but don’t specify how. But according to critics, WhatsApp is obviously under fire for being the starting point for political protests, which are banned in the region.

The hidden issue of child domestic workers

Last Tuesday was World Day Against Child Labour and the UN’s International Labour Organization published a new report highlighting the enormous number of child labourers currently working in homes around the world.

Some 10.5 million children are domestic workers. Most are aged between 5 and 14 years old and around 3/4 are girls.

And we’re not just talking about taking out the garbage or tidying bedrooms – they work in other people’s homes, often isolated from their families, and are made to clean, cook, iron, collect water and look after children for little or no pay, often in dangerous or slavery-like conditions.

Because of the hidden nature of the problem, says the ILO, child domestic workers are difficult to protect.

Stuck in the middle with Julian

He may live around the corner from Harrods, but Julian Assange is far from living the dream. The political refugee celebrated (?) one year of living at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London last week, having arrived there to claim asylum last June.

Assange is still wanted in Sweden on sexual assault charges, however he says the allogations are a honey trap, and if he heads to Sweden – or even steps foot on UK soil – he’ll be handed over to the US government and prosecuted for leaking their classified documents to the world via his now famous online orgaisation WikiLeaks.

For now the Nobel Peace Prize nominee is living in a deadlock – he can’t get to the airport, can’t go to the park, he can’t even go to Harrods, or one of the 24-hour guards waiting outside will pounce. Until diplomats find a solution it’s all sun lamps, treadmills and no shoes for Mr. Assange.

Everyone’s a winner

Ever wanted to be world champ but didn’t know what you could do? Well, you could do just about anything, it seems, and the weirder the better…

Enjoy ironing in dangerous or daring locations? You could well be the world’s next extreme ironing champion. Got particularly agile toes? Why not try your foot at toe wrestling? If worms find you particularly charming, here’s your chance to shine. Or fancy yourself as an air sex champion? There’s a competition for that too…

Something brewing in your part of the world? We want to know about it. Tweet @its_alicia or @mtvvoices using the hashtag #WhatsUpWorld

What’s Up World? #29

Published on MTV’s international pro-social website MTV Voices on 15.05.13

What’s Up World?
Between the cracks of the world’s news headlines

facemodel-11

Do the passinho

Where organized crime, drugs, gangs and guns used to rule, a new dance is reclaiming the streets of favelas across Rio de Janeiro.

The passinho, or ‘little step’,  is a mash up of traditional Brazilian dance styles like samba, pagode and frevo, with elements of pop, funk and breakdancing.

Using social media and video platforms like YouTube, the young people of Rio are being influenced by dance styles in Africa, London and Paris; they’re making up their own steps and birthing a whole new dance scene. And it’s pretty damn cool!

Forced labour and the FIFA World Cup

As the football/soccer fans amongst us will know, Qatar is gearing up to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup. But as their $150 billion construction program gets under way, trade unions and human rights groups around the world are calling foul.

The region’s labour laws follow the kafala system, which is used in Qatar and other wealthy, fast-developing gulf states to recruit laborers from India and other countries in South and Southeast Asia. Under the sponsorship system, it’s commonplace for employers to confiscate workers’ passports, effectively preventing them from leaving the country, changing jobs or complaining against employer abuse.

Human Rights Watch are calling for the kafala system to be abolished, holding Qatar to the promises they made during their World Cup bid to improve conditions for their 1.2 million migrant workers.

Qatar’s ruler, Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, plans to make the country into a major Arab power, using the world’s most widely viewed sporting event to raise Qatar’s global profile. But the International Trade Union Confederation has started putting pressure on FIFA to take a re-vote to find another host nation.

Print your face off

It seems that leaving less of your DNA around town might be a good plan. That’s less chewing gum, less used tissues, less hair follicles, less cigarette butts, less spit…

Artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg has developed a method, using items such as these and the now famous 3D printer, to recreate human faces with freakish accuracy. The results are creepy, fascinating and pretty scary all at the same time.

The 3D portraits are part of a new exhibition drawing attention to the issue of genetic surveillance – that is, the collection and cataloging of DNA by governments and authorities.

And finally, just to make you smile

In case this hasn’t shown up in any of your social media feeds as yet, the most genius use of Vine thus far: Ryan Gosling Wont East His Cereal. Enjoy.

Something brewing in your part of the world? We want to know about it. Tweet @its_alicia or @mtvvoices using the hashtag #WhatsUpWorld.