Friend and colleague Jim Thebaut just published this article on education and water:
Let’s face it, it’s now time for an extensive, in-depth, educational wake-up call about water scarcity, climate change, severe weather events and the drought crisis. This reality is impacting the world and also presently occurring within the United States. Currently, exceptional drought conditions are crippling most of the southern half of the country, in some areas the worst in 20-50 years. Droughts have caused wildfires and significant water restrictions that are impacting agriculture and food supply. In addition, groundwater and aquifers are also being rapidly depleted throughout the U.S. Compounding the problem, extreme rains in the mid-west have caused unprecedented flooding downstream in the Mississippi Delta region, with water pouring over levees and spilling across farm fields, cutting off churches, washing over roads, and forcing people from their homes in poverty-stricken regions. Furthermore, a major earthquake in the California Bay Delta could potentially wipe out water supply to Northern and Southern California and the Central Valley in a matter of minutes. This calamity would also have a substantial impact on the seven states within the Colorado River Basin as well as negatively affect the U.S. economy.
When former Sen. Paul Simon and I began our collaboration in 2001 to implement the “Running Dry” project, we had a vital objective: to educate the American public about the water and climate change crisis and its ultimate impact on international security. We also set out to present sustainable solutions to the crisis, namely conservation, water efficiency, regional land-use planning and far-reaching public policy. Since its inception, the Chronicles Group "Running Dry” project has produced documentaries and videos as well as organized several educational events on Capitol Hill. Although we have had modest success, particularly being the genesis for the Sen. Paul Simon Water For the Poor Act (2005), I’m not sure that public awareness has really penetrated deep into the psyche of the mainstream citizenry.
One obvious dilemma is that the general public takes water for granted. This is mainly because water utilities have done an excellent job in delivering fresh, clean drinking water to everyone at a minimal cost. In reality, Americans use significantly more water per person than any other country on the planet and at the heart of this quandary is that U.S. water is profoundly underpriced.
The ultimate negative ripple effect is a lack of public policy concerning the water crisis, climate change, severe weather events, and drought-related issues. Also, unfortunately, there is an “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” mentality about the global water, climatic and sanitation calamity, wherein 4,000 children die daily because of a lack of water or from water-related diseases. Furthermore, 884 million people on the planet (one in eight) live without safe drinking water and 2.5 billion (two in five) do not have adequate sanitation. This lack of basic fundamental human services adversely affects people’s health, education, dignity, and livelihoods.
The Chronicles Group consequently is proposing to implement a national comprehensive media and educational campaign about the water crisis and its interrelated connecting issues (i.e., drought, climate change and severe weather events, groundwater and aquifer depletion, lack of sanitation, population growth, energy, public health, agriculture, hunger, food supply, poverty, infrastructure and its ultimate connection to global security).
The overall objective is to bring together government, media, academia, the private sector and non-governmental organizations to establish real social and behavioral change and understanding about the evolving water crisis in the U.S. and abroad. The task is to “brand” the water issue in order to generate universal public alertness, enlightenment, mindfulness, realization and sensibility that spurs policies, action plans and solutions to the evolving crisis.
Phase 1 would consist of a one-day Washington, DC, summit conference at the Capitol Visitor Center to begin the planning and implementation process. Drawing both domestic and international stakeholders, the conference would serve to establish a clear theme which cuts through the clutter and becomes a force for stability. In addition, the event would include organizing a fundraising drive in order to finance the second phase.
Phase 2 is a branding campaign, which will include the following deliverables and actions:
1) Radio, TV and internet Public Service Announcements (PSAs)
2) A special website
3) Social networking strategy
4) Preparation of white papers
5) Public meetings, educational projects and events at U.S. universities and cities
6) Establishment of school curriculum for kindergarten through the university level
7) Media interviews
8) Global sales and connecting with co-branding entities
9) Targeting strategic partners
I’ve spoken to several individuals about implementing this campaign and have generated interest and potential support. I deeply hope you can spread the word and get on board.
Lastly, I strongly recommend a new book by Steve Maxwell with Scott Yates entitled, The Future of Water: A Startling Look Ahead. It’s an insider’s perspective which comprehensively delves into solutions to the evolving water emergency.
"If you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people." -- Chinese proverb