Week 2 of my Environmental Science Class at Dartmouth University on EDX was focused on Human Populations.
It was a week full of statistics, graphs, formulas, and equal parts cautionary concerns and optimism. There is currently an estimated 7.2 billion people on the planet. Most population scientists agree that the human population will level off at between 8-10 billion by the year 2100.
A full 83% of the current population live in less developed countries, where there is a lower standard of living for the majority of the population, an underdeveloped industrial base and falls within parameters set by the Human Development Index (HDI) which is based on measuring the averages of life spans, education, income, and access to resources. Vietnam, Pakistan, Peru, and South Africa are among those countries listed as developing. http://www.iawp.org/index.html These are ares where birth rates are increasing. Developing countries use less resources than those of developed countries (ie Germany, United States, Israel, Japan), but strive to ‘westernize.’ Is being more ‘Westernized’ actually a good thing?
Statistics, big ideas, and issues don’t come easy for me. So I left the lectures and took a walk. I currently live in a small coastal village. Water Water everywhere. Since last weeks class I have been looking at it with the thought that less than 1% of the water on the planet is fresh and available for human use. Suddenly I encountered water bubbling up rather forcefully along one of the streets, pooling in the yards of houses, and flowing down the street towards the creek. I picked up my pace and headed towards the commercial area of our village, hoping to find someone awake. Down along the docks I located two of the villages employees loading up branches from tree pruning, and by the time I got home, the water mains were shut off for most of the village to allow for repairs.
My planned day changed dramatically. There would be no coffee, no shower, no laundry, no flushing of toilets. Not having access to water would be a few hours inconvenience for me, and the residents and business’s here.
According to The Water Project, there are nearly one billion people worldwide who do not have access to clean, safe drinking water.
Can human population growth push the planet beyond it’s carrying capacity? Every five days the earth’s human population increases by one million people. The carrying capacity is limited by space, or the food supply, and most important the abundance of potable water.
Is it a basic human right to have access to water? It took me and my neighbors less than one hour to begin grousing about our needs and right to water!
For any individual or community to thrive, prosper, and maintain good health access to clean water is necessary.
The Water Project is one of numerous non profit organizations who believe that safe water is vital for everyone without regard to income, social, ethnic, or religious background. They are one of numerous organizations that help communities dig wells, construct sub-surface dams, catch rain, protect fresh water springs, filter surface water, and maintain proper sanitation and hygiene practices. Through donations and volunteers they work to provide water to those who need it, and be good global neighbors.
But not everyone feels that clean water is a basic human right.
Who can forget Nestle’s Chairman Andrew Brabeck’s infamous speech where he made clear that access to water was not a human right and should be assigned monetary value. He quickly became an internet sensation globally with the speech, but when he did go viral he began back peddling stating that while he may have said water was not a basic right he believes water is a basic human right for survival.
Irregardless of the conflict in what he says and believes, with less than 1% of the planet’s water being fresh and usable for humans, where will the water resources come from for the one million new humans who arrive on the planet every five days?
I pay a monthly fee to our village for water. It runs about thirty US dollars per month. I am embarrassed to say I do not even know how much water I use and my bill does not tell me. I liberally water my gardens, trees and flowers whenever they need it, and I love nothing better than a soak in my big old bathtub.
How long could I go without water? Three to five days is the average if I am not exerting myself. Extreme heat or cold can also cause some variation.
Experts recommend drinking approximately two quarts (64 ounces or about eight glasses) of water each day. Again, this may vary by temperature, and in hot environments would be more close to a gallon of water to be consumed per person per day.
So there is my survival amount of needed water.
In an in depth and well written report by Aljazeera on water supplies globally and the impact of scarcity of water on human behavior it states:
Internationally, 780 million people lack access to safe drinking water, according to the United Nations. By 2030, 47 per cent of the world’s population will be living in areas of high water stress, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Environmental Outlook to 2030 report.
Some analysts worry that wars of the future will be fought over blue gold, as thirsty people, opportunistic politicians and powerful corporations battle for dwindling resources.
I can’t say that taking this Environmental Science Class is fun, but it really has me taking a much bigger view of what is happening on this planet we inhabit together, and realizing how much I have taken for granted having abundant water for my personal use.
Women’s Work 2030
We walked three dry days
To the edge, then back again.
There is no water