Every drop counts

Imagine a world where human beings knew how to organise themselves as  well as ecosystems do: self-regulating and in balance with the environment. Imagine that our activities generated zero emissions and didn’t waste a drop of water.  And picture this – everyone on  the planet has access to safe drinking water and we take this vital resource into account when making all kinds of decisions, whether deciding to build a casino in the desert (or not!) or choosing between eating meat or soya.

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In response to our recent reader’s survey, one person commented:  “The question is: should we just think about the contents of our teaching? Isn’t it more important to think about which kind of teaching approach to use?”  This is where we focus Education and Sustainability – how we can teach people to incorporate the true value of water in their decisions – and we have asked teachers, ecologists, development professionals and students, amongst others, to share their thoughts on this challenge.

If this sounds like an impossible task, perhaps we need to find alternative sources of water (apparently there’s lots of it on Mars), or, we make a serious commitment to seeking long-term solutions. For now, a good start would be to train our politicians, farmers, engineers, designers and economists to work in sync with a new water culture.

In many parts of the world the demand for water has exceeded the supply and at present 1.1 billion people do not have access to safe drinking water: this is often not a physical problem – lack of water, but in fact an economic problem, caused by inequity of access and distribution of water. Furthermore, according to recent projections, by 2040 a large area of Europe will be desert. To reverse these trends (or at least adapt to them) a drastic change in people’s mentality needs to take place. As Pedro Arrojo explains in his article in this edition, this transformation cannot be achieved by legislative changes alone, but also requires major effort in terms of education.

We can draw some lessons from the different approaches recommended; first, take the classroom to the river and not the other way round, and second, as pointed out by Carmelo Marcén, deal with both the biological and hydrological aspects as well as the critical problems such as access to water, pollution and social conflicts over water. All this, of course, without forgetting the learning space: try waterless urinals, rainwater harvesting and water audits for starters. This magazine, for example, has cost just over two litres of water per copy.

In Spain and many other parts of the world there is a serious water crisis. This is nobody’s fault, but it is everybody’s problem. So let’s start learning how to do things better before we really do have to jump ship. Dive in!

You can download this issue of Education and Sustainability for free here.