Water

Standard

I promised a couple of people that I would address issues that were bothering me (Simchat Torah policies just to name one), but it seemed like I never got around to finishing any posts.

Well, I’ve decided that in honor of Blog Action Day 2010: Water, I’m going to write a post that’s a little different from what I usually write.

While I was sitting in shul on Yom Kippur, I began to think about the things in the world I wanted to change. My mind first focused on a number of social issues that bothered me: Women’s rights in Judaism, LGBT rights in Judaism and general society, prison reform, universal health care, and others. These are matters I am always reading about in the NYTimes, talking about with my friends, and thinking about when I head to the polls.

But then I looked at one of the “Al Chet” statements of confession that are recited over and over again on Yom Kippur. “Al Chet Sh’chatanu lefanecha b’tsumet Yad” – For the sin we have committed before you in extending the hand.” Artscroll provided an uninspired explanation for this, but I think this is more a sin of omission than commission. We need to think about all of the people to whom we have failed to reach out our hands and help.

While we’re living nice and comfortable lives (in Washington Heights or elsewhere), there are almost 1Billion people around the world who can’t even feel comfortable with their access to clean water. If there is no other basic human right, it should be the ability to drink, cook and bathe with clean disease-free water.

I once read that the standard used by International NGOs is to aim for every person have 5 gallons of clean water per day. What has always horrified me was learning that the average American shower head dispenses 5 gallons of clean water every minute!

Obviously taking a shorter shower won’t send that unused water to a village in Africa, Asia or anywhere else, but it puts in perspective how much water we waste every day, and how much we take this valuable resource for granted.

It’s hard to come to terms with all of the bad things that happen because there isn’t enough water in the world, but here are just a few:

  • Researchers predict that wars will break out in regions that have severe water insecurity. Water access was a major factor in the atrocities of Darfur, and the future is just as bleak.
  • Pollution of rivers and lakes around the world is on the rise, and more than 40% of rivers and lakes in the US are unfit for swimming, fishing or aquatic life.
  • Every week, nearly 38,000 children under the age of 5 die from unsafe drinking water and unhygienic living conditions

There’s a lot we could do help more people access clean water, but most of us won’t be travelling to build wells in villages or teach drip-irrigation to rural farmers. Unfortunately, most of us will forget about this in a matter of minutes. So what you can do really simply is just donate $25 to Water.org, a non-profit that is working to provide drinking water to people around the world. Take that small step, feel good about yourself, and go take a shower.

Think about it.

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