March 25, 2012

SUSTAINABILITY: Water, Water Everywhere

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Water is essential for all life. This is a lesson we have been taught since grade school. But who knows where our daily water comes from and where it goes when we’re done with it?

The technological world that human kind has created reliably supplies our most basic needs to the extent that we are no longer mentally connected to the source of what sustains us. Where does water come from? The faucet. Where does it go? Down the drain.

It may be that one of the silver linings of living in an era of mounting environmental issues is that it is raising awareness of the precipitous nature of life and its reliance on larger processes.

Today, water scarcity is a growing concern in many areas of the western United States. Aquifers are being polluted and depleted, rivers are running dry, and wetlands are disappearing at an amazing pace. Fresh water resources are also becoming an issue of contention in the South where demand is exceeding supply. Water provides not only a means for human metabolism and sanitation, but also drives many economic processes such as agriculture and manufacturing. The depletion of water resources threatens not only our health as biological beings, but the health of our society as well.

Water is, as ever, invaluable to those of us who wish to remain amongst the living. In the Northeast United States, relatively clean, fresh water is all around us, and while it is a constant reminder of beauty and vitality, it is easy to forget that in many areas, this is not the case. Spending time in an arid climate can quickly make one realize the amazing abundance that we have here, and make us appreciate its function in our daily lives.

The next best thing to walking miles through a desert in an attempt to gain an appreciation and respect for our water resources may be to communicate and learn from those that experience real hardship.

Cedric Mason is a graduate student. He can be reached at cmason@cornellsun.com. The Missing Link: Sustainabillity appears on appears on Mondays.

Original Author: Cedric Mason