Saturday, March 6, 2010


I woke up really thirsty this morning, like an on-the-brink-of-getting-sick kind of dry throat. It was agonizing to lie there, just trying to fall back asleep with my throat like that.
I thought about what it would be like to live in a place where I always woke up thirsty, where I didn't have constant access to a sink that spouts out drinking water.

As Americans, it's easy to forget how lucky we are; all we see on a daily basis is the evidence of our progress as a people. Shopping malls and mega grocery stores and a plethora of pseudo-exotic cuisine. We feel so disconnected from the skinny people in an African desert or the aborigines fighting for land in the rainforest that it's easy to forget that they even exist. It's even easier to pretend that nothing we do can make a difference to these total strangers. As a friend once said to me, "Well, I was born here and they were born there. That's their problem."

But the truth is that it isn't just their problem. Fresh water is just the tip of the iceberg. Our habits--from shopping to eating to discarding--have a direct impact on the livelihood of those living in other countries. We can make choices every day that can help them. And the same choices that help other people usually help the planet, which we all have to share. So that's my newest goal: to try and lower my negative impact on the people of the world. I already do a lot for animals, so why not help my fellow (wo)man? People in mineral-rich countries are often at the mercy of those in power. Money is power, right? So we have some power here.

As the world's reserve of clean water continues to diminish, it isn't Americans who will suffer, at least not right away. Those already feeling the sting of climate change and environmental degradation are those with the least amount of income. In other words, our obsession with gigantic SUVs and cheap hamburgers are affecting the lives of people thousands of miles away, right now.

So here are some things we as members of a privileged society can do to improve the lives of those who are less fortunate in this world. By helping them, we are also helping ourselves by making sure that there is plenty of water to go around for years to come.

1. Take shorter showers. You can save 4,500 gallons of water by cutting your shower down to 5 minutes.

2. Don't buy bottled water. EVER. Not only does plastic #1, the material used to manufacture disposable drink bottles, leach toxic chemicals (i.e. BPA) into your water, but it also takes a thousand years to biodegrade. Plastic waste is already circling the Pacific Ocean and impacting wildlife. Get yourself a water filter pitcher and a stainless steel bottle and start saving money!

3. Buy rainforest-friendly products whenever possible. Indigenous people are suffering at the hands of greedy corporations right now; it isn't just the stuff of fantasy movies like Avatar. Look for Fair Trade and/or Rainforest Alliance-certified coffee, tea, and chocolate (available at Wal-Mart and Target, among many other stores). Starbucks usually has at least one Fair Trade brew available; ask for it. Avoid products that contain palm oil whenever possible, as this is usually grown on slash-and-burn rainforest land. Better yet, use the money you would spend on a movie or other unnecessary good this month and donate to Rainforest Action Network.

4. Eat fewer animals. The meat and fish industries are some of the worst for the environment, including the rainforest. Try to go fish or meat free at least one day a week.

5. Think before you buy. Do research before you blindly trust a product; you may be surprised by what you learn about how the product was made or how the corporation that created it treats people and the environment.

I hope I don't come off as being too preach-y, my dear blog readers (all 5 of you). I just feel deeply for the people of the world who are suffering right now, because it could just as easily have been me or you born into that kind of life. So appreciate what you have and what you can give.

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