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Understanding our planetary boundaries
Posted By Ellen Ratner On 03/04/2012 @ 6:00 pm In Commentary | No Comments
We all have our bucket lists, the things we want to do before we die. At the top of my bucket list is seeing Antarctica and the wonders that lie at the bottom of the earth, including penguins. I found the perfect trip for a journalist at 2041.com. It is a group interested in letting people know what will happen if we do not preserve the earth, if we are not good stewards of all we have been given. Soon, in just a few hours, I will be leaving from Argentina.
While preparing to go on this amazing trip, I made a three-day stop in the southernmost city in the world, Ushuaia, Argentina. There I met two cyclists who began a journey from Alaska on July 4, 2010, 20 months ago. They began their journey to raise awareness though CycleForWater.com of the most precious resource we have in the world: water.
Seventy percent of the world’s fresh water is held in Antarctica, and we cannot afford to let that resource be ruined by mining, drilling, etc. It is our last chance. Wanting to bring attention to this, Joost Notenboom and Michiel Roodenburg began their journey. Their concern was the growing water crises and lack of access to water, which affects one billion people. During their journey, they visited water projects from the United States to the Andes and down to the bottom of the world in Ushuaia.
I asked Joost what he wanted people to know about their journey. He told me that when they started their 20-month ride, it looked overwhelming. But they broke the trip down into doable segments and completed their journey. He said it is the same for water issues. “People,” he said “can leave a better world, break it down and do a little bit.”
Joost also told me that America is not exempt from this issue. We have our own troubles, especially in the West. He said it is important to remember that water is a privilege, and we must take care of our resources. My mind quickly went to my foster child, Ker, a teenager who was blinded by his Arab slave master in Sudan. I asked him recently what he liked most about America. He answered me, “running water.” Ker is one of the billion people who had little access to safe, drinkable water.
Having met in Israel while in graduate school, these two men decided to do something big with a dream and a small budget. Along the way they have made speeches in small towns and big universities such as Stanford and UCLA. They raised money through their website, and they supported projects such as pumps so kids would not have to spend time gathering water and could go to school. They supported hygiene in Peru via a hand-washing project. They have worked on getting communities water filters. These are simple projects that improve people’s lives. They do not have to be as expensive as drilling a well in South Sudan. The projects can be simple. They can involve ways to save water and use it wisely, as many of us have done in these tough economic times.
One of the great things about their adventure and hard cycling was the awareness they brought to the oneness of the earth. The Andes, the world’s longest continental mountain range, actually begins in Alaska and ends in Antarctica. We think of those places as separate because there are now oceans between them. But, like us, there is a continuation, a connectedness that make them one. It is that lesson CycleForWater.com teaches us. There are many other groups, such as the Stockholm Resilience Center, that also help us understand planetary boundaries and the limits of our earth.
In Joost’s words:
Like most people that I know I never really gave much thought about the water coming out of my tap. It wasn’t until I saw the people in Africa and the Middle East struggling for access to clean and safe water that I began to appreciate my own fortunate situation.
A couple of guys intent on reducing their carbon footprints traveled 20 months on bamboo bicycles and made a difference. So can you.
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