We interrupt our normal stream of feminist-related blogs to introduce an important news announcement! ...although feminists tend to be social justice advocates anyway, so this really is relevant.
After a massive push from grassroots organizations for well over a decade, the United Nations has, at last, declared "safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights." As water becomes more scarce and contaminated, the need for this statement is great. Although it is non-binding, meaning that no one will be forced to follow it, it is a step forward to improving the lives of so many who are deprived of this basic necessity that we take for granted.
It is incredibly unfortunate that my own country, the good ol' USA, and other countries such as Cananda and the UK, passed up the opportunity to participate in this historic vote and affirm that human beings are worthy of clean water. These countries, along with 38 others, abstained from the vote. However, of the 122 states that did vote, not a single one voted against it. This says something not only about our increased awareness of the water crisis, but also about the huge strides (pun intended) that the water justice movement has made just in this decade alone.
The water crisis is expected to worsen for a number of reasons, making this vote critical. Global climate change, we can expect, will create a record number of droughts. Wastefulness is a huge problem; the "big three" that abstained from the vote have an insatiable appetite for water, furthering the crisis -- Americans, for instance, use up 106 gallons of water in a single day, whereas the majority of the world must sustain itself on three gallons or less. As we funnel massive amounts of water to major factories and contaminate it with toxic waste, there is less and less available. Ecosystems collapse as a result, and this, too, devastates the water supply. This vote will not only affect the "third world" -- when the time comes, we'll all be thirsty and citing our rights to water, too.
Access to drinking water is important, but water sanitation is critical as well -- as human waste taints our water supplies, this waste water is used to grow crops and spreads disease. Diarrheal diseases kill 1.7 million people every year, the majority of which are children, and it is the fourth leading cause of death in developing countries; this is a direct result of the lack of sanitation in water supplies. If we put this basic human right into practice, the number of deaths caused by Diarrhea could diminish exponentially. Only time will tell if the 122 states that voted "yes" will not only talk the talk, but walk the walk.
This is a historic moment, one in which humanity has the potential to move forward in the water justice and conservation movement, a movement which has reached a critical point as the water crisis worsens deeply (pun intended). The world is drying up fast, and we continue to push the Earth's limits -- there is a breaking point, and we will eventually reach it if nothing is changed.
This isn't merely a water crisis -- it is a world crisis, in which world powers consume, waste, and destroy the Earth, monopolizing its resources and leaving the rest of the world in shambles. When we decide water is a basic human right, the need for planet conservation and replenishment becomes a reality to us. It begs the question: how will we conserve the Earth so that we, as well as future generations, can survive?
This is the moment in which we will either sink or swim (pun, again, intended). Although this is a non-binding agreement, let's see if humanity knows how to do the right thing. This is certainly a step in the right direction.