Drinking from an empty cup

We are taught to value things that are rare. Diamonds and petroleum are rare and expensive. Higher education is an “opportunity of a lifetime.”  We appreciate our family members because we never know when we might lose them. “Appreciate what you don’t have in abundance,” my parents said, “because you can lose anything in the blink of an eye.” The act of losing is a peculiar one; we seem to only notice the value of something when it slips away from our selfish fingers.

If I walk into a grocery store, I can buy a bottle of water for R$2,00. Whereas in Tiffany & Co., I’d spend R$1.200,00 earrings for my girlfriend. By those standards, maybe diamonds are more worthy than water. But which is more valuable? People are under the illusion that water is an infinite resource, rather than a renewable one; as a result, water goes down the drains without return. Most of us are aware that São Paulo is suffering from a water shortage, and some families are now forced to take showers with bottles of water costing R$2.00. While our government has failed to establish the necessary plan to prevent this water shortage, for much longer, the population has blatantly disregarded the fact that water is a valuable resource, not to be wasted.

People are under the illusion that water is an infinite resource, rather than a renewable one.

As much as I would like to say the problem only involves Paulistas, it doesn’t. We are all to blame. Who doesn’t like taking 20-minute showers while reflecting on the meaning of life? I know I do. But that’s the thing: we shouldn’t like it, because it’s selfish. For example, the amount of water used during the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was astonishing. #IceBucketChallenge has 1,666,672 posts, consisting of videos of people worldwide throwing a bucket of cold water on their heads. Although the campaign was to raise awareness for Lou Gehrig’s Disease, I’d say that water was wasted. Looking back, I even wish I hadn’t participated in the challenge without considering the implications. Now we are in a situation where there are some who have to suffer the shortage of water; I still have water, but my housekeeper doesn’t. Of course, in a reflection of the sad reality of Brazil, where luxurious buildings overshadow sprawling slums, the poor suffer first.

The problem, however, isn’t only dire in Brazil. According to Revista Veja, 783 million people do not have access to water, 44% of those live in Africa. Furthermore, the equivalent of 3.5 planets would be necessary to supply the world if everyone consumed water like Americans, and 1.1 planets would be necessary if everyone consumed like Brazilians. Although excessive use of water is common internationally, Paulistas are suffering the consequences of drought due to government’s inability to anticipate the problem. However, it’s only when we personally suffer that we realize the foolishness of our mistake in believing that water would always be available. Now we know that’s not the case: water is finite resource.

Because we haven’t witnessed a significant rain in months in São Paulo, it seems water is as valuable as diamonds. And this crisis deepens as the reservoirs shrink. It seems we humans will only respond when we reach the brink of an abyss. But if we only realize the importance of this resource when it is nearly gone, then it will be too late.

Source: Revista Veja