“The blue heart of the planet…”

This compelling, alarming, humorous, eloquent, and hopeful presentation in Long Beach, California in 2009 by oceanographer Sylvia Earle becomes ever more relevant to our lives with every day that passes.

Fourteen years after Ms Earle’s entreaty, here is the state of Earth’s water supplies, as delineated in the Washington Post (8/16/23), featuring recently published data from the World Resources Institute. Water stress now covers the planet.

Humanity’s most compelling and urgent challenge — a shift that underpins all of our major crises — is to understand and appreciate and act on exactly how the streams of life bind us into one inevitable village. This 2021 Australian film (“River”) does just that, with awesome beauty and wisdom. Here’s the official trailer.

The first United Nations Water Conference took place in 1977, in Mar Del Plata, Argentina. A subsequent Dublin Conference in 1992 recommended “…creating river commissions in international river basins and institutional arrangements for international co-operation in the water sector. However, nothing much happened on the global scale since then, other than the continued, earnest declaration of the universal human right to clean water.  

In 2019, in response to a worldwide request from The Global Challenges Foundation of Sweden to create proposals that would help humanity manage life on the planet, The Humanity Initiative wrote this Watershed Proposal. Following strict submission rules, it is thorough and extensive, almost 11,000 words. But if you have the time, please take a look and let us know what you think (write: peace@humanity.org).

A major new UN water conference was held in March of this year. As Secretary-General Antonio Guterres noted in his closing remarks: “The commitments at this Conference will propel humanity towards the water-secure future every person on the planet needs.” He emphasized that “…water is for health, for peace, for sustainable development, and that’s why water needs to be at the center of the global political agenda.

The blues of Lake Abiquiu, New Mexico, USA / by Tony Balis

Addressing the closing Plenary, President of the General Assembly Csaba Kőrösi named the gamechangers that can bring transformative action: “… integrated water and climate policy; a global water information system; early warnings for all, inclusive of transboundary water agreements; and meaningful stakeholder engagement. Civil society and the private sector are at the heart of this transformation.”

UN-Water chair Mr. Gilbert F. Houngbo concluded:Water is and shall remain everyone’s business.” He noted that the Conference demonstrated the importance of cooperation across sectors, stakeholders, and borders. With one example of this being Iraq acceding to the UN Water Convention during the Conference.

The government of Slovenia offered this cohesive statement of the Conference’s conclusions. As Slovenia is taking a leading role in the development of transboundary solutions to watershed management (working with 42 other countries), The Humanity Initiative is reaching out to Slovenia as an initial partner in our upcoming efforts to encourage more public awareness of trans-boundary challenges (see our Watershed Proposal above) — also to create public pressure on watershed managers to act.

The Danube, as but one example from the 154 major watersheds on the planet, runs through 11 countries and its watershed has 18 in its territory.

River systems of the world / by Charlotte Bassin

These two videos offer well-orchestrated overviews of our diminishing fresh water. The first is from Netflix and VOX, with helpful charts (18 minutes).  The second is a VICE Planet A video, with a slightly more political focus and a bit longer (22 minutes). 

This is a recent BBC investigation (16 August 2022) into how water shortages are now brewing war.

Rawas River, Sumatra / by Jimmy Nelson

“Why are our young people dying?
Corporate greed has killed our rivers and our communities…putting profit over life!”

Bruce Shillingworth, Aboriginal activist

Aboriginal artist and activist, Bruce Shillingsworth, at an October 2019 seminar in Sydney, Australia speaks truth to power about the rapacious seizure of all water from the rivers that First Nation people have depended on for thousands of years. 

Mesopotamia. Land between the rivers. The Tigris and Euphrates. What is happening now in Iraq in this parching world? This report on September 7 from Basra details how the farmers and fishermen first try to cope with the lack of water. And then must move on…

Even our desert oases are severely at risk, as in this dry-eyed report about an ancient Moroccan oasis, from the Washington Post (15 September 22).

“One human life is deeper than the ocean. Strange fishes and sea-monsters and mighty plants live in the rock-bed of our spirits.
The whole of human history is an undiscovered continent deep in our souls.
There are dolphins, plants that dream,
magic birds inside us. The sky is inside us.
The earth is in us.”        

~ Ben Okri, The Famished Road

Now to lean into solutions:

  • First, from Israel, a creative approach to our global crisis of polluted water. How Israel became water abundant and drought proof — water as a heavily subsided raw material.

I do not think a day passes in my life in which I fail to look with fresh amazement at the miracle of nature. It is there on every side. It can be simply a shadow on a mountainside,
or a spider’s web gleaming with dew,
or sunlight on the leaves of a tree.

I have always especially loved the sea. Whenever possible, I have lived by the sea… It has long been a custom of mine to walk along the beach each morning before I start to work. True, my walks are shorter than they used to be, but that does not lessen the wonder of the sea.

How mysterious and beautiful is the sea!
How infinitely variable! It is never the same, never, not from one moment to the next,
always in the process of change,
always becoming something different and new.

~ Pablo Casals

© The Humanity Initiative  2023