Ah, what a drama! Armageddon cometh! We are going to die! If not of disease and agony of thirst, then surely of bad smell, dirty clothes or from the hand of thy neighbour, who, at some stage of desiccation, will transform zombie-style into a Mad Max styled warrior armed with a post-apocaliptic, serrated water bucket…
Just calm down!
If (when?) day zero finally arrives, we will be in a situation similar to that of 900 million people who live “behind the mountains”. No, not in Hermanus or Betty’s Bay, a bit further from here, but on the same continent. Yes, there are people there, and no, 70% of them do not have a comfort of clean, safe, tasty water coming out of a tap in their kitchen or in one of their en-suite bathrooms. As most of us do.
Their water comes in buckets, old oil containers, cans, and is brought in on top of the heads of, more often than not, children. Sometimes as young as two and a half. This is how old one of my neighbours in Botswana is (I used to live in Maun, Botswana, and go there often), who, at the crack of dawn, just after lighting the fire to cook breakfast, and before his older siblings go to school, trots by my Maun dwelling, with a bunch of other kids, to the nearby drying river. Where they get the water from is but a couple of hundreds of meters away from a cage with a crocodile, captured the other night, to be relocated by rangers to a safer place. Safer for the village, for two children have been taken by crocodiles in that place in the last two years.
Yes, Day Zero will be dramatic. But will we have to brave any charismatic african wildlife to get to the little water we need? Heck, no. So off you go – from the start we are already better off than millions. We are also better off than 50% of urban population in Africa (which roughly amounts to 240 million people) who have to fetch their water in buckets for years if not throughout their lifes, not just for a couple of weeks (Ok, perhaps months) like we might have to do.
So just calm down!
Let’s realize a couple of things – foremostly, that Day Zero is not threatening our lives. It’s threatening our lifestyles.
Nobody has as yet died of sponge-bathing or smelly clothes, so we will not either. Unless suburbian capetonians have evolved to be more fragile than the Princes on the Pea, that is.
As far as the drinking water is concerned – let’s not forget that there is a guardian angel, a force that surrounds us, that flows through all things, that binds us, that gives us life. What’s that? The capitalist market, of course. Yes, it’s going to cost us an arm and a leg to get our 5 litres of drinking and cooking water from a supermarket. But worry not – that water will be flown, shipped, trucked to us if necessary from the remotest parts of the globe using all means necessary, for not doing so would be completely suicidal for any grocery chain CEO who can tell shareholders’ value from his morning cereal.
While I’m on this – please let’s stop complaining that water (or any water-crisis related paraphernalia such as rainwater tanks, buckets, 25-litre containers, pumps, pipes, shower heads) are expensive. Let’s dig deep, deep into our hearts. Are we more sorry about the amount of money that we have to pay for those items, or rather about the fact that these money is not paid to us, because we don’t have means to bring water (or sell/manufacture/import all the other so well selling stuff), and to make a killing? For if we had, we would, wouldn’t we? We would bring water, or drill boreholes, or sell water tanks, or install porta-toilets or anything, anything… Because nothing is as good for making money as a spot of a disaster, when people have no choice – they have to have what one is selling… (just to make sure – if you did not get it – the above paragraph is dripping with sarcasm 😉
Also, at this stage it does not really matter whose fault the Day Zero is. Even if we identify the actual clerk who did not have enough foresight (or balls) at certain point in time to bet X amount of our tax money on the weather lottery, we still have to go through the motions of water shortage.
How distastrous is the Time After Day Zero going to be, depends entirely on how we behave. What will the crisis bring up? The best of us? Or the worst of us? It is entirely ours to decide.
One road is the Fury Road.
The other one is to unearth and brush off some goodness in your heart, bring up feelings such as compassion, understanding, restraint, modesty and sense of community.
Perhaps we can turn the dreaded interaction with the other smelly, unshaven, disheveled person in a queue to the communal spring/water distribution point into an opportunity to meet someone from outside of your normal social/work circle, talk to them, and learn about their life, problems, joys?
Perhaps we can finally meet and talk to our neighbours, one of whom has a 40000 l swimming pool, and just realized that firstly, they can use it for something more useful than five strokes-turn-repeat, and secondly that in that swimming pool they have a bit more water than they really, really need, and can share it?
And perhaps the other neighbour has a borehole, and it has finally dawned on them that it is nice to have a green trimmed lawn watered from that borehole, but it is infinitely nicer to be able to flush the toilet more than once a day?
Perhaps that realization will dawn on you?
Perhaps we will remember that two houses down the road there is this elderly lady with a Zimmer frame, living by herself, and that if we divide our 4-person’s allocation of 100 litres by five instead of four, we still get good 20 litres per person, which will get us by?
Perhaps when we go shopping, a thought will cross our minds that by buying 7 bottles of water there might not be any bottle left from today’s shipment by the time a single mother who works in an office till late evening comes to that shop?
Once you start talking – you will see that a smile and chit-chat can go a long way.
Once you start thinking – you will see how lucky you are to have water coming from a pipe that miraculously feeds you shower, flush toilet, dishwasher and washing machine, how inconvenienced you would be if you didn’t have it, and how futile every other need, oh so important normally, seems to be.
How distastrous is the Time After Day Zero going to be, depends entirely on us. What will the crisis bring up? The best of us? Or the worst of us? It is entirely for us to decide.