Complacent Americans take precious water for granted

Cartoon By: Michelle Phillips

Cartoon By: Michelle Phillips

Of all the things that Americans take for granted, drinking fountains seem like the least important.
Found on nearly every corner of the campus, water fountains are eroding from the collecting dirt and trash as well as disuse. For students at Southwestern College, and on campuses across the United States, free, clean drinking water is easily accessible.
Free water may not seem like a grand concept in the United States of America where even the least fortunate residents can access clean water through the taps in their homes. Nearly every restaurant in America will serve its patrons ice water, free of charge. California, a state ravaged by a crippling drought, has enough water to support 38 million people. Many may complain about shorter showers and dried-out lawns, but the truth is whenever a tap is turned on, safe, drinkable water comes spilling out.
Americans have water. Millions do not.
More than 750 million people around the world lack access to clean drinking water, according to the Joint Monitoring Programme of the World Health Organization and UNICEF. That is nearly two and a half times greater than the population of the USA.
The Water Project, an organization designed to empower the African “girl child” through education, concluded that many girls in Kenya do not receive an education because they are sent to fetch water for their families. Clean water can be many miles away from the village, making formal schooling an impossible dream for these young women who spend days schlepping water.
UNICEF research concludes that less than 50 percent of Kenya’s child population is being educated. If a child is unlucky enough to be born female in Kenya, chances are she will spend her school days looking for something their families can drink.
In Europe, restaurants charge for water and drinking fountains are a rarity. Many Europeans see drinking fountains as a waste of a profitable resource.
Water is seen as an asset in Europe. In Africa it is an obstacle to progress. In America it is seen as something much more intrinsic.
Americans have a sense of entitlement concerning water, its use and conservation. Americans see water as a basic human right, essential for life, prosperity and dignity. After all, humans cannot live without water.
America has made incredible progress in the last two centuries. This country’s lowest standards of living have been raised to levels many in the world can barely imagine, but we have become complacent.
We complain about book and tuition costs, forgetting that many people will spend their day walking to find water and lugging it back home by hand. And while the fight rages for racial and gender equality in the workforce and on the streets, girls the world over are denied the chance to ever use their minds and voices because they must trade their education for water.
America’s struggles against injustice are important and our warriors for social equity fight heroically. If this country is to really succeed, however, we must return to a more humble state where the victory is savored with appreciation and gratitude. We need to once again be a nation where water is appreciated.
Southwestern College’s drinking fountains are often a scary sight, sheltering spiders and collecting all manner of grime. Several have stopped working and no one has even seemed to notice.
It can hardly be expected for students to use campus drinking fountains given their shoddy condition. It would, however, serve as an excellent start to a better mindset for this community if the people of this college remembered what a privilege it is to live somewhere where safe, clean water comes at the push of a button.


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