Our Journey ForwardWater
For those of us who came of age in the 1980s and 1990s, our adulthood was supposed to be an era that was nothing short of a technologically advanced utopia brimming with equality.
However, as many societies became more advanced, connected and educated, the various problems surrounding our global water supply have started to bloom, hitting crisis levels.
Do you want to improve the world in the next decade? If so, there are endless ways to start. And the best place to begin this journey? Take a look around – it’s your local community.
For us at Mitte, we wanted to highlight three instances that are defining our modern time. This is not a complete list of items that we, as citizens, should focus on, but a start of a complex conversation on the interconnected aspects of health, water and development.
Of course, it’s very easy to point a finger at the top, to elected officials or even media personalities, but by taking a local approach, we can build momentum to make change.
Let’s take a look at concerns that are impacting communities across our beautiful planet.
Making sure that the networks we’ve built throughout modern history will last.
Infrastructure around the world, from North America to Europe, is in desperate need of rehabilitation. And in some cases, that may be an understatement, as lives are in danger.
In the United States of America, it was noted that close to five trillion dollars would need to be invested to improve circumstances, as the American Society of Civil Engineers rates US infrastructure a D+. This is the overall score ranking areas of focus such as aviation, parks and rail, but there are also many water-related areas of concentration, like dams (D), drinking water (D), inland waterways (D), levees (D) and wastewater (D+). That’s not too reassuring.
Across the ocean in Germany, a country typically known for high craftsmanship, efficiency and attention to detail, citizens have seen infrastructure crumble over the past few decades.
This puts the United States of America and Germany, two countries often ranked as having some of the safest tap water in the world, in a precarious situation. As we know, less than one percent of our world water supply is consumable – and if the dangerous local situations in Flint and Newark are any indication, a widespread collapse of infrastructure can lead to disorder.
The infrastructure concerns are even more dire in developing countries – where, if they do have a system for delivering tap water, it is often not safe for consumption.
So, no matter where you reside, you can be inspired to take action: documenting and raising awareness for the needed public works projects in your communities, demanding higher quality for yourself and residents. Sometimes, those in your area may not even be aware of the evident issues, but by highlighting the dilemmas that impact them directly, it may drive them to take action.
Recycling is not the ultimate solution, we need to reduce our consumption of single-use plastic.
Yes, we understand that the invention of plastic has made many aspects of modern life possible, but this does not make up for the fact that close to 40% of plastic is used just once.
At the end of the last decade, around five hundred million plastic bottles of water were sold around the world each year. And unfortunately, a minimal amount (some watch groups noted less than 10%) were recycled and turned into new bottles. There are other alternatives.
The impact is brutal, and although mainstream plastic production has only been around for a half century, it has created six billion metric tons of waste. While a plastic bottle takes a couple seconds to make, it takes hundreds of years to break down – and as an overwhelming amount is not recycled or reused, these are shocking numbers for an item that is used for a few minutes or so for convenience.
The fallout of the growing waste leads us to our next point.
Working to end the destructive cycle of pollution to our water sources.
The impact of plastic production on our planet, combined with (and contributing to) global warming, will lead to further dire consequences as we progress through the decade.
As it stands, eight million metric tons of plastic enter our oceans each year. Due to mismanaged landfills, countries like China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam contribute over 50% of plastic due to mismanaged landfills – although China, with close to 1.5 billion citizens, has recently announced plans to phase out single-use plastic by 2025.
And it’s not just our oceans. A 2017 report by Orb Media found that 83% of tap water samples collected around the globe contained microplastics, which pose health concerns to humans, marine life and other animals, and has been seen to be slowly disrupting the food chain. Further, 94% of the tap water tested in the United States was found to include microplastics.
Until the mass production of plastic bottles is curtailed, our first defense is to ensure that the plastic that is produced makes it to a recycling center, rather than our waterways. In some countries, particularly Europe, deposit schemes have been set up to encourage participation. And those who live in places without this regulation can use this mentality as a guide.
In Germany, the Social Democrat/Green coalition government introduced the Pfand (deposit) system in 2003, for which consumers pay an additional deposit as part the price of the bottle or can. The cash is given back when they return the bottles for recycling. If people are not too concerned about the environment, almost everyone is motivated by monetary incentives.
Where do we go from here?
Let’s use this decade to act locally and then expand outward. From our own homes, to our neighborhoods, to our communities, to our cities and so on. The internet and social media are great tools for connecting and sharing information – important steps that typically lead to activism and change – but oftentimes our networks are made up of international contacts.
By organizing locally, both in person and online, we can work towards our goals for the next decade: bringing water to those around the world by limiting the destruction to our planet.
With a growing team in the heart of Berlin, the Mitte office – located on the multicultural border of Kreuzberg and Neukölln – is a place filled with diverse ideas and perspectives. Throughout the workday, it’s not uncommon to hear conversations in English, German, French, Spanish and Polish. Our bustling office, spread across three floors
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