I always thought it was a little overly dramatic when people used to say, with that gleam of fire in their eyes and intense certainty in their voices, “The next world war will be fought over water.” I didn’t notice their resigned sadness after saying that and seeing the response of the audience, of my response.
Water wars, we imagined, were decades away. Climate refugees fleeing drought and devastation would be seen in generations, not in ours. People would recognize when resources were becoming so scarce and develop cooperative strategies for conservation long before it came to the point of fighting over them. Right?
The sad climate “joke” five years ago was that we’d need to bring melting icebergs to sub-Saharan Africa to support life. But in Kenya today, aid workers are already flying water in from other countries. Today, thousands of men and women are already dying from lack of the most basic human need — water.
Today, when I repeat the phrase – “Wars will be fought over water” – with the same confidence and intensity, the same fire, and the same resigned sadness, I know that fights over water are not generations – or even years – away. We may not have another world war, but I have no question that we will see more devastation and violence, if we need to see any more than the lives being lost every day in Kenya.
There is no water to drink, let alone have water to wash hands to prevent the spread of diarrheal diseases. There is no water to drink, let alone have water to farm. Lakes have been retreating for years as water is used for farming, for geothermal energy, and for survival, and the lakes’ disappearances are threatening not only water animals like flamingos and hippos, but all of the biodiversity for which Kenya is famous.
At the same time, in India, thousands of farmers commit suicide annually due to desperation caused by cycles of debt, but also cycles of increasing drought and irregular rain. Farmers who would rather die than face the shame and sadness of watching their families die of starvation, have killed not only themselves but their families as well. This year has been one of India’s worst monsoons in recent history, with too little rains coming too late, and often all at once.
On the brink of death, is there a question of anything but desperation?
Read more on what we can expect – and what we can do. Continue reading ‘Water: When Nightmares Come True’