Wherever we live in this worldwhether our country is rich or poorwater is vital to our survival on this planet. This book follows the daily lives of children in Peru,Mauritania, the United States, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, and Tajikistan, and explores what water means to them.Where does it come from? How do they use it?
With the growing threat of climate change affecting all our lives, this book invites discussion on the ways different countries and cultures value this most precious of our planet's natural resources.
About the Author
BEATRICE HOLLYER has been a writer and traveler all her life. As a television reporter and newscaster, she covered conflicts in the Gulf, the Middle East, South Africa, and the former Yugoslavia, and reported from Europe and the United States. She was born in South Africa and has been living in London, England, for the past twenty years.
Read an Excerpt
Foreword by Zadie SmithA Book about Water?
This book is about water.
For many people in the developed world, water doesn’t seem a very interesting topic. It’s everywhere—so obvious and so simple! It flows from our taps into our glasses, into our cooking pots and kettles. It’s in our sinks, our baths, our toilets. We don’t have to walk very far. We certainly don’t have to carry it anywhere. It’s in the kitchen, in the bathroom, in a hose in our gardens. Sometimes we even leave it running while we do something else. Some of us have even flushed our toilets to get rid of a single tissue that we couldn’t be bothered to put in the trash. When we do things like this we think: Well, it’s only water. Just turn on the tap and there it is!
We forget what a miracle water is. We forget that it supports everything that lives—humans, animals, plants; the sea, the rivers, the mountains; the atmosphere, the air; when we study other planets in the solar system we know for certain that only those with water could ever have sustained life. Without water, we’re nothing at all. Unfortunately, sometimes we take this fact for granted. We have a funny human habit of valuing only what seems rare to us, things like masterpieces of art or diamonds. We think that water is so very common that we needn’t value it so highly. But as this book shows, water is not at all as common as we like to think, and we need to value it just as much as paintings and diamonds. Even more, because without it we cannot live.
The True Value of Water
The children in this book use water in lots of different ways. Apart from drinking it, they use it for cooking, washing their food, washing themselves, their clothes, and anything else that needs to be clean; they give it to the animals they look after, because animals need water to live, just as we do. They use water to grow the plants they need to make their food. Children in the developed world also need water for all these reasons, even if they don’t do all these tasks themselves. Maybe it is only when you do these tasks yourself that you understand the true value of water.
In developed countries, it is easy to think of a tap as a magical thing, out of which flows an endless supply of clean water—and all you have do is turn it on.
In fact, water systems in developed countries rely on many people behind the scenes who recycle, cleanse, and reuse our water, and so make sure that we always have what seems like more than enough. But we should still look after it: It takes energy, time, and space to cleanse the water. And it is not unlimited. Climate change is causing weather and rainfall patterns to change, which means that many people won’t be able to rely on the rain in the way they did before.
A reliable and local supply of fresh water and good sanitation would enhance the lives of millions of people in developing countries. It would protect them from illnesses and enable them to spend less time and energy collecting water.
If you are reading this book and have your own plentiful water supply, maybe the stories will make you think twice about the way you use water. When I finished this book I walked out into the streets of the city I live in—a city that rains plentifully in the wintertime, that is full of fountains, that has a river running straight through it—and I realized that suddenly all the water I could see looked incredibly precious. When I got home I made a list of all the ways I could be less wasteful with the water I use. I think that whenever I am tempted again to think Well, it’s only water, I will pick up this book and take a lesson from the children you are about to meet, because they know better.