Sunday, August 14, 2016

why I rarely take my kids to the pool

For most kids, summer equals days spent at the pool. In the greater Kansas City area, there are over 60 public swimming pools, not to mention the big aquatic joints and small neighborhood spray parks. Across the country, there are millions of residential pools. I suspect most hotels, recreation and health centers have pools too. Access to swimming pools, indeed swimming, seems like something we can take for granted.

This is one side of the equation.

Here’s the other side:
One in 10 people have access to safe water.
One in 3 have access to a toilet.
Worldwide women and girls often spend up to 6 hours collecting water, averaging 3.7 miles daily.
Globally, 1/3 of all schools lack access to safe water and adequate sanitation.
43 countries are considered water stressed.
85% of the world population lives in the driest half of the planet.

This means thousands of children worldwide are not slathered in sunscreen frolicking poolside. Instead, about 2000 children under the age of five die because of diarrheal diseases linked to water, sanitation and hygiene. Daily.

It is a thin sliver of luck that puts my kids on this side of the inequitable water equation. My family and their dad’s family emigrated from countries and regions from which the above stats were drawn so that our kids could dive for toys in more water than many 3rd world communities will ever see.

I cannot reckon these two realities.

I know not taking my kids to the pool does not add water to the world’s water equation. I know it doesn't quench the thirst of a Somali baby or carry the 50 lb water bucket for an Ethiopian girl or water the Bangladeshi farmer’s field. But I cannot reckon my privilege with the world’s water crisis.

For most of the world, water is an unmet need, a tenuous link to life, not a source of recreation. Further, it pains me to see a finite, diminishing resource taken for granted while we ourselves are mere inches away from our own water crises.

"I am not writing about nature. I am writing about humanity. And if I have a subject, it is justice." Barry Lopez