As rain-starved California struggles to cope with its worst drought in its modern history, it is easy, but would be inaccurate, to blame climate change, and the vagaries of Nature.
For years, the people of California have ignored the warning signs of a water crisis, choosing to believe a solution would come from someone or somewhere as they continued, many of them, to power-shower daily, water their lawns and golf courses, and enjoy full swimming pools and fountains in their cities even as precious lakes and reservoirs dried to a trickle. Even today, with only a year before the water reserves are predicted to run out, some well-known celebrities have been discovered to be disregarding the stringent water saving requirements that recently have been imposed, preferring to pay a large fine rather than have a brown lawn, and Walmart continues to source its bottled water from a place where almost, there is none.
The problem of a severe lack of water is affecting other states in the west of the country too, though with less publicity but equal concern.
It is human to prefer to hope all will be well rather than face an unpleasant reality that has implications for all America as well as far beyond. In a period of time which is close, most of California and its neighbouring states could be desert as once lush farmland becomes unusable, food shortages in the U.S. and beyond occur, and citizens are forced out of their western home states to find jobs and homes elsewhere – refugees in their own land. Where will they go? What will be the impact on their hosts? How will the economy be affected?
There are ways to mitigate this scenario to prevent it getting to this point, some of it which have been employed successfully by Singapore, once threatened by water shortages like many other Asian countries: the Singaporean government treats every drop of water as precious, and has invested aggressively in infrastructure and innovative solutions and partnerships to make it close to self-sufficient in water. We in the West have much to learn from them.
Some people have limited sympathy for the deprivations of the wealthy in California due to their need for rain, but remember that many poor people live in the Golden State too, and are suffering greatly already. California is being challenged in one particular way, but all countries will have their own environmental difficulties perhaps sooner rather than later.
Climate change is being blamed for the drought in California and other parts of the world, but the deeper cause is the imbalance in you and me, in all of us. Nature is a direct reflection of each and all of us, and if we are not in harmony, our environment is not in harmony. If we are separated from nature, nature separates from us. We have created a world filled with conflict and anger, competition and desire, intolerance and inequality, and we treat nature like a servant. It is not surprising we are seeing earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, extremes of weather, and excess or paucity of water.
Our relationship with nature is an issue for us all. Nature is making life for humans uncomfortable, showing us the importance of working with her and not against her, in harmony, and of creating harmony within ourselves and within our human society. Singapore shows us how to mitigate a problem, but dealing with the result does not heal the cause.
The cause is within each of us, and how we are reflects what we need to do: without looking within and addressing our imbalance and separation from nature, the wider global problems cannot be solved. This is your challenge, and it is mine too. Look in the mirror, and do not flinch at what you see.
Image by Mary Phillips