In the words of Simon Sinek in his book, Leaders eat last, he says the following:
“For an animal designed to live and work in conditions in which resources were relatively scarce, having too much of anything can create some inherent problems for the forces that influence our behaviour. For 40,000 years, we lived in a predominantly subsistence economy. We rarely had significantly more than we needed. It was only about 10,000 years ago, when we first became farmers instead of hunters and gatherers, that we started to move into a surplus economy. Able to produce more than we needed, we could grow our populations beyond about 150 people. We could trade our surplus with others. We could afford to waste more than was thought prudent in an earlier age. And we could afford to have standing armies and intellectual and ruling classes.”
To fully understand the context in which this quoted words are written, it is necessary to read the book, but for the purpose of this post it has a lot of valuable insight into why we are in the growing water crisis situation we find ourselves. As a human species, we have become so used to a wasteful lifestyle that we struggle to see how simple and straightforward any solutions can be, to solve global problems like food and water shortages, pollution and climate change. This wastefulness is a directly linked to lifestyles of abundance, and not taking ownership of the consequences of our decisions. The ignorance in believing that we have systems and infrastructure that will always be there to provide for us and protects us. We blame everything that goes wrong, on governments, “intellectual and ruling classes”, companies, and systems – failing to take responsibility of our direct environment and the impact we have on it… as well as the difference we can make by reducing waste.
We have become unaware of the balance required to have a sustainable eco system, without which we simply cannot survive. The fact is that we do not actually have to compromise on all the conveniences and luxuries we’ve gotten used to over the past 10, 50 or 100 years. Conveniences and luxuries like running water in your home, flushing toilets, a sewage network and irrigated gardens.
A great quote from Joe Moore on saving money: “A simple fact that is hard to learn is that the time to save money is when you have some”. Many people do not realise how deep our own luxuries and creature comforts have caused us to run out of natural resources like water, and as for money, the time to save water is when you have some. We still have enough, but if we do not drastically change our thinking about it, and our approach to how we use water, it might be running out sooner than we think. The simple fact is that we do not actually have to do anything drastic -we only need to stop wasting.
Water is one of the things we cannot survive without, and it is also one of the things that we cannot create, grow, generate or cultivate. What we have, is what we have. A growing population, urbanisation and deteriorating infrastructure only adds to the complexity of the growing problem. No matter how much money we spend on back-up systems, drilling boreholes or filtering salt- or sewage water, we need to start by using less by eliminating losses. Water losses for the most part goes unseen (underground leaks, running toilets, dripping taps) and can only be rectified when you are aware of it. Start asking the right questions. Know how much water you actually use, and how much you waste. With cost effective monitoring technology, or just taking regular meter readings yourself… The time to sit back and be ignorant about your role in the solution is over.
We need to find the balance.