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By: Cynthia Knudsen

In the time since Dave and I passed our paddles on to Jodi and CG, I had the privilege of participating in a year long vision quest program. The program focus was helping us discover what contribution we might offer to a world that is facing so many difficult challenges. We gathered four times over the year at four different places, each beautiful in its own way. While walking these unfamiliar lands I had time to reflect on the past 17 years as part of the Northwaters and Langskib community and what came to me was an overwhelming feeling of gratitude–. gratitude for all of the people I had met, for all of the lakes and rivers I had paddled, and for all of the challenges which had helped me to grow as a person.

The lands where we wandered were mostly desert, but interestingly, wherever I went, I found water. Sitting next to a trickle of a stream run off, or coming upon a moss covered rock, what rose to the surface was a simple realization: without the lakes and rivers, NW/L would not have been able to provide so many young and old the opportunity to grow and learn. I recalled the joy I had experienced each summer as I swam, paddled or boated over the constantly changing waters of Lake Temagami. I also thought about the many people who had never experienced such a privilege, about those who did not even have fresh water to drink, and about the many polluted rivers, lakes and oceans around the world. All if these thoughts led to a deep longing to give back to water in whatever way I could.

As soon as I returned from our last gathering in September a friend told me about a conference called “The Water of Life”. It seemed a good place to begin my quest to learn about the current state of water in our world. The situation presented was nothing short of a serious global water crisis. Although there is not space here to discuss the many issues, I think the “water facts” above support this claim. Senator Robert Kennedy spoke about all of the legislation going on in the United States. Although I was aware of problems in many third world countries, I did not know how critical the water crisis was in parts of the US. Maude Barlowe from Canada, recently appointed the first ever Advisor for world waters at the UN, spoke eloquently of all the issues facing our planet and we previewed her new film Blue Gold — the title aptly suggesting the value of water in a world that is running out of it. Fortunately, despite the dire situation presented, throughout the conference the committed work that many individuals have already done served as great inspiration. Consistently the idea of hope over despair was emphasized, and the encouraging news from the conference was that we have the technology to bring about change.

For those of you who ever sat with me in a closing circle at the end of a NW session, you might remember that I always felt a great sense of hope when listening to the learning’s you shared upon your return. I believe with all of my heart that your generation has the potential to make a significant difference in our world. Although you may not have created the problems we face, I believe you can help bring about a solution. In fact, without the energy and idealism of young people, I do not believe that we can affect the great change that is needed.

I know that some of you are already involved in environmental projects in your own communities and are already making a difference. But, if you are not, I hope that you will get involved. In the upcoming months I will be creating a blog/ website that will include many of the issues of the current water crisis, links to organizations who are making a difference, project ideas, and articles. It will be interactive and primarily serve as a way to share ideas and inspire NW/L folks. Ways to get involved will range from something as simple as printing off a brochure to share with family about key ways to conserve water — to implementing a service project which would bring water to a community that does not have fresh water. The possibilities are as vast as the lakes and rivers you have travelled.

If you have sat on the cliff at Langskib or down on the dock at Northwaters, I trust you can conjure up a memory of the sun sparkling on the deep blue waters of Lake Temagami. So, whether you are returning this summer to Northwaters or Langskib, or it has been years since you last paddled a red canoe, if you feel gratitude for the waters that both nourished and taught you important lessons, think about how you can contribute and share your ideas. You each have something unique to offer. I believe that our collective creativity and commitment can have a profound impact!

Facts About Water

  • In the past 100 years, the world’s population has tripled. In the same period, water use by humans has multiplied six fold.
  • Of the 6.7 billion people on Earth, about 1.4 billion people do not have access to safe water.
  • 2.3 billion inhabitants lack adequate sanitation. Most are in Africa and Asia.
  • Every 8 seconds somewhere in the world, a child dies of a water-related disease. Today, 6000 people will die from lack of clean drinking water, mostly children. 7 million people die each year of water- borne diseases.
  • 40 percent of the world’s population now live in water basins under stress. In less than 25 years, 67 percent of the global population will be living in water stressed conditions unless we change.
  • 40 percent of the rivers and streams in the United Sates are too dangerous for drinking fishing, and swimming.
  • Global water usage will increase 40% by 2020 unless we change our current habits.
  • Between 10 to 15 % of the planet was in drought in the 1970’s. By 2002 the figure had risen to about 30 percent.
  • 250 million pounds of toxic pollutants are permitted to be dumped into surface waters of the US every year.
  • If we continue depleting and polluting water, according to the UN, by the year 2020, nearly 50 nations will suffer severe water shortages; by 2030, water sources for many cities that have existed for centuries will simply dry up.
  • Only 15% of the 2,262 watersheds in the US are considered by the federal government to have “good” water
  • 97% of the world’s population now live in water basins under stress. In less than 25 years, 67 % of the global population will be living in water stresses conditions unless we change.
  • A faucet that leaks one drop per second wastes more than 3 gallons of water a day….equally over 1,000 gallons per year.

*Sources: Vermonters for a Clean Environment and Blue Gold by Maude Barlowe