In December the world’s nations got together in Copenhagen to discuss climate change and overwhelmingly the summit seems to be seen as a failure on the part of the developed nations to make significant strides forward in combating climate change. Unfortunately it’s not the wealthy nations of the world that fare the worst in dealing with the effects of climate change- sure maybe winter in Washington, DC is a little worse this year, but compared to the desertification of land around the equator, a few extra inches of snow isn’t such a big deal.
One day the effects of global climate change will effect wealthy countries, one day our natural resources may become so scare that they aren’t available. Take for example the situation along South Africa’s garden route. A popular vacation area, this gorgeous coastline is on the front lines. Friendly signs on light posts remind residents that the area is in a water scarcity. The smiling rain drop doesn’t really convey the problem though- the dam is down from about 90% year under 20% this year..and given what the bottom of a pot of coffee looks like who knows how good that remaining water is. On account of the drastic shortage, the municipality has sent notices asking residents to curb their water usage while simultaneously imposing a drastic monthly water limit on each home.
Residents of George and the surrounding area have turned to the sky for their answer, literally. Capturing rainwater from their gutters in water tanks, many households have cut themselves from municipal water usage completely. Piping rain water through their sinks, toilets and showers, people have learned to monitor their usage (and the weather!) closely. Running the dishwasher when completely full is only the beginning as residents have become creative, capturing the cold water from the shower head before it gets hot and using that water to flush toilets and water landscaping…not to mention turning the water off completely as they soap up their bodies.
Remarkably, the people who have switched to rainwater are the people who could best absorb the price increase. They haven’t taken these measures to save money, they’ve done it because they believe it’s their responsibility to use a little less so that others may still have. Spending five days at the home of friends who successfully transferred to rainwater in December made me really think about my resource usage. At home where water, electricity, food and fuel are cheap and plentiful it’s sometimes hard to grasp the impact running the tap for a few minutes may have, but those precious liters from the tap might not be available elsewhere.
Going Green has been a popular movement in the United States for some time now. Due to the economic recession many people have become more aware of limited resources, but when the economy improves will we resort to our old habits? Let’s hope not, for it may not be a drought that effects us, but somewhere somehow global climate change will affect each and everyone of us. Individually making small changes will make a significant impact, so let’s take a page from the residents of George and do our part.