SJC Month 2: How Much Water Goes into Growing an Apple?

By February 28, 2010 culture No Comments

Overwhelmed. That’s the word that describes me after all I’ve learned during this month’s Social Justice Challenge focus on the water crisis.

The lack of clean water and water access in developing countries is already enough to wrench my heart. Little did I know that experts predict this same fate for many developed countries due to poor use of water resources.

All this is detailed in Maude Barlow’s Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle for the Right to Water. Before reading it, I have thought of the water crisis merely as the lack experienced in countries in Africa. And I have felt compelled and responsible to do what little I can to help make a difference in those places.

What my book choice has done is shift my understanding of the water crisis from there to here . . . and everywhere. And it leaves me overwhelmed.

There were many fascinating aspects of this book, but I’ll share just one that has got me thinking. (If you are searching for a primer to the water crisis, choose this book only if you prefer technical writing; I did a lot of scanning and skipping.)

Barlow explains the concept of virtual or embedded water, which is water “used in the production of crops or manufactured goods that are then exported” (Barlow 15)—here are a few examples:

  • 300 liters of water used to produce a bag of salad
  • 1,500–3,000 liters to produce a kilogram of meat
  • 30,000 liters to produce a kilogram of cotton

A trip through the grocery store takes on a whole new slant. I wonder, what’s the water cost for the apples I eat? How much water does it take to produce the granola I love? If water sources are slowly disappearing, should we be more mindful of how we use it? I think of how our societal mindset has changed in the use of gasoline and energy, how we are becoming more aware of our usage and attempting to curtail our waste. Will water be the next resource we will collectively conserve in our society?

Honestly, I don’t know. One read doesn’t make me an expert. And it confirmed how little I do know about this issue. The book also documented the many rivers that are running dry, the 36 U.S. states that already suffer severe water shortages, and the marketing of water that could be a precursor to its becoming a commodity rather than a right. But Barlow and others are providing some directives for protecting our water resources; you can learn more at Blue Planet Project.

My heart remains with those who have no ready access to water and no clean water. I will continue to follow God’s lead in how He wants me to help, even though my efforts feel rather meager. As I mentioned earlier this month, I have committed to the 40 Days of Water challenge through Blood:Water Mission. That’s been a positive action directly related to my participation in the SJC, so I would call this month a success.

That’s a wrap for SJC Month 2. More on water justice is sure to come.


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