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April's National Geographic magazine, Water: Our Thirsty Planet, is devoted to the topic of the global freshwater crisis, and to page through the special issue is to receive a whirlwind tour of the globe with a close-up lens focused on the precariousness of Mother Earth's water supply. National Geographic treats its subjects with a familiar combination of science and awe, a combination that is easy for kids to digest. Through the photographs in the issue (and on the magazine's robust website) we get news about advances in desalination techniques and the importance of building wells in rural villages, then switch to a beautiful photo essay on sacred uses of water in various ancient communities, and then zoom in for a look at how animals and organisms are surviving despite diminishing water supplies.
At this time each year, we revisit our commitment to leading an ecologically responsible life. On past Earth Days, we've examined our personal and household carbon footprint; this year, our focus is global. Images of women and children walking miles with jugs on their heads to fetch clean water were startling for our kids, who have always had a robust tap at the ready, and even on camping trips have never worried about clean water. Taking in the magnitude of the disparity between our water-wealthy lives in the United States and the situation for other families around the world is pretty heady stuff, so to combat that dreadful feeling of powerlessness, we reminded the kids that many smart people are already tackling this immense project. As Heifer International helps impoverished communities by donating livestock that can improve a family's financial standing, the water charities we researched aim to help communities build wells and improve the sanitation of their personal lives to avoid disease. Kids in this country can get together and raise money for these worthy charities. We were touched by something Barbara Kingsolver writes in her elegant essay in National Geographic: quoting from Garet Hardin's "The tragedy of the Commons," she reminds us that some biological problems can be solved only by changes in human values and morality. It seems the time has come.
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National Geographic Magazine, April 2010
Age Recommendation: Five and up
Time Allotment: ongoing
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