April 15, 2010

A Drop in the Bucket

Water: Our Thirsty World + Donating to Water Charities

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. 

The Film

Film Title: Water: Our Thirsty Planet
Directed By: National Geographic
April, 201, Rated U, 200 pages

KOTC Kernels

Our Buttery Bits of Wisdom about this Issue:

  • Why It's Worth It: Who didn't grow up looking at the pictures in National Geographic and getting a free global tour? Both educational and inspiring, these photos tell a story -- and kids, intrigued by a photo, can read a caption and suddenly you will find yourself in a conversation about the issue.
  • Further Research: The commitment of the magazine, and the National Geographic Society "to "explore the world of water" is clear by spending a few moments on the National Geographic's website  -- an important resource, full of stories of success, videos of trouble spots and lists of resources. The commitment to Freshwater is ongoing, and this material will be updated going forward.
  • Quiz Yourself: Here is a brief online quiz on National Geographic's website that will test your knowledge of water issues.
Cinema Savvy

Our Tips for Talking with the Kids:

  • Seeing is Learning: We stopped at a photo of plastic bottles arranged carefully on an outdoor table, and learned that by baking in the sun, water can be purified enough to drink - a free, non-technological cure for diseases that keep kids out of school in a rural African village.
  • CA Savvy: Don't miss the article "California's Pipe Dream" about CA's water rights issues (as fictionalized indelibly in Chinatown), including surprise results from efforts to clean up waste water for drinking (page 141). 
  • MA Savvy: Click here for an article from National Geographic's website about how Massachusetts residents turned around a water problem.


The Adventure

National Geographic Magazine, April 2010


Age Recommendation: Five and up

Time Allotment: ongoing

KOTC Kernels

Our Buttery Bits of Wisdom about this Adventure:

  • National Geographic Recommends these Charities: Water for People, Population Services International, Water Advocates, and Global Water Challenge.
  • We found two other charities -- Charity Water: CharityWater is a nonprofit dedicated to bringing clean and safe water to developing nations, and offers a community based system by which you can help raise money directly for the organization. For a friend's birthday recently, we all gave money to fund a well, in stead of gifts. Click here for a webpage that describes their process in graphic terms that kids will find easy to comprehend. Water.org: Water.org is a charity started by Matt Damon and Gary White; their mission is to bring clean water to communities in Latin America, Africa and Asia. Water.org works with local partners to deliver innovative solutions for long-term success. Its micro-finance-based WaterCredit Initiative is pioneering sustainable giving in the sector. Click here for how to help them accomplish their mission. $25 can mean water for life for one individual.
  • 10 Things You Can Do: Click here to read up on ways you can help conserve water in your daily life - from installing low-flush toilets to planning water-wise landscaping.
City Savvy

Our Tips for Extending this Adventure:

Cultural Connections

Want more? Here are KOTC's picks of films, books, music, and websites that connect your family to more culture.

Film Festival Click here to connect to the Kids Off the Couch store at Amazon.com. Books Click here to connect to the Kids Off the Couch store at Amazon.com.