Filed under: Energy + Climate, Local Events + Action, Society + Media, Waste + Recycling | Tags: aral sea, china, las vegas, little grassy lake, paul simon, waste, water
Every summer, my parents would ship me off to camp near Little Grassy Lake, in Illinois. The beach there was small and silty, with one dirty old port-a-potty and an ancient wooden dock. The water was a distasteful shade of brown. It was cramped, hot, and uncomfortable. I hated it.
But former Senator Paul Simon, a hero in my hometown, loved the lake enough to build his house on its edge. I attended speeches he gave in the yard in front of his house, with the sun setting over the lake behind him. He knew from experience that water is a rare and precious resource, one that many midwesterners take for granted. So in 1998, he wrote “Tapped Out- The Coming World Crisis in Water and What We Can Do About It.”
Simon argued that inhabited regions across the world are coming face-to-face with shortages of life’s most essential resource: water. Cities like Tucson and Las Vegas could spring up in the American West because people dammed rivers and diverted water into their system. With recent patterns of climate change, though, these rivers have begun to dry up, and left desert cities high and dry. In China, the most populous nation on the planet, consumption is increasing even as farmers cope with the worst nationwide drought in half a century. And, closer to Europe, the Aral Sea loses 60 square kilometers of water each year.
And for some reason, as a kid, I hated my lake! Later, I found out that Little Grassy Lake is one of the cleanest bodies of water in Illinois. I learned to swim there, I learned to canoe and kayak on it, I spent countless nights down on its beach looking at the stars. Over the years, that lake became my closest connection to nature. Paul Simon was right. Water is more than a natural resource. It’s a gift, and it’d be a crime to continue wasting it.
Justin Leverett is taking shelter from a rainy day.
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