Sunday, September 12, 2010

Going Against the Flow

My husband came home from work one day and told me they showed an award-winning film called Flow. When I asked him what it was about, he said, “Babe, do not see this movie.”

Let us get past the fact that my husband gets to watch movies in the middle of his workday and contemplate his explicit instructions. Why? Well, those who know me know the extent to which I worry. Even the Bible has nothing on the doomsday scenarios that play out in my head at the slightest hint of trouble. My poor husband was simply trying to save us from weeks, perhaps months of Victorian Era fainting meets Debbie Downer kind of stress.

Too late. I went to the film’s site and read the synopsis beginning “Irena Salina's award-winning documentary investigation into what experts label the most important political and environmental issue of the 21st Century - The World Water Crisis…” Gulp. My husband was right. Nevertheless, more research: “more than one out of six people lack access to safe drinking water,” and “36 states are facing water shortages by 2013.” Oy. What did I do? I shut down the computer! I just couldn’t take it. I’m one person. I get maxed out just thinking about what to make for dinner for goodness sake. Karen, out.

A few months later, I came across a Brazilian commercial suggesting that people pee in the shower to save water - a cute little cartoon that made it sound like the best thing since roller-skating. Now, while it’s none of your business as to whether or not I did it, I did. And even though that means that you will never accept an invitation to take a shower in my home, I saved 5-6 gallons of water by not flushing my toilet. That felt great.

I started developing new habits. The more habits I changed, the more I examined other routines. Did I really need to run the water while I brushed my teeth? Did I really need to rinse my dishes before putting them in the dishwasher? Did I really need to wash my vegetables in a colander? No. No. No. Slowly, one thing led to another and before I knew it, we established a household policy of not buying bottled water, just as Ms. Salina’s documentary warns. Not so scary anymore.

So, good for me. Pat pat. Thumbs up. But here’s the problem. When I spread the word about changing habits, I usually see the kind of frozen smiles that make me sure that if there were an ejection seat, they would push the button. I get it. This is scary stuff, and it’s much easier to go on running the sink at full blast to push a kernel of corn down the drain than it is to be in a constant state of awareness about the water crisis. But this crisis is ours only if we want it. You don’t have to be an activist, a hero or Bono. So, here’s a challenge. Watch the upcoming episodes and pick one thing. Just water your plants with ice cubes. Just don’t buy bottled water. Just pee in the shower, for goodness sake, we don’t even have to know about it! Make one commitment. One. Everyone can do that. Any one of those things could save gallons of water. Do that and believe me it will spread. Trickle! It will trickle into everything else that you do. Hey, any subject that ends on a pun that cheesy can’t be all that scary, can it?

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