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  • You might have heard that we're running out of fresh water.

  • This might sound strange to you because, if you live in a place where water flows freely from the tap or shower at any time, it sure doesn't seem like a big deal.

  • It's just there, right?

  • Wrong!

  • The only obvious thing about fresh water is how much we need it.

  • Because it's essential to life, we need to think about it carefully.

  • Right now, at this very moment, some peoplewomen and girls in particularwalk hours and miles per day to get fresh water.

  • And even then, it may not be clean.

  • Every 15 seconds, a child dies due to water-borne diseases.

  • This is tragic!

  • The most compelling reasons to think about fresh water, therefore, have to do with what we might call the global common good.

  • This is not something we normally think about,

  • but it means recognizing how much fresh water matters for the flourishing of human and non-human life on Earth now and in the future.

  • How do we think about something as local as our faucets and as global as fresh water?

  • Is there a connection between them?

  • Many people assume that fresh water shortages are due to individual wastefulness.

  • Running the water while you brush your teeth, for example, or taking really long showers.

  • Most of us assume, therefore, that water shortages can be fixed by improving our personal habits:

  • taking shorter showers or turning off the water while we brush our teeth.

  • But, global fresh water scarcity neither starts nor ends in your shower.

  • Globally, domestic use of fresh water accounts for only 8% of consumption.

  • 8%!!

  • Compare that to the 70% that goes to agriculture and the 22% that goes to industrial uses.

  • Now, hold up, you're not off the hook!

  • Individual habits are still part of the puzzle.

  • You should still cultivate water virtue in your daily life.

  • Turn off the tap when you brush your teeth.

  • But still, it's true.

  • Taking shorter showers won't solve global problems, which is too bad.

  • It would be much more straightforward and easier if virtuous, individual actions could do the trick.

  • You'd just stand there for 30 seconds less, and you'd be done with that irksome, planet-saving task for the day.

  • Well, that's not so much the case.

  • Agricultural and industrial patterns of water use need serious attention.

  • How do our societies value water?

  • Distribute it?

  • Subsidize its use in agriculture?

  • Incentivize its consumption or pollution?

  • These are all questions that stem from how we think about fresh water's value.

  • Is it an economic commodity?

  • A human right?

  • A public good?

  • Nobel prize winners, global water justice activists,

  • transnational institutions like the United Nations, and even the Catholic Church are at work on the issue.

  • But, it's tricky, too, because the business of water became very profitable in the 20th century.

  • And profit is not the same thing as the common good.

  • We need to figure out how to value fresh water as a public good,

  • something that's vital for human and non-human life, now and in the future.

  • Now that's a virtuous, collective task that goes far beyond your shower.

You might have heard that we're running out of fresh water.

Subtitles and vocabulary

A2 BEG fresh water water fresh global shower human

【TED-Ed】Fresh water scarcity: An introduction to the problem - Christiana Z. Peppard

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    VoiceTube   posted on 2013/07/18
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