I absolutely love this quote. It always reminds me that sometimes doing nothing does the most damage of all.
It’s amazing how easy it is to have a strong opinion about something that is clearly wrong. Something that violates your moral compass so much you can’t help but speak out or take a stand.
But what about when it isn’t so clear cut? It’s so much harder to make up your own mind or take a stand when there is an ethical gray zone.
Often times it’s easier to give up your personal responsibility, make excuses to justify your wants and move the needle of your moral compass ever so slightly.
A City In (Water) Crisis
Like many people I've been consumed by the water crisis going on in South Africa, not only from a humanitarian or environmental perspective but a personal one.
Currently Cape Town is on my Remote Year travel itinerary for the month of May, weeks before the city was projected to run out of water. The city has been a favorite for many on the itinerary and I have to make a personal choice to opt in or opt out of the month and the 35 people with whom I am traveling.
It can be challenging to take a step back from a group mentality ... to look at a situation and take personal responsibility for the impact I want my choices to have.
Day Zero keeps getting pushed back and Remote Year has cleared us to spend the month in Cape Town, but I am left with the haunting question:
Do I feel it is socially responsible for me to go?
Unfortunately the answer doesn’t seem to be black and white. The city’s economy relies heavily on tourism but the presence of tourists is also a drain on the limited and precious resource: W.A.T.E.R.
What is day zero?
The day when the Cape Town will move into full-scale Emergency Stage 3 and the city’s water taps are expected to run dry. Right, but what does that really mean?
It means the city's water storage has fallen below 13.5% capacity so they are turning the water off to all non vital services (that means households, businesses, schools) and there will be a 25 liter per person ration available at government sites throughout the city.
When is day zero?
"As of 15 January, the dams were 28% full and if we continue using water at the current rate we will run out of water on 21 April."
Originally set for April 2018 it was recently pushed back to June 2nd, 2018 and as of yesterday CNN cited that it was pushed to July 9th, 2018 however emergency water restrictions are still in place.
Recommended Water Usage
As of now, the allotted water usage is 50 liters per person a day. If Day Zero becomes a reality that will change to 25 liters per person a day.Estimates vary, but the average American uses about 80-100 gallons of water per day.
Do what you think is right, not what is easy.
It can be overwhelming to dig deeper and look beyond the easy answer. If Cape Town’s economy relies greatly on tourism and I’m a tourist then by going I’m helping.
But am I? What is the impact of my help?
Even if I reduce my water consumption am I not still taking a limited resource from someone who lives there when I could choose to be anywhere in the world?
What if I do something to give back?
Am I simply justifying the trip I want to take by pretending my positive social impact will offset my consumption of a limited and crucial resource that is at a critical and all-time low?
Each month we try to participate in a positive impact program. I am proud that we do what we can to leave a positive social impact in each city we visit. But those cities aren't in a state of emergency.
It could be easy to make this an issue about privilege, poverty, politics, climate change, race, equality … for now I am trying to simply focus on how do I want my time in South Africa to leave Cape Town.
More Questions Than Answers
- Can I justify what my presence will take from a community in need?
- Am I willing to do the hard thing?
- Is choosing to make a stand a moral high ground?
- Am I willing to ask the tough questions?
- Would my presence bring attention to what could be an ongoing global issue? Could I help?
- Am I willing to sit to find my inner knowing/truth instead of going along with the herd?
If we vote with our dollar and our time, I have to ask myself ... What do I want my vote to count for?
If you knew your choice would be the one that would make a difference, would you choose differently?
It is a delicate balancing act of attending to the real (and critical) water crisis and the city's economy that relies on tourism.
While I may be just one person and my contribution either way may be a drop in the bucket, the ocean is made of up a lot of tiny drops.
Sometimes it takes just one person to sway a vote or be the straw that breaks the camel's back.
At the end of the day I can see the debate from both sides. For now I will sit with these questions and try to find my way to the right answer for me.
The Status Of Cape Town
Since I’m not actually in Cape Town and you know how reliable google is I am taking this information with a grain of salt but from what I can read and research online here is a general overview of the situation.
I encourage you to do your own research, find as many credible sources as possible, and understand that the information is changing in real time.
- Cape Town like many other possible future cities is facing an extreme lack of water - arguably one of our if not the most precious resource
- "South Africa has declared a national disaster over the drought afflicted southern and western regions, including Cape Town, which means the government could spend more money and resources to deal with the crisis."
- Current population is around 4million people in the city
- Tourism is a major contributor to the economy and accounts for roughly 700, 000 jobs and attracts around 2 million people per year
- "Already hundreds of Cape Town residents are being forced to line up overnight to stock up on water"
Other Bits Of Information:
- Many may be unable to get their water rations due to family + work obligations or physical limitations
- Some businesses may be forced to close due to the water crisis affecting their business and/or having to wait in line for personal water rations.
- "While water consumption averaged 523 megalitres per day (MPD) saved more than half the amount of water used in 2014, it was still was way off the target of 450 megalitres a day."
- "The Groenland farmers association also released 10 billion liters of water from their private reservoirs into the Steenbras storage dam." This could produce future problems if there local crops suffer due to lack of water causing food prices to rise. "Agriculture is critical to the Western Cape economy, and the loss of crops, even farms, may be one of the consequences for the city if the dams run dry. "
** Just some of the resources I have been reading and quoting in this blog:
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