Friday, January 26, 2018

On water security, and attitude

I had a long conversation with my mom yesterday, and of course the topic of water came up with Cape Town's current water crisis. My mom grew up during WWII. Her father was a farmer in Hout Bay on the farm Kronendal. They grew veggies, like carrots, tomatoes, cabbages and such. It wasn't an easy life, and from a young age, she was expected to work the same as the adults – both during harvest time and domestic chores. As the daughter of the household, it was expected of her to do her share of the housework, which included doing laundry, and as she grew older, and her mom went back to work as a nurse, my mom took on even more of the work.

Her father didn't want her to finish school. He didn't see the point of a woman getting an education. After all, he didn't get a matric and he was doing just fine. But my mom fought to get her matric. On top of her household work, she worked in the store that my grand-aunt ran. And then she still had to make time to study, and she eventually obtained her teaching certificate. This is her attitude, which I understand today has greatly influenced how I approach my life.

My mom had to fetch water from a tap outside. This water came from a spring high up on the mountain (so it was untreated). The Hout Bay farming community was very strict about how they maintained that catchment area, as this precious water served several households in the valley. No one was allowed to build or farm in the catchment area. They only got municipal water when my mom was 12. Water that was treated and piped in from Cape Town. So, my mom knows all about how to make do without piped water.

I think of all my fellow South Africans who, in this day and age, STILL don't have access to basic water and sanitation, and I understand implicitly that I, as a member of a privileged middle class, have had it easy. And as they say, 'n boer maak 'n plan (a farmer makes a plan). I am fortunate in that I do have the resources available to make this time a little easier, and where I can, I will reach out to others in my community who are not so fortunate (be it that they might need someone to fetch water for them, or find ways in which I, as an able-bodied adult, may assist them).

I'm not saying it's right that our government has failed us in terms of water security. You are allowed to be angry and afraid, because we're entering a time of great uncertainty. But use those emotions as fuel to affect change around you. We need to change our attitudes to water. It is a scarce resource in a drought-stricken country. We need to cherish our natural water resources – respect them for they are fragile and precious. We need to look around us for opportunities, such as rainwater harvesting. We need to examine our use of waste water, and where we ourselves may be wasting water unnecessarily.

Whether you believe in a god or not, is not the point. It's easy to sink to our knees and pray, but it takes hard work and courage to get to our feet and help each other. I'd like to think that if there is some sort of god, it would prefer to see its children taking responsibility for their own welfare. That is why we have free will, no? Blaming idiot politicians is easy. We have all the proof that they fucked up, and that some of them are blaming us for wasting water, as if that will absolve them of the fact that they didn't take action sooner. But what can *we* do in the meantime?

I am my mother's daughter, and I don't kneel.

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