What have you done today to lower your impact?

We are washing away the foundations of our existence on every front. It is high time we move from crashing about on the planet like a bull in china shop and find a way to go forward with intent. We must find systems of living based on sustainability. The systems and tools exist, it is up to each of us to adopt them.

Blog Archive

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Virtual Water - by Robb

‘Virtual water’, embedded water imported in the form of food, fuel and goods, is a significant part of many nations food security strategy and also a significant portion of water rich countries GDP. For example, the Netherlands depend on foreign water resources for 95% of their water footprint. (Hoekstra and Chapagain 2007)

This tends to work against the most disadvantaged of our population. Every product I use has a water footprint; 900litres of water for 1kg of corn, 140 litres of water for 1 cup of coffee,16000 litres of water for 1kg of beef. (waterfootprint.org 2008) If that product was produced where people and ecosystems are water stressed then my consumption is creating a demand responsible for depriving that ecosystem and it’s inhabitants of the water needed to survive or at least have a decent quality of life. This can even be a community near you. Bottled water, aside from being more expensive than gasoline, of no better quality than tap water and producing a huge and totally unnecessary waste stream, is pumped from aquifers. Aquifers all over the world are in decline. Many in the US are in terminal decline. Declining aquifers are susceptible to collapse, a state whereby they will never safely recharge, this threatens food production and public health.

“..... former aquifer strata can be physically or chemically damaged by over-exploitation, with ....... consequences including widespread land subsidence, ph changes and the mobilization of toxic oxidation byproducts such as arsenic compounds.” (WWF Freshwater Program 2006)

As we examine our water usage it is important to consider the embodied water in the products we use. For instance; is the grain I buy or barter for raised in a sustainable manner? Where did the water come from to grow it? Was it pumped from an aquifer, an unsustainable process, or was it brought from surface flow to the field, or even better was it grown using strictly rainfall? This type of information is readily available. Here are a few links to get you started.


Let's consider corn again. Extremely thirsty as a crop to grow it was until recently grown using primarily rainfall. Climate change and the increased demand created by the higher demand for corn as a food and the ethanol industry has meant that more and more of this corporate crop is irrigated. As we’ve already seen corn has dire consequences for the environment, reason enough to consider ways of reducing our personal consumption. Corn has a large impact on water supply in agricultural areas. Corn based ethanol is exacerbating the situation. Is the corn I eat encouraging long term damage to aquifers that cities rely on for clean water supply? Can I justify burning corn, a food crop, in my automobile when the impact on water supply is so damaging? I will post a more detailed examination of corn ethanol in the next post but suffice it say that for anyone attempting to live a more sustainable lifestyle that next bag of genetically modified corporately farmed corn chips or tankful of E85 should give pause for thought.

This is a tough one for me. I could live on corn chips! Not really but it sometimes seems that way. When available I purchase organic chips, Bearitos blue corn are my favorite. Unfortunately I have yet to find an outlet near me, within a 3 mile walking radius, that carries organic corn chips, though I have to admit not having focused enough on this specific issue. Still, this hasn’t resulted in my giving up corn chips. This requires some introspection. This failure to act is very interesting. I am quite interested in the burgeoning field of ecopsychology, why we make the choices we do regarding the environment. I think it should be covered in a later post.
For now let’s wrap up with a few more about water.

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