As I gaze out through the ceiling to floor clear glass windows which encompass the room, I am mesmerised by the tiny drops of rain gently falling on the trees, shrubs, plants, grass and pathways of the magnificent gardens. Tiny new-born birds returning to their nests high in the trees delight in the freshness of this life-giving water. I sense the cleansing power of the soothing rain and am captivated by the shape of the drops as I watch them slowly touch every part of the garden which surrounds the room where I sit in the early morning enjoying the calm before the routine of daily life interrupts me. Though I am in awe at the sight of the rain, I am saddened by the fact that I cannot hear the sound of it as it reaches the earth. Even in my home, though I can hear thunder and see lightning, I am unable to hear the rain as I live on the 5th floor of an 8 storey building.
Growing up in North Queensland, Australia, the roof of our family home was corrugated iron and most of the traditional homes in the area had huge verandahs with sloping roofs surrounding the house so the sound of rain is a loud memory from my childhood. During the cyclone season, the sound of the rain bashing on the roof was deafening and frightening. Infrastructure in my hometown during the 1960’s was basic and outside our home were huge dirt gutters, similar to trenches, and when it rained, they would quickly fill and provide a muddy play area for myself and my sister and brothers. Now, I often wonder just how deep those gutters actually were or in my child-like thinking, they were deep enough for me to completely stand in.
There was a time when I was young when the wet season was predictable – always in January and February and the sugar cane farmers in North Queensland would plant the crops for the next harvest in December so they did not have to irrigate. My parents would refuse to buy new shoes for the start of the school year each January, as this was considered the wet season and the water in the gutters and streets would ruin our shoes. In those days, my parents did not own a car so we either walked or rode our bicycles everywhere.
Now in 2017 as I recall those childhood memories I believe that climate change is happening and each year the temperatures are becoming hotter. The traditions and routines of the cane farmers from 50 or 60 years ago are no longer in place and the crops are planted and harvested in a completely different manner. As each year becomes hotter, there is little or no rain falling on earth and billions of people, animals and crops are suffering as a result. Bleaching of coral on the Great Barrier Reef is a result of higher sea temperatures which causes heat stress in the coral.
Water cleans the earth and sustains life.
When I was living in Kalumburu in the remote Kimberley region of northern Western Australia, the only water available for drinking was fetched and carried from the creek during the wet season and from the river during the dry season. This water was used for drinking, cooking and washing and during the wet season, the water from the creek was clean and fresh; however during the dry season, the water from the river was dirty; animals, children and adults swam and bathed in this water which we needed to drink. When the rain finally fell after months of the “dry season” it evoked a strong sense of the earth being cleansed, the air being purified and disease being washed away.
Without clean water there is disease and death.
It is part of the daily routine of billions of women and children around the world to spend hours and hours fetching water, often just one container as the journey is long and the vessel is heavy. The water is mostly contaminated and expensive to buy. As a result of the time spent searching for water, the children are unable to attend school and the women unable to operate their businesses or find employment. Consequently a cycle of poverty is maintained because if the children were educated they would learn hygiene and the role it plays in maintaining good health. Without good hygiene there is sickness and unnecessary death. The adults remain poor as they are unable to provide an income for themselves and their families.
A child dies from a water-related disease every 90 seconds.
There is nothing so undignified as a woman or any female not having access to a toilet. In most cultures, it is unacceptable for a woman to relieve herself during daylight hours and she is forced to wait until dark so she will not be seen. During the time I worked in South Africa, I was often required to travel to remote villages and was always mindful that there were no toilets or restrooms for me to access but instead there would be a small hole dug in the ground with a sheet of corrugated iron providing a tiny portion of privacy. Alternatively, I would endure hours of discomfort until I returned to the house where I lived. This was just a small inconvenience for me in comparison to the utter discomfort and pain that billions of females endure every day of their lives.