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In many parts of Africa and Asia, walking takes on a whole different meaning. That's because many women and children in these developing areas have to walk six kilometres every day to get water for their family. It's not a stroll in the park, or a breezy city walk -- it's a dangerous, hot, painful journey to provide for the needs of their families.
The federal government recently created two marine protected areas in the Pacific region and has committed to increase ocean protection from one per cent to 10 by 2020. But will this be enough? Thinking of the ocean in square kilometres is just skimming the surface. Life thrives throughout the water column, top to bottom.
Beatrice Mutai is only 13, but she knows first-hand that small changes can make a big difference. Until last year, she would wake up before dawn every morning to fetch water from the Ewaso Ng’iro River.
Each year on March 22, UN-Water calls on people everywhere to help tackle the global water crisis. It's a great goal -- but can feel like a pretty tall order. More than 663 million people have no safe water supply close to home. That's way more people than occupy all of North America.
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The truth is, extreme weather events that cause flooding, prolonged drought and contaminated water sources are becoming far more frequent. In 2016, global temperatures reached a record high for the third year in a row, and reports of extreme weather events continued to come in from around the world.
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Madagascar is famous for its unique wildlife, the cartoon movies that bear its name, and for vanilla. There is also another aspect that sets Madagascar apart: over half of its 22 million inhabitants don't have access to safe drinking water, and 90 per cent don't have access to proper sanitation or a toilet.
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Access to water and toilets is transformative. It opens doors to education, health, nutrition and to a better livelihood. Access to water and toilets offers women and girls so many more opportunities to contribute their fullest to their communities.
The ripple effect of our collective decision to address this discomfort has been felt worldwide. Since that time, we have helped restart the lives of more than 30,000 newcomers. Our unique integration methods are hailed as an international model.
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Last week's events in Syria speak to a conflict transformed into a humanitarian crisis that has worsened with time. In eastern Aleppo alone, at least 96 children have been killed and 223 others injured. Such circumstances make it increasingly harder to deliver desperately needed humanitarian aid.
Go on and boycott Nestlé. Here's a handy guide to all their products. But realize that despite Nestlé being a bad corporate citizen and the world's biggest bottler of water, boycotting them will not solve the problem. The issue isn't just bottled water, it's that we allow companies to drain our water table for what amounts to free. It's time to disrupt the entire beverage market's business model, which is to extract an ingredient for basically free and sell it for an absurd amount. We need to charge them a rate for that extraction that serves the public interest.
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Safe drinking water and decent toilets should be basic essentials in every school, everywhere. Unfortunately, it's not the case for millions of children in the world. Take the 500 students at St. John Bosco Gayaza Primary School in Uganda for example. The water source they rely on is an open pool located about one kilometre from their school.
How would you feel if you weren't able to have a sanitary place to go to the bathroom? If you didn't have access to clean, safe, drinking water? For people who do have access to these things it can be hard to understand how lucky we are.
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I've witnessed the power that water can bring to a community -- not hydroelectricity, but human empowerment. It happens when a single borehole is drilled deep into the ground, and a pump installed. Clean water becomes a source of hydration, refreshment and strength, freeing people up to do great things.
This is a running program that helps train people through supportive groups and provides a common goal for us to run, for clean water for kids. Water fundraising also makes a lot of sense to me as a runner. Runners are so aware of how much they depend on water, so it seemed like a natural fit.
In many parts of the world, diarrhea is not about embarrassing conversations between adults, or toddlers licking electrolyte popsicles while watching Max and Ruby on the couch. And it's most definitely no joke. An estimated 30,000 children around the world die each year from diarrhea, a condition which most Canadians see as an inconvenience.
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Children under five are more at risk -- they account for 70 per cent of all malaria deaths. More than 300,000 children died last year from an illness that's preventable with things as simple as clean water sources. Let's make sure that kids don't have to fight off a disease that racks their bodies with fever, pain and nausea. Let's stop malaria before it bites.
Like many Canadians, I have struggled to understand the importance of something as seemingly mundane as water. With our Great Lakes and mighty rivers, we're used to seeing water everywhere. I began appreciating how critical water is to survival when visiting the Kurdish region of northern Iraq with World Vision last month.
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I was fortunate to have a happy, healthy childhood. I had nutritious food, a comfortable home, and an endless supply of clean water. But on World Health Day April 7, I think of children whose experiences couldn't be more different than mine.
On the mountainside, listening to the World Vision Bolivia staff who guided us explain just how many kids get sick, and even die from the same disease I had suffered from, I wanted to cry. Children all over Bolivia battle this kind of illness every day. Little kids, especially those under five years old, undernourished already and with developing immune systems, are struggling to stay alive just because of the basic human need for water. Waterborne illness is easy to catch, as I discovered. But for children all over Bolivia, it is very difficult to get rid of.
Courage Polar Bear Dip
This World Water Day millions of people who share our planet are constantly thinking about water. How could they not be? Their children die from waterborne illnesses, because the local stream is contaminated. Others forfeit their schooling to trek long distances for water each day.
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An exasperated mom told them to "go jump in the lake." Todd and Trent Courage did what their mother told them. And three decades later, funds raised by the hundreds of dippers running into Lake Ontario this January 1 are expected to bring the dip's lifetime total to $1.4 million dollars for water projects in Rwanda.
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The Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act sets high standards but without the adequate funding, leaves communities without the necessary tools to meet those standards. Despite repeated pledges from the federal government to ensure clean drinking water, there are routinely more than 100 water advisories in effect in First Nation communities, with some living under advisories for up to 20 years.
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And it might just save millions of lives.
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Access to water is one of the biggest challenges facing the planet today. We have to address the underlying causes, like climate change, overconsumption, waste and pollution. However, that alone won't overcome the problem -- not in time for millions of people in need of fresh water. Fortunately there's some incredible technology emerging to recycle or create new sources of water--dowsing rods for the 21st Century. eventy-one per cent of the world's surface is covered by water. But the vast majority of that is ocean--salt water we can neither drink nor use to irrigate our crops.
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These communities are making heroic stands to defend their right to safe drinking water. But here's the thing -- they shouldn't have to.
Three decades ago, an Oakville mother whose sons were laying around during the Christmas holidays, suggested in exasperation that they "Go jump in the lake!" You know what? They did it. And their annual Polar Bear Dip has raised more than $1.2 million for clean water projects in the developing world.
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I recently travelled across Canada with David Suzuki Foundation staff, from St. John's to Victoria and up to Yellowknife, joined by friends and allies along the way. To resolve the serious environmental issues we face in Canada and beyond, we need people from across the country and all walks of life to join together to make protecting the people and places we love a priority.
Clean drinking water is a basic human right. Yet, tragically, nearly one billion are forced to go without. I recently travelled to the Dominican Republic to witness one of the solutions to the global clean drinking water crisis -- a powdered technology distributed through the P&G Children's Safe Drinking Water Program.
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I'm tired of being ashamed of being an environmentalist. Why is the conversation of global warming, and water rights, so "boring"? Personally, I'd rather be perceived as a so-called "boring" environmentalist and communicate about the importance of water.
More types of plants -- pine isn't universal -- should be tested for their effectiveness and a list of potential water filtration trees to be sought out and cultivated should be formed. If that comes to pass, then a new boom of tree planting may begin.
Canada is a country with countless pristine rivers and lakes and an incredible seven per cent of the world's renewable freshwater supply. It might seem odd that any Canadian could be living without clean drinking water, but some are. What is shocking, however, is the wildly disproportionate degree to which water advisories affect Canada's First Nations communities.
The world is running out of accessible clean water. In my new book, Blue Future: Protecting Water for People and the Planet Forever, I call for a new water ethic that places water and its protection at the centre of all policy and practice if the planet and we are to survive.