The Truth About Earthquakes: Everything You Need to Know

The Truth About Earthquakes: Everything You Need to Know

In an average year, there are hundreds of small earthquakes every day. These earthquakes usually only reach a 2 on the magnitude scaled and may not even be noticed by people on the surface.

However, major earthquakes, those of a magnitude of 7 or greater, occur on average more than once a month. Once a month may not seem frequent, but with the devastating effects that they can create, once a month is substantial.

Earthquakes can occur anywhere in the world, and they can affect all types of people. Natural disasters like earthquakes are no respecters of persons and therefore it’s important to understand why they happen, what can be done to prevent damage, and how to help those who have been affected by earthquakes.

How do Earthquakes Occur?

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Earthquakes are caused by plates under the Earth’s surface breaking or colliding with one another. The tectonic plates under the Earth’s surface are believed to be in a state of movement on top of the Earth’s mantle.

The plates collide at a location called “fault lines,” and as they intersect they don’t move past each other smoothly. Instead, they are jagged and get stuck against each other, causing friction, and building up energy. When they finally do release and move past one another, the energy is released which causes waves of energy, which in turn causes an earthquake at the surface.

Can an Earthquake be Predicted?

Seismographs are used to tell how big an earthquake was and where the earthquake occurred, but they can’t predict when an earthquake will happen. Scientists have been trying to determine methods of figuring this out for some time, but without success. They can tell that particular fault lines will eventually produce an earthquake, but they have no way of knowing when it will.

What Makes Earthquakes Dangerous?

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Earthquakes are dangerous for a number of reasons. Of course, there is the initial shaking of the earth which can cause a variety of issues like large items in homes falling over, buildings cracking or falling, and windows blowing out. There are also secondary issues created by earthquakes like mudslides and landslides.

Below is a list of issues that can be created from an earthquake.

  • Burst gas lines, water lines, and sewage lines
  • Decimated houses and buildings
  • Landslides and Mudslides
  • Tsunamis
  • Volcanoes
  • Liquefaction
  • Subsidence
  • Fires
  • Aftershocks
  • Illnesses due to poor sanitation and burst pipes

How to be Safe During an Earthquake

Since it’s difficult to predict an earthquake, it means that people often don’t have a chance to evacuate before an earthquake strikes. Should you ever find yourself caught in an earthquake, here is a list of things to do to help maintain safety.

DROP, COVER, and HOLD ON!!

This short description refers to dropping to the ground and crawling to a safer place such as underneath a strong table. Cover your head and neck with one arm, and hold on to your shelter with the other arm.

DO NOT RUN OUTSIDE

While it may seem like a good idea to leave the inside of a building in case the structure begins to break, it’s not a good idea. Exterior walls are the most dangerous place to be because windows, facades, and architectural details are usually the first things to break and fall creating a great hazard to people escaping from buildings.

DO NOT STAND IN A DOORWAY

For older homes that have strongly reinforced doorways, this may not apply, but today’s architectural standards are different. Doorways are now no longer stronger than other parts of the house, and do not give you better protection than other parts of the home. It’s safer to stay underneath a sturdy table.

BE PREVENTATIVE

If you live in a location prone to earthquakes, it’s a good idea to use preventive measures in your home to reduce the risk of injury. This includes making sure that your home is built to be more earthquake resistant, securing furniture with flexible fasteners, and making sure that heavy objects aren’t stored up high.

Major Earthquakes In the World in the past 10 Years

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Earthquakes can happen anywhere in the world but there are some places like Los Angeles, Tokyo, Jakarta, and Manila, where they are more likely to happen. This is because these locations are located on fault lines where earthquakes begin.

The devastation of an earthquake has a lot to do with where, what time of day, and what time of year that the earthquake occurs. While a highly populated, highly structuralized location will sustain more damages, they are also more likely to have stronger structures and quicker response times. For places in the world with poor infrastructure and poorly funded response teams, the effects can be more long-lasting.

China – May 12, 2008 – in Sichuan Province

In 2008, China experienced an earthquake in the south-west province of Sichuan. The earthquake was of a magnitude of 7.9 and left 87,000 people missing or dead. Due to poor infrastructure, 4,800,000 people were left homeless, and 137.5 billion dollars was spent rebuilding the areas that were affected.

Indonesia – September 30, 2009 – in Sumatra

With a magnitude of 7.5, this left thousands of people injured, and 130,000 homes damaged. It left a death toll of 1,117.

Haiti – Jan 13, 2010 – in Haiti’s capital of Port-au-Prince

Haiti’s earthquake in 2010 was one of the most devastating in recent history. It was a 7.0 earthquake that left between 250,000 – 300,000 dead, and 895,000 homeless. Like Sumatra, Haiti’s buildings were not made to withstand catastrophic earthquakes and many buildings were reduced to rubble in the wake.

Sadly, Haiti’s earthquake destruction did not end there. After 100 years, Haiti received its first outbreak of Cholera. This was due to poor water and sanitation infrastructure that was more greatly damaged by` the earthquake. The outbreak of cholera resulted in 500,000 infections, and an additional 7,000 deaths.

Chile – Feb 27, 2010 – started off the coast of Chile

Just a month later in Chile, there was a massive earthquake off the coast that had a magnitude of 8.8. There were at least 700 lives lost and 500,000 homes damaged. The earthquake also created a tsunami which took the lives of several people on a Chilean island.

New Zealand – Feb 22, 2011 – in Christchurch

Christchurch, New Zealand, was hit with a 6.3 magnitude earthquake on February 22, 2011. 185 people lost their lives and several thousand were injured. Most of the people lost their lives when the Canterbury Television and Pyne Gould Corporation buildings collapsed.

Japan – March 11, 2011 – in North East Japan

In 2011, Japan experienced an incredible 9.0 magnitude earthquake that triggered a tsunami. It was reported that 18,000 people were missing or dead, and in some places along the coast, entire communities were washed away.

Iran – August 11, 2012 – in Tabriz

In 2012 Iran was hit with twin earthquakes one that measured a 6.4 magnitude, and the following one that measured 6.3. At least 300 people were killed in the two earthquakes.

Pakistan – September 24, 2013 – in Balochistan province

In 2013, a 7.7 magnitude earthquake hit Pakistan. It hit in a remote area, but still took the lives of 825 people and decimated the town of Dal Badi.

China – August 3, 2014 – in Yunnan province

In 2014, the Yunnan province in China was struck by a 6.2 magnitude earthquake that left more than 700 dead and 2,000 injured.

Nepal – April 25, 2015

In 2015, Nepal experienced two earthquakes. One on April 25, and one on May 12. Between the two earthquakes, the United Nations estimated that 8 million people were affected, some of which were in neighboring countries like India, Tibet, and Bangladesh. The first earthquake also triggered an avalanche off of Mount Everest that took the lives of at least a dozen more people.

Afghanistan – October 26, 2015 – northeast Afghanistan

Again in 2015, an earthquake struck, this time in Afghanistan. Afghanistan was affected but so was nearby Pakistan. The 7.5 magnitude earthquake took the lives of at least 300 people.

Ecuador – April 16, 2016 – Pacific Coast

Ecuador was hit by an off coast by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake on April 16, 2016. At least 650 people lost their lives and 26,000 were displaced.

Italy – August 24, 2016 – near Rome

On August 24, 2016, Italy was struck by a 6.2 magnitude earthquake. The earthquake affected a group of mountain communities outside of Rome, and took the lives of 300 people.

Mexico – September 19, 2017 – central Mexico

On September 19, 2017, central Mexico was hit by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake that took the lives of 300 people, and was the worst earthquake the capital has witnessed since 1985.

How to Help Earthquake Victims

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Since earthquakes are unpredictable, and can occur all over the world, it’s important to know how to help offer relief after an earthquake disaster. Below are some ways that you can get involved to help people in need.

UNICEF

The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) was designed to help in emergency situations around the world. They employ 12,000 people worldwide, and stand ready in case of global emergencies including earthquakes.

According to their website, “…UNICEF stands ready to provide both immediate and long-term necessities — food, water, shelter, protection, healthcare and psycho-social support — whenever an earthquake strikes.”

UNICEF always accepts donations and provides a number of ways to do so including donating to specific causes that they help with.

Other Places to Donate

It’s always important when donating to organizations to do your own research to make sure that they are upstanding and using the donations appropriately. Below is a starter list of places to consider in the event of a natural disaster.

It’s also a good idea to donate to organizations that are local to the disaster if possible. They’re often the best groups to help because they understand the needs of the local people and most importantly, how to help them. Because of this, in some cases, it would be more beneficial to see where the earthquake has occurred before donating. By waiting you can research organizations that are most prepared to be helpful to that specific region.

Fundraise

If you’re aware of an earthquake disaster and you’d like to help, consider running a fundraiser in your community and then donating the proceeds to an organization that can help. Not everyone can physically help after a disaster, and in many cases, it wouldn’t be possible or financially helpful to try. However, lots of people are capable of donating a few extra dollars towards relief efforts.

Donate Blood

Donating blood is a great way to help people in need — and you don’t need to wait until a disaster happens to donate. In fact, the process works better if there’s already blood stored in the event of a disaster.

If too much blood is donated immediately after a disaster, two things will happen. First, some of the blood will be wasted because it can’t all be used right away and has a limited shelf life. Secondly, even if people donate blood immediately after a crisis, the blood used right after a disaster will likely be blood that was already on the shelf. Partly this is because the blood needs to travel to the location, and partly it’s because it takes several days for the blood to be tested for safety.

It can also be beneficial to wait a few weeks until after things have settled since it’s often the case that many of the needed blood donations occur later.

Still, the very best way to donate blood is to do so regularly so the blood banks can keep a ready supply on hand.

Volunteer

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Volunteering is another great way to help when there are disasters in the world. Volunteers can work on teams landing in disaster areas, or they can work behind the scenes gathering supplies, recruiting workers, and working on communication. There are volunteer opportunities for many different skill sets because rebuilding communities requires many talents.

Generally, it is better to volunteer through a relief organization rather than buying a plane ticket and going directly to a place alone. Although with good intentions, traveling to damaged locations without a trained organization may actually detract from the work of those who are trained to provide help.

Conclusion

Earthquakes and natural disasters can happen anywhere in the world, and can affect anyone regardless of location or social status. There are some things that people can do to diminish the amount of damage left by earthquakes like building structures that can better withstand them, and earthquake proofing their homes.

Most importantly, it’s our job as people on the planet to help out our neighbors and lend a hand when we can. This year it may be a neighboring country, and next year it may be on our doorstep. We should all look for ways to help out when disaster strikes.

Does Water Usage and Conservation Really Matter? Yes. Here’s Why

Does Water Usage and Conservation Really Matter? Yes. Here’s Why

Water is everywhere, right? You use water when you turn on the faucet to wash your hands, to use the restroom, wash your clothes, and of course, you drink it. Water seems like an abundant, never-ending supply, right?

Unfortunately, that’s not true. In fact, is pretty far from the truth. Water is a limited resource, and even though it seems like you’re surrounded by it, only about 1 percent of water on earth is available for human use.

That’s because the rest of the water is either salt water in the oceans, frozen into polar ice caps, or is inaccessible for us to practically use. This should dramatically shift the way you look at the water. Not everyone has the same access to water, which means that you and your community should understand the way water usage affects you, those around you, and even those around the globe.

In this article, we’ll take a look at water usage, help you understand how countries use water, and discuss the details of water conservation.

Water is a precious resource, but it’s difficult to understand that until you get the global picture. That’s what this article is all about.

Let’s Talk About Water Usage

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“A river is more than an amenity, it is a treasure.” – Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes

Water, as you’d imagine, plays a huge role in our everyday life. There are the obvious uses for water, of course, some of which we discussed above — drinking water, washing water, bathroom water — but think a bit deeper.

What about how your city uses water? Without water, there’d be no fire-fighting, no municipal parks, no swimming pools, or sewage systems. Now consider all the other uses for water, like:

  • Mining
  • Irrigation
  • Thermoelectric power
  • Industrial uses
  • Aquaculture
  • Livestock

That’s a lot of water being used every day.

Now, consider that the thousands of cities around the world using water in the same way. We’re talking billions of liters per day.

However, all that water isn’t spread around equally. Water usage changes drastically depending on the country, city, or town you’re looking at. For example, let’s first look at the United States as a big picture. In 2010, the United States used about 1,343,821 million liters of water per day or about 397,000 thousand-acre-feet per year.

These are massive numbers and it’s hard to grasp their significance until we compare them to other countries. Hang in there.

Now let’s zero in on now on the average American family. This average family uses about 1136 liters of water per day at home, with about 70 percent of this water being used indoors. About 24 percent of that water is for flushing the toilet, 20 percent is showering, 19 percent is from the faucet, 17 percent is for washing clothing, 12 percent is due to leaks in the pipe systems, and about 8 percent for other, miscellaneous uses.

To put that in perspective, it takes anywhere from 13 – 26 liters of water to flush a toilet. That’s a lot of water.

In fact, the average American uses almost 600 liters of water per day on themselves.

Now let’s step back see how much water other countries use in comparison to the United States.

In Australia, the country with the second-highest water usage rates, the average person uses about 470 liters of water every day. Following that:

  • The average person in Italy uses about 390 liters per day,
  • The average person in Japan uses 375 liters per day
  • The average in Mexico is 360 liters per day
  • The average in Spain is 325 liters per day
  • The average in Norway is 300 liters per day
  • The average in Austria is 230 liters, respectively

Contrast this to developing nations like Mozambique, Uganda, Rwanda, Haiti, and Ethiopia, use about 2 to 15 liters of water per day, per person.

Are you starting to get the picture? Developed countries use an incredible amount of water compared to developing countries. The disparity is staggering.

Water Conservation Matters

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“Water links us to our neighbor in a way more profound and complex than any other.” –  John Thorson

After seeing how much water the United States uses compared to other countries, you probably have a lot of questions, such as:

  • How do we replace that water?
  • How does my water usage affect other countries?
  • What can I do to help?

Let’s break down it down a bit more to give you better grasp on the current water situation, how we replenish our water, and how each person’s actions can determine water usage for those around them.

First, let’s talk about the watershed. A watershed is a precipitation collector. In short, it’s an area of land that drains all the streams and rainfall to a common outlet like a bay, a reservoir, or even a stream channel. This water is collected, stored, and then put to use for drinking, mining, industries, irrigation and more.

Watersheds are one of the biggest ways that we replace and replenish our water supplies. Put simply, watersheds are all over the place. Look at the ground below your feet, you’re standing on a watershed designed to collect the falling rain and drain it to a common outlet so that it can be used later.

How does this affect you, those in your area, and those far away? Watersheds are connected. In fact, all land and water are ecologically linked with each other through a  watershed (also called a catchment or drainage basin).

Watersheds don’t have boundaries, they’re not ruled by politics, and they can encompass several national, cultural and economic spans. All this to say, each watershed affects the next and the next and the next. It’s a web of cause and effect, and the actions we take direct the people downstream from us, downstream from them, and so on.

So, how does water conservation work, and can your actions help conserve water for other people who need it? Short answer: Absolutely.

There are dozens of ways you can change the amount of water you’re using every day in order to conserve water for others. For example, test all of your pipes at home for leaks. As you might remember, data suggests that about 12 percent of the average American family’s water supply is depleted by leaks, so get those checked out to keep a better eye on your water supply.

Additionally, monitor your showers. Take shorter showers, don’t leave the faucet running, and consider upgrading your toilets to new models that don’t need up to 26 liters to flush.

Also, watch how often you water your lawn, wash your car, or use the washing machine. Keeping a schedule and restricting your usage can make major changes in your water usage patterns, which in turn, will deeply affect the rest of the world. Everyone can, and should, do their part to conserve water.

How We Use Our Water: Some Final Thoughts

“Anything else you’re interested in is not going to happen if you can’t breathe the air and drink the water. Don’t sit this one out. Do something. You are by accident of fate alive at an absolutely critical moment in the history of our planet.” – Carl Sagan

Even though water surrounds us, we’re constantly fighting the battle of depleting water sources, over-usage of our water supply, and unequal water distribution due to an area, poverty, and political issues.

It’s important to remember that water and watersheds connect us all. Our actions have a direct impact on the people near us and far from us. The way we treat and use our water can determine the outcome of the way other people and countries treat and use their water, and so and so forth.

Water usage is not always — in fact, is very rarely — equal among countries. Because we’re a web of connected watersheds, water conservation in your own home is extremely important to determining the amount of water that people in towns, cities, states, countries, and continents have.

Monitor your water usage, learn tips and tricks to cut back on the water you use daily, and remember that in some way, we’re all connected by the water around us.

Critical Facts About Waterborne Diseases In The United States and Abroad

Critical Facts About Waterborne Diseases In The United States and Abroad

If you live in a developed country, and I assume many of you are if you’re reading this, waterborne diseases probably aren’t something you typically worry about. But did you know that poor water sanitation and a lack of safe drinking water take a greater human toll than war, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction combined?

Even in America, pumps, pipes and purification facilities could all fail, leaving you susceptible to waterborne diseases.

So what exactly are waterborne diseases? How many people are actually affected by them? How do we keep our water clean and safe? How many people are dying from these diseases, and what can we do to prevent that from happening? We’ll answer all of those questions here.

How Much Drinkable Water Is There?

First things first. Before we can understand why waterborne diseases are so prevalent, we need to have a clear understanding of how much drinkable water is actually available.

While nearly 70 percent of the world is covered in water, only 2.5 percent of it is drinkable. And of that, only 1 percent of it is easily accessible, with the rest trapped in glaciers and snowfields.

Since most of the Earth’s fresh water is frozen at the North and South poles, that leaves the rest of the fresh water in surface water and groundwater. Surface water is found in the Earth’s lakes, rivers, and streams. Groundwater is just surface water that has made its way into the soil.

You might be wondering if we will ever run out of fresh water. Our population is rapidly increasing, and most of our uses for fresh water are increasing right along with it. So, will we always have enough fresh water to go around?  We will.

The Earth is very efficient when it comes to recycling its water.  Every drop of water we use continues through the water cycle. Water on the ground and in lakes and streams is evaporated into the clouds, and then sent falling back down to the ground.  Although we may never run out of fresh water, we still need to do our part to be sure we keep it as clean as we possibly can.

What Are Waterborne Diseases?

A waterborne disease is simply any disease that is contracted by drinking dirty or contaminated water. In under-developed countries the water is typically contaminated by human and animal feces or a general lack of sanitation. In more developed countries, it can be caused by faulty pipes, pumps, or purification facilities. It’s even possible to get a waterborne disease by eating food that was contaminated by dirty water.

Some of the most well known waterborne diseases are polio, malaria, cholera, and diarrhea. All of these diseases are serious health threats and could lead to death.

  • Polio attacks the nervous system and causes paralysis, difficulty breathing and sometimes death.
  • When you think of malaria you probably think of mosquitos, but malaria is also a waterborne disease. Malaria is a life threatening illness that causes high fever, chills, vomiting, and even coma.
  • Cholera is an infection of the small intestine that, if left untreated, can be fatal.
  • Diarrhea may seem harmless enough, but believe it or not, in developing countries without access to modern medicine and clean drinking water, it kills about 2.2 million people per year, usually due to severe dehydration.

The most common waterborne disease that affects tourists in under-developed countries is likely travelers diarrhea. Also known as Delhi Belly or Tourist Trot, an estimated 10 million travelers are affected by it each year. The biggest risk factor to developing travelers diarrhea is your destination.

If you’re traveling to an area that has a high occurrence of waterborne diseases, do your due diligence to prepare so that you don’t contract anything while you’re on the road.

The Key Statistics

The WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme 2017 report on the progress of drinking water recently published its 2017 update. The report finds that in 2015, 29% of the global population (2.1 billion people) lacked safely managed drinking water services – meaning water at home, available, and safe.

This widespread inability to get safe drinking water is very serious and should not be taken lightly. Every year there are more than 3.4 million deaths from waterborne diseases, making it the leading cause of disease and death around the world.

What’s worse is that most of those deaths are young children, about 4,000 a day. At any given time, close to half of the population in the developing world are suffering from some type of waterborne disease. In 2013 to 2014, waterborne diseases caused 289 cases of illness, 108 hospitalizations, and 17 deaths in the United States.

Keep in mind these are deaths due to the effects of unsafe drinking water, most of which are completely preventable.

Keeping The Water Safe

They say it’s always better to be proactive instead of reactive, so the best thing to do to keep people from getting waterborne diseases is to use clean water. However, that’s not always as easy as it sounds. It’s estimated that 780 million people don’t have access to an improved water source.

As was already mentioned, most people have access to clean water in America. The water supply and sanitation in the United States is one of the cleanest and most regulated in the world. That being said, nothing is perfect, and Americans can still be exposed to unsafe drinking water.

As many as 63 million people, almost a fifth of the country, from rural central California to the boroughs of New York City, were exposed to potentially unsafe water more than once during the past decade.

Industrial dumping, farming pollution, and pipe deterioration are the main causes of the contaminated water. In some instances it took nearly two years for the issues causing the contaminated water to be resolved.

The good news is that there are things we can do to keep our water clean and safe.

Recycle

Recycling items, and properly disposing of items that cannot be recycled, keeps them from getting into to our rivers and oceans to contaminate the water. Even disposing of your cigarette butts properly will go a long way toward keeping our water clean.

Minimize Chemicals

The best way to keep chemicals from getting into our water is to simply not use them.  There are plenty of all natural, chemical free products we can use that will cause no environmental impact. From laundry detergent to window cleaner, always go natural.

Participate In Cleanup Efforts

Participate in or organize a cleanup effort. Clean up the beaches and river beds to keep trash from entering the water supply. Organizing a cleanup day with a local school will both keep the water clean and educate children on the importance of a clean water supply.

Reuse Water

Set up a home rainwater capture system to maximize your home water use.  A basic rainwater system channels water from gutters into a collection barrel.  Use this water to water your flowers, wash your car, or use it to make a natural cleaning detergent.

Prevention

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So, how can we prevent waterborne diseases? This may seem an obvious answer, but we need to keep our water clean. Clean water is a prerequisite for reducing the spread of waterborne diseases. People need to be provided safe and sanitary ways to dispose of feces, as well as ways to store their water to keep it from becoming contaminated.  Dirty water has to be disinfected to stop the growth of pathogenic organisms and to protect people’s health.

We can also think outside of the box. For example, the Kohler Clarity system is a simple, inexpensive water filtration system that removes 99% of all bacteria and protozoa in water. It can filter up to 40 liters of water per day, making it ideal for families who are struggling to find adequate clean water.

Other examples of thinking outside the box are River International and Water For Life. These charities work to provide clean water for those in developing countries who have little or no access to water supplies.

That one invention and that one charity can save millions of lives by giving them access to clean water whenever they need it.  We all need to do our part.

Conclusion

Waterborne diseases may not get the funding or attention it should or that other diseases get, but it is a very serious illness that kills millions of people every year.

On a large scale, this is a serious issue faced by billions in developing countries without the access to resources we have in developed countries. On a smaller scale, though, people are still dying in America from drinking contaminated water, even with these resources.

Waterborne diseases are the leading cause of death around the globe, and it’s almost inexcusable. Keeping our water safe and clean to prevent the spread of disease should be a high priority. It’s time to clean the water that has been contaminated and keep our clean water safe.

The Water Crisis In India: Everything You Need To Know

The Water Crisis In India: Everything You Need To Know

When contemplating our world’s most precious resources, past conversations often centered around fossil fuels and the consequences once those become scarce.

However, recent times have given us an abundance of alternative energy options and new technologies either in use or on the horizon. These innovations have turned the conversation to a resource that, on a basic level, is readily abundant and covers two-thirds of the earth’s surface.

Water.

More specifically, freshwater.

Though 70% of the earth is covered in water, only 2% of it is fresh. Further complicating the issue is that 1.6% of that freshwater is contained in glaciers and polar ice caps.

Many third world and developing countries struggle with ensuring this basic tenant of our existence is both available and safe. Nowhere is this more apparent than India.

A Major Lack of Resources

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With the planets second largest population at 1.3 billion, and expectant growth to 1.7 billion by 2050, India finds itself unable to serve the vast majority of that populace with safe, clean water.

Supporting 16% of the world’s inhabitants is daunting enough, but it is even more so when recognizing that population is crammed into an area one-third the size of the United States. Then consider that India only possesses 4% of the world’s fresh water and the crisis can be more fully realized.

India may not be the only nation in this predicament, but theirs is at a stage more critical than most. Severe lack of regulation, over privatization, general neglect and rampant government corruption have led to multiple generations thirsting for more than just a few drops of hazard free water.

The situation has grown to the point that regional disputes have risen over access to rivers in the country’s interior. Those disputes take on a global scale in conflicts with Pakistan over the River Indus and River Sutley in the west and north and with China to the east with the River Brahmaputra.

Surface water isn’t the only source reaching a breaking point.

Tracing back several generations, the critical situation in India can be linked to a myriad of causes. In modern times though, the concern has moved from the surface to the ground. And it’s there where India’s freshwater is under the greatest stress.

Causes: Groundwater and A History of Indifference

Over the past 50 years, policies have allowed what amounts to a free-for-all in groundwater development and as the crisis has grown it has been met with continued neglect, mismanagement and overall indifference.

Estimates put India’s groundwater use at roughly one-quarter of the global usage with total usage surpassing that of China and the United States combined. With farmers provided electricity subsidies to help power the groundwater pumping, the water table has seen a drop of up to 4 meters in some parts of the country. This unfettered draining of groundwater sources has accelerated over the past two decades.

With the aggressive pumping, particularly in rural areas, where agriculture provides the livelihood for upwards of 600 million Indians, Mother Nature is often the difference in a good year and a devastating one. Relying on monsoon rains without proper irrigation or water management techniques has been a recipe for disaster.

Mismanagement and corruption often draw the largest headlines, but many of India’s leaders have also been slow or unwilling to adapt to newer technologies or cohesive plans to address the issues.

The response can at best be described as irresponsible. Consider China, a country with roughly 50 million more people, uses a quarter less freshwater.

Growing Demand, Declining Health

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Not only is India the world’s second most populated country, but it has a fast growing middle class that is raising the demands on clean, safe water. Then consider close to half of the country practises open defecation and you have a dichotomy of two very different populations desperately pulling at the same limited resource.

One group wanting to grow and flourish and the other wanting to survive.

A few numbers from the World Bank highlight the plight the country is facing:

  • 163 Million Indians lack access to safe drinking water
  • 210 Million Indians lack access to improved sanitation
  • 21% of communicable diseases are linked to unsafe water
  • 500 children under the age of five die from diarrhea each day in India

More than half of the rivers in India are highly polluted with numerous others at levels considered unsafe by modern standards. The waters of the Yamuna, Ganga and Sabarmati flow the dirtiest with a deadly mix of pollutants both hazardous and organic.

Aside from commonplace industrial pollution and waste, India’s rivers are open use across much of the country. From dumping human waste as previously noted to bathing to washing clothes, the human element contributes to the epidemic of health related concerns.

Adding to the human toll is the reliance on seasonal rains, which are often sporadic in some years and over abundant in others. Rain totals can vary greatly and do not always arrive in the places they are needed most. The drought and flooding that results from this inconsistent cycle often leads to crop failures and farmer suicides.

Much of the above affects rural citizens where poverty is rampant, but even more developed urban areas face their own challenges.

Even with a robustly growing middle class, when combining rural and urban populations, over half of India still lives at or below the poverty level. Furthermore, no city in India can provide clean, consumable tap water full-time.

Should the crisis continue unabated, the scarcity of water will have a negative impact on the industrial health of the country.

Recent drops in manufacturing jobs can be tied to companies being unable to access clean water. Along with the inability to properly cultivate agriculture areas and the water crisis quickly becomes an economic one.

Look to the Future

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It may seem a foregone conclusion that the water will soon enough dry up and along with it India as a whole. That need not be the case.

There are even bright spots in the current environment. The Rivers Narmada and Chamabal run clean with water fit for consumption. Several projects are currently underway that aim to move water to areas that need it the most.

But it will take a long-term commitment of the Indian government not previously shown and the heavy assistance of outside resources.

Common sense practices and training will also aid in reducing the damage done to groundwater sources. Teaching farmers updated irrigation techniques, such as drip irrigation, and utilizing more rainwater harvesting are small, effective steps in stemming the loss of freshwater sources.

Much of India will also need modern sanitation policies that both conserve and wisely utilize water sources. Recognizing physical and economic growth directly ties to the amount of safe, usable water is another step in right direction.

Conclusion

Yes, all of these changes take the long view, but a crisis of this magnitude will not be solved with lip service and short sided solutions.

However daunting, the goals are not unattainable. India is still a developing society, and there is time to reverse the crisis that has been decades in the making.

Given the right commitment and dedication, India can soon enough have safe, clean water.

The Water Scarcity Problem That’s Destroying Countries

The Water Scarcity Problem That’s Destroying Countries

Clean water. It’s something almost all of us take for granted. We turn on the tap, fill our cup, let some spill over, and then guzzle it down. It’s a privilege we fail to recognize.

There is a colossal water scarcity problem in the world. Millions of people struggle to find enough clean water to survive.

In order to move toward a solution, we need to first understand the problem. In this post, we’re going to help you understand the how, what, and why of the water scarcity problem.

The Staggering Lack Of Clean Water In The World

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Over 884 million people worldwide live without clean water.

In order to better comprehend that staggering number, that’s the equivalent of:

  • 1 in every 10 people on the planet’s surface.
  • Twice the population of the United States.
  • The whole of Europe.

And as the years fly by and overpopulation becomes an increasingly difficult problem to solve, that number continues trending upward, inflating and growing, but never going down.

Water scarcity is a harsh reality.

By the year 2018, some 1.1 billion people worldwide will lack access to any sort of water, and a total of 2.7 billion will find water scarce for at least one month of the year.

Out of those figures, 2.4 billion will have inadequate water sources and have to deal with a series of life threatening diseases. A vast majority of the world population will regularly experience outbreaks of typhoid, cholera, malaria, zika, and dozens of other water borne illnesses and parasites.

In the year 2014, two million people died from diarrheal viruses and the ensuing complications. Out of those numbers, 43 percent were pre-adolescent children, most under the age of five.

Access to basic sanitation and clean affordable water, can save over 17 thousands folks a week.

The majority of people afflicted by this problem live in desolate, isolated, poor regions. These are often rural places that in often find themselves embroiled in some sort of political challenges.

In many cases, water, not oil, is the most precious commodity for these disenfranchised citizens, with warlords and local mafias using the resource as a means of power and political pressure.

Access to clean water is of paramount importance for those without it. There are millions of people risking their lives and spending hours just for a clean gallon of water. Children go without any education, their sole responsibility trodding dozens of miles a day and fetching water.

In essence, a community without a viable source of clean water is destined for extinction. Clean water means economic growth, education, better income and healthy neighborhoods.

And the outlook isn’t any better:

By 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population may face water shortages. Although the surface of our planet is covered mainly by water, over 73 percent to be exact, only 3 percent of it is considered drinkable. And, to complicate matters, only ⅓ of that scant number is accessible to humans (the rest is tucked away in glaciers, and remote regions). Finding fresh water sources is an incredibly rare thing.

Overpopulation and consumption has put a strain on an already depleted ecosystem. Many water systems, like lakes, rivers and aquifers are drying up an alarming rate or, due to our meddling, becoming far too polluted to use.

Agriculture, above all other practices, consumes enormous amounts of water, more than any other industry. These precious resources are consumed in an ineffective manner.

Additionally, in impoverished regions, such as Africa (where thousands die from a result of having zero access to clean water) or in Pakistan (where the shortage has claimed ⅓ of its population), a different set of problems assaults the region: economic water scarcity.

In most of these districts, water treatment plants and “soluble” wells and aquifers are nothing more than open holes in dry river beds. In Tanzania, this last practice led to devastating epidemic that slashed their population by 75% in the late 2013.

What Is Economic Water Scarcity?

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In order to understand the water crisis, we need to understand the concept of economic water scarcity.

Economic water scarcity is a term that begun having a wide range appeal in mid-2007. It was defined, after a rather long and investigative essay, as a condition caused by the lack of investment in water infrastructure.

The concept first came into play after researchers and policymakers, overseen by the International Water Management Institute in Sri Lanka, conducted a 50 year study to determine the viability of sustaining life on Earth with the growing population problem. Their findings were less than hopeful.

One on the prime symptoms of economic water scarcity is a region’s capacity, both technological as well as human, to satisfy the area’s demand for drinkable water. It is a critical and typical manifestation of underdeveloped countries.

The main aspects of economic water scarcity are:

  • A lack of infrastructure with poor sanitation policies. The population has no other choice but to rely on rivers and lakes for their hydration.
  • Much of the water is used for agriculture and domestic chores. Evidence suggests that in many cases the water is “recycled” for different uses. Bathing, laundry, livestock, cleaning and cooking water not only comes from the same source but is oftentimes reused from one chore to another.
  • Large parts of the world, particularly in Africa, suffer from economic water scarcity. Developing the right infrastructure would lower the poverty line.
  • Terrorist groups and local warlords use their own wealth and resources to create the needed infrastructure, the major caveat being that they control the pipeline and in turn use it for their own goals – mainly recruitment.
  • Developing infrastructure in these areas not only requires funding but a complete overhaul of socio-political doctrines.

Consequences of water scarcity:

  • Using unclean water, in many areas, leads to an upswell of different disease, some of which are fatal.
  • In Africa, women spend half of their day walking and hauling up water from a clear source. The same goes for sections of India and Latin America. It is estimated that in the remotest parts of Africa, the female population spends a combined total of 40 billion hours a year walking to and from a well.
  • Communities don’t have the time to grow. Most families waste a great deal of their productive hours dealing with the problems that arise from water scarcity. Access to clean water gives families time to go to school and earn an adequate income, helping them fight off poverty.
  • It takes an enormous amount of water to grow crops, maintain livestock and ultimately feed a nation. Less water means a rise in endemic and localized famine.
  • Less water means less sewage flow and more stagnant water. These pools, particularly in tropical and subtropical environments, often become fast breeding ground for insects and parasites. One of the most far reaching and prevalent insects is the mosquito, a known carrier of West Nile Virus, malaria, zika and other infections.
  • Economies that, due to their natural landscapes could easily increase their gross income and national wealth through a busy tourist trade, have had no other choice but to closethis venue of revenue. Hotels, restaurants, shopping stores and other attractions no longer are able to maintain an adequate level of sanitation for visitors.

Countries with a high degree of water scarcity:

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All countries suffer from water scarcity in one way or another.

For example, the United States, a nation that takes for granted the gift that is drinkable tap water, is in the midst of a major water crisis. The Western States, among them California, are having to cut back on water delivery to certain areas. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the region’s water supplier, will deliver 15% less water to cities in the greater Los Angeles area starting in July 2018.

Nonetheless, the US and other first world nations have the advantage of a growing and confident economy, one that can acclimate itself to any sort of natural woe by investing heavily in infrastructure.

Others are not so lucky. 3 countries standing on the brink of complete water related collapse are:

  • Yemen: According to UPI, Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, is expected to be the first major city in the world to experience full water scarcity, a direct result of the many turmoils and local military brews of the area.
  • Libya: Another war torn country that’s facing a full sanitary cataclysm, the constant regime changes and wild political upheavals are taxing the nation’s capacity to create a viable water policy.
  • Jordan: The country of Jordan finds itself in one of the driest geographical latitudes in the planet. Its only source of water is the Dead Sea and the Jordan River. Transforming saltwater to fresh is a financial hurdle that’s hurting their weak economy.

Conclusion

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The United Nations considers water scarcity to be one of the most detrimental and crippling crisis attacking struggling economies and communities.

The Millennium Development Goals (8 fundamental objectives established by a committee of different nations within the United Nation) established the necessity of making water scarcity a key problem to eradicate. The United Nations Millennium Declaration, following the Millennium Summit, aimed by 2015 to “halve the proportion of people who are unable to reach or to afford safe drinking water.”

While we may not have solved the problem of water scarcity, we’re certainly making an effort to minimize the problem in as many ways as possible.

Audrey Hepburn said, “Water is life, and clean water means health.”

She knew what she was talking about.

8 Critical Factors Behind Every Food Crisis

8 Critical Factors Behind Every Food Crisis

From the beginning of time, their have been food crises in one form or another. Ancient books such as the Bible have records of various famines devastating portions of the world.

And while it’s easy to attribute these crises to a single cause, such as war or drought, the causes are usually much deeper and much more complex.

Nelson Mandela said, “Overcoming poverty is not an act of charity, it is an act of justice.”

In order for us to achieve the kind of justice envisioned by Mandela, it’s essential that we first understand the underlying causes of food crises. Only after we have understood can we then begin creating meaningful solutions.

With that in mind, here are 8 primary factors behind almost every global food crisis. While not all 8 of these will be present at a time, you will almost always find several of these at work.

Factor #1 – Poverty

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One of the greatest factors in every food crisis is stark and abject poverty. This isn’t surprising. With enough money, anyone can ensure they have enough food. But with many developing nations sitting well below the poverty line, the population simply can’t afford the food they so desperately need.

Additionally, poverty has a distinct effect on food output. In Africa, for example, many farmers can’t afford proper irrigation and fertilizer. This, in turn, leads to lower yields, which then reduces the overall amount of food available to the population.

The population of the Sub-Saharan region of Africa is expected to grow at an astronomical rate, topping out at 2.4 billion by 2050. This will continue to exacerbate the poverty issue, which will then continue to drive the lack of sufficient food in the area.

Factor #2 – Drought and Desertification

Widespread droughts, leading to the desertification of particular locations also causes huge disruptions to food production. For example, leading up to and during the global food crisis of 2008, 110 countries experienced significant droughts. This caused even the most well-irrigated, fertile areas to become arid deserts, making it impossible to grow crops.

As Mark Hughes noted:

Australia is normally the second largest exporter of grain, after the U.S. The continent, though, is experiencing an ongoing drought that has been described as the worst in a century. Grain yields have shrunk and many silos remain empty. Australia’s drought is a major factor in global wheat stocks being at their lowest since 1979. In fact, many wheat and rice farmers are switching to crops that demand less water, such as wine grapes.

Additionally, farmers often let animals over-graze on their land, reducing the amount of vegetation and increasing desertification. If the soil becomes dry enough, it is ruined and unable to support any crops at all.

Finally, as populations grow, deforestation occurs at an increased rate, which then leads to less vegetation and more desertification.

Factor #3 – Political Pressure

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In the past, the International Monetary Fund has pressured small farmers, particularly in impoverished African countries, to abandon agricultural farming in favor of industrial work. The money generated from this practice would be used to pay off debt and import food.

While it may sound like a working strategy, it has created catastrophic results.

As Eric Holt-Giménez noted:

The urban population increased seven-fold, swelling from 18% to 33% of the population. Millions of poor and unemployed workers have swelled the cities—with two-thirds of them living in slums. The manufacturing and industrial sector did not “take off” in African countries; the percent of the GDP coming from industry was 30% in 1961 and 32% in 2000. In the countryside, as plantations for agro-exports expanded, food production plummeted and poverty grew. Though the rural population, density increased by 180% as more farmers were crowded onto smaller plots.

Factor #4 – Increased Consumption of Meat and Dairy

Many countries have begun adopting a more Western diet, which includes eating significantly more meat and dairy. To make this happen, farmers have been forced to raise more cattle, and more cattle means more grain being consumed.

The problem, however, is that this causes a significant deficiency in terms of calories consumed versus calories available. A cow consumes approximately 700 calories worth of grain to produce a piece of meat containing only 100 calories. When this happens on a massive scale, an enormous shortage of food is the end result. The longer this deficit continues, the greater the imbalance will become.

Factor #5 – Increased Oil and Transportation Costs

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When the price of oil goes up, the energy cost for planting and transporting foods goes through the roof. When food costs more to grow, it then costs more to sell. These rising costs then make it more difficult for the local population to purchase crops as well as for farmers to export their crops to industrialized nations.

Additionally, increased oil costs has led many countries to invest heavily in the development of agro-fuels. More agro-fuels always means less food available.

As Esther Vivas helpfully puts it:

The increase in the price of oil, which doubled in 2007 and 2008 and caused a big rise in the price of fertilizers and transport related to the food system, has resulted in increasing investment in the production of alternative fuels such as those of plant origin. Governments in the United States, the European Union, Brazil and others have subsidized production of agro-fuels in response to the scarcity of oil and global warming. But this green fuel production comes into direct competition with the production of food. To give just one example, in 2007 in the United States 20% of the total cereal harvest was used to produce ethanol and it is calculated in the next decade that this figure will reach 33%. We can imagine the situation in the countries of the South.

Factor #6 – Falling World Aid

At the peak of the 2007-2008 food crisis, food aid was at it’s lowest point since 1961. This is one of the oddities about the national food market. When cereal prices are low, countries look to sell their food through international aid. However, when food prices are high, they prefer to sell them on the open market for increased profits.

In other words, during food crises, when food is scarcest and at it’s highest prices, it isn’t available for international aid. When the bottom falls out of world aid, food crises grow in magnitude.

Factor #7 – International Conflicts

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International conflicts are a particularly visible factor behind many food crises. During conflicts, it’s common for one country to restrict exports to another country, which then reduces the amount of food available to the general population.

Or, even worse, dictators will intentionally isolate their countries, refusing foreign aid that is desperately needed. Aid workers may be blocked from entering the country, making it difficult for the citizens to receive needed help. If foreign aid does come, they seize it for themselves, depriving the population of desperately needed sustenance.

Factor #8 – Disease

If a country experiences a particularly violent outbreak of a disease, it can completely disrupt the overall food supply. For example, the HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa has killed farmers, which in turn pushes families deep into poverty.

When a population is undernourished, drugs become less effective and can at times create intense hunger pains. These two factors combined create a vicious cycle of death, poverty, and hunger.

Additionally, certain highly contagious diseases can restrict the amount of aid available to a country. For example, during the 2014 Ebola epidemic in West Africa, aid workers were restricted from traveling to the region due to fear of spreading the disease.

Perfect Storms

Most food crises aren’t the result of a single factor. Rather, they are caused by a perfect storm of events that coalesce into a deadly storm.

For example, in 2011, Somalia was devastated by a drought that caused widespread crop failure. The food crisis was made even worse by a non-functioning government as well as a national conflict. All these forces combined to make it difficult for aid workers to reach those who so desperately needed help.

The result was that approximately 260,000 people died.

Because the problems are almost always complex and multi-layered, the solutions must be equally multi-faceted. Simple solutions typically exacerbate the problem at the expense of the local population.

The best solutions are those that involve numerous parties working together to create a tangible, workable solution.

There will always be food crises to one degree or another. But as we grow in our understanding of what causes them, we can also grow in our ability to bring them to an end.