A World Without Water
“Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.
Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.” — The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (text of 1834)
My landlords cut the water supply to my unit last week. The explanation given at the time was that the water table was too low for the tank to pump properly, but somehow the restaurant below me had no interruption in service.
I have to admit, I was stunned. I had been in the middle of doing much-needed laundry and conducting meetings, when it stopped. The machines, faucets and toilets, EVERYTHING.
During the last 18 months here, I’ve learned to adapt to being without many modern-day necessities. The regular island-wide electrical and wifi outages, as well as unreliable public transportation and safe exercise hubs have forced me into a scarcity mindset. But no drinking water was a whole other ball game, especially in the full-on heat of summer.
9 hours later, after some Bermudian lady friends had rushed over 5 and 2-gallon drums of water, and I’d staggered up the stairs with them to start jarring and cooling it, the belated government water truck finally refilled my tank.
I heaved a sigh of relief, took a very cold shower and plied my overheated puppy with a bowl of readily flowing ice. Going “back to normal”.
In the days to follow, however, it did get me thinking about Scarcity Writ Large, and what I am able to live without. 2 and 1/2 years of Covid have put me and all of us here. Living in radically different ways than we were only 3 years ago. Yes, some of us already worked from home and used zoom regularly. And some of us already had backyards or country houses we escaped to.
But for most of us, we are shopping differently, communicating differently, traveling differently. Consistently washing hands and wearing masks (I am at least) And maybe recognizing what we DON’T need and cutting back on it.
Having been marooned like Gilligan on this island for too long has also added to my perspective. I am surrounded by water that cannot be consumed, an increasingly poor community that must pay twice what even the wealthiest New Yorkers do for basics, and an economy entirely dependent on the whims of the rest of the world and climate change.
But losing clean drinking and bathing water was a final grim reality check, not only for me here, but also for much of the rest of the world — if not now, then very, very soon.
For those who haven’t been listening to BBC or CBC news, there are wildfires drying up much of what once were the lushest spots in Europe and Canada. Like Portugal, Spain and the entirely dry riverbeds of the Po Valley in Italy. In Bermuda, while we are not on fire or 41 C (106 F) we haven’t had enough rain to fill the tanks, like mine, or replenish the world-renowned golf courses and cricket fields that bring annual tourists and tournaments here but are now an uninviting brown.
So, what can we do?
The obvious answer should be, don’t consume so much water! If we can learn to shop differently, we can conserve water better. Can’t we?
Unfortunately, not really. At this point, with the EPA being gutted by Scotus, and Joe Manchin vetoing Biden’s Climate commitments, our options as individuals are increasingly limited. Of course, we can turn off the tap, limit toilet flushes and shower length, but unless larger efforts from NGOs, Private sector and non-profit interests really step up, our most precious commodity — life-giving water — will disappear.
Which is why my entire monetary legacy will pass to climate action and clean water initiatives for future generations to hopefully benefit from.
What will you do?
Holly Lynch is a 20+ year ESG and DEI communications veteran, board member, strategist and investor who has helped individuals and companies tackle the toughest challenges, transitions and transformations in their worlds. Having survived countless life setbacks and two rounds with terminal cancer, while seeing the country-wide collapse of the systems and safety nets for the most vulnerable in and outside our communities, she is now shifting her life and career trajectories to focus on coaching and consulting with those facing down fundamental shifts and transitions as they try to adapt to change while rebuilding their lives and businesses during these unprecedented times.