March 22 is World Water Day. It’s the biggest splash you’ve never heard of. Why?
Perhaps because it’s also National Goof-Off Day—a good old American invention, unofficial but thriving. The two celebrations make a paradoxical confluence, here in the Land of Carefree.
When it comes to water, we richly irrigated Americans have been goofing off for centuries. Never mind that we owe our lives, our economy and all our wondrous goof-off options to this vital treasure.
Think of your favorite spring-weekend rec. In some way or another, it requires plentiful water.
Maybe you’ll find a ski trail still viable somewhere in the mountains. Or you’ll aim coastward, behind waves of college kids on spring break, to relish a sea wind and walk barefoot in some cold sand.
Year-round, we Americans are great at celebrating our plentiful waters—canoe trips and skaters’ ice, our sails and surf boards and fishing holes, lazy inner-tube floats downriver, creekside trails, the briny steam of boiled Bay crabs with a local microbrew.
Without the year-round work of water and its caretakers—atmosphere, mountain ecosystems, river species, estuaries, marine communities—our whole economy would tank.
So would our spring spirits. No cherry blossoms along the Potomac. No spring peepers chiming at dusk. No March suppers of gritty green onions pulled fresh from a clammy garden. Or hot soakie-bath to cap off a day outdoors!
Even sitting indoors half-comatose at a computer, the human body is itself 60 percent water. We’re utterly connected to the whole blue-green world and its atmosphere “out there.”
That’s why it’s odd—and alarming—how agreeably we wreck our own waters today, their beneficial inhabitants and watersheds.
We do this not intentionally but in pure oblivion, dumping household toxins down the drain, deforesting neighborhoods, river banks and mountainsides, slathering the home turf with agrochemicals.
Then we vote for politicians who hand our common waters over to the “care” of private industries.
Those industry groups themselves don’t intentionally set out to squander these waters, either. But a corporation’s work, as seen today, is to produce the biggest, fastest profit for its owners—not oversee the long-term public interest.
Protecting water requires public leadership, not just the chaotic storms of private markets.
But thanks to the new cash-flooded electoral system, Congress is currently log-jammed with private industrial agendas.
They include ducking the Clean Water Act and endangered species protections, handing over public lands to logging, mining and fracking interests, and opening up drilling in fragile off-shore ecosystems.
How did this mess evolve? Nobody wants lawmakers who attack our own waters and homeland.
Well, that’s where constant streams of PR pollution come down the pike.
Even as elected officials goof off on the public watch, armies of policy marketers, PR consultants and dark-money groups remain hard at work, mass-producing the robotic talking points that make self-destruction sound like a great idea.
Chief among these points: a recirculated Industrial Age myth about what constitutes “work.”
According to this fossilized view, only humans “work.” And we work, according to this political jargon, only for mega-corporate interests (“our job creators”), not via small farms, fisheries, solar tech or local businesses.
Our biosphere (that big business that makes any work possible) is meanwhile considered jobless, indigent, “unproductive.” Any endeavor to protect working ecosystems amounts to an assault on our own “jobs.”
This hogwash would be comical if we didn’t swallow it so readily, our reasoning channels choked with plastic flotsam and propaganda.
Let’s be logical. Even those beloved conservative logicians, Thomas Aquinas and Marcus Aurelius, noted that every species has a job. Everything in nature works to further the long-term common good.
“Do you not see the little plants, the little birds, the ants, the spiders, the bees working together to order their several parts of the universe,” Marcus Aurelius wrote to himself, “and you’re unwilling to do the work of a human being?”
These days, with our “jobs” defined by political jargon, it’s hard to remember what “the work of a human being” is.
These old sages figured our work was, in fact, to understand the workings of nature—and to develop ourselves for its good, not destruction. They even called this “the good life.”
Today, it’s called “sustainable development.” It’s the theme of this year’s World Water Day.
If all of this thinking and action sounds like work, it is. But protecting a biosphere that works doesn’t mean we ourselves can’t kick back and enjoy the good life. In fact, it’s the only way we can.