I am swimming. I love swimming. I love diving out of the desert heat into the cool water. I love playing water volleyball and basketball and marco polo. I even love swimming laps for exercise. I love being buoyant in the water. My favorite part is the mirror the underside of the surface makes when you swim on the bottom and look toward the sky. This water is not too hot, not too cold. It is crystal clear—the perfect balance of transparency and blue. There are a few leaves that have blown in since I started swimming, but mostly it is clean. It is beyond clean—the water is filtered, chlorinated, pH balanced. I have a glass of water sitting on the edge of the pool. I filled it from the tap at my house, but it is has gone through a reverse osmosis treatment—same as bottled waters. I am lucky.
I am lucky that I live in a part of the United States where clean water is readily available. I am lucky that my family is able to afford not just adequate, but exceptional water purifying systems in our home. I am lucky because most people in the world do not have clean water. They do not have clean water for drinking, bathing, or cleaning. I have it for recreation.
And I have clean water for recreation available in the desert southwest where our river–the Rio Grande—is drying up, where our water table has dropped over ten feet in the last decade alone, where agriculture is the major industry, and where thirsty pecan trees are a major crop. I am about to leave the United States for a year long service trip that is focused on drinkable water and thinkable education. We start in Cambodia building floating latrines for floating villages. These people live on the water—figuratively and literally. Their water is polluted and their children are dying of dysentery and other diseases that come from drinking dirty water. A few years ago I spent a week on the Ganges in Varanasi, India. The river there is one of the most polluted waterways in the world. It is also one of the holiest for Hindus. In Varanasi people fish, wash their clothes, and ritually cleanse their bodies and souls in its waves. Cleanliness is not as simple as it first appears.
Water is not a city issue. Water is not a state issue. Water is not a national issue. Water is a universal issue. Water is an issue that affects every person on this planet. Water is an issue that affects every person regardless of nationality, religion, bank account, gender, or politics. We might not agree on the solutions, but we can talk about that. Water gets us to a table where all persons have a seat. Water is the common ground that can unite us beyond borders–beyond the borders of religion, nation, and politics—as humans in a struggle to save ourselves and save the planet.
When we are at the table we can talk about ending war by realizing peace. We can talk about those differences that divide us and those differences that bring us together. While talking about water we can see each other for who we are. Not enemies endeavoring to destroy an other’s way of life, but humans working to preserve their own. Or forge a new way. I am going with Pathfinders Project to to eight countries over one year to work for peace. Pathfinders Project is a humanist project. It is a drinkable water project. It is a thinkable education project. For me, these are all, truly, peace projects. I am circling the globe to work on sustainable water. But, while doing so, I am also working with coffee roasters in my hometown to discover and create water sustainable coffee to help sustain the Pathfinders this year—and to help create a permanent humanist service corps. I am working globally and locally because water is neither a global nor a local issue. It is a human issue and an issue for all life. Coffee roasters in New Mexico should care about polluted holy water in India. Hindus in India should care about floating latrines in Cambodia. Floating villagers in Cambodia should care about water sustainable coffee in South America. Coffee growers in South America should care about the Rio Grande drying up in New Mexico. As I should care about water everywhere—even as I swim in my crystal pool on the eve of my departure. Because water is water. And water is life.