For ten years the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation has funded social action, education and short films on environmental issues. The actor and environmentalist has a particular fondness – and concern — for the ocean as well as the global need for clean drinking water. Below, he speaks on his passion.
We live on a water planet.
Through the millennium the water cycle has supported all life.
Shaping weather, the seasons, and the climate, providing habitats for most of the world’s living things, and most of them including us are almost entirely made up of water.
Now consider this. Water is a finite source. A limited resource. Only a tiny fraction of the earth’s water is fresh.
It supports everything from agriculture and sanitation to aquatic ecosystems like rivers and streams. Water falls unevenly across the planet, while much of it is locked up in glaciers, permanent snow cover, ice and permafrost. Water is also stuck underground very deep in the earth and hard to reach.
To make matters worse, water is being threatened by pollution, overpopulation, climate change, mismanagement, and war.
Pollution is so severe that diseases are increasing in both humans and animals and habitats are being destroyed. Rain is turning into acid. So many chemicals flow into rivers and lakes that the actual composition of water in some places has been fundamentally changed.
Human encroachment is also drying out aquifers, diverting the natural flow of rivers and straining water supplies. Hidden in everyday consumption is the careless and unnecessary waste of water.
Dams displace millions of people and destroy whole ecosystems.
Global warming is altering the water cycle causing more severe and unpredictable flooding and droughts, ultimately shifting where water flows. Unregulated corporate privatization threatens access to water for the poor. Some governments fail to deliver water where it is needed most. These stresses have created military and political conflicts that will only get worse.
Ultimately, humanity is poisoning, squandering and overburdening water resources. The result is, that billions of people lack access to clean water. Millions of children die every year from preventable water-born diseases. Lack of clean water and basic sanitation cracks people in poverty. People are fighting and dying for it.
We are at a crisis point. We still have time to turn this around. We can conserve water and not waste it. Invest in smart water infrastructure and technologies. Increase environmental regulations from polluting industries. Tell government leaders to fulfill financial pledges for clean water Insure that water is not treated like a commodity.
But most important, we must recognize that access to clean water is a basic human right and the United Nations should adopt a global treaty for the right to water.
Water equals life, there is no separation. By protecting water, we can protect ourselves and this blue planet for future generations.