Fresh Water and Cultural Stability

As CI prepares for World Water Week later this month, the human connection to fresh water is evident everywhere I look. Although we may take it for granted in developed countries, access to fresh water underlies all of our other concerns; without it, we would cease to exist. Yet despite this reliance, climate change and other man-made forces continue to threaten water security around the world.

No one is immune to the issues facing freshwater ecosystems. However, it is becoming clear that small indigenous communities in isolated areas are among the first to feel the impacts of these threats.

Members of the Kamayurá tribe in the Amazon are slowly going hungry as deforestation and climate change make their homeland hotter and drier, shrinking water supplies and reducing fish stocks. On another continent, in the “cradle of civilization” between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, drought, pollution and lashes between Iraq, Syria and Turkey are taking a toll on the livelihoods of local Marsh Arabs. They are now are being forced to import fish from Iran, an unsettling turn of events for a culture which has relied on fishing for millennia.

As in the past, modern societies faced with catastrophic changes in their environment must either adapt or relocate. While relocation is without a doubt far less tragic than death, it is a difficult choice for many due to high costs and the fact that as the global population grows, there are fewer and fewer places to go.

Also, in assimilating with other communities, cultures risk losing their unique languages, art, traditions and overall worldview – regional knowledge which has been molded by the communities’ past. If lost, the lack of this knowledge could make finding regional environmental solutions even more of a challenge.

CI is working with indigenous communities and organizations all over the world to incorporate their cultural heritage and unique perspectives into regional conservation practices. Through this work, community members have a bigger chance of mitigating and adapting to change rather than disappearing along with their homelands.


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  3. Judy McDade says

    To Conservation International: I would like to bring to your attention
    a local matter in my county of Monroe,WV. We are fighting for our right
    to keep clean water, eliminate noise and air pollution and the destruction of our roads if Gas Drillers such as Chesapeake and Gordy Oil are given the permits they seek to drill gas wells using the “FRACK’
    METHOD OF EXTRACTION. Our whole way of life is threatened. For each
    well that is FRACKED, it is required a minimum of ONE MILLION GALLONS
    OF WATER that is injected into the ground loaded with harmful, cancer
    causing material. Our county is unique in the fact that we are setting
    about an extensive cave system or KARST. Our water table is already
    lower over many years of drought like conditions, and gas drillers will
    draw water from whereever they find it to make their toxic cocktail.
    This is a farming community, gas drillers are coming up against
    resistence such as our group, SAVE THE WATER TABLE, AND THE SIERRA CLUB
    AND FRAC CHECK,WV. This may be our local fight, but it is a fight that
    is happening in NY,PENNA,TEXAS AND I AM SURE OTHER PARTS OF THE USA, Halliburton and with help from Dick Cheney has come up with the method of “FRACKING” and also during Cheneys’ term in office has made the gas
    companies exempt from the DEP regulations. You talk about saving our
    water, I wish that you would google, Wetzel County,WV and fracking, and
    google a man by the name of Ray Renaud and hear his story, our rent the
    movie, GASLAND, google our organization, SOWT-Save The Water
    Please help us.

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