Imagine you are enjoying a cool drink while overlooking the beautiful crystal blue water of the Caribbean and the white sand beaches of the Bahamas. As you think about it, you wonder — where did these ice cubes come from, and where did the water come from that made the punch?
You’re surrounded by the beautiful seawater, but you know you can’t drink it. That leaves a small dot of an island as the only source for your water. More than likely the water in your drink came from a well. But given the small size of the island, the amount of fresh groundwater available is limited.
So the question: Where do tourists get their water? Do they get from it from the same well that the island’s residents do, or does the resort ship in its own water?
A bigger and better question: Could our youngest generation- who will be inheriting such water issues- be inspired to imagine solutions both creative and effective for solving such wicked problems?
More than likely, the resort takes the water out of the island aquifer and treats it to make the water a level of freshness acceptable to tourists. Unfortunately, as the water is drawn from the local aquifer and treated, the fresh water that remains for the Bahamian residents becomes saltier.
Is this fair to the residents? Which is more important, fresh water for the tourism industry or freshwater for island residents? Is the salty water from the aquifer a minor inconvenience for the residents who can buy bottled freshwater, or is it a social injustice that takes away a basic human right from the resident?
There are no simple answers to these questions. The fact is the residents need the tourism industry to earn money and make a living. On the other hand, the degradation of water quality is a negative impact on the islanders’ quality of life.
Such a dilemma represents a “wicked problem” (Rittel and Webber 1973). A wicked problem represents a conflict between stakeholders (tourists and Bahamians in this example) that has no clear-cut answers and no clear winners or losers. More than likely such a wicked problem will continue over time and never be resolved to either side’s satisfaction.
Around the world as people gobble up resource, create too much trash, plastic and waste – and as global weather cycles ebb and flow, the need for creative, unique and imagination-rich solutions is becoming more crucial. Did you watch the video about the billboard that makes water?
We CAN empower our tech-savvy and vulnerable youth who will be inheriting our planet. We can begin with one youth, one school and one community at a time. We can invest in solutions by empowering the very youth for whom we hope to save our global waters. We can begin with a hefty dose of FUN, the SUP kind.
Connecting technology, active ocean sport, resources and fertile ground for nurturing solutions can empower solutions for island communities challenged by wicked water issues. That is the premise of ELDER SUP’s crowd-funding project: STANDUP FOR MOTHER OCEAN. We will begin connecting our support and advocacy in than the incredible Commonwealth of the Bahamas.