January 16, 2014

A Vehicle for Water Ethics


Two years ago I was working on my master’s degree, concentrating on water and its relation to sustainability. I was not quite sure of how to put my ideas together into a practical and meaningful application. As I was doing research for a paper on water privatization, I came across a small book by Robert William Sandford and Merrell-Ann S. Phare called Ethical Water: Learning to Value What Matters Most. This book, while small in size was big on content and became the basis for the rest of my academic career and the inspiration for my self-designed degree. All of my thinking about water seemed to suddenly find its focus.

The issue with water went beyond the disproportionate amounts that people had access to and the shortages and lack of sanitation that were occurring around the world. The real problem seemed to be in how easily water was ignored by most people unless there was some issue relating to either its lack or abundance. It was not appreciated for its value in everything including not just health and sanitation, but manufacturing, transportation, energy, and literally every aspect of our lives. Without water there would be no life as we know it on earth.

As the importance of all this took hold of me, I also questioned how I could pass on this vital understanding to others. I knew this would be difficult for any one person to do and I wondered how much impact I could realistically have. My idea was to try and pass these lessons on to children, the water stewards of tomorrow. I carried this notion forward into my thesis, “Water Ethics in Elementary Education.” I discovered there were no easy answers, as is so often the case in life. My research exposed as many new questions as answers, but it did not reduce my resolve or the importance of the message. I am still looking for a meaningful outlet to help people understand the significance of water in every aspect of our lives. I hope by reading my thesis, you will begin to understand some of the challenges in teaching our children about the ethics of water as well as the importance to do so.

Nancy Wells, Self-Designed MA in Water Ethics & Sustainability (*)

(*) The author's work (MA thesis) can be downloaded here.  Usual copyrights apply, please contact the author for further information.


7 comments:

  1. What a great thesis topic! Any way to see what you came up with? :)

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    1. Please see the link above. Thanks for sharing with us Nancy!

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  2. Dear Nancy, congratulations on successfully designing and conducting this study! Can you share 1 or 2 key insights from your work? What do you think can be changed in the educational system to promote ideas on water ethics?

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    1. Project WET has been working on some great innovative teaching methods involving water for over 25 years. I would like to see more educators become familiar with their ideas.

      I also would like to be able to show educators how water can become a part of the lessons in all subjects and not limited to just science. It really is a part of everything and should not be so limited.

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  3. Truly, school is THE place for kids to learn about the importance of water. As you said "The difficulty appears to be in getting people to listen and change". I guess this is the heart of the problem. However, children (or even students) are the best audience for awareness campaigns, and they will be tomorrow's parents.

    Do you know of school programs targetting water awareness through maths, sciences and perhaps religion? Did you discuss this idea with school educators regarding specific school activities (e.g. school trip, science experiments etc.) and water awareness?

    How do you explain the apparent "apathy" towards more water-related awareness? This is also related to Lucy's question.

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  4. The one area where educators seemed to be successful in getting the students out of classrooms was to study watersheds. I discovered this was happening in various areas across the country.
    I find this very encouraging and a trend that I hope continues. The more we can do to help encourage a love and appreciation for water, the better.
    Now if we could just convince the administrators about the importance of including water across the curriculum instead of only a portion of science...

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  5. This is a great topic and I would like to congratulate you on conducting the study. I look forward to see more of your work and ideas so keep us posted.

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