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.