May you live in interesting times. 

I keep on thinking about this… prediction? wish? curse?

I sure do…. live in interesting times – a drought so critical that Cape Town, my home town that grew into a city, is on track to become the first modern city in recent history (notice all the factual disclaimers) to run out of water. And by run out I mean taps off, guns out. I kid you not. That’s actually the “disaster” plan. Bring in the national army to protect the water sources and citizens from killing each other to access their most essential resource and human right – water.

Is it ironic that Cape Town is surrounded by two voluptuous bodies of water? No, it’s nature having a good laugh at a situation predicted, by experts, years ago. And what did the city do? Open the flood gates to more development and more development and even more development, until the Yellow Crane became most coveted bird in the city. Our new emblem- greed at all accounts. Actually no-one was accounting for this water usage. Because economic growth and political progress supersede everything, at the expense of everyone. And now look at us… with all our pretty hotels and modern advances and soon we will have to queue for water at a tap under gunpoint. Doesn’t sound progressive to me. Sounds like we are under the gun and that the politicians and their economic agendas put us there. Water is the new oil. And, like human need and greed, they don’t mix well together.

So back to that little inconvenient truth… “May you live in interesting times.”

The prediction is that it will happen. It’s coming. So steel yourself.

I guess the wish is that these times test our character and force us to check ourselves before we wreck the planet.

The curse? That the former happens and the latterdoesn’t.

In wishing good character on myself, I am going to see the drought as a teacher, and start to rack and stack some lessons along the way.

Matter of life and death: Yes, we desperately need to keep this golf courses green. People will die without their daily “greens”. 

Four lessons I have learnt from the drought:

  • Being present saves water

Strange but true. When I live and act for the future, my mind is not focused on the task at hand, which I usually rush anyway in order to arrive at my future destination. so to speak. The result is that I am clumsy. I spill coffee on my clothes, knock over cups, and generally make a mess of things. I used to put it down to my “clumsy” nature, like it was something I couldn’t change or needed to. But the truth is that it I am not mindful of what I am doing. The consequence of these mindless actions being that I need water to wash my clothes, mop the floor, clean up the mess. Before I would just throw that dirty dress in the wash and think nothing of it. But now?

  • Is bathing a ritual or a right?

My sister’s partner in London is old school English. He baths every few days. My mother flinched at this idea and, if I am honest, so did I. Perhaps it is foreign to us, who live in hot countries and lead outdoor lifestyles. We need to wash. Or do we? I work indoors and my yoga classes don’t make me sweat. Like drinking, it is often just the social conditioning that keeps me partaking in this ritual when I don’t need to. It times of water, I never ask myself…do I even need to shower? Or could I maybe just soap up and towel off? or could it wait…another day? These are simple questions that people living in the 34th driest country during a time of global warming and water scarcity should be asking, and finding answers too, every day.

  • Over riding the system has shown me the value of ownership and accountability

I shower into a bathtub. That water is then used to fill my toilet cistern, as and when it is really needed. And I don’t shower again until the bathtub is empty and I am in need of water for my toilet. A bucket of hot water is all I need to wash my hair, giving that water back into my tub. What I have learnt is that, when you override the system, be it political or plumbing, you put yourself back in the chain of events, the chain of command, the chain of responsibility. Suddenly you start to understand how things work, which makes you care when it doesn’t or how you can make it better on your end. It’s a simple exercise in taking ownership instead of letting the system do all the work and just complaining when it collapses. No-one cares about systems and everyone wants to beat them. Unless you are part of it and have a vested interest in it.

  • Should politicians be making life decisions?

Bring back the experts not the populists. Why do politicians feel empowered to ignore and override the experts when they are just ribbon and red tape cutters. That’s all they are or should be… people who bring experts into the room and then shut up, listen and start turning that analysis into an proactive action plan….not reactive disaster relief. When politicians starts compromising and mismanaging our shared natural resources, as they are and have been doing, it’s time to declare them a disaster.

I may not have any say over the water supply, but I do have a say over my use and abuse of it. And it that way, I am grateful for the small lessons about myself, my habits and the systems that keep us conditioned into our way of being and seeing.

May you live in interesting times… and live to find your humanity in them. 

Categories: Commentary

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *