The following response is a contribution from a student at Youth Initiative High School in Viroqua, Wisconsin.
Water is a shared life force. It connects our world, flowing through all in existence in a never-ending cycle of vitality. I visualize the creeks and rivers as the veins of the earth; water is the blood of the land. Using this mindset, we can replace the concept of water as a resource with the undeniable fact that water is the driving force for all life. We must remember that our imperative relationship with water is not symbiotic. Life needs water, water does not need life. And in this postulation, we find the absolute and indisputable need for responsibility. Not responsibility to the water itself, but the life that relies on it.
To remind ourselves of our responsibilities to water, we must first respect it. And to respect something, we have to recognize its value. Water in a liquid state, as far as we have explored, is rarity in our galaxy and is a large factor in what makes life possible on planet Earth.
However, recognizing the importance of water is only a small portion of the issue. We could all sit in a circle and sing kumbaya by the river and appreciate that without water we would, in fact, die. But in doing this, we still maintain the mindset that water’s only purpose is to keep our mouths wet and skin healthy. In order to fully understand the role we play in the zoetic cycle of water, we must begin by giving up the concept of water as a resource. If water isn’t a resource then what can we define it as? And would that still allow us to define other raw materials, such as oil and coal, as resources? This is the poster-child of indeterminate arguments. Not only because of the indefinite gray areas, but also because the base of the dispute is definitions, the very tool we use to aid our arguments, no matter the stance taken. We forget that the entirety of nature is a gray area, beyond our comprehension. Until we let go of our conventional definition of water used by corporations and industries and return to our primordial ways of understanding nature, we will never save what was never ours to save—or dilapidate.
Labels and definitions are ways of creating the web illusion of control humanity has weaved for itself. It is a life line, a safety net, and a never-ending shit show of miscommunications. If one were to take a pin and stick it on the timeline of human existence to mark the very instance humanity went wrong, the exact moment would be the invention of written word. Everything in our understanding of nature are comparisons and juxtaposed ideas. However the human race must maintain its grasp on reality; we must be in control. Therefore when the idea of water as a life force rather than a resource is introduced, we draw back into our safe space of definitions where our cut-and-dry understandings reside.
Where do we begin our search for a solution to the way we regulate water? By first understanding that we do not regulate water, water regulates us. We will always be at the mercy of water. As the famous poet W.H Auden once said: “Thousands have lived without love, not one without water.” We rid our minds of the idea that we are in control and remind ourselves that not only is control impossible, but also unnecessary. And lastly, just as water takes on many forms, our definitions and labels (of water) should become as malleable and open to new understandings.