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Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee

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World Water Day 2011: Appreciating the Power of Water

Posted: 03/22/11 06:29 PM ET

On this year's World Water Day the attention of the world is focused on the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on March 11. The destruction and havoc wrought continues to unfold as the nuclear crisis worsens; many now fear that things could become even worse and impact the northeast of Japan for decades to come. As we all watch the alarming and powerful images coming out of Japan, I am again struck by the tremendous power of the natural world, and how water, the very substance that sustains life, can so quickly take it away. But I find myself wondering: can we use this crisis as an opportunity to again reevaluate our relationship with water and the natural world? Can we remember how fundamental it is to our existence, and how fragile our sophisticated world is when confronted with either too much or too little water?

Around the world environmentalists, scientists, economists and politicians are telling us that our future well-being and prosperity depend on water, our most precious resource. Many say that that peak oil could be overshadowed by a global water crisis as unsustainable agricultural, industrial and domestic use strain a finite water supply impacted by population growth, pollution and climate change. But is that really all water is, a resource whose sole function is to provide us with services?

For thousands of years, across cultures, water has been recognized as much more than simply a natural resource. Sacred, revered, and even sentient, it has been known as the "source of life" and has become a central part of many of the world's cultures, religions and spiritual traditions. Many of these cultures and traditions believe we are interconnected with and dependent on water, not just for our physical existence but also for our emotional, spiritual and psychological well-being. Is this just spiritual and religious nonsense, or should we look more closely at the multidimensional role water plays in our lives? As we grapple with the severity of not only the water crisis but the ecological crisis at large, maybe we should consider drawing upon this understanding and using it to help bring about the needed changes and solutions to problems we face.

These are many of the questions I've been asking myself over the last few years that eventually led me to make a film about our connection with water. After spending the last year traveling the world and seeing firsthand how bad the problems are, I am convinced that for real change to take place, we have to look at water and the natural world as an interconnected part of our lives, and to develop solutions from that understanding.

I, for one, want to use this year's World Water Day as a call to action and an opportunity to reflect on water, considering the many ways it impacts our daily lives.

Watch the trailer for "Elemental," a feature documentary film coming in 2012 (you can get involved and support the film here):