A Solstice View on Water and Ethics


The solstice reminds us that the long, warm days of summer will start getting shorter and shorter. What happened to those hopeful days of Spring? How is it possible that on this first official day of summer (here in the northern hemisphere), summer suddenly seems finite?

We feel we need more time, but what we really need is a strategy for making best use of those precious summer days before they disappear. Here's the analogy I'm suggesting: Just as the Solstice reminds us that summer is finite, climate change reminds us that natural ecosystems have limits. Our rivers are getting "shorter" and no longer reaching the sea.

We need strategies to bring our rivers, lakes and aquifers back to health. But in contrast to the pipe dream of an endless summer, there really are ways to regenerate rivers and develop sustainable urban water systems. In fact, there are lots of ways, depending on our values and priorities: Do rivers have rights? Should we treat water as a commons? What about the values of traditional and Indigenous Peoples?

Developing the right water strategies hinges on clarifying our values, so our strategies move us in a direction we want to go. But there's still another important step: Once we sort our often conflicting and overlapping values into a tidy hierarchical set of value principles, we need to "reflect" on whether the values we feel are so important are actually the right ones! This is where ethics can serve as a decision-support tool, helping us organize our values and select the right strategies and actions to support those values.

By clarifying our values and reflecting on what's really important, we can make better decisions about water, and put those long summer days to good use too!

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