Cristin’s Climate Story: Water as a Homestead

When I was younger, I would race down to the lake with my older brothers, careful not to trip on tree roots and cinder blocks we used for stairs, and competed to see who would dunk their head in the freezing cold water first.

We made everything into a game, no matter how pruney our fingers got or how close the fish swam underneath our feet. The lake inspired a youthful playfulness that I couldn’t find anywhere else.

Where there is water, there is home. Growing up with a cabin on a lake makes this sentence true to many Minnesotans, myself included. Every summer I spent my weekends driving with my family two hours to the house that my mother grew up in. It wasn’t anything spectacular, just a simple abode built into the side of a hill, on one of the many lakes named after fish in the Midwest. But to my five-, 10-, 16-, 20-year-old self, it was an adventure, a journey, a place to reflect and escape, a sanctuary.

Kayaking is what I cherished most. We raced across the water, cutting and pushing back the waves to see who would tire before reaching the sandbar and into the cove. I was in a state of euphoria as I slipped my hand into the ice cold water, feeling complete with myself, connected to the water and its almighty power to produce life. As we got closer to the sandbar, I could see the outlines of fish darting in and out of the leafy algae. With the sun shining on my face as I closed my eyes and tilted my face towards the sky. I could hear my brothers laughing in the distance; one of them tipped their kayak and was finding it fairly difficult to get back in. This was home.

I don’t see my brothers much anymore, now that they’ve moved out of the house. It wasn’t until I visited one of them in Arizona that I realized how precious it was to grow up with water in abundance.

There was not a single body of water to be seen, not even a pothole puddle. It was if I had stepped onto a different planet. Water is a source of life and stability, a symbol of homeostasis for humans and the environment.

My reflections during this trip made me wonder: What is a life without water like?

Many people around the world live a life without water, one without at least fresh, clean water that is easily accessible. The American Southwest is facing water inequality, with much of the water being fed to California as it is still suffering from a massive drought, leaving states like Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico dry and vulnerable to droughts and wildfires, all caused by global climate change. These states all are sharing the water from Lake Mead, which according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, “ is likely to dip below the critical threshold of 1,075 feet above sea level late next year” (Holthaus, 2018). Yet, in the meantime, Minnesota is getting warmer and wetter from climate change due to an increase of precipitation, causing devastating floods and damage to our farmland.

Where there is water, there is home. A home without access to water cannot remain stable for people. Much of the world has never had the luxury of clean, accessible water, much less felt the powerful feeling of a kayak paddle pushing the water back, as if to tame it, or the slight tug of a fish on the line, as I have, as most Minnesotans have. It is simply a miracle to turn on the faucet and have water free of lead and other chemicals come spewing from the nozzle, practically free to take for our liking. That lake, the lakes, the river, the faucet — all so precious and we don’t even know it.

So what can we do about it?

What is happening in Arizona may not have any effect on people living in Minnesota, but we could make it affect us. We could reach out to our Southwest neighbors in their time of crisis and lend a helping hand as well as a large helping of our surplus of drinking water. If one of the impacts of climate change that we are seeing is a wetter Minnesota, why not find ways to capture it, and share it to help others? We need to create thoughtful solutions for our country to ensure it remains a home for all. Let’s make our neighbors feel at home with the gift of Earth’s most precious resource.

Holthaus, Eric. “The Water War That Will Decide the Fate of 1 in 8 Americans.” Grist, Grist, 2 May 2018, grist.org/article/the-water-war-that-will-decide-the-fate-of-1-in-8-americans/.

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