By Serap Brown/ 18 Feb 2019
I almost hear the water whispering in Guadalajara, Mexico, speaking for dryness on the land, calling gently for collaboration to bring water back. In this silent invitation, I observe what happens when cities get developed, and how the colour of landscapes change from lively green and blue to pale gray. I see empty beds of creeks and rivers, some are now used as roads that people drive on and some have been turned into sewage that carry wastes of cities, wastes that do not belong to water. I face the reality of what happens when rivers dry out, while listening to an environmental scientist, Graham Strickert, describing how satellite images are now showing that water table is consistently sinking down in some sections of earth due to increased extraction. Is this due to climate change? I face the harsh reality of possibility of drought, something that I have not been connected with, due to having lived in cities with many trees and abundance of water.
I experience scarcity of water here in downtown Guadalajara, not because of lack of water at the Oasis that I stay in, called Casa Anima Rural, but at the time when we drive to town on the double lane road that was once a creek. I experience pain for water in the City of Guadalajara while looking at a public park named “Blue Water”, not because of lack of greenery in the park, but because of the rivers that were once meeting there and now covered with double, triple lane asphalt roads. And I do experience scarcity of water at the time I am listening to “Being Water” presentation, given by Susan Shantz and Graham Strickert, in the library built on an old river bank, shaken by trains and trucks as they go by leaving the dust behind. And I feel the scarcity as I go out to the courtyard of the library, seeing stumps of a few trees left in a stone covered garden, each standing on small amount of soil squeezed between stone tiles. I am puzzled.
Where I am staying at tells a different story of the land, a land that stands out as a green patch on a brown land. There are kind hearted people who have made this land possible with the vision they hold strongly, a vision of a green land with many trees. Anima Casa Rural, which used to sit on a very dry and grassy landscape, is now a farm with palm trees, fruit trees, cactuses, flowers, animals and honey comb looking guest house in the garden. So, is it a choice that we can make?
Julian has joined in the efforts of his mother and father for creating this landscape and is conscious that water table (level) has gone down in this region in his life time. He has a strong belief of bringing the water table up despite the trees he has seen cut down in his neighborhood and the industry built around. His strong vision of bringing the water table up and keeping the land green invites people to this creation from many parts of the world, such as artists, activists, academics holding similar visions. He says, he works even harder in the garden as the wind blows on his face, bringing him dryness in air. He diligently continues to water the trees, plants in the garden and waits patiently for the water table coming up. Graham mentions that there is support from research for bringing water table up. Julian says that he is happy to hear about this, feeling comfort and encouragement for what he visions. I then realize that beliefs are not just beliefs but they are pathways to realities.
Choices. I experience two different choices in Guadalajara, Mexico with respect to water. One choice is making the soil thirsty, by drying out creeks and rivers, cutting down trees and leaving dust blown away by the wind. This choice contributes to the water travelling down on earth, not being able to be pumped up by trees. This choice leaves humans to the condition of draught on the land. The second choice is making the soil reunite with water, by planting trees to allow them slowly pump the water up and provide a pathway to water. This choice contributes to water table being elevated and the land being green.
I hear the deep concern of locals and share their pain for those cut down trees, dried out creeks, and polluted rivers. And I keep telling to myself that playing with waterways is not a joke. Relationship with water is a choice. There is always a choice to make to be in good relations with water.
Note: This reflection was inspired by attending the program "Being Water" at Anima Casa Rural and discussing the science behind dryness of the land due to human activities, such as cutting down trees and extracting rivers, not just in Mexico but all around the world. Trees are very precious and they are in an essential relationship with water. It gives me so much pain that there are old forests being cut down every day on Vancouver Island. My hope is to keep the trees on land so that they can continue their relationship to water, continue to be the pathways to water cycle. The trees serve as water ways and help water pump up the ground, transfer the water into the air. Through that circulation, we can breath. Water sustains life and we must keep water ways alive.