Category Archives: Environment

World Water Day 2018…and decade


Exactly one month late, but Happy World Water Day Everyone!

Every year, I celebrate World Water Day on this blog by writing about the current state of water. I have to admit, my past “celebrations” have been quite critical and bleak.

You can check for yourself:

This year, I want to be more hopeful and more positive. I want to look to the future.

By now you’ve all heard about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and have them all memorized by heart.

(If not, here’s a little reminder: UN Sustainable Development Goals)

Goal #6 is “Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.” That’s ALL the people in the world, having safe drinking water and effective wastewater handling, by the year 2030.

Ambitious? Yes. Exciting? Very Yes!

In the year 2000, the world embarked on the Millennium Development Goals. The goal for water was to “halve the number of people without access to safe drinking water and sanitation” by the year 2015. The result? Not only did we succeed, we reached this goal 5 years early (In fact, water was the first MDG to be reached!). By the year 2010, nearly 2 billion people had gained access to improved water sources. By the year 2015, that number was up to 2.6 billion. Sanitation was improved for 2.1 billion people.

The SDG aims to build on this progress by providing the remaining population with water and sanitation. Can it be done? We’ve done it before. But, how? During the MDG, we saw that there was no one magic formula or model, that activities of all types and all scales made significant impacts where implemented.  We also saw that individual citizens were the drivers of this progress. From supporting grassroots NPOs to pressuring and guiding government policies, progress was driven by our common understanding that water is essential for health, and when our neighbors are healthy, we are healthy. (It is also a basic human right).

To get us started on the path to this future, 2018 is the start of the Water Action Decade. During the next ten years, the UN and its member countries will further strengthen cooperation for water development. But actions aren’t limited to big international development banks. Support your local NPOs or just spread the word. Here are some links to get started:

Sustainable Development Goal #6

Water Action Decade

Water Action Decade in Japan

People’s Guide to SDG #6 (NGO Mining Working Group,

Hope International Development Agency


World Water Day 2016


World Water Day.  I’ve been advocating for it for a few years now (along with World Toilet Day!).  It’s a day to draw attention to the importance of access to clean, safe water, not just for drinking, but for health, economic growth, and social justice.  The advocacy usually focuses on developing countries, due their lack of infrastructure and development.

This year, I’m forced to shift the focus to “the richest nation in the world”.

This is what the water sometimes looks like in my hotel room in Yangon, Myanmar (or for the older folks in the room: Rangoon, Burma).  You may have heard of this country.  It’s the country whose military government imprisoned a Nobel Peace Prize winner for over 15 years.  It recently had the first open election since 1990 (PS: the result of this election was that the military government didn’t like the results so it arrested the winners, and stayed in power).



Now, this is what (what I hear) the water looks like at a hospital in Flint, Michigan.


I bet you think I’m going to make the indictment here, by saying, “See, there’s no difference!”  Unfortunately, there is a difference.  A BIG difference.  The water in Flint (and by some estimates, up to 20% of all water supplies in the US), contains lead.  I’m not going to explain the health effects of lead.  We all already know.

Here is where the social justice comes in.  In any other country, heads would roll.  In Japan, almost literally, as governors, city officials, and anybody else linked to such a scandal (or more appropriately, a crime) would likely take their own lives in shame (I’m not saying they should, or that it serves a positive purpose.  But, it’s likely something like that would happen).  In China, the recent anti-corruption campaigns have not only ousted, but imprisoned and even executed the most powerful names in Chinese politics, even in the military.  A quick look at the US reveals a much different landscape.  Not even a fine is to be seen.  Quite the opposite, millions of federal dollars are flowing into the governor’s office for “relief”.  That’s of course because the real (and only) victims are the citizens of Flint, especially the children.  And they really do need every cent.  A slight inconvenience of a congressional hearing is all the governor really suffered.  It’s standard operating procedure for the political class nowadays.

I work in developing countries to improve access to clean water.  It’s what I feel is the best application of my skill sets to contribute to independence, sustainability, equality, and ultimately, peace.  To see something like this happen in the US, a country I consider home, is devastatingly disheartening.  I do what I do because I believe everyone deserves safe water.  How is it that this now includes the “richest nation on Earth”?  This did not happen due to lack of technology.  America is the most advanced nation in the world.  This did not happen due to lack of funds.  America is the richest nation in the world.  It happened because of greed.  It happened because the people no longer have a voice in the greatest democracy on Earth.

What does that leave for the countries making heroic efforts to supply their citizens with water that doesn’t make them sick?  What does that leave for people like me that spend their lives working hand-in-hand with these nations?

Fortunately, infrastructures exist that allow Americans to advocate for themselves.  Many municipalities have policies requiring disclosure of water quality results.  Just ask.  They will come to your house to test your water, for free.  Just ask.  Simple test kits are available online.  Just ask, google (another great American institution).

It has to work in the US.  If not, how can it work anywhere else?  Or, are you waiting for the Burmese to show you how it’s done?

World Toilet Day 2014!!!




I know it’s not until tomorrow, but I just couldn’t wait! Tomorrow, November 19th, is World Toilet Day! Why am I so excited? Because it’s really important, I am fortunate enough have it, even though 2.5 BILLION people still don’t. That’s more than people lacking cell phones. So, if you take sanitation for granted, I dare you to “not use a toilet” for even just one day (Actually, I don’t, because it could have serious health consequences, which, you know, is kind of the point I’m trying to make).

↓↓↓Watch this to become smarter↓↓↓


It’s World Water Day again.

Where I am living, I walk past this kind of water everyday.  It smells like it’s giving me cancer.  And it’s going directly into the ocean.  Please be aware that this is still the reality.

Sneaky Wallets


Got bored and inspired at the same time…and came up with these.  Don’t have to worry about pick-pockets anymore, but gotta be careful no one throws it away by mistake!




SONY DSC…………………………………….




Dirty Work


Today, we went go get some algae samples.  What better spot than Beira Lake in the heart of Colombo!

We had to make sure we got really really good samples, so we:

Sampled from the dock



Then the park,



Then from the middle, by paddle duck



It’s a tough, dirty job, but someone has to do it.  You’re welcome!

Food Generation


After the last batch of my tomatoes, basil and other vegetables, I just cut the stalks and left the pots fallow.  It rained a few days last week, and with no effort on my part, a new generation of life has sprung up, like weeds, but actually food.  In the US and Japan, I often found it very difficult to grow tomatoes from the seeds of the previous generation.  Here, it only takes a little bit of rain.  I’m pleasantly surprised, but worried about possible unpleasant truths about the modification/engineering of American/Japanese crops and seeds.



New generation of tomato, basil and kankun