Almost everything in the universe has a bit of water in it, the oceans, lakes, rivers and streams in different landscape are all connected to water. Hence 22nd of March every year is remarkably set aside to celebrate water all over the world. Still in its decade of water, the United Nations Water, with a theme on ‘Water and Energy’ for this year, brings to our attention, the water-energy nexus.
It is also pleasing that we can find in prose, poetry and drama, so many scenes and themes that celebrate water. I did not have to search too far before finding writers like Thomas Hardy among others who have written on water. Our choice for poetry below was because it is richer with water as a major topic and it comes from a writer that truly cares about nature
Talk of what it means to be an Octogenarian that still throws up the peace sign, the poet Wendell Berry comes to mind easily. He is not just an environmental activist, but accordingly, he has been described as a ‘prophet of responsibility’. Admirably, Wendell has maintained a family farming tradition that spans over 200 years, tilling the soil of Kentucky. Above all, he is a writer, a poet of repute with a lot of earthy poems to show for it. In his words, “It’s mighty hard right now to think of anything that’s precious that isn’t endangered.” And for sure , water is endangered, hence his special book titled ‘Farming: a handbook’ holds within its pages, a thought provoking poem on water.
I was born in the drought year.That summer my mother waited in the house, enclosed in the sun and the dry ceaseless wind, for the men to come back in the evenings, bringing water from a distant spring. Veins of leaves ran dry, roots shrank.
And all my life I have dreaded the return of that year, sure that it is still somewhere like a dead enemy’s soul. Fear of dust in my mouth is always with me, and I am the faithful husband of the rain. I love the water of the wells and the springs, and the taste of roofs in the water of cisterns.
I am a dry man whose thirst is praise of clouds, and whose mind is something of a cup. My sweetness is to wake in the night after days of dry heat, hearing the rain.
Wendell Berry writes with honesty and grace of a prophet and a poet. The poem on water carries a message with an urgency that crosses distance and national boundaries. It spreads to every nook and cranny, where water flows. Published in 1970, this poem portrays the reality that most people live today. For many, they have only memories of water; they mostly know dryness. Life for them is a picture of dry hot days with no crops surviving for harvest and barely clean water to quench their thirst. In particular, these experiences are reflected especially among the ‘bottom billion’ that live in slums and impoverished rural areas, lacking access to safe drinking water, adequate sanitation, sufficient food and energy services. According to the World Water Development Report, people who lack access to improved water sources and improved sanitation are also those who mostly lack access to electricity.
Beyond raising inter-linkages between water and energy as the theme of the day demands, we can do more. We can contribute to policy dialogues and relevant discussions on making water accessible especially to children. Every drop of effort in the ocean of change can prevent thousands of children from dying due to treatable diarrhea, largely linked to lack of clean water and sanitary conditions.
– Written by Adaobi Nkeokelonye