This week, we learned about a critically important substance- Water. While we can survive around 3 weeks without food, we can only survive around 3 days without water, as a general guideline.
Living organisms need water because we all evolved from aquatic life. Our internal environment is incredibly abundant with water- it is like we are carrying our previous habitat (the ocean) around in our bodies.
But how is water distributed around the world? While the majority of the world does have access to clean drinking water, the combination of arid conditions and lack of income means that certain countries (spread across mainly Asia and Africa) have little water to drink. Even if there is access to water, often they are contaminated with diseases such as cholera, which make the water undrinkable.
Although there is likely an adequate amount of clean water for every person around the world, it is not distributed properly. Is there anything we, as scientists, can do to solve this problem?
This is a difficult problem. A common theme across countries is if they lack access to clean water, then often they will lack access to the help we try to provide. In a hypothetical country, 20% are upper-class, 30% are middle-class and 50% are lower-class. While the upper class have permanent access to clean drinking water, the middle-class only occasionally get this access, and the lower-class almost never do.
Let’s say a solution is provided which provides clean water to an additional 30% of the total population. Who will be getting that water? I would bet that most of the water will be going to the middle-class (who can afford it) rather than the lower-class, who might not even know of the solution.
This is a case, like many other cases, where science alone does not provide a solution close to the ideal solution. Yes, as scientists, we can make recommendations to the governments of the water-lacking countries. But what if we are merely talking to the upper-class, who may be corrupt? What if the government don’t have the scientific knowledge to think of it as useful? There is a big gap between primary research and the actual global application of that research, and I have no idea how to bridge the two.
Thank you for reading!