For My Part…

My darling Rosa,

Thanks for securing this channel. I’m glad you’re so savvy when it comes to modern technology. You asked me last month about the price hikes you learned about in your economics class. What they won’t have told you is that water used to be free. Completely unpriced. It is best that you don’t mention this in class because even raising the idea is threatening to some. You know who I’m talking about. They may accuse you of sympathizing with an unpopular crowd; there were groups in the past who were branded as socialists and have long been outlawed, who campaigned against the privatization of water. It wasn’t always the way it is now.

Sometimes I feel remorse about my own irresponsibility in creating the shortages that sparked the Water Wars. I’d say less than ten percent of my generation was conscientious enough to conserve water even moderately. I am old enough to remember the rabbles of humanity smeared across the face of the earth who rinsed their clothes, their pots, and their plastic dishes under drainspouts or filthy rivulets in urban hovels – burgeoning ecological hazards by dumping the suds of their low-grade soap.

Back then we thought that was just Africa, Asia, South America. That would never be us! The luxuriant first-world lifestyle propagated on this continent was far too idealistic. I remember taking 10 or 15-minute showers and thinking nothing of it. Or emptying the dishwater from the sink to refill it – two, or even three times to do the dishes from one or two meals! I know for you, young as you are, it must be difficult to believe how a person could be so short-sighted and selfish about earth’s most precious resource. But we carelessly exposed ourselves to the point of infection with that mindset. It had taken hold of us too firmly by the time we woke up to the fact that it was too late to turn things around.

You’ve no doubt read parts of the story in your history books. The shortages began with one region here, or a city there, finding themselves in an awkward lack. Needing to be accommodated by an obliging adjacent municipality, sharing was performed in the name of brotherhood. Then were the initial rumblings of the impending shortage, and the first day the restrictions were announced. The government installed the timed auto-shutoff retrofits. People tampered with them then just like they do now. But that’s a heavy fine to risk for just a few extra litres.

People in the past actually filled tubs of water large enough to completely submerge themselves! In fact, swimming pools – the ones I showed you photos of – used to exist in almost every municipality. It was uncommon for a child not to take swimming lessons. There’s no use for such an irrelevant skill now, but I’d teach you if we ever found a pool. Or a bit of clean ocean. As if! All pool owners were given six months to fill them in with dirt and plant something green.

With the restrictions, of course, came the bureaucratic handling. All water use had to be properly documented. Next were the excruciating diplomatic strains between our country and our global “neighbours”. Our Canadian government was quick to realize the commodity as a major economic fulcrum.

The war, which ended the year you were born, was ugly and bitterly unjust. It began unfair and it ended the same way. But the dust settled and the treatise was finally signed. Another attempt at colonialism masquerading as world security – will we ever change? The synthetic H2O tastes similar but I remember the days when genuine clean fresh water used to flow down mountainsides and meander through the valley. You could swim in it, drink it, and even flush your toilet with it! It wasn’t a crime. We thought it would last forever – it wasn’t even a moral issue then. Everyone did it. It was just how we lived.

I look forward to your next visit.

Your affectionate grandfather


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