By Léo Azambuja

Leo 1Out of all seven drinks that shaped the history of civilization — beer, wine, spirits, tea, coffee, water and Coca-Cola — there is only one we can’t live without.

My first guess would be coffee, with beer and wine tied for second place. However, it is actually water.

The importance of water should be surprising to me, given Jesus’ fondness for wine over water (I was raised Catholic), the role beer played in the creation of money (aren’t we Capitalists here?), and how Lloyd’s, one of London’s original coffee houses, turned into one of the world’s main insurance markets.

But water it is.

Without food, we could live for about a month, though there have been a few hunger strikes lasting twice as long. But without water, our survival is reduced to anywhere between three to 10 days.

Set aside the impact lack of water has on our bodies, shutting down every organ due to dehydration. I’m not really talking about personal health here. What I’m saying is that civilization — which means living in cities — would never even have started without adequate water sources to provide for agricultural cultivation and later, for the simplest water distribution and discharge systems.

We could live without electricity, as we have in the past. This would mean no NFL on huge plasma TVs, no unexpected power outages and worst of all, no Internet, smart phones and selfies. Nope, we wouldn’t die if we couldn’t post our status on Facebook every hour or upload pictures on Instagram three times a day. Who cares about refrigerators, right?

It’s not just about fresh water. Ocean water evaporation plays a major role in the water cycle. Additionally, the oceans are an abundant source of food and a powerhouse in oxygen production, with algae doing most of the work to provide a large portion of the air we breathe.

So why do we keep hurting our water sources so much, polluting, diverting and drying them up?

We need water just as much as we need air. Yet, we pollute both with complete disregard for the billions of years this planet took to find balance.

Truth is, all over the planet, rivers, lakes, streams and other bodies of water are drying up. And Kauai is not immune. Just ask the farmers in Moloa‘a — the real ones who are actually farming — and they’ll tell you the water is scarce. Ironically, global warming prompts ocean levels to rise, which will likely create unspeakable damages across Hawai‘i.

Whether the problem is man-made or just a natural planetary cycle, global warming is real and will limit our water sources. The point here is, we are not making it any better by polluting our precious water bodies.

And while you may stare at running tap water and think water in general is cheap, it’s not. Compared to gasoline, the price of bottled water is loot. Now imagine if your tap water was unsuitable for drinking. A good chunk of your earnings would be going to bottled water companies. You couldn’t get away with it; remember, water, you need it to survive.

I believe each one of us has the power to change the world and become the next super hero. We all could be a vocal activist and fight fiercely for a cleaner Kaua‘i.

But it could be asking for too much. What we can — and should — do is conserve water and use biodegradable products that won’t harm the environment. The more we buy Earth-friendly products, the more their prices will drop to match those made with harmful chemicals.

It’s not too much to ask, but if we all did this, it would make a huge difference on our island.

And then you can go ahead and change the world, or maybe just the island. But by then, we may have led by example, and government and large corporations just may follow suit.

Leadership is a beautiful thing when it comes from the collective mind, as it should be in a democracy.

Just add water — to your list of priorities.

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