recess radio program

06/22/05
A Cool Drink of Water
    by John Cech

It's the beginning of summer and as the weather gets hotter and hotter, we'll be all looking for the subject of a new book by Barbara Kerley -- A Cool Drink of Water -- from the National Geographic Society. Each of the photographs in this picture book serves as a visual example and, in many respects, a meditation on what Ms. Kerley means when she writes about "how very basic water is to everyone's life. "She goes on, "It's something we all have in common, whether we turn on the faucet above our kitchen sink or haul water home from the water tap. Water is something that unites us."

This photo essay takes us around the world, through the evocative images of several dozen photographers -- from the Canadian Rockies, where we can imagine what it might be like to dip our hands into melting water from a glacier, to Rome, Italy, were a boy drinks from a fountain shaped like the prow of a boat, to the Thar Desert in India, where "water is so precious," Kerley explains, "that drawing [it] from the well is a sacred act." The woman in this picture is carefully giving her baby a drink, drop by drop, from a silver rattle. We journey to Prey Char, Cambodia, to celebrate with a group of children, whose joyful faces are drenched with the first fresh well water that has just arrived in their village, which had always relied on a muddy pond. Another picture takes us to Peru, where young girls drink from an outdoor water tap before going into their school. In still another, we find ourselves with a hiker on the arid Arizona-Utah border, in the sculpted, orange, sandstone cleft of a canyon, where we learn that 70 percent of our body is made of water and that we should have about eight glasses a day to stay fully hydrated.

In the U.S., of course, we generally take our water for granted. Turn on the faucet and out it flows. Turn on the spigot and the sprinkler is ready to run through on a hot summer day. Yet in many parts of the world, people often have to travel long distances to find fresh water, and then they must bring it home in buckets or clay jugs, brass vessels or large plastic bottles. And even though nearly three quarters of the earth's surface is covered by water, nearly all of that huge amount is presently undrinkable because it's salt water. And as the earth's population grows, so, too, does the demand on the currently dwindling supply of fresh water. And that's why Kerley's purpose in the book is so important. She seeks to educate through these striking images, to encourage young people and the adults who will be reading this book with them to think about how esential this universal, liquid link between us ultimately is.

Copyright 2005 John Cech

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Monday, 02-May-2005 11:24:10 EDT


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