Tag Archives: sustainability

The Lived Experience of Water

Recently released from UTP, The Wonder of Water: Lived Experience, Policy, and Practice is an edited collection that reminds us of our primordial belonging to and need for water – a relation so essential that it is often taken for granted in policy development and decision making. The chapters are written by some of the world’s leading phenomenological thinkers who tackle subjects from flow motions to urban river restoration.


Ingrid Leman Stefanovic

If you are like most people, you will have begun your day by brushing your teeth, flushing a toilet, washing your hands and face and, then, tea or coffee was probably a necessary part of your breakfast. As you moved through these morning activities, you will have taken for granted the fact that safe and secure water was ready and available.

For many of us in the developed world, that ready availability of water is accepted on a pre-thematic level: it is only when the water is turned off that we explicitly realize how vital it is to our existence. As others have said, try going three days without water to recognize its ontological value.

The Wonder of Water: Lived Experience, Policy, and Practice, brings together thinkers who are attuned to the fundamental importance of water to our embodied lives. They each hope to shed some light on the fact that our water policies and practices should be informed not simply by abstract principles but by that deep need that we each have, as beings composed 60% of water, of this basic, life-giving liquid.

Certainly, it is important that rational thinking and evidence-based science inform decisions and policy making around water. Many books on water ethics and water security do an excellent job at covering complex policy issues. However, The Wonder of Water uniquely argues that we need to ensure that the deeply personal, embodied, imaginative, ontological interpretations of the value of water equally inform policy conversations.

Consider, for instance, how every day the news media highlights the growing risks of climate change to our health and to the well-being of the planet. Fewer and fewer skeptics deny the anthropogenic causes of climate warming and, increasingly, there are calls for substantive policy change in favour of more sustainable lifestyle choices.

Whether manifested through more serious droughts or deadly floods or rising sea levels, the reality is, as UN Water pointed out in 2019, that “water is the primary medium through which we will feel the effects of climate change.” Moreover, “the world is on the brink of a deadly crisis, as the combination of water stress and climate change creates a dangerous outlook for children.”[1] UNICEF recounts the stories of 12-year-old Swapna who, after Cyclone Roanu hit Bangladesh, returned home to find her neighbourhood, including all the trees, gone; or how a father in Zimbabwe, struggling to feed his family after a severe drought, was forced to sell his daughter for a few goats. In Canada, we have whole communities operating on boil water advisories. And then there is the reality that every day, over 800 children die from preventable diseases caused by unsafe water and lack of sanitation.[2]

Our book is meant to remind us that each of these lives, and others like them, are at risk and, consequently, meaningful policy changes cannot wait. Climate deniers and environmental skeptics should be invited to look each of these children in the eyes and ask themselves whether these children’s everyday embodied pain and suffering do not matter. “Policies” and regulations affect real lives. They are not simply articles of debate for conferences or international meetings. Rather, the urgency of enacting water policies that are effective and comprehensive comes from the realization that individual lives, emotions, physical health, and happiness are affected by high-powered decisions that themselves must be meaningfully informed by the lived repercussions of those policy choices.

Certainly, environmental decision making should be informed by statistics and quantitative data. Our point is, however, that a different kind of thinking – one that is less calculative and more originative, discerning, and perhaps reflecting even a kind of poetic sensibility toward individual human experiences – needs to drive policy making.

So, Part One of the book aims to remind us of what the lived experience of water might mean, not only in terms of human priorities but also relating to non-human animals and the breathing planet. Part Two shows us how water defines place, not simply as a geographical location but as the embodied projection of human understanding of the world in which we find ourselves. Part Three offers examples of how policies and decisions arise in different communities that are informed by diverse practices and ethical perspectives. The book begins and ends with poetic reflections, reminding us that policies must be driven not only by calculation but by mindful, discerning commitment to our embodied, revered, existential experiences of water.

Overall, the book invites the reader to re-engage with the lived experience and wonder of water, not only because human rights demand safe water or the benefits outweigh the costs of providing water security, but because, simply put, without water, there is no life. This fact we can never take for granted.

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To read an excerpt from The Wonder of Water, click here.


Ingrid Leman Stefanovic is Dean of the Faculty of Environment and professor in the School of Resource and Environmental Management at Simon Fraser University. She is also a professor emerita in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Toronto.

[1] Please see https://www.unicef.org/wash/waterandclimate/

[2] Please see https://www.unicef.org/wash/

 

 

Excerpt: Environmental Inequality: Access to Water

Through the Lens of AnthropologyFor the final entry in a series of four excerpts, all leading up to the publication of Through the Lens of Anthropology: An Introduction to Human Evolution and Culture by Robert J. Muckle and Laura Tubelle de González, we would like to share part of the book’s discussion of social inequality.

Through the Lens of Anthropology is an introductory four-field textbook with a fresh perspective, a lively narrative, and plenty of popular topics that are sure to engage students. The following excerpt is taken from Chapter 12: Politics: Keeping Order. Water is the focus of these two pages, and in particular inequality of access to water. This is just a small portion of the book’s section on social inequality, but it provides a good indication of how the book incorporates its twin themes of food and sustainability into all areas of anthropology.

If you have ever wondered how different parts of the world rely on water to survive, this excerpt is worth a read.

Download the excerpt here.

Note: If you are scheduled to teach an introductory anthropology course, please email requests@utphighereducation.com to request an examination copy of Through the Lens of Anthropology. This is a textbook that is interesting to read, manageable to teach, and that succeeds at igniting interest in anthropology as a discipline. We would be more than happy to give you the opportunity to review it for yourself!

Through the Lens of Anthropology: Author Q&A

In less than a month, UTP Higher Education will publish our first ever introductory textbook for four-field anthropology courses. We are excited about the fresh approach authors Robert J. Muckle and Laura Tubelle de González have taken in their book, Through the Lens of Anthropology: An Introduction to Human Evolution and Culture. At the same time, we recognize that many other well-established books already exist. With this in mind, we asked the authors to explain why they decided to write another textbook, and what contribution their book makes to the teaching of anthropology.

Through the Lens of AnthropologyQ: Why did you decide to write the book?

A: We saw that there was a niche for a fairly concise, well-priced book that provides a current, modern introduction to the discipline in its entirety. As we are both teachers, first and foremost, we wanted to translate what we do in the classroom in its best, most ideal form to meet this need. Our aim was to write a book that was not only an effective tool for instructors, but also reflected our passion for transformative teaching—the kind in which students engage with the material because they identify with it, and through that come to think about the world in a different way.

Q: What do you think is the most unique contribution the book makes to the teaching of anthropology?

A: This is a book written by anthropologists who are active researchers, yet whose primary interests are in the classroom, with a particular expertise in teaching introductory students. It establishes anthropology as one of many different frameworks one can use to view and understand the world. Moreover, this book does not shy away from critiques of anthropology. It makes students aware of uncertainties, debates, and major issues within the discipline, much more than other books. Anthropology is a fluid discipline, changing alongside the world which it examines.

Q: How does Through the Lens connect with current trends in the discipline?

A: Given their immediate and increasing relevance, it is not surprising that food and sustainability have emerged as areas of considerable interest in anthropology. In using food and sustainability as core themes we’ve provided a great way of showing introductory level students how anthropology, through making connections between people and their success in their environments, can contribute to understanding and solving some problems associated with these topics.

Q: Have you learned anything interesting during the process of writing this book that you would like to share?

A: It has been a learning experience on a number of levels. Of course, it has improved our own knowledge of the discipline outside of our areas of expertise. Aside from subject matter, we have learned to appreciate the particular challenges of publishing a textbook. To author a book that reflects not only one’s own research, but also synthesizes the cumulative, ongoing work of the discipline as a whole, while presenting this information in a manner that is clear, engaging, and respectful to students, was an experience that has made us better writers and indeed stronger anthropologists.

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Robert J. Muckle is Professor of Anthropology at Capilano University in North Vancouver, Canada. He is the author of several textbooks, including Introducing Archaeology (second edition, 2014) and Indigenous Peoples of North America (2012); writes an online monthly column for Anthropology News; and is actively engaged on Twitter (@bobmuckle) in anthropology and archaeology related discussions.

Laura Tubelle de González is Professor of Anthropology and the faculty Environmental Sustainability Coordinator at San Diego Miramar College in Southern California, United States. She has won several teaching awards and is a past president of the Society for Anthropology in Community Colleges, a section of the American Anthropological Association that focuses on teaching anthropology.

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If you would like to request a copy of Through the Lens of Anthropology to consider for course use, please email requests@utphighereducation.com and be sure to include your course name, the semester in which the course is being offered, and the estimated enrollment.