When I was a little girl in primary school, we once had a special guest come to talk to our us. We all had to go into the school hall, and sit cross legged, in rows on the floor. A small woman was introduced to use and came to the front.
I remember she was small because she was shorter than the teachers, but I did notice that the teachers seemed slightly intimidated by her. I wouldn't have used that word back then, but they were as quiet and obedient to her as we were to the headmaster.
Now please remember that this was a very long time ago, but I know that it is essentially true because my little brother was also in the hall that day, and decades later we still comfort each other with the stories of that lady.
She came from some government department and came to talk to us about water!
We all used too much. We wasted water. We should build more dams and invest in technologies to save and protect water because water is essential to almost everything we do in life.
We were convinced, and a little scared. She did assure us that it wasn’t our fault, but that we needed to go home to our parents and ask them what they were doing about the water situation, how were we saving water at home and were they telling off the politicians who weren't making good decisions.
I have forgotten that we even had other events in that school, and forgotten ever teacher there but two, and I have forgotten most the friends (except for my boyfriend Kevin) but I have never forgotten the day that lady came to talk to us about saving water.
We were in the middle of a drought in KZN and my brother and I went to a primary school in Pietermaritzburg. Even before the lady came to speak to us, I was appalled at having to read the sign in the bathroom stalls: “If its yellow, let it mellow. If its brown, flush it down.” I still shudder.
And even before she came and told us to hold our parents and teachers accountable, I had already come to the opinion that I was seriously disappointed in our grown ups. How could they possibly let us come to a point, in this modern world, where we didn’t have enough water. Water! It fell from the sky, for goodness sake. Its not like you had to mine it or something. All you had to do was collect it and share it out.
My brother and I took old cool drink bottles (washed them in the sink) and then poured rain water that we collected in the garden into the bottles and hid them in the garage. We knew to save water for a non-rainy day, unlike the grown ups. We saved 7 whole litres!
Of course, I am now the adult having to tell my children that they cannot bath, must quickly get out the shower, and must use grey water in the toilet. I haven’t put that awful sign up but the spirit of it is implied.
This is my insight: even with foresight and experience, even with warnings and deep emotional responses, we still sometimes make bad decisions about incredibly important issues in our lives. Why can’t we be more responsible about our future?