I live in Northern California, the land of rolling hills that are golden in the summer, and lushly green in the winter—at least, they used to be. Last February, while wearing flip-flops and shorts when I should have been hunkering down in flannel in drenching rain, I realized something had to change: my attitude of denial. I, like many people, had not wanted to accept that climate change has affected my beautiful home, and the availability of essential resources, such as water.
Rebecca Lawton, author, fluvial geologist, and Fulbright Scholar, who studied fluid dynamics, has been researching water from various angles—and writing about it—all her life. “Loving nature and water is in my blood,” she says. Her maternal grandfather was an Adirondack mountain and fishing guide, and her mother a naturalist and teacher trainer for Audubon.
Lawton is tired of those who only point fingers at the “big water users” and hopes that individuals will remember their crucial role in conservation, reminding us, “Human beings are made of water. What if we were as careful about the health of the molecule outside our bodies as we were when it’s inside our skins? I believe we would see a big change in our culture, and I think it would be for the good,” she says.
Inspired by scientists and naturalists like Lawton, and armed with a newfound sense of urgency, I put into place small water conservation efforts around my home and yard, and was surprised to discover an unexpected boost in my mood. Hand-watering my flowers and plants with greywater forces me to slow down and take time out from my work, something I sorely need. Turning off taps and learning to flush my toilet with shower water all led me to consider the fragile nature of living systems. And once I’m outside, I often realize how disconnected I’ve become from the sensations of wind in my hair and sun warming my skin. We need to think of humankind not as the center of all creation but part of the larger web of nature that needs our stewardship…