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A Brief Prelude to a Coming Global Crisis
Today we rode from the mountain town of Marsabit back into the barren Dida Galgalu desert. It just doesn't seem to want to end. Riders have been spotting some pretty cool wildlife walking these lava rock plains as there is almost no where to hide… unfortunately the first elephant sighting still eludes us. We are camping on the grounds of a local boarding school that caters largely to children whose parents have died or are from a single parent family. The ravages of AIDS have struck Kenya extremely hard and these young boys and girls are its progeny.
While HIV/AIDS is an extremely serious issue facing Africa and the global community as a whole, there is an entirely different and far more troubling conflict brewing… the access to clean water. The school here has just outside its fence a deep bore well that provides the town with potable water. We paid to access this well this evening so as to fill up our containers, one by one via a jerry can chain. However, as we unlocked the well dozens of schoolboys descended upon us fighting amongst themselves and with us to get at the water. They pushed us out of the way and we pushed back, both sides bullying, shouting and crying foul. We paid for access, but it is this town's well.
Who is in the right? Who has priority? Gradually a compromise was worked out whereby we would fill one of our jerry cans and then they would fill three of their smaller vessels. However, this disintegrated quickly as 5, 6 or 7 would thrust themselves at the small tap as soon as we stepped back, putting their mouths on the faucet or pressing the openings of their bottles directly upon the source. This was done much to the chagrin of the riders present due to the obvious sanitation issues.
With global water resources being stretched thinner by the year, tonight's events serve as an example of a clash that is surely to arise between financially flush developed nations and the developing nations with a need greater than their supply… only when governments are involved small scale compromise between groups is highly unlikely. The nature of who actually owns water, or even if it can be owned and sold is an extremely complicated one (I am sure my good friend Stefan who is currently studying this very issue in Geneva will be writing me a long email about this subject shortly). It is an issue that must be addressed poste haste, lest far spanning global conflict over the issue arise.
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