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Student journalists explore the trouble with water in coverage of symposium

Jan Adams, from the Foss Waterway Seaport Museum, talk to seminar attendees about the consequences of plastic.
Jan Adams, from the Foss Waterway Seaport Museum, talk to seminar attendees about the consequences of plastic.

With the quality of water worldwide declining and the increasing scarcity of it in many places becoming more prominent, student journalists at Pacific Lutheran University took up a challenge by KPLU to cover a local symposium on water.

"Our Thirsty Planet" centers on the exploitation and need for clean water around the world and is put on by Pacific Lutheran University’s Wang Center for Global Education. The symposium is under way and the students have begun publishing their efforts on "Water For Thought," a Website created for this experiment in student-sourced journalism.

You can check out their work on that site and follow them on Twitter at @waterforthought.

Here are a few of the headlines so far:

By Samantha Shockley, ’12: Water — it drips from the sky, it fills up puddles, it covers 75 percent of the earth’s surface. Its boundless power can sustain life and its pollution can eliminate nations. Water is essential to everyone and everything.

By Ted Charles, ’12: “Water loss is imminent.” Maude Barlow’s opening statements stunned me. Barlow, water rights activist and Chairperson for the Council of Canadians opened this year’s Wang Symposium with a harrowing message: our abuse of fresh water is incalculable and possibly irreversible.

By Annie Norling, ’12: “Water, water every where, nor any drop to drink.” As Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s famous line suggests, humans are soon to be surrounded by water that cannot quench their thirst. Maude Barlow, the keynote speaker for Pacific Lutheran University’s annual Wang Symposium, opened her address on issues of water rights around the world with Coleridge’s words.
Alliance of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow addresses an audience of almost 350 people in Pacific Lutheran's Lagerquist Concert Hall Thursday. Her keynote message on stewardship was the second of two opening sessions for the 2012 Wang Symposium Thursday and Friday titled Our Thirsty Planet. "Fighting for justice is like a bath," she said as she neared the end of her speech. "You take it every day or you stink." Photo by Heather Perry.

At the beginning of the speech, Barlow recognized the students, faculty and staff of PLU live in a water-rich area — an area where rain is a common occurrence, if not a nuisance. It is difficult for those of us who live in the Pacific Northwest to wrap our heads around the idea of a global water crisis. However, as a student who has studied abroad, I have felt the effects of this crisis firsthand.

“We are a planet running out of water… accessible, clean water,” Barlow said.

I experienced the lack of safe drinking water in countries such as Argentina, Mexico and Nicaragua. In Nicaragua, I stayed with a host family where running water was only available for a few hours in the evening — the rest of the day the taps were dry. Even when the pipes held water, it was not safe for me to drink.