Lessons Learned at the Berlin River Camp

By: Ecopeace Middle East
August 11, 2016

The following is written by Liron, one of our water trustees who participated in the Berlin River Camp

Water.  Think for a moment about the concept of water.  Think about the different uses we have for water.  Begin with drinking, then to washing in the bathroom to be clean, and then to the various uses of water sources for pleasure.  I think that in our lives, in daily life we barely think about water.

The week before last week, I went to a youth conference in Berlin which dealt with water and rivers.  I want to share some insights with you (all of the concepts are things that I learned in the conference and the concept of water where I live, Israel).

The first insight, which may be the most significant thing in the conference, is taken for granted and should not be so. I think that when we regularly want to drink, here in Israel, we simply open the water faucet and “poof” we have a drinkable cup of water  in hand. At the conference, I learned that there are places that are suffering from severe water shortage, such as Jordan, where it is not always possible to simply open the faucet and drink clean water.  There isn’t potable water in all faucets, and there are places that limit the amount of water that is given to each family.  On the other hand, Berlin’s drinking water comes from a local river, the River Spree.  Because the water is from a river that flows year round, there is no shortage of water.  Although there is plenty of water, when I was in Berlin I went to a restaurant and asked for water.  The waiters in the restaurant said that I could only buy the water.  There, access to water is obvious and has become a consumer product.  Three examples that have given rise to problems here, in Israel the water is simply granted, despite being so critical for us.  Where there is water shortage, people find it difficult to get the amount of water they need, and with limited water their basic water necessity is damaged.  However, where there is plenty of water, water should be moved to places with water shortage or given to them for free, because water is a basic necessity for life and should not become a commodity.  Only the highest bidder is able to get water.  This is sad and a shame, and I really believe that all people deserve an adequate amount of water.  If there are people that live in dry places with water shortages, and if there are people that live where there is plenty of water, they must pay them.  People are people no matter where they live.  Everyone deserves to have proper water and to enjoy it.  In the conference, the participants were from 18 different countries, mainly in Europe.  Each representative from each country was asked to bring a small bottle of water from the river in the country that they represent.  We had a ceremony in which we poured the water we brought into a bowl.  By doing this, water from different parts of the world blended together in peace and quiet.  I think that this small ceremony taught me something very important, or rather showed me something important: I saw that water in truth has no boundaries, because water is water.  This is a basic thing in the whole world and reaches everyone.  Whether it’s for people who come from Germany, or Latvia, or Israel.  All of humankind deserves to be able to get water without restrictions or distress.  Water is water, there is no difference where in the world it is.

The second insight is important for me to write because it is a matter of the attitude we have towards the present and the near future, compared to respect to the distant future.  Even here I must clarify what I mean: in the conference I noticed that people only refer to water in the context of the present or near future, but don’t consider what happens to the water and the environment in the future.  It is difficult to look at the overall situation of water.  For example, it is convenient to put Central Berlin’s sewage into the Berlin River, this is probably the easiest way to deal with the sewage, but this is not thinking about the long-term damage caused to the environment.  The same thing is happening in Slovenia.  In Slovenia, there is plenty of water.  Because there is so much water, it was decided to exploit the water and use it to produce energy.  This is done by hydroelectric dams.  These dams are damaging the ecosystems.  Interference with natural ecosystems has both immediate and long-term damage.  Although there is damage, in the immediate term it is producing energy and people have difficulty seeing anything beyond the resulting energy.  We find it difficult to understand that they and their environment currently pay or will pay a heavy price for their desire to produce energy through intervening with nature.  Also here, in Israel, when transporting the Dead Sea water to evaporation ponds to produce minerals or for tourism, we are only seeing the immediate future impacts.  Seeing the money put into mineral extraction or tourism but not the damage and danger that there is for a place so beautiful and unique. It is difficult to step a little out of our comfort zones, and to do or make small concessions that will protect the water resources and our entire environment.

In summary, these are important things that I learned at the conference I took part in.  Now I challenge you to open your eyes, pay attention, and do not take water for granted.  Water does not become a consumer produce and do not also just look at what is happening in front of us, just lift our eyes, looking, paying attention, and think about the future.  If each of us really do these things, I am sure that we will make a better, more pleasant future for ourselves.


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