Speaker Draws Attention to Issue with Online Environmental Site

October 14, 2009

Speaker Draws Attention to Issue with Online Environmental Site Former New York Times reporter Joseph Treaster told a Saint Leo University audience this week that a lack of clean drinking water and adequate sanitation systems are serious worldwide health problems. The dearth of clean drinking water afflicts more than 1 billion people on the planet, and the lack of basic sanitary facilities affects more than twice that number. The problems can be fixed, Treaster said, but so far, governments and most media outlets have failed to turn enough attention and money to these basic human needs.

“This is one of the most under-reported issues of social justice,' Treaster said.

So Treaster edits an online, multi-media magazine that attempts to fill some of the void. The Web site 1H2O.org covers water problems and solutions to water problems worldwide. It is published as a project of the Knight Center for International Media at University of Miami School of Communication. Treaster now teaches at the school as the John S. and James L. Knight Chair in Cross Cultural Communication.

A recent example of a story on the Web magazine explained how one family in Kenya, representative of so many families, was so sickened by foul drinking water that they had to be hospitalized. Clean water supplies would have prevented such a hardship.

Countries and communities suffer in other ways from a lack of clean, available drinking water, Treaster added. Women and children often spend hours a day in some areas walking from their home to sources of water–-that may not be healthy––and carrying the water back in pots or canisters. Those are hours children could be spending in school and adults could be spending time another way to provide for their families.

The list of complications goes on and on.

Treaster admitted he doesn’t have a ready solution. He suggested that a high-powered public figure could get behind the water issue and summon the public attention needed to push for change. He used as an example the attention that Haiti has begun to receive since former President Bill Clinton was named a special envoy to the impoverished nation.

Meanwhile, Treaster said Americans should do what they can to conserve water, and remain interested in finding a solution to the issue.

Treaster’s talk was the second in Saint Leo University’s Distinguished Speaker Series for 2009-10. Talks in the series this academic year are all based on a theme of social justice.