Editor’s Note: We’re working with our friends on NBC’s new drama Revolution to incorporate green elements — or “winks” — in every upcoming episode.
So, what’s a wink? In this context, a wink may be a verbal and/or visual cue that touches on an environmental theme. Keep an eye out for this week’s wink — the connection between forests, water and power.
Without torches or fires, the characters in Revolution would be hiking across the country in total darkness once the sun went down. In a world without power, torches and fires are an absolute necessity.
Though Revolution‘s a work of fiction, there are many — too many — people here in the real world that rely on firewood as a source of light and fuel. According to the World Bank, 1.4 billion people lack electricity to light and heat their homes, cook and complete those other daily tasks we tackle without much thought. That’s a sad situation on its own, but the problem is also compounded by consequences that we — and they — don’t often realize. The most serious may be the impact of erosion on water quality, stemming from deforestation.
Trees and their roots hold soil in place as rainwater makes its way across land, through the ground and into rivers and lakes. When trees are removed, the rain falls straight onto the ground and can loosen the soil that is no longer protected by a thick layer of leaves and anchored by roots. During rains, the soil is carried away and right into the very water sources we need for drinking, washing and more.
In some of the world’s poorest areas, the lack of both electricity and developed water systems becomes a vicious cycle. Those without electricity often rely on trees for fuel wood, and as the forests are eaten away, they must travel longer distances to secure fuel. Without intact forests, their water is dirtier.
At The Nature Conservancy, we’re trying to find ways to help protect both people and nature from the effects of deforestation. We’re working on several innovative projects to help families in affected areas reduce their use of firewood, which helps to leave forests intact. In a few villages in China and Haiti, it’s solar ovens. In a small region of Brazil, it’s stoves that actually burn the gas that results from a new water treatment system that keeps excrement from flowing into the nearby stream.
Reducing deforestation in the United States is important as well. Like elsewhere in the world, intact forests surrounding the natural sources of our water keep it clean and healthy. But most Americans (more than three-quarters, actually) don’t know which river or lake provides the stuff that comes out of the tap. Learning where your water comes from is the first step to taking action to protect it.
As you watch Charlie and the gang use torches to light their way and fires to cook their food, think about the connection between healthy forests and healthy water — and be thankful for your lamps, flashlights and stoves.
Jeff Opperman is The Nature Conservancy’s senior advisor for sustainable hydropower.
[Image courtesy of NBC.]