Fresh Water: The Essence of Life

Nymphaea albaPhoto: © Magnus Lundgren / © George SteinmetzA beautiful freshwater plant species: European white water lily (Nymphaea alba), in a lake in Bohuslän, Sweden. Traditionally used for medicinal purposes. Many of other species are still unknown to science, with medical and scientific value.

All images courtesy of Conservation International

Is there any substitute for water? Could anyone explain to us why Earth’s freshwater systems and supplies are dwindling so fast? Predictions are that in coming years, the world’s population may soon face serious freshwater problems. Don’t we love the planet we are living on?

Great efforts have gone into raising awareness about the freshwater crisis. Conservation International (CI), in collaboration with the International League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP), has launched an educational photography exhibition, which not only portrays the importance and beauty of freshwater, but also uncovers facts about the threats to freshwater ecosystems due to increasing pollution, population and climate change.

Inia geoffrensisPhoto: © Kevin Schafer 2008Inia geoffrensis: A pink Amazon River dolphin in the Rio Negro in Brazil.

Perhaps most of us are still not aware of the fact that our Earth has a limited supply of freshwater, and various types of pollution are directly affecting freshwater ecosystems. Freshwater ecosystems are home to a large number of plants and species. So, it directly affects them as they are freshwater dependent. Since 1970, there has been a 50% decline in freshwater species.

A health worker looking for moisture in the dry lakebedPhoto: © Karen KasmauskiA health worker lifts slabs of mud to look for moisture in the dry lakebed, Mali.

The “Fresh Water: The Essence of Life” exhibit features stunning images of 17 of the world’s renowned award-winning nature photographers including Frans Lanting, David Doubilet and Paul Nicklen. “These artists tell a story that we may feel uncomfortable hearing: water is essential for life and our world is getting drier and drier way too fast. But we can redefine our relationship with nature so that water can be available and shared equitably to meet the demands of people and nature or we will both suffer the consequences,” says Tracy Farrell, Senior Director of Conservation International’s Freshwater Initiative.

Iguaçu Falls National ParkPhoto: © Frans LantingIguaçu Falls National Park, an amazing system of waterfalls that spans the border between Argentina and Brazil and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The surrounding forest is home to more than 2,000 species of plants and other wildlife.

As of today, less than 1% of the world’s water is available for human use, which is a matter of prime concern. Through the exhibit, these famous photographers hope to spread the message about protecting key watersheds.

Cristina Goettsch Mittermeier, President of iLCP and curator of the exhibit, says: “The photographs in this exhibit illustrate the numerous ways in which fresh water shapes our lives and how much we depend on it.” Indeed, freshwater is very essential for our well-being.

baby Nile crocodilePhoto: ©David DoubiletCrocodylus niloticus: A baby Nile crocodile, hiding in an algal veil in the Okavango River Delta in Botswana. CI’s work in the delta is focused on securing the origin of freshwater flows in upstream areas of the Zambezi and Okavango Rivers, which provide freshwater services for more than 1.5 million people.

Being featured from March 29 to May 8, at G2 Gallery in Los Angeles, California, the exhibition has moved further to educate people and continue to raise the awareness. On April 7, Thursday, an opening reception will be held at the gallery. Admission is free (through RSVP only). Interested person can email [email protected]. There is the opportunity to meet Dr. Tracy Farrell, CI’s Senior Director, Freshwater Initiative, and the iLCP’s President and exhibit curator, Cristina Mittermeier. For more information, visit the gallery’s website here.

Truly, the freshwater crisis is a global concern whose negative impact on the Earth can’t be ignored any longer.

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