imageI’ve not heard as much about ‘Earth Day’ as previous years. Either I’m in a cloud or there isn’t much demand for Earth Day anymore. That doesn’t mean I’ve totally forgotten either.

I still remember a little known truth about the self-described founder of a Earth Day: He murdered and composted his girlfriend. Yes. Yes. Self-proclaimed Earth Day co-founder Ira Einhorn had a dark side. In 2011, NBC News reported Einhorn was found guilty of murdering his ex-girlfriend and stuffing her “composted” body inside a trunk.

Earth Day was created in the spring of 1970 to raise awareness of and take action on the pressing environmental issues of the time. Einhorn was master of ceremonies at the first Earth Day celebration at Fairmount Park in Philadelphia on April 22, 1970. He still maintains the holiday was his idea and he was responsible for launching it, though most activists credit Wisconsin Sen. Gaylord Nelson.

So all nonsense aside, what’s continually captured my imagination has been an often neglected story of water … or lack thereof. Five years ago, while working with the government, I ran across an odd U.S. Report detailing high-level plans to relocate millions from the Southwest to the North/Northeast. The water lifeline to the Southwest, the Colorado River, has been divided according to the 1922 Colorado River Compac. Subsequently, more water has been apportioned than exists. Water flow in the Colorado River — which supplies water to more than 30 million people in the Southwest including Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Las Vegas — has declined. Water shortage numbers grow worse with each succeeding drought.

As a result, water is the #1 global risk impact to society (as a measure of devastation) and #8 global risk based on likelihood of occurring within 10 years (as announced by the World Economic Forum). There are 358 million people with little to no access to water in Africa. In developed countries such as the United States, Canada, parts of Europe and Russia, that number totals 9 million. To combat drought in it’s own state, California announced sweeping statewide water restrictions for the first time in history.

Since today is Earth Day, I rounded up a few easily researched items about water. Compare the water footprint for a variety of products.

  • 9 gallons of water to produce 1 glass of soy milk;
  • 23 gallons of water to produce 1 glass of almond milk;
  • 30 gallons of water to produce 1 glass of regular milk;
  • 35 gallons of water to produce 1 regular yogurt;
  • 41 gallons of water to produce 1 regular size scoop of ice cream;
  • 50 gallons of water to produce 2 slices of cheese;
  • 90 gallons of water to produce 1 regular size Greek yogurt;
  • 109 gallons of water to produce 1 stick of butter;
  • 1,500 gallons of water are needed to manufacture a desktop computer;
  • 32,000 gallons of water is needed to make the steel for one automobile; and
  • 1,700,000 gallons of water per day is required to cool NSA’s Bluffdale, Utah datacenter, with only a third being recycled.

In 2011, The Buddha Blog noted the Buddha’s teaching on walking the middle ground between extremes of over-consumption and austerity fits perfectly into the modern, environmental practice of living in balance with nature. It’s what we speak of today as “sustainability” or living within our means. It’s not necessary to live like a cave man to be an environmentalist in the Buddhist sense, as that would be living out of balance in austerity. It’s structuring our lives, so that when we utilize nature’s resources, we do it in a balanced and sustainable way.

The environment is on loan to us from future generations. Let’s not ruin it for them–and us. Happy Earth Day!