Turning Water Into Wine

Omaruru, a town just north of Karibib known as the “Green Gem at the Edge of the Desert”. Eric and I had been dying to visit ever since we moved to Karibib. We had heard about the plentiful fresh vegetables provided by local farms as well as the two wineries in town and various craft shops. Finally, the opportunity arose when our friend asked us if we wanted to join him one Saturday to visit his friend’s winery. “Bring swimsuits,” he said, “there is a pool at the winery.” Packed for a days worth of adventure, we left Karibib bright and early to drive the 30 minutes north to none other than the famed Omaruru.

Along the way, our friend said that the dry desert would end and bright green would emerge as we neared Omaruru. We waited for the green, and waited, and waited, but as we pulled into the winery parking lot, we realized that the green wasn’t coming. We started our private tour, still eager at the prospect of tasting a local Namibian wine, but as we walked in and around the vines listening to the owner describe the history and the process, we noticed a worried tone in her voice. “There’s just not enough water. Our yields will be much less this year.” She described how the persistent drought was impacting all the growers in the area. People were having to dig deeper and deeper just to hit the water table. Each meter lower adding substantially to the cost. After the tour ended, our friend asked about the pool. “We can’t fill the pool,” the owner said, “there’s no water!” We were finally seeing it first hand: climate change.

The drought is talked about a lot in Namibia. It has lasted for a few years now and isn’t projected to improve. Livestock is dying, taps are running dry, farmers are producing less. But the government’s interim solution is: pray for rain. Rain that, the scientists know, isn’t going to come. Talks are finally starting to occur and the only real solution seems to be a costly desalinization project that Namibia can’t possibly afford on it’s own. So, what now?

I had heard about the drought, but until that visit to the winery where I was able to see the impacts first hand, it was hard to visualize just how bad it had become. When I need water, I turn on my tap at my kitchen sink, and the water (for the most part) flows. We all know that this problem isn’t unique to Namibia. California, too, is suffering from years of persistent drought. But the difference between Namibia and California is clear.

Americans emitted 16.4 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide per capita in 2013 whereas Namibians emitted 1.3.

Yet, Namibians are facing the same impacts as Americans, if not worse.

Developing countries around the world are shouldering the burden of climate change, a phenomenon that they did not help create. We are all connected whether we want to be or not, and it is imperative that we begin to think globally about these complex problems. By the way, this isn’t just an “environmental” issue. Climate change is ranked as one of the highest concerns for the US Department of Homeland Security and climate change is also thought to have been a trigger for the Arab spring uprisings in Syria. These issues are all connected, and the root cause is clear. Now, more than ever, it is important to think about how your choices impact the planet as a whole.

How can you help?

Reject the American lifestyle of rampant consumerism. Become active politically. Pressure your representatives to help enact new policy which steers the US towards renewable energy. Lead by example by lowering your own carbon footprint. Eat less meat. Develop a relationship and buy from local farmers that you know are following sustainable agricultural practices. Strive to be zero waste. Reduce your consumption and reuse whatever possible. This may seem like a small solution to a big problem. How can me eating less meat help the drought in Southern Africa? But don’t be discouraged. This is a movement gaining momentum daily, and every person counts. You can make a difference in the world by making simple changes in your lifestyle. So, what are you waiting for?

This post is part of Blogging Abroad’s 2017 New Years Blog Challenge, week one: Global Citizenship.

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