The current crisis in Cape Town is making international headlines. Cape Town is on track to be the first major city to completely run out of water. “Day Zero,” the day the taps are going to be turned off, is currently scheduled for April 16th. Working for an environmental organization in the midst of the crisis has given me a particularly unique perspective on the issue. My volunteer placement is with a non-profit organization called Greenpop, whose mission is to plant trees around sub-Saharan Africa through activations and festivals. Their quintessential idea is to make greening popular, thus the name Greenpop.
However, the impending “Day Zero” and the worsening water restrictions have made things increasingly difficult. Each individual is only allowed to use 50 liters of water per day for everything, including toilet flushes, shower, cooking, drinking water, washing dishes and laundry. While it may seem like a lot, one flush of the toilet uses 18 liters and one minute of the shower uses 22 liters. To put it into perspective, the average American uses 380 liters of water per day. When the taps get turned off, there will only be 200 collection points scattered around the city for all 4 million citizens of Cape Town.
The irony of the situation is exacerbated by the fact that all of the Western Cape is surrounded by the ocean.
This whole ordeal has helped me understand limits. The existence of a supposed “end” has Capetonians constantly on the edge of their seats. The possibility of the taps turning off is causing everyone to become anxious: bottled water is typically sold out at stores, crime is increasing, and fights are breaking out over the spring water flowing from Table Mountain.
There are a number of factors to blame for the drought. The majority blame climate change; many blame the political tensions throughout South Africa; and some believe that it is simply human consumption.
One of my goals for this year was to live without fear of the future. I tend to stress and get anxious about circumstances I have no control over. I can save all of the water that I want, but the reality is, Day Zero will most likely still come and Cape Town will probably erupt into chaos. So instead, I am taking it day-by-day, and making the most of my time here in this beautiful place. I have met some awesome people here. I live in a loft with ten other people, so I’m never alone. However, I’m also never lonely, which is nice. Most of them are European, ranging from German to Swiss, Italian to French. Due to people moving in and out every week, I have gained a constant and ever-changing family here. I am forever grateful for that.
Here, we dance in the rain, because it only makes an appearance once a month. We discuss the future of the planet without getting anxious. We talk about getting active in the face of uncertainty. We climb to the top of mountains and swim to the bottom of the sea all in one day. We watch the sun sneak behind Table Mountain in the morning and then watch it disappear over Signal Hill. We run from angry baboons at Cape of Good Hope and watch African penguins waddle on the sandy beach at Boulders.
Here, I have no concept of time. I’m not quite sure if it has been two weeks or ten but I think it might be somewhere in between. The days all blur together. I wake up to the sound of the city rising from its midnight slumber and fall asleep to complete silence. I measure hours in cups of coffee and songs I listen to. I don’t know what the future holds, but I am not scared. Here, I am happy. Here, I am free. This life feels like a dream.