Today’s guest blogger is Refugio Mata, Inland Outreach Coordinator at Heal the Bay
On the heel’s of NASA’s “bombing” of the moon, another event was beamed to earth from space. The two events had nothing to do with one another, but together they turned eyes heavenward.
At least for a day, the call for the protection of water against pollution and abuse received a bump in the media thanks to Guy Laliberté’s (founder of Cirque du Soleil) trip to space. Webcast live from 14 cities around the world (including London, Osaka, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, Mumbai and Santa Monica), Guy and his charity, the ONE DROP Foundation, sponsored a Poetic Social Mission to the moon. It was almost an echo of the classic story “Le Petit Prince.” Perched above planet earth, wanting to understand why things are the way they are, but also dreaming for things that are not–but, that someday might be.
As I watched the webcast, I could only wonder what must have been going through Guy’s mind. Was he awed by his view of planet earth, the refrain we hear from every other astronaut? Was he wondering if he had worked out all the kinks of being the first clown in space? Did he reflect “how peaceful it looks from here,” or instead that “every 8 seconds a child dies from drinking contaminated water”? Was he considering how successful his space adventure would be in terms of actually inspiring people to action?
As someone from Heal the Bay who has worked directly with local water activists to promote the “March for Water,” I share the desire to move people to action on the issues of social justice and the environment, specifically related to water protection and access. The problem is always how do you get people to care about clean water. The only way is to relate the “clean water” campaign to an issue that has an immediate and local impact. The motto “Think globally, act locally!” becomes the working imperative.
I watched Guy’s webcast live, taking in the words of various celebrities, scientific experts, and world-renowned artists. As someone from Mexico, the highlight of the show was seeing Salma Hayek recite beautiful, Frida Kahlo-style poetry and hearing Mexican-American Lila Downs sing heartfelt lyrics about polluting “maquiladoras,” which epitomize the complexity of the socio-economic issues in Latin America. Their words reminded me of my childhood in rural Mexico, when I freely explored nearby hills with my cousins, swam safely in the local rivers, and enjoyed beautiful clean waters during the summer after powerful, cooling rains. I am grateful for those memories, but profoundly sad that others around the world may never have the richness of experiencing an unspoiled nature.
In my role at Heal the Bay, I work in areas of South L.A. like Watts and Compton, where children play on black asphalt during the hottest summer days and are surrounded by trash and debris, all of which eventually makes its way into our rivers and ocean. It makes me angry because deep down, I know that this is not how it’s supposed to be. But I also know that things can change, because there are people such as our own founder Dorothy Green, philanthropists like Guy Laliberté, and countless, unknown community organizers, who each make a difference in their own way.
So to Guy’s Poetic Social Mission: thank you for Moving Stars and Earth to raise awareness for water; may we always be inspired to act.