Within fifteen short years from now—by 2030—the world will experience a 40% shortfall of fresh water, according to a 2015 UN Report on water. At the same time, sea level is rising, and the rate of sea level rise is accelerating. Too little fresh water, too much sea water. Much of our everyday reality of climate change is about water.
Artists tackle water issues regularly in their work on climate change. Two artists who participated in a 2013 show about water and climate change, Trouble the Water, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, explored the issue of water from two different but related perspectives.
Dustin Yager created an installation of water pitchers and glasses, titled Universal Solvent, to remind viewers of how we used to fetch water (and still do in many parts of the world). Viewers were invited to pour themselves a cup of water and leave the cup on the shelf.
Much of the western world no longer reaches for a pitcher and glass, but rather a plastic bottle when we want water. This reality is reflected in the work of Sant Khalsa, who photographed a series of stores selling bottled water, titled Western Waters, to tell the story of how we have commodified water and turned it into a consumer product here in the West. She says, “I am fascinated by the necessity and absurdity of these stores, and the way these venues have come to represent the source of a natural experience. [T]hese stores are … constructed sites to provide the consumer with the most essential requirement for life and survival.”
Water is high on our minds these days, with the drought we are experiencing here in WA and the extreme drought in California. These artists remind us to be mindful of water, without which, we cannot live.