Humble Water

December 18, 2014 at 10:12 pm

Kathleen and I arrived in the US last week to celebrate Christmas. The contrasts to India are always stark. The streets are quiet as there is no honking. The sun disappears behind overcast skies.   AND you can use water right out of the tap! Kathleen and I enjoyed dinner with Jim and Dianne Gardner at Basil in the Short North a few nights ago. As we sat at our table, I marveled at the crystal clear water sitting in a glass on our table. It shone. I thought how amazing it was and appreciated the clarity, beauty and the gift of a simple, humble glass of water. I did not think about all the work, cooperation, good governance, and engineering that brought it to our table.

Today on the radio, I heard a professor from OSU talk about urbanization in the US in the late 19th and early 20th century. It sounded much like the India I see every day. In India, there is a mass movement from rural areas to the cities much like the movement of immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe to the US over a 100 years ago. He highlighted how our cities were overwhelmed. There was not sufficient housing stock or infrastructure to handle the inundation of people. People lived in substandard housing. Our thoughtful ancestors, however, managed to address the issues that they faced. He highlighted how the progressives of the time figured out how to put in the place the infrastructure to handle sanitation, needs for water, and also policies to enhance public health. What we take for granted and assume, these folks created. He described going to one of his favorite markets in Cleveland that dates to 1910 where 20 different kinds of sausages are sold. The marketplace has tiled floors first put in place at that time so that every day they can be hosed down in order to avoid the challenges that rotting food might generate.   His report helped me to realize that 100+ years ago we faced the same challenges that countries like India face now.   So often it is easy to bad mouth government and its fallibilities. Apparently our government once functioned effectively to put in place infrastructure that is essential to our quality of life 100 years later.  What can we do today that will enhance the lives of our descendants in the next century?