Reflecting on the Beauty, Bounty and Fragility of Earth’s Resources

Earth Day is the largest civic-focused day of action in the world, with roughly a billion people expected to take part in celebrating our planet. To help children understand why our water-rich “blue marble” of a planet is worth a global celebration—and why its resources should not be taken for granted—share with them the beautiful picture book A Cool Drink of Water, by Barbara Kerley. It’s a collection of entrancing, oversize photographs from National Geographic that show how people (and a few thirsty animals) find water to drink around the world.

No resource is as vital or precious as clean water, and the photographs attest to its beauty too, as it sprays and pours and dribbles and glimmers, whether in a mountain stream or a Baroque fountain in Rome. In these striking images, children will get a sense of how scarce water can be in many places in the world, where it must be carried for miles in a copper vessel on top of a girl’s head or drunk by squeezing the last drops from a burlap bag. Kerley’s text is simple, with just one sentence a page, leaving the details in the pictures to speak for themselves. But her words capture the emotions people feel about the water they search for, collect and store. As someone who has lived in Nepal and on Guam, Kerley knows that a long drink of water can seem like a luxury.

As you would expect from National Geographic, an appendix in the back fills out the book with cartographic and ecological information. Each photograph is linked to a location on a world map, with a full explanation of what we are seeing in each picture. A message from the president of the National Geographic Society explains how water scarcity is a growing problem, with the UN predicting that two-thirds of the world’s population will soon face water shortages. The last pages of A Cool Drink of Water serve as a wakeup call to conserve and protect what we have.

At TCS, we try to think of every day as Earth Day and to guide our students to think holistically about shared natural resources like water. On our campus, for instance, children can see the rain barrels used to capture and store water for the grounds, and find a connection with the picture of a Nepalese boy collecting rainwater from a container on the rooftop of his house. The meaning of Earth Day is to inspire ecological thinking and a global perspective in children everywhere, and this sumptuous book of photographs offers a deeper understanding of what water means to different human communities.

Let’s raise a glass of water to our blue marble!