Water spreekt ons een hartig woordje toe

With the sound of the Dommel flowing in the background, Water held a press conference. Water, interpreted by the voice of Matthijs Schouten, addressed a group of about twenty interested people and administrators of the Municipality of Eindhoven, Water Board De Dommel, Province of Noord-Brabant and Dutch Design Foundation. Standing at the water’s edge and looking at the transparent and flowing water, the water took the group along in its history to the present.

Type Update
Published on 26 October 2021
Part of Embassy of Water
Water spreekt ons een hartig woordje toe
Part of Embassy of Water

“You may have forgotten, but I appear quite often in the old books. For example, the second creation story of Genesis, which begins with a desert. God had not yet made it rain and no grass had grown. He opens a well from which four streams flow. Well, that’s me. That’s where it all began.”

“In the Qur’an again it says that all animals were made by God, out of? Yes, water, you had forgotten that too. In India, there is not a single temple without water next to it. For, so they say, if there is no water, the gods will not come.”

The voice of water makes it clear with these examples that all early cultures were aware of the great role water plays in life. “You have lost that a bit,” Water speaks to those present. “It started a long time ago. Back in classical antiquity, when philosophers came up with the idea that everything in this world was there to serve man, the only creature with any sense – in those days, it was thought.

“I was there, according to Aristotle, to feed plants and those plants in turn feed man and animals. My task was to help man, according to Aristotle. I was not asked to do anything.

Soured and polluted

Times change and we may no longer believe in creative gods who designed something, the voice of water continues. “But I recently read about a study conducted by Wageningen University. Students investigated the images that primary school children have of nature. Three quarters of the children said: of course we can use the earth because we are the smartest. There I hear Aristotle again. No child learns this from itself. When a child stands on the bank for the first time and sees such a stream, it is only astonished by what it sees happening there. That something is moving there, that something is transparent, that you can look through it, that you can let it flow over your hands, that it is cool. Somewhere along the way they learn that it is there for us. Water is nothing but an object.”

According to the water, Western man has done something essential with it. “You have reduced the whole world to a collection of things for human use. The rest in this world are soulless and spiritless objects including me, water.” That hasn’t done the water much good, the voice confesses. “In my manifestation of oceans I am acidified, polluted and full of plastic. In my appearance in the western world, I am polluted and laden with phosphates and nitrates, and all kinds of medicinal waste. Until recently, I was still clear, clean and untouched in my appearance as groundwater, but that too is changing. I am now starting to become nitrogen-charged as well.”


Moreover, water can no longer lead its normal life. “I connect places in this world, through surface water, groundwater, I nourish ecosystems, I evaporate, I enter clouds and I come down again as rain. With which I nourish life. You make that impossible for me too. The climate change that you have caused means that I cannot come down in many places, because there is not enough evaporation. We get drought, you know that by now. In other places, you have ensured that I have to come down with far too much mass. This leads to heavy showers, which in turn lead to flooding. And then you start complaining again. These floods would not have been necessary if you had not drained all the wetlands in my river valleys.”

“I just want to say it is not going so well me. And you are not doing so well either. You have forgotten that I am an essential, indispensable part of your daily life. You need me constantly. Your bodies are full of me, more than 50 per cent. All the food you eat is at least half water. You need me every moment of your life.”

Starting now

A new policy plan or a “nice innovation” is not going to solve the problem, says the voice of water. “You have now thrown me so far off balance, made me so sick, that you are not going to make it through any more innovations. You will now have to start working with me in a very real way.

Recognising that the presence of water is significant, that is what it is all about, the water says. “I am not just there for you. If you can do that, if you can see me as a meaningful presence again, and ask yourself what water needs to stay healthy, you will be fine. But please start today.

Administrators Mado Ruijs, from Waterschap De Dommel, Hagar Roijackers, from Province of North Brabant, Rik Thijs, from Eindhoven City Council and Martijn Paulen from Dutch Design Foundation, previously signed a cooperation contract. With the press conference, they celebrate this signing curator of Embassy of Water Anouk van der Poll: “The next three years, we are going to work on a different way of dealing with water in our homes.”

In response to the story of the voice of water, director Ruijs adds: “We will give a voice to water in all deliberations.”

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