The full spectrum of social networking is beginning to have a dramatic turning-point effect on public policy and societal change throughout the world. Much like its impact as a major stimulus in the election of Obama in 2008, this grassroots phenomenon is creating a profound paradigm shift in the international political landscape and structure, specifically on countries, governments, principalities and kingdoms throughout the Middle East. Unrest, upheaval and anti-government movements have spread to Tunisia, Jordan, Yemen and particularly Egypt, the historic epicenter of the Arab world. Furthermore, anti-government rallies are underway or upcoming in Iran, Algeria, Bahrain, Libya and Morocco and the end result of this momentous wave of revolution is anyone’s guess.
The central catalyst within this dynamic political outcry is applied science. The youth of the world, particularly the young intellectual community within the university environs, have comprehended the technology as a political tool. Text messaging, Facebook and Twitter have opened a gateway to unprecedented grassroots political organization and communication capability. This reality is beginning to stymie and may very well soon terrify current and future autocrats, dictators, oppressors, tyrants and despots everywhere.
The dramatic events in Egypt were triggered by a social networking campaign. The movement evolved into a challenge to Mubarak’s authoritarian rule, fueled by frustration over government corruption, rampant poverty and unemployment. Mubarak has now resigned and the ultimate leadership and structure of the Egyptian government is a question yet to be determined.
This overall historical milestone should be a lesson about the powerful effectiveness of an organized political and social movement which utilizes social networking tools in order to achieve governmental change or reform. The remarkable reality is that it took only 18 days to precipitate the collapse of a military regime which was in power for 30 years. Just imagine if a similar effort could be applied to far-reaching geopolitical public policy to solve the global water and sanitation crisis – a situation which, if not immediately checked, will ultimately undermine the health and stability of the world.
Currently on planet Earth, 4,000 children die every day from water-related diseases or lack of water. One in eight people (884 million) live without safe drinking water and two in five (2.5 billion) do not have sanitation. This lack of basic services adversely affects human health, education, dignity and livelihoods. Water scarcity and drought is directly connected to public health, energy, agriculture and food supply and, by extension, international security.
In December, the U.S. House of Representatives failed to pass the Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act. The legislation died in the lame-duck session of Congress. Once more in 2011, a new effort is underway to guide the legislation through Congress. However, in reality, I’m concerned that the only way this legislation will ever be approved by the new Congress is through a national grassroots campaign by the body politic, all the people in support of this critical international humanitarian measure.
As we have learned from recent events, community organization reinforced by social networking can make a profound political and historical difference. As citizens of the world, we are responsible for maintaining the planet’s ecological system. Non-governmental organizations, community and civic groups, students from across the globe and individual citizens now have the unique opportunity and capability to make a monumental difference. Let’s use the social networking resources available and pull together and organize in order to communicate to elected and public officials. Let’s push governments to accept the moral responsibility to solve the water and sanitation crisis and make sure the planet is healthy and safe for future generations.
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