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LIVE LINK ON ABOUTBOULDER: Why You Should Be Thinking More About Water | About Boulder County Colorado
By: Rachel DeStigter
For the next issue of the EmpowerGen Column, I invited Rachel DeStigter to write an article about something she’s passionate about. Rachel is a young leader and dedicated international studies graduate who is seeking to earn a Ph.D. in sociology. Rachel worked closely with me at Dream Tank as a NextGen Innovation Fellow in our Development department in 2021.
I am delighted to publish Rachel’s article this week. Enjoy!
With great hope and love for water, Heidi
“Why You Should Be Thinking More About Water”
By: Rachel DeStigter
I know that in the age of climate change we young people have more than enough to worry about, but hear me out about water. Water scarcity, especially where I live in Colorado, is a major issue and, like most major issues, I believe it needs more young people to help solve it. I also believe that a huge part of how we fix this issue starts with how we think about water. For this article, I’m going to be talking about the Colorado River, but a lot of this will apply no matter where you live.
Take a moment and think about how you use water
Are you thinking about water bottles and drinking water? What about dishwashing and showers? Those things matter, but they are actually only a small percentage of our water use. If you’re like most American households, your biggest water use is actually watering lawns and gardens 1 . Even that is tiny compared to the amount of water used for agriculture. Of all the water we use each year from the Colorado River, 86% goes to agriculture and over a third of that is for crops to feed livestock like cows and pigs2 .
More ways to think about water
Water is essential for life. Plants and animals, from beavers who dam up mountain streams to desert cacti who store up water in their trunks, have adapted to make the most of their local water sources. We humans also depend on water- it makes up the majority of our bodies after all. Beyond water’s importance to our health, many cultures have spiritual connections to water. You yourself may have been baptized with water, or participated in a rain dance. You and your family have probably also bought water, as a plastic water bottle at a convenience store or a monthly water bill for your home. With so many uses and so many meanings it is impossible to fully explain the value of water, much less figure out how we should best use it. We still have to try though.
How do you think we should use water?
Maybe you’re thinking a bit more now about how you use water and what it means to you and your community. Use the following questions to guide you as you think about how we should use water as a society.
Who should be in charge of managing the water?
- The government?
- Local Communities?
- Water experts?
Who should get to use the water first?
- indigenous people?
- People who grow food?
- People in cities?
What should we do if there is not enough water for everyone?
These are complicated, tricky questions and there is no one right answer. No matter what you were thinking though, you probably came up with something better than the current system of water management that we have for the Colorado River.
What does the current system look like?
If you live in the Southwestern U.S., then your water probably comes from the Colorado River Basin. There are about 40 million of us in total 3 and many more people outside the region who eat food from here, vacation here, or buy things made here. The Colorado River is governed by a complicated mess of laws and agreements. Many of these agreements are old, from back when much fewer people lived here and before we entered a 20+ year, climate change fueled mega drought. They also historically did not include Mexico or any of the indigenous tribes that also depend on the river.
Recently, the states have come back together to renegotiate the Colorado River Compact, a 100-year-old agreement that is at the heart of water rights in the west. During this year’s water negotiations in Boulder, Colorado, seven states sent representatives, and notably, so did 13 tribes 4. Over the past few decades we have also gotten better at conservation. Environmental advocates have pushed to conserve water for local ecosystems, and in many cases, they have won. There is still a lot of work to do to fix the Colorado River’s water shortage, but it is a start.
Why we need young people
The Western U.S. keeps growing while our water resources shrink. But we still have a lot of water to work with if we can figure out how to use it more wisely and distribute it more fairly. We need innovative solutions and fresh perspectives- two things that young people excel at. More importantly, these are our homes and this is our water. We deserve to have a seat at the negotiating table, especially young people who come from marginalized communities.
What can you do?
- Minimize outdoor water use. Don’t water your lawn as much and if possible convert to local, low-water plants
- Eat less meat and dairy. Meat, especially beef, takes a lot of water to grow and feed. You don’t have to go vegan or vegetarian if you don’t want to, but even eating a couple vegetarian meals a week or smaller portions of meat helps.
- Learn about water issues. Pay attention to local news articles about water, watch educational videos, and read books about water.
- Think about water. Talk to members of your community, visit local water sources and get inspired. Write a poem, paint something, or put on a performance that shows your perspective.
- Become an Advocate. Connect with local water organizations, support laws and regulations that you believe in, and spread the word in your community.
- Get Creative. The sky is the limit for ways to conserve water, protect wildlife, and make a difference. Create your own invention or organization related to water and find other people to help you develop and promote it.
- Sign up to write an article and share your voice on Dream Tank’s EmpowerGen column and join the ‘EmpowerGen’ Revolution – Dream Tank (wearedreamtank.org)*
My Recommendations to Learn More
- “Outdoor Water Use in the United States,” Water Sense: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Wastewater Management, February 14, 2017. https://19january2017snapshot.epa.gov/www3/watersense/docs/factsheet_outdoor_water_use_508.pdf
- Vox, “Who’s really using up the water in the American West,” YouTube video, 5:54, September 26, 2022. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0gN1x6sVTc&ab_channel=Vox
- “Colorado River Basin Fact Sheet” U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation, 2016. https://www.usbr.gov/climate/secure/docs/2016secure/factsheet/ColoradoRiverBasinFactSheet.pdf
- Shannon Mullane, “Colorado River officials weigh how to cut water, include tribes ahead of looming negotiations” The Colorado Sun, June 12, 2023. https://coloradosun.com/2023/06/12/colorado-river-negotiations-tribes-top-priorities-2026/
I found it hard to write the EmpowerGen article these past couple weeks (Last article here). As I stand on the precipice of one of the most significant rites of passage as a parent, the emotions swirl within me like a tempestuous sea. The moment has arrived to bid farewell to my 18-year-old daughter, Summer, as she spreads her wings and steps into the world. The cliché “they grow up so fast” reverberates through my thoughts with an intensity I could never have fathomed. In this chapter of EmpowerGen, I invite you to join me on this emotional journey, as we explore the profound transition of saying goodbye to our children, woven together with the stories of Summer and myself. It’s a story of love, nostalgia, regret, and pride, as we navigate the bittersweet path of letting go.
A Journey through Memories:
Our journey through parenthood is punctuated by a series of moments that have sculpted the individuals our children have become. I find myself reminiscing about the days when Summer sold painted rocks and love potions on Pearl Street, the innocence of her early entrepreneurial ventures, and the dreams she held close since her childhood. Each fragment of memory is a piece of the puzzle that has brought us to this crossroads. It’s a mosaic of shared laughter, late-night conversations, and moments that stitched our souls together.
Embracing Regret and Celebration:
As I reflect on the years that have passed in what feels like the blink of an eye, I’m not immune to the pangs of regret. Regret for the missed bedtime stories, the rushed moments, the times I wished I could have been more present. Yet, these feelings dance alongside an overwhelming swell of pride. As Summer stands at the cusp of her journey, I am reminded of the remarkable young woman she has become. The regrets fade as I witness her resilience, determination, and character, a tapestry woven with threads of experiences and growth.
From Nurturers to Navigators:
The transition from being the constant nurturer to becoming a guiding navigator is both exhilarating and terrifying. Research from the American Psychological Association underscores the importance of fostering independence in young adults, yet the task of relinquishing that protective mantle is a poignant one[^1^]. As Summer embarks on her college journey, I realize that my role has transformed into that of a steady lighthouse, offering guidance from a distance, while giving her the space to chart her course.
The Hero’s Journey Unfolds:
The mythic archetype of the Hero’s Journey finds its echoes in our lives as we witness our children step onto their own paths. As Summer prepares to enter Leeds Business School, her journey mirrors the classic stages of the Hero’s Journey – from the Call to Adventure in her early entrepreneurial endeavors to the Road of Trials and the Crossing of the Threshold into the uncharted territory of adulthood. It’s a narrative that bridges generations, a story that has been retold through countless ages, and now, it’s the story of my daughter.
Finding Strength in Transition:
Our journey, my journey, is not unique. Countless parents have stood at this juncture, faced with the intersection of pride and sorrow, hope and uncertainty. Research from Psychology Today offers insights into navigating this emotional terrain, advocating for embracing vulnerability and seeking support during these times[^1^]. The truth is, as we send our children into the world, we too are in a state of transition – one that challenges us to reframe our perspective, to celebrate the milestones, and to find strength in this poignant release.
As the last fragments of childhood slip through our fingers, I hold onto the memories that have defined our shared journey. The painted rocks on Pearl Street, the love potions, the laughter – they all converge into this moment of departure. Summer’s journey, intertwined with my own, is an embodiment of the circle of life. It’s a journey marked by tears of nostalgia, the ache of letting go, and the soaring pride that accompanies watching your child embrace the world’s possibilities. And as my son Cody, now 15, takes his steps into adolescence, the cycle continues. The embrace of beginnings and farewells, a dance that defines parenthood.
*To explore more narratives of growth, empowerment, and transition, visit our EmpowerGen column: Join the ‘EmpowerGen’ Revolution – Dream Tank (wearedreamtank.org)*
[^1^]: Psychology Today – “Navigating the Transition to Adulthood”: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/navigating-the-transition-adulthood
I grew up surrounded by art. My father, Pasquale Cuppari, was born in Italy and was inspired by nature to become an artist. Growing up in New Jersey, I would sit and paint with him as he meditated on the inspiration coming to him. Through all of the up and down times we went through, we could always come back to art and immerse ourselves in imagination and creativity. It is one of the things that kept me grounded as a child.
Art can be an expression of the beauty of life. Young people today are challenged to feel connected to this as the world of chaos swirls around them. In last week’s article we discussed youth mental health and connection to nature. In this week’s article, we will explore how art and creative expression can have a profound impact on the development and well-being of young individuals. We will look at how art can help them cope with stress, discover their strengths, build confidence, and become agents of social change.
I witnessed this firsthand when my father was diagnosed with a serious disease in August of 2020. My children and I, isolated in Colorado during covid, could not see or comfort him in person as he was in New Jersey and also isolated during covid.
My kids and I decided we’d connect across geography and generations through art, and we created a virtual art gallery, and at age 14 Summer designed a new website to showcase his art. We learned about NFTs together, we talked, laughed, and created together. We decided to produce a big art show in NYC in the summer of 2022 celebrating his legacy and life through art. Many others felt the authenticity and love we shared as a family with a growing community, and we were covered in Arts Management Magazine. Additionally, we were invited to display one of his pieces at an Italian Art and Fashion Showcase penthouse in NYC. As my father’s disease started abating, it struck me how healing it can be to connect with ourselves and each other through art.
Here is a recount of Summer’s experience that summer: “I remember how magical it all felt when my family and I finally pulled off this art show we had all been working so hard on. We all wanted to do something special for my Nonno, to celebrate his life’s work. After hanging the first picture on the wall in the gallery, we all stood there, crowded around his artwork – just admiring the detail and love that was put into the pieces. I have always adored Nonno’s artwork, but when all the people started coming together to look at his artwork, it was the first time I truly felt it was appreciated enough. The effect on our family after this show was inspiring. We all felt closer having worked on this project to honor our beloved grandpa and father, and his health improved tremendously post-showcase.”
Our experience matches the recent research highlighted in the next sections of the article:
The Power of Art in Youth Development:
Art has long been recognized as a potent tool for personal growth and emotional healing. Art therapy can help youth cope with stress, trauma, anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues by providing them with a safe and expressive outlet to explore their thoughts, emotions, and experiences. Art can also enhance cognitive abilities such as creativity, problem-solving, critical thinking, and innovation. Art can also foster social and emotional skills such as communication, collaboration, empathy, self-awareness, and self-regulation.
Breaking Barriers and Boosting Confidence:
One of the biggest challenges that many young individuals face is the fear of judgment and self-doubt. They may feel insecure about their abilities, appearance, or identity. They may struggle to fit in or stand out in a society that imposes unrealistic expectations and norms. Art provides a safe space for them to break through these barriers, encouraging them to embrace their creativity without the fear of failure. By expressing themselves through art, they can build confidence, resilience, and a deeper understanding of their own strengths and capabilities.
A recent study found that participating in arts-based programs can improve the self-esteem and well-being of marginalized youth. The study involved 166 youth from low-income or homeless backgrounds who took part in various arts activities such as photography, painting, music, theater, and poetry. The results showed that the youth experienced significant improvements in their self-esteem, hopefulness, social support, and sense of belonging after participating in the programs.
Fostering Empathy and Connection:
Art is not only a means of individual expression but also a powerful tool for building empathy and connection among diverse groups. Through collaborative art projects, youth can come together, learn from each other’s perspectives, and develop a sense of understanding and compassion for one another. Art can bridge cultural gaps, promoting cross-cultural exchange and creating a more inclusive and accepting society.
An example of how art can foster empathy and connection in addition to my story above, is the Voices of Youth project by UNICEF. The project aims to amplify the voices of young people from different countries who are facing various challenges such as poverty, violence, discrimination, or displacement. The project uses various artistic mediums such as photography, video, podcasts, and comics to share the stories and experiences of these youth with the world. The project also provides opportunities for dialogue and collaboration among the youth and other stakeholders, creating a platform for mutual learning and support.
Art as a Catalyst for Social Change:
History has shown us that art can be a driving force for social change. From iconic paintings depicting social injustices to powerful protest songs, art has the ability to challenge norms and advocate for a better world. Empowering youth with art and the tools to express their ideas can inspire them to become active participants in shaping a more just and equitable society.
An example of how art can catalyze social change is the Black Lives Matter mural project. The project involves painting large-scale murals with the words “Black Lives Matter” on streets across various cities in the US and around the world. The project aims to raise awareness and demand action against racial injustice and police brutality. The project also involves the participation and collaboration of local artists, activists, and community members, creating a sense of solidarity and empowerment among them.
The Impact of Playa Puertecito Art Initiatives:
In our Boulder to Baja project, we are planning to launch an art initiative in collaboration with PeaceJam’s BillionActs Fellows and the city of Loreto in November. We will work with local artists and youth to create murals that reflect the culture, history, and aspirations of Playa Puertecito. The mural project not only beautifies the town but also instills a sense of pride and identity among the residents. We will also teach the youth how to use cameras and capture their surroundings. The photography project not only enhances their artistic skills but also encourages them to see their environment in a new light.
Through these art initiatives, we hope to see the youth develop various skills and competencies such as creativity, communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and problem-solving. We also hope to see them develop positive attitudes and values such as self-esteem, self-expression, empathy, respect, and social responsibility. Most importantly, we hope to see them discover their passions and potentials, inspiring them to pursue their dreams and goals.
Supporting Art Education and Initiatives:
As we recognize the transformative potential of art, it is crucial to advocate for and support art education and initiatives in schools and communities. By providing access to art programs, we can empower more young individuals to unlock their creative potential and use it as a force for positive change.
There are various ways that we can support art education and initiatives, such as:
- Donating to or volunteering for organizations that provide art programs for youth, such as Dream Tank, PeaceJam, or American Art Therapy Association.
- Encouraging schools to integrate art into their curriculum and extracurricular activities, such as through the Arts Education Partnership or the National Art Education Association.
- Supporting local artists and art projects that involve youth participation and collaboration, such as through the National Endowment for the Arts or the Creative Capital.
- Providing opportunities for youth to showcase their artistic works and talents, such as through the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards or the International Youth Arts Festival.
Conclusion: Art has the power to empower, heal, and transform young minds. Through artistic expression, youth can find their voices, gain confidence, and forge connections with others. Our Boulder to Baja project stands as a testament to the impact of art in nurturing the next generation of change-makers. Let us continue to support and uplift the creative potential of our youth, fostering a world where artistic expression is celebrated and embraced.
To read more empowering articles and share your voice in our EmpowerGen column, v[Join the ‘EmpowerGen’ Revolution – Dream Tank]
Tags: #youthempowerment, #arttherapy, #creativeexpression, #confidencebuilding, #culturalconnection, #socialchange
- : American Art Therapy Association. (n.d.). About art therapy. Retrieved from https://arttherapy.org/about-art-therapy/
- : Malchiodi, C. A. (2012). Art therapy and the brain: An attempt to understand the underlying processes of art expression in therapy. In C. A. Malchiodi (Ed.), Handbook of art therapy (2nd ed., pp. 5-15). New York, NY: Guilford Press.
- : Hetland, L., Winner, E., Veenema, S., & Sheridan, K. M. (2013). Studio thinking 2: The real benefits of visual arts education (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
- : Eisner, E. W. (2002). The arts and the creation of mind. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
: McHugh-Grifa, K., & Royer, N. R. (2019). Arts-based programs as protective factors for marginalized youth: A systematic review of the literature. Children and Youth Services Review, 105, 104419. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2019.10441