Shanghai: There’s hope!
In Shanghai, China, I had to use a mask to protect me from the pollution — it felt like breathing through a straw. I was running along the Yangtze River when I felt a familiar burn in my throat and chest. Having lived in China for 10 years, I knew that this was from the critically high air pollution levels in the city.
Running along the Yangtze, I meet a man who calls himself the River Guardian. Li Wei tells me that he comes to the Yangtze every single day to scoop scraps of garbage out of the river with a sieve-like contraption attached to a long wooden pole. He does this without fail because, as he says, "I dream of a river that my children can swim in and drink from, just as I did as a child.”
The Yangtze river has become horribly polluted, but thanks to the commitment of people like Li Wei and good policy by the central government, the river and air is getting cleaner. China is becoming a world leader in environmental policy.
Cairo: a nation built on water
In Egypt, the city of Cairo embraced me, and everywhere I went I was welcomed warmly. The legendary Nile River has sustained life for millennia. The Nile is an international river that supports more than 450 million people across nine countries, and that number is set to double in the next 25 years. The Nile river is under severe strain, and will not be able to sustain that volume of demand unless all 9 countries get better at water management.
The lesson of the Nile is the lesson of cooperation. We need to work together to solve this water crisis. If those 9 countries have a water crisis it won’t just be a regional collapse, it will cause conflict and economic strain that will be felt by the world.
London: There is life after death
London is a city I’ve been in love with for as long as I can remember. Running along the River Thames felt like coming home, although finding the source of the waterway was humbling. It was a green field with a stone monument. I learned from locals that the source of the River Thames has been dry for some time now. They told me that during a wet winter a spring does appear, and the source of the Thames trickles with a bit of water.
Close on seventy years ago, the tidal Thames was declared ‘biologically dead’. Once a thriving ecosystem, in 1950 the Thames was doomed. In the last decade and a half the river was brought back from the dead and is currently the cleanest river the run through any major city.
My message to you
I want to give an enormous, heartfelt thanks of gratitude to all of you for your support and encouragement over the past 6 weeks. I could not have done this without you.
But, the hard work doesn't stop now that the running has ended. Clean, safe, accessible water for all is the most pressing issue our world faces today. Water scarcity, poor water quality and inadequate sanitation affect people’s livelihoods, food security, choices and futures. It affects the job market, our economies, as well as our common safety and stability.
I hope that you can all help to spread the word and educate others on invisible water usage and inspire the world to create change for our future and our children's future. I’m hoping that after reading about this epic quest, you’ll join me and become a water hero.