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Thirst In Brazil As A Mega City Runs Dry

I am writing by candle light. The aching in my hand and the irregular handwriting reminds me that it’s been a long time since I wrote on paper and not a keyboard. The power cut has already lasted more than eight hours and I fear that the combination of events and outcome of what we are going through might be a foreshadowing of what’s soon to come around the world.
It started with an irony, that may well be the perfect metaphor: the largest city in a country that holds 20 percent of Earth’s fresh water supply ends up without any. A combination of climate change, years of deforestation, privatization and a badly managed and corrupt political system have come together in a perfect storm to throw my city into one of its darkest crises ever. We now face a reality of four days without water and two with. We might as well call it what it is: a total collapse.
Imagine a megacity like São Paulo as schools are forced to close, hospitals run out of resources, diseases spread, businesses shut down, the economy nose dives. Imagine the riots, the looting … what the police force, infamously known as one of the most violent in the world, will do as this dystopian scenario engulfs us. One of the great modern, rising capital cities of the world suddenly falls apart.
We brought this on ourselves. We buried our rivers under concrete, we polluted the reservoirs, chopped down trees, erased the local biome to grow sugar cane, soy and corn to fuel our vehicles, feed our appetites, our extravagant lifestyles.
I read the IPCC reports warning us of catastrophe. I watched the documentaries exposing corporations’ hidden agendas … the YouTube videos showing polluted oceans, overfishing, extracting, fracking and burning. I knew all this. And how markets march “forward” no matter what. How leaders pose for group shots with those golden pledges they never deliver … and how we, the People, march demanding change.
This is personal … it’s about everything I love. And you have no idea how terrifying it is. It’s the kind of fear that you have no control over, that makes you grind your teeth at night while you sleep. There’s no language to describe this feeling of dread. No way to fix it. No time to fix it. This is the future that science warned us about. The new normal. And the truth is, I never realized it could happen so fast and that my friends, family and I would be forced to live through it, suffer like this.
The battery on my phone is almost dead. The power has been out for 16 hours now. Still no water.
I scroll the photos I took last month on our trip to NYC.
My wife comes to me and in a low voice asks what we are going to do. “I don’t know,” I reply.
What will 22 million people do in the dark?
— Pedro Inoue

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