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  • br Water the main component of Earth s ecosystems

    2019-04-18


    Water—the main component of Earth\'s ecosystems—concentrates some of the most worrying global concerns that have emerged during the Anthropocene. When it comes to health considered at a planetary level, the challenges related to water can be sorted into five main categories: pollution, access to water, wastewaters, loss of biodiversity, and emergence of superbugs. Important efforts are already being made by the international hypoxia inducible factor to preserve water environments and resources globally, such as the recent creation of vast protected marine areas in the Antarctic Ocean. Pursuing these efforts is essential, but a massive behavioural shift is necessary to reverse some of the alterations that human actions have already induced, and to maintain global health at a sustainable level on a planetary scale. However, and although the general state surrounding water keep degrading, threatening health at a global level, most of the population remains hermetic to the behavioural changes that the situation would require. Now is the right time to try alternative paths to surmount these obstacles, and to involve the populations more intimately with the adaptations needed. A first factor that could account for the resistance to change of the population is that the different challenges related to water tend to be considered to be independent and parallel problems. They are, however, interconnected in a dreadful network (). Linking these issues—and their consequences on global health—stronger and more obviously might help to push further the involvement of the population. In an increasingly urbanised world, the need to reinforce healthy relationships between human beings and their environment is strong. Reshaping direct interactions between human beings and water could increase awareness of challenges and questions related to water. Of note, although this could be done at a group level by reintegrating water in urban landscapes, actions as simple as increasing opportunities to swim could have surprising effects at the individual level. However, drastic and large-scale behavioural shifts will not come from that alone. The difficulties in triggering these changes are not just contextual—ie, related to the design of our living spaces. They are also the consequence of a problem of communication channel. Indeed, most of the solutions proposed so far are imposed by governments to the populations. An important step to get this behavioural shift wholeheartedly accepted by the world population is to move from top-down to bottom-up strategies, so that people can be the main actors of their own changes. Although the motivation to trigger these choices might come from a more integrated understanding, which will arise from assembling the different major water challenges into a single and unified framework, the societal propagation of these behavioural changes will require appropriate channels. The digital era has provided us with a plethora of new instruments allowing us to reach large populations with an unprecedented efficiency. Internet-based virtual communities might well be the key to massively unlock global awareness. As a matter of fact, the potential of health-related virtual communities is being closely scrutinised, and eHealth interventions are becoming more commonly involved with virtual communities as a part of their strategy to optimally reach their target population. This growing interest could fruitfully extend to cyber environmentalism. Indeed, water-related virtual communities already exist, and are quite active. For instance, the merfolk virtual community occupies various virtual spaces ranging from social media to 3D immersive virtual worlds, forming a unique yet vivid and heavily interconnected ecosystem. Numerous other virtual communities, based on local (eg, citizens of specific coastal areas) or global interests (eg, surfers or fans of other water sports) share this attraction to water-related topics. While the potential of these virtual communities is still untapped when it comes to global health, they could act as a so-called Trojan Horse by being a vector to trigger, promote, and support behavioural changes in the population. Because most of the problematic human actions are related to our consumer habits, involving systematically virtual communities would not only contribute to change in a positive way the popular representations associated with water, but also to shape new behavioural patterns—notably, by forcing brands to further ecofriendly messages and attitudes to make their (e)marketing strategies successful. Having virtual communities coordinate their actions toward sustainable objectives might represent a help that should not be underestimated.