By Alberto Muro
On the evening of October 27, the president of Cal State University Bakersfield Dr. Horace Mitchell invited investigative journalist and author of The Big Thirst Charles Fishman to the 10th annual “One Book, One Bakersfield, One Kern” readers program. Dr. Mitchell spoke about the success of “One Book, One Bakersfield, One Kern” saying “It promotes literacy to Kern County students.” Every year students throughout Kern County read enticing works of literature and participate in events that are relevant to the book. Students also get the opportunity to meet the author of the book.
After Dr. Mitchell spoke with the students, he introduced Charles Fishman to the stage. Mr. Fishman was greeted by a round of applause and wasted no time getting into the details of the book. “I’m the guy that ruined your fall semester,” Mr. Fisher stated as he lifted a copy of his book. His statement was met with laughter.
Mr. Fishman also thanked “One Book, One Bakersfield, One Kern” for inviting him to speak with students about water. California is currently in the midst of a drought, and The Big Thirst is the perfect book to enlighten student readers about the importance of water. Mr. Fishman explained the simplicity of his book by saying, “The more water we have, the happier we are. That’s the entire book in less than eighty characters.”
The Big Thirst discusses the water problems on a global scale rather than domestic. Mr. Fishman explained his overall objective for writing the book by studying water from around the world. “I spent 5 years traveling the world trying to understand the water problems,” Mr. Fishman said while mentioning his trips to Italy, India, Australia, and the United States for his project.
During the panel, Mr. Fishman brought up some grueling statistics that served as an eye opener to students. “Four out of ten people don’t have access or have to walk 3 km to get clean water,” he said while talking about his trip to an impoverished region in India. Mr. Fishman did in fact walk 3 km to experience first hand the struggles of obtaining clean drinking water.
Mr. Fishman also says the lack of clean drinking water in India is the result of “failed policies from elected officials promising the Indian people access to clean drinking water.” There are talks of clean water initiatives in every election cycle, but the Indian government contributes very little towards the cause. As a result, people are forced to traverse long distances for clean water.
At the end of the panel, Mr. Fishman encouraged students to ask questions pertaining his research towards his book. Students lined up and began asking questions regarding water conservation methods, traveling experiences, and his overall message to students. One question lingered in reference to his statement “four out of ten people don’t have access to clean water.” “Good evening Mr. Fishman, you mentioned that there is lack of clean water in locations, I assume they are poverty stricken” “Yes, that’s correct,” Mr. Fishman replied. “The United States has a strong economic infrastructure, yet there are cities experiencing contaminated water”; “Mr. Fishman, if money is not the problem, then what is?”
Mr. Fishman began explaining that funding is usually not the reason for lack of clean water, but instead it all boils down to politics. As Mr. Fishman explained earlier, “Leaders in India, for example, do not use their political influence towards clean water.” He also talked about the contaminated water in Flint, Michigan, and how the lack of political intervention lead to negligence towards a clean water system and the result was tragic.
For his closing statement, Mr. Fishman thanked the students and faculty for being involved in the “One Book, One Bakersfield, One Kern” and hopes his book informed everybody about the importance of water so that one day we may stop taking it for granted. He then asked students to form a line for his book signing; following this statement, the stampede sound of students gathering around Mr. Fisher could be heard through out the gym.