|Rochelle Strauss||Interview with Rochelle Strauss, March 2007|
One Well: The Story of Water on Earth
Ages 9 and Up
Today, almost twenty percent of the world's population lacks access to clean water. One hundred years from now, when there may be 10,000,000,000 people on earth, access to water will be a global problem. One Well: The Story of Water on Earth is a superb introduction to all aspects of this most basic and vital resource.
In learning about water and its importance, readers ages 9-up will come to recognize the need to conserve and protect our global well. Jean-Michel Cousteau, President of Ocean Futures Society and son of the late Jacques Cousteau, called One Well, "a much needed drink for those of us thirsting to help protect our planet's threatened water supplies." Like Kids Can Press's bestseller If the World Were a Village, One Well takes a complex topic and makes it immediately understandable. Charles Hopkins of UNESCO said One Well is a "beautifully illustrated and wonderfully written book...The message it brings is critical to all humans and indeed all life on the planet."
One Well presents the concept that all water on earth is interconnected and finite--in billions of years, the amount of water on our "blue planet" hasn't changed. The book examines the water cycle, the relationship of plants and animals to water, the nature of watery habitats like coral reefs, rainforests, and saltwater marshes, and the effects of human use. One Well is packed with information. Sidebars present facts on everything from acid rain to the percentage of water in an earthworm. Each spread is illustrated with colorful, child-friendly art that compliments the text with vivid visual details. -more -
One Well also stresses the importance of water conservation and urges kids to become "Well Aware" by providing suggestions for how to save water and reduce pollution. The book includes a note to parents, guardians, and teachers, and an index.
ETC: Did you always want to write children's stories?
Strauss: Ever since I was a young girl, I adored stories and books. Later, as a babysitter, I loved making up stories to tell my charges. But it never really occurred to me to become a children's writer until my last year of university, when I wrote my first children's book as part of assignment for a class. Though the story was never published, the writing bug hit me.
ETC: What influenced you to write about nature and the environment?
Strauss: I did a Master's Degree in Environmental Studies and then spent years working in the environmental education field. I specialized in researching, developing and writing content for education programs, museums and parks, exhibits, schools, environmental organizations and even websites. Eventually I realized that I should combine my love of nature and my passion for writing, to create books for children. I hoped that through books I could instil in my readers a sense of wonder, curiosity and passion for nature and the environment.
ETC: Who are your environmental heroes?
Strauss: There are so many people out there who are my heroes - from big name, famous eco-crusaders to people who share their passion for the natural world with their families, to those who are challenging themselves to live more sustainably each and every day.
As a child though, Jacques Cousteau was my absolute hero. Growing up I was surrounded by his books. I used to pour through them and daydream about being on the open ocean watching dolphins and whales. Through Cousteau, I developed a fascination and passion for the aquatic world that I still carry with me today. Jane Goodall has also influenced me in much the same way.
Al Gore is one of my modern day heroes. He has such vision, determination and passion for his work. He makes his messages so accessible to the public. It's a thrill to see his work become commercially accepted and universally embraced. It gives me great hope for the future.
ETC: What did you hope to achieve by writing One Well: the Story of Water on Earth?
Strauss: In writing One Well, I wanted to teach children about a topic near and dear to my heart - the story of water. Without water, nothing on Earth can exist. Yet the Earth's water is in trouble. Our growing demands and needs, the changing climate, pollution and development are all affecting the water in the Earth's global well. I wanted readers to learn about the importance of water and hear the stories about what's happening to it.
I also wanted to empower children to take action - to help them realize the power each of them has to conserve and protect the Earth's one well. By demonstrating to them that even the simplest of actions can have a domino effect, I wanted them to understand their potential to influence and change the lives of every living thing around them.
ETC: What was the most challenging aspect of writing One Well: the Story of Water on Earth? And what was the most enjoyable?
Strauss: The most challenging aspect of writing One Well was dealing with all the numbers. So many of the statistics and figures I was using were just beyond comprehension. The numbers and measurements themselves were so cumbersome that they overwhelmed my poor little solar-powered calculator. I also had to jump back and forth converting these enormous numbers from metric to imperial or vice versa…and then find a suitably familiar item to use as an analogy for the figures. It was an awful lot of math for someone not very partial to math!
On the flip side, one of the most enjoyable things was finally making sense of the numbers. Finding the right analogy or the correct ratio was as satisfying as fitting the last piece into a puzzle. I loved the challenge of searching online to find just the right item to compare things too, or just the right "container" to use as an example of how much water a certain statistic represented. I also loved running around the house pouring water into buckets, pop bottles, milk cartons, etc, trying to get a handle on measurements. In the end, I think using these comparisons made the book that much more accessible for children (and adults!).
ETC: Speaking of the statistics - where did you find all those facts and figures?
Strauss: Well, frankly, lots and lots of research! I searched through and read dozens of books on water - everything from children's books, to political books, to scientific texts - to better understand the topic. The Internet was also a rich source of information. Sometimes though, my research took me on a very different path. I contacted swimming pool builders and installers, bathtub and toilet manufacturers, trucking companies, city municipalities and even railway companies to get figures on the amount of liquid pools, tubs, toilets, tanker trucks, water towers and boxcars could hold. These companies were all so very helpful and they really enjoyed the idea that they were helping me research a children's book.
ETC: What water fact amazed you the most?
Strauss: There were two facts that really amazed me. The first was that in North America we use an average of more than 140 gallons of water per day. This amount is just staggering compared to other countries, such as India (18 gallons) and Ethiopia (2.6 gallons). The second amazing fact is that every day the equivalent of more than 15,000 boxcars worth of garbage is dumped into the Earth's water. If the boxcars were connected, it would make a train long enough to wrap around the circumference of the Earth nearly three times. And that's just a SINGLE day's worth of garbage. Mind boggling, isn't it?
ETC: Any last words?
Strauss: Yes - I have a challenge. Sometime in the next week, I would like readers to do one thing differently that will protect the environment. Maybe walk your kids to school one day per week instead of drive, maybe install a low-flush toilet, or maybe read One Well with your children. It doesn't matter what it is - just do one thing that will help the environment. Then…tell five people - tell them what you did and why you did it. Now here's the catch - challenge them to do something different too. To paraphrase my favourite quote - you never know how something you do or say today will affect millions of lives tomorrow.