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    Volume 8 Issue 90 | October 16, 2009 |

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Clowning in Space

Aasha Mehreen Amin

Last Friday a clown went to space. This is not a rude remark but actually a fact, a clown did go to space last week. Not only that he even launched a 14-city 'poetic planetary extravaganza to promote clean drinking water, from the International Space Station. Celebrities such as Bono, Salma Hayek, Shakira and environment champion Al Gore were guests at the two-hour live show broadcast online. Man-Booker prize-winning author Yann Martel read out a poem of a conversation between the Sun, Moon and a drop of water (it was about access to water remember). Meanwhile Al Gore had his own power point presentation and videos to warn people of melting polar ice caps, water pollution and extremes in climate that lead to severe floods or droughts. It was of course not all just serious talk of gloom and doom but there were the thrilling performances by Laliberte's Cirque du Soleil (Circus of the Sun)

You might say that it was a bit outlandish for someone, even if he was a billionaire to just blow off 35 million dollars just to clown around in a space station and make a case for clean drinking water. I mean 35 million dollars is a lot of money, money that could have been used to contribute to improve access to clean drinking water for at least some people. But of course Laliberte would respond that one must do something that will create a bigger impact all over the world so that people sit up and listen and perhaps even do something.

Well certainly Salma Hayek and Shakira are enough to get the attention of at least most of the male population. Thus this eccentric Canadian billionaire clown went all the way to the international space station wearing a red foam clown nose and later came back landing in Kazakhstan with his two companions, a Russian cosmonaut and an American astronaut in a Russian spacecraft, to draw attention to his cause. Laliberte is well known for his flamboyant circus troupe as well as for founding the One Drop foundation in 2007 to fight poverty around the world by providing widespread access to safe water.

Unfortunately, while the space clown's mission can be described as a spectacular success Nasa went through a bit of a fall in glory when its 'moon bombing' mission in which it sent a spacecraft to the moon did not really produce the bang that had been hoped for. The idea was to strike a crater to collect frozen water. Since there was no sign of 'breaking the ice' it was concluded the striking spacecraft had hit a 'dry hole'. Well maybe next time, as granny would say.

All this space and moon talk does make the ordinary person wonder, just how bad will the water crisis get. While we try to deal with bouts of lack of water in our taps as best we can, perhaps it is time we all joined hands in each community and within each nation to try to conserve water, to distribute it more equitably, to save our water bodies and collect the abundance of rainwater for future dry days. The Space Clown event is a reminder that we can no longer just think of our individual miseries when it comes to environmental crises. We must think of our next-door neighbours and those beyond our borders to join in the cause of ensuring clean drinking water to every citizen of the earth.


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