Australia-China Council

Thirst Invisible Water Classroom

By Will Cameron

Children laying on the ground in the shape of a dragon
photo courtesy of Thirst

Thirst is dedicated to changing attitudes to water consumption by building awareness about the water crisis among 14-24 year olds around the world, starting in China. Founded by Mina Guli, an Australian expert in the environmental sector with over 15 years’ experience working in China, the organisation is an initiative of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders, a 700-strong multi-stakeholder community who share a commitment to shaping the future. The goal of Thirst is to become the foremost online and on campus provider of positive, accurate and fun content about the water scarcity crisis. Since its launch on World Water Day in March 2012, Thirst’s education programs in Chinese schools have reached out to 12,000 children, and disseminated their important message to over 150 million people through traditional and online media communications.

With an already active online presence covering both Chinese and international social networking sites, Thirst, in partnership with the ACC, is now developing the "Invisible Water Classroom" (IWC), a comprehensive resource for water that is accessible and attractive to students and teachers in both China and Australia. In its final phase, to be launched early next year, it will include lesson plans and supporting information, videos, games and other activities. The site will also include a social network in which students can share their ideas and stories about water use, thus encouraging the establishment of a peer-driven water-awareness community: a "facebook of water". The IWC will not only lay the basis for more sustainable development in China and Australia by stimulating pupils to positively participate in planet-saving activities, but the connections forged between thousands of students, teachers, and their families will also broaden and deepen the relationship between both countries.

The focus of the IWC’s curriculum is the concept of "invisible" water, essentially the unseen volume of water that goes into the production of everything we consume. To illustrate, a classic example is the production of a single T-shirt. When the elaborate process of growing and processing cotton, sewing and dying fabric, and shipping the finished product is taken into account, the shirt on your back, whether from the bargain-bin or a designer boutique, required over 2,700 litres of water to make. This kind of information is extremely high impact as it is directly relevant to the lives of students, connecting them with the bigger picture of global capitalism and its relationship with water, and encourages them to contemplate their "water footprint" every time they make a choice about what to wear, eat or buy. Thirst hopes that, armed with this knowledge, young people will become more responsible in their consumption habits, and, with the support of ongoing participation in the IWC, commit to saving water in their own community. As the program expands, it has the potential to significantly influence attitudes and behaviours of tens of thousands of Australian and millions of Chinese students. It is predicted that by 2025 over half the world’s population will face freshwater shortages; the Thirst IWC is preparing the next generation of leaders to rise to the challenges of this future.

Learn more about THIRST