October 14th, 2009
01:48 PM ET

Stars and a different kind of 'drinking problem'

Except for the air we breathe, there probably isn't anything most of us take for granted more than water. We make our morning coffee, shower, brush our teeth, and think nothing of it. Yet one in eight people on this planet don't have access to safe, clean drinking water, and an estimated 1.5 million people die every year due to inadequate or unsafe water - mostly children aged five and under. Unthinkable.

matt damon

Matt Damon has made this his signature issue, crusading with H2O Africa and water.org, and other celebrities are joining the cause.  Jessica Biel is among those planning to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro to raise awareness and money towards the cause, and this week, she and musician Pete Wentz joined the Live Earth Organization to announce the Dow Run for Water, April 18, in various cities around the globe.  Participants will cover six kilometers, a little under four miles.  Why the odd distance?  According to Live Earth, that's the average distance some women and girls have to walk each day to get water - something to think about the next time you casually stroll to the watercooler or fridge for a drink.

"Water simply is a necessity," says Wentz, "and you don't really stop and think about it until you're in a place like Uganda or in a place where you realize that people can't get clean water and don't have access to safe water."  As for Biel, she "just loved what these guys were doing, and I love an athletic element, getting people together, challenging everyone, doing a run/walk, globally ... it just made sense to me."

soundoff (47 Responses)

    I understand when people say help America first however, Matt Damon and others have the fame and funds to help around the globe in places I can't even really begin to help. To keep things in balance, I help nationally and in my own area. Lots of clothing drives, walkathons and food drives. How can you begrudge someone doing something to help out his fellow man, be it here or there? And how close is close enough? Is it people in California afffected by wildfires? Does it need to be closer like in his currect state of residence, Florida? Or does he have to help out at his local food bank. In my opinion, if you help one you help all.

    October 14, 2009 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Nathan

    If any of you people picked up a history book, then you'd know that Africa was practically raped by Europe's "colonialization". African countries are poor because Europe raided all the resources. Where do you think the metal we use to make cell phones comes from? AFRICA. The people of africa have been victimized, stereotyped, abused, and cheated for the centuries (IE the Berlin Conference of 1882 where african's weren't even invited to discuss the division of their own land). Europeans came in and said you should farm wheat and cotton instead of roots and melons, even though wheat and cotton can't be cultivated in Africa's climate to the point of substantial living, which in turn destroyed the clean drinking water and farmable land. They gave them horses and laughed because they rode camels and bulls around even though the white man's horses died because they can't handle the stressful living conditions. But as long as we have our cell phones and 8 person SUV's, what's a little drinking water?

    October 14, 2009 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Brian

    jan – You have no idea what I'm talking about.

    Instead of putting on show – do something.


    October 14, 2009 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Bippy

    I love all the comments here... from the haters to the dummies to the holier than thous. God, you people make me hate. So according to the people on here.. the celebrities are wonderful because they are bringing awareness to this cause (I wonder how many of their millions they are donating as well.... ?), Republicans are responsible for the ills of society, cows cost too much to hydrate and therefore we should all stop eating meat and American are greedy a holes. Wow... good job, people. You all sound like a bunch of misinformed, brainless brats who have nothing better to do than complain about everything in life that has been wrong. Why don't you all get off your rears and start LIVING life. Because you could turn around tomorrow and find out you are terminally ill without months to live. Start treating each other with respect instead of bashing one another on a forum. Start loving the country you live in and taking every day to show it. As corny as it sounds it is time to bring back LOVE and RESPECT and HONOR. Or this world is surely going to hell...


    October 14, 2009 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Amy

    The idea that we should help Americans first is really a flawed concept. It's like saying you can only love 1 child. We can, and many do, support state side issues - it should not take away from our ability to also care beyond our borders.

    Additionally, anyone who compares poverty in the U.S. to poverty elsewhere more than likely as not traveled outside of the US or gated luxery resorts in developing countries. There is NO comparison to what the poor in developing countries endure. Poverty in these countries is a daily life and death struggle. That is not true for the majority of poor in more developed countries.

    Finally, the idea that Africans bring this upon themselves is absurd. I would encourage people to read a little about the Scramble for Africa and the politics of resource allocation to understand that the poor aren't simply lacking resources but they lack power and a platform to advocate for themselves. This isn't a phenomenon created by the poor but it is certainly endured by them. As humans isn't our obligation to help each other rather than look for reasons why we shouldn't have to tone down our rather excessive lifestyles?

    October 14, 2009 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  6. DP

    PJ – you have hit the proverbial nail on the head

    October 14, 2009 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Anna

    I disagree with the folks who are arguing that charity efforts need to be domestic first. Whether you're helping an African child, an Asian adult, a Somalian teen, or an American elder – you're still helping. We're all just people who need support from our fellow humans. If someone is taking the initiative to help – I think their work should be praised, domestic or abroad.

    October 14, 2009 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
  8. J.Crobuzon

    Veg Dude, I agree on principle; don't eat meat if you don't like it. Also don't tell me what to do, and repeat some crap you read somewhere about saving the planet by killing off the cows. Read a book or something while you're grazing and chewing your cud.

    October 14, 2009 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Robin

    I'm always in favor of someone using their wealth or their fame to leverage more attention and/or more money for the disadvantaged. Climbing Kilimanjaro will be a small struggle–microscopic compared to the struggles to get adequate water supplies–but a worthy one that speaks to the struggles in Africa, and elsewhere, to get sufficient amounts of potable water.

    Water will arguably be what causes conflict throughout the world in the next 50 years. It's said the glaciers in the Himalaya could be gone by 2035. Over 1 billion people rely on the run-off from those glaciers. The Nile River hasn't flooded for some time which is bad for farmers in its plains. Moreover, the source of the Nile is growing more weak. This is happening the world over.

    I'm not sure who came up with the stupid idea that American citizens have to do charity work only for American causes. We are world citizens. We share the same planet. The argument for isolationism, in any form, is a failed argument. Our connection to the rest of the world already exists. We need to maintain the health of that connection to maintain the health of our nation.

    October 14, 2009 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Donna

    For all of you who are complaining, quit complaining and start doing. There are problems everywhere, but at least Matt Damon and company are trying to do something. The method is less important than the action. This is getting notice and probably water projects will be started because of it. If there are problems in America (and I know there are) get involved in solving them. Talk to the Red Cross, Salvation Army, United Way or whoever is in your area and see what you can do to help the situation. In the mean time stop waisting time being critical of others who are taking action.

    October 14, 2009 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Carol

    Why can't everybody just be glad that someone – in this case Matt Damon - is doing something good for mankind? Don't over analyze it or compare it with other things that need to be done. There are zillions of things that he could be doing to help, but he happened to choose this particular cause. Just appreciate the fact that something positive is being done and commend the person who is doing it. Thanks, Matt Damon, for what you're doing. See - it's very easy to say "thank you."

    October 14, 2009 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Swooning in Seattle

    He is such a man!

    October 14, 2009 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Stupid Celebrities

    Why don't the rich hollywood types that are always taking up causes just use their own vast millions and, in this case, build a desalination plant for these poor people. Bingo... fresh water. They already have the money – just use it and stop bugging us, joe public trying to make a living here in the good ole US. ack!

    October 14, 2009 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
  14. jan

    Jody, Peter, Brian are morons and exactly what is wrong with this "What about me" society the U.S. has become. Problems with america's drinking water and food are brought on by corporate greed and corrupt politicians that don't have the balls to stop pollution or the use of chemicals that enter our food and water chain. Corporations want everything mass produced for the money and politicians let them get by with it because they don't want to lose a vote or campaign funds from lobbyists. Yes, Africa's government is corrupt and would rather slaughter people than provide them with clean water. That's why people with both heart and brains take up these causes. We can't change the world, but we can certainly better it for those in need when we band together. Charity is about reaching out, not about yourselves you freaking idiots.

    October 14, 2009 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Brad

    We are a species like every other living thing and when that species becomes over populated and uses all of it's resources nature self corrects with it's own culling of the masses. If we all try to live forever the planet will die from our gluttony. Worry about saving the planet and not all of the humans.

    October 14, 2009 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
  16. Brian

    Don –

    They'ld be better off spending the money to build a couple of water treatment plants where thewy can do some good. Or is the concept of doing something to really help instead of putting on a show foreign to you?

    October 14, 2009 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
  17. Rick Parrent

    I know it's not even Halloween yet, so I'm loathe to post this link, but there have been a number of churches working to make sure everyone in the world has a safe, stable drinking water supply. They estimate the cost at $10 billion dollars and compare it to the $450 billion Americans spend on Christmas annually.

    If we were to buy less presents and give more of ourselves, we could tackle this problem once and for all.


    October 14, 2009 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
  18. Tom, Long Beach, California

    yes, lets let EMO boy Wentz change the world....please, let's fix America nad our economy and then we will have the resources to help others

    October 14, 2009 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
  19. rethinking

    Yeah, Jody, nice English. Maybe "we Americans" need education–ya dope. The poorest Americans are not nearly as poor as third-world country poor. But sitting at home watching the Food Network probably prohibits you from expanding your mind and travels–but expands only your waistline. Any life, no matter where, is worth saving. One life isn't better than the next, in as much as you think it is. Many Americans are dumb–Jody and Brian and R–fit the mold. I can bet that you are all lazy and overweight and think of no one but yourselves. Visit the poorest communities in Africa, Mexico, Asia, and then make judgment. And, be lucky it isn't you.

    October 14, 2009 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
  20. shipbright

    check out http://www.shipbright.wordpress.com fresh[water] ideas for a thristy planet. Pragmatic and balanced approach to undertsanding the worlds freshwater issues including America's own issues.

    October 14, 2009 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  21. michael

    I have to agree with Brian. I mean, it is very noble of people to try to raise awareness about such an important issue, but trying to raise awareness about a depleted resource by engaging in activities will consume massive amounts of that depleted resource doesn't make sense. It's like when Al Gore flies all over the world, which creates tons of air pollution and a massive carbon footprint, in order to draw attention to the Global Warming crisis.

    October 14, 2009 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  22. Mike

    I am all for space exploration but how much more could be done with the dollars spent looking for water on the moon or mars or many other projects when so many do not even have access to local, clean water to drink. I am sure Jesus must just shake his head with everyone's stupidity. The world needs to wake up to the basic simple things that can be done to relieve the suffering in this world. God forgive us!

    October 14, 2009 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
  23. Gregg

    It's a wonderfull thing to read about individuals that have made huge amouts of money doing something for people in need. When ever I read about the poverty in one of the richest and most corrupt continents on the planet -Africa , it bothers me. With such wealth – what are these governments doing to help their own people ?? Sad,Sad.

    October 14, 2009 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
  24. veggiedude

    "How much sense does it make to do something like climb a mountain or run 6k, which both demand a great deal of hydration, to protest water shortages?"

    Maybe you should just stop eating meat. It takes enough water to sink a destroyer to raise a cow to age 4. It also takes up to 20 pounds of grain to get back one pound of meat. If the taxpayer did not subsidize all this (are you republicans listening?) a pound of steak would be over $100/pound. All of this takes more petroleum than you driving your car, and adds more pollution to the atmosphere than all cars in the world – the UN already has written a paper on this. But no one listens, because no one really cares. So lets stop pretending.

    October 14, 2009 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
  25. Marianne

    "But there is a twist to this story that CNN might want to consider…there are places in THIS country where you cannot get safe drinking water. Water contaiminated by pesticides, fertilizers, human and animal waste is frequently the source for so-called drinking water"

    Our water is contaminated becasue WE contaminated it...People in the countries discussed DO NOT HAVE water in most areas and where they do, there is no filtration system to make it safe...we are the most abundant country in the world..we do not "need saved" we have the ability to save ourselves.....People–have a heart and stop thinking only of yourselves....the next time you turn on your faucet to cook, or brush your teeth...know for sure....people in these countries , to them it would be a luxury!!!

    October 14, 2009 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
  26. Franky, Land of Lincoln

    This is nice for some celebrities to raise awareness for struggling families and children who don't have access to clean water, and there's millions of them worldwide so is good on their part.

    And I'm sure with their stature and status, they can probably raise awareness quick than our local politicians but we'll see was up.

    Good for them to take their time of their scheduale and focus on a issue as temporary as this, good for them in the short term.

    October 14, 2009 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
  27. Ken

    I agree with R. In every country on this planet where there is great poverty you will find an elite class that couldn't care less about the plight of their own people! Everyone realizes there are poor people in the world. What these Hollywood types should do that would really be helpful is expose those in poor countries living in splendor while the vast majority of their fellow countrymen are mired in squalor

    October 14, 2009 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
  28. Jeff

    Yeah, in NEW JERSEY my well water was contaminated with naturally-occurring arsenic. Had to add all sorts of filtration gear that added a stink to my water. Forget Uganda.... can we freakin' hook up the citizens of Griggstown, Franklin Township to the treated municipal water supply?

    October 14, 2009 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
  29. Bubba

    Yeah, they still hate us no matter what we do, but they have rush limbaughs in their country too. Just do right and don't worry about what people think, ok? That includes fixing US problems as well as abroad, and don't think that because this article doesn't mention the US that things aren't being done here, too. Trouble is, if you try to help starving kids in the US you are called a bleeding heart liberal and told to mind your own fricken business and stop making the US look bad. Good luck.

    October 14, 2009 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
  30. James

    Good grief. When will Africa get their act together. It's not like they are dumber or less-developed human beings. They have brains. Get together and develop infrastructure (water pumping and filtering, waste sanitation, etc., roads) for crying out loud.

    And for all those "govt is not good at anything", how do you suggest we get corporations that do most of the polluting in this country to grow up and actually care about the enviornment around them?

    October 14, 2009 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
  31. Mowen

    Another Bleeding Heart cause to give them that "warm fuzzy" feeling. MORONS. What is the cause? Overpopulation? Deforestation? Raise money for birth control and planting trees to keep water in the soil not something that makes you feel important and does nothing in the long run.
    Charity does begin at home!

    October 14, 2009 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
  32. Corbett

    This is a great article though the title could not be worse.

    October 14, 2009 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
  33. jaime Greer

    Water is life no more needs to be said. We went to the Moon last week to find it. We went to Mars to find it. Why can't we just find it here for the life of the people with out it. As a swimmer,sailor,skier water is my life in it on it under it. They just need it to drink. Lets all do what we can to accomplish this.

    October 14, 2009 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
  34. Don

    Brian, I hate to come right out and say this, but you sir are an idiot! The goal (which you don't seem to grasp) is to bring attention to this matter of clean water scarcity through their celebrity status. Sure they will hydrate during the course of this undertaking yet I am sure that the exposure to the problem at hand will produce more dollars and thus added equipment / laborers to diminish problems than doing nothing. You remind me of that other group of naysayers so prominent on the American scene. You an Jody are probably from the same gene pool.

    NO NO NO, what's your' plan? DUH!!!!

    October 14, 2009 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
  35. PJ

    On 9/11 (and I had friends die in the Towers, so ZIP IT.) more than 40,000 people died that day from lack of clean water, food, and medical care. Guess how many people died on the 12th, 13th, 14th...etc... before you start blathering about what a victim you are and your "War on Terror", just imagine how the rest of the World feels as you haul your enormous, overfed, bulk around in your gas guzzling pigmobile. The AVERAGE citizen of the US consumes 69 TIMES the resources of someone in, say, Kenya. We spend $600 BILLION A YEAR on weapons, defense, and military support. Look in the mirror, piggie- WHO'S the terrorist? HOW many people die EVERY DAY? YOU have a "thinking problem".

    October 14, 2009 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
  36. Dan

    I like this!

    October 14, 2009 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  37. SW

    Another organization that is doing tremendously good work and raising awareness is http://www.charitywater.org. Check them out as well.

    October 14, 2009 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  38. nenecats Houston

    I agree with both comments: Jackie in Dallas and R. I commend
    Matt Damon on his efforts. He is passionate and determined to
    help. We haven't provided the help that's needed for the people
    who went thru hurricane Katrina, Rita, Ike. Lots of these people
    are still living in tents,being asked to move off property due to
    insurance problems. Also, all kinds of disasters happen all
    over the U.S. Our efforts should be to make sure the gov't. help
    is provided. It's horrible these problems still exists after all this

    October 14, 2009 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  39. Terry

    AMEN, PETER!!!!!!!!! Let's start by fixing problems at HOME!!!!!! There are still famlies homeless from Katrina!! People homeless because of the recent fires in California!! Men, women, and children who live in cars every day in this country!!

    October 14, 2009 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  40. Rodney S.

    The planet is overpopulated. Until population controls are in place, saving lives just compounds the long-term problems that we will be facing. All these people that talk about saving the planet... if they have more than 2 kids, they are part of the problem... plain and simple. I'm looking at you Angelina!

    October 14, 2009 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
  41. jody

    Sorry, but we Americans need saved.

    October 14, 2009 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
  42. Peter

    Jackie in Dallas – you're bang on! But that goes for pretty much everything across the board. Industry, celebs, government have no problem promoting, supporting, bringing awareness to issues abroad (adoption, tainted water, malnourished kids). The shame is rarely do they look within our own borders. Let's fix our issues first. Charity needs to begin at home.

    October 14, 2009 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
  43. Brian

    How much sense does it make to do something like climb a mountain or run 6k, which both demand a great deal of hydration, to protest water shortages?

    October 14, 2009 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
  44. Sarah in San Francisco

    For more good water-related works and raising awareness, check out http://blueplanetrun.org/.

    October 14, 2009 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
  45. R

    And what are the leaders of each country in Africa doing to enrich the lives of their people?

    October 14, 2009 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
  46. Jackie in Dallas

    Now, this is a story worth reading! When Hollywood types decide to take on an issue such as this, they can use their fame to spread the word. And it isn't like this is a new thing...why do you think Shirley Temple Black was a U.S. ambassador? Her fame as a child star made her recognizable all over the world.

    But there is a twist to this story that CNN might want to consider...there are places in THIS country where you cannot get safe drinking water. Water contaiminated by pesticides, fertilizers, human and animal waste is frequently the source for so-called drinking water. That would be a nice investigative piece!

    October 14, 2009 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |

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