Famke Janssen, Ambassador for Green Cross International’s Water for Life and Peace programme, has the role of helping our global organization increase awareness on the global water crisis and our efforts to respond to this challenge.

In this Q&A, which was also published in the Dutch water publication Waterzaken, Janssen shares her views on water issues, and offers tips on how to be more conservative with water.

1.  What made you decide to become an ambassador for water issues?
I am passionate about water conservation and I believe that the world is squandering this most precious of resources.

I am also a supporter of the work President Gorbachev has done; not just bringing the Cold War to an end, but raising the highest level of global awareness to critical issues such as sustainable development, peace and safeguarding humanity from environmental emergencies and degradation.

Water is the source of all life, but I, like President Gorbachev, believe it may become the reason for future conflicts if we do not act now to conserve the planet’s water resources and find ways to share it fairly among all people(s). It means fulfilling the newly recognized Human Right to safe drinking water and sanitation, cooperating over the use, management and protection of shared water resources.

2.  Did you experience the water crisis (to his cost) and have you seen its consequences?
Being Dutch, I grew up being very aware of the importance of water and the challenges it can pose to civilizations, in particular from the perspective of rising sea levels, as the Netherlands is a low-lying country at the mercies to the seas.  More broadly than that, I have seen how people faced by limited access to water, plus poor sanitation and hygiene, are disadvantaged in so many ways, especially in terms of their health and their ability to flourish and develop as individuals and members of communities.

3.  You committed yourself specifically to women and youth within this problem.  Why them?
When we look at the developing world, it is women and children who are the most vulnerable to the many challenges encountering their communities, particularly when it comes to water.  4,000 children die every day from water-related diseased for example, a terrible reality that we are failing to adequately come to grips with as a global community.

At the same time, women know the solutions because they are the first to experience the problems.  It is primarily women who gather water, irrigate crops, ensure good hygiene and help stop the spread of water related diseases.  It is mothers, aunts and sisters who often are the ones who care for those who become sick from poor quality water.

Earlier this year, I addressed a discussion on the role of women as it relates to water.  I said that women are at ground zero of the world’s water problems.  Therefore, communities that do not empower women when it comes to water do so at their own peril.

4.  Do you (also) have a personal connection with these groups?
Being a woman, and being someone who has long appreciated the potential of youth and women, I have long promoted the need to further empower their role in society.  It is clear that when this happens, communities benefit in many ways.

5.  You have a busy life and yet you still participate as an ambassador actively in the (professional) field.  What is, perhaps also with your work as an actress in mind, you unique contribution to combating the water issue?
I feel that working as an actress offers me a platform to help efforts to raise awareness globally and critical issues facing humanity, including water.  It is also a unique opportunity for me.  We work closely with Green Cross, I learn a lot, meet people and the idea that I may make a difference, in whatever small way, is truly very rewarding.

6.  How does that work with your obligations as an actress?
There are many ways to support a cause like that of Green Cross; I can publicly speak at events to raise awareness about water issues, engage in global discussion via various forms of media to offer my views on key issues and- on a day-to-day basis- I am motivated to promote the best practice when it comes to water conservation among my colleagues, friends and peers. Even the smallest actions can help, as part of a global effort, make a difference

7.  How does the film industry deal with water?
The film industry, like any industry, has plenty of room to reduce its water footprint!

But on the education side, we also know about the powerful, enlightened productions that have helped raise global understanding about water
and environmental issues, such as The 11th House by Leonardo DiCaprio, the sisters Leila and Nadia Connors, An Inconvenient Truth by Al Gore, and Here to Stay, which features leading environmentalists, including President Gorbachev and another Nobel Peace Prize laureate, the late Wangari Maathai.

8.  Does your Dutch roots help you in your work as an ambassador for water?  How does that help?
Yes, being Dutch you grow up having water as a central part of your life.  We are lucky in the Netherlands to have the infrastructure, resources and means to preserve and make water available.  I am proud that we have entities such as the Dutch Water Partnership, which is a collection of a wide range of water stakeholders, and the government sponsored Partner for Water Initiative.  These organizations do a great deal to raise awareness for water issues improving both access to water and enhancement of its quality in other parts of the world, particularly Africa.

9.  How do you deal with water at home?  Are their any special precepts in the use of water that you stick to?
I try whatever I can to avoid the use of plastic bottled water.  It is not only hazardous to our health, but it is also a terrible pollutant to the earth.  I have a water filtration system in my apartment in NYC and I full up aluminium bottles to bring with me wherever I go.  There are two books I highly recommend reading to get a better understanding of water and the things we can do to reduce our water foot print: The Big Thirst by Charles Fishman and Manifesto for The Earth by Mikhail Gorbachev.  Once people have a better understanding of this precious resource, I think they will be more inclined to help out in whatever (small) ways they can.  Doing simple things like taking shorter showers, installing low-flush toilets, being aware of leaking faucets and not letting the water run unnecessarily while brushing your teeth will go a long way.

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